a man takes a photo reflection of a vehicle side mirror

Pickup trucks are the quintessential mechanical workhorses. Besides finding use at a construction site or carpentry shop, the pickup has also transitioned into a lifestyle vehicle more recently. One such example that is quietly taking to this trend is the Volkswagen Amarok.

This week we have in focus the top-spec Aventura variant of the Amarok, which is in its second generation. So, if you’re thinking of buying a pickup truck? Then check out our take on the ‘Wolf from Wolfsburg’.

Design and aesthetics

The Germanic take on aesthetics with respect for geometry and straight lines apart, there is a sense of style that coerces bystanders into taking a second look at the Volkswagen Amarok. The sculpted bonnet, the flared square wheel arches, the tall stance, and the load bed sports bars add a definitive rugged appeal, which is what I presume most people are after.

The Amarok isn’t a full-size truck like a Ram, F-150, or Silverado but it’s still a giant amongst regular cars measuring 5,350 mm in length, 1,910 mm in width, and up to 1,884 mm in height – making it slightly larger than the outgoing model. Its imposing size will fend off tailgaters, its uncommon styling grants it garage ornament status, and the off-road bits reflect its dune-bashing prowess. What more can you ask for in a lifestyle pickup truck?

The tall stance also means you need to climb aboard, but the grab handles and the sidestep make it an easy task. Inside, this workhorse has evolved to be a near-luxury vehicle. The dual-tone ‘Savona’ leather upholstery on the seats, the giant 12-inch infotainment screen, and the 12.3-customisable digital cockpit raise its perceived value by a bit and are pieced together quite well. There is also bucketloads of space both up front and in the rear cabin even for the big and tall. Also, the 10-way power adjustability allows one to get into a comfortable driving position and the physical controls add a degree of tactility to the chunky steering wheel.

However, there are a few niggles too. I found the seats to be hard; the inner door handles seemed a little too far behind, so opening the door to get out wasn’t as easy. The ‘Main Menu’ button is an inconspicuous digital square which is a UX fail. And there isn’t a sunroof, which one expects to be part of every vehicle these days.

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SPECIFICATIONS

Body type- 5-seater; 5-door mid-size pickup truck

Engine- Front-engine; turbocharged 2.3-litre inline 4-cylinder; all-wheel drive

Transmission – 10-speed automatic

Peak output – 302 bhp @ 5,900 rpm – 452 Nm @ 3,350 rpm

0 to 100km/h- sub-8 seconds (estimated)

Top speed- 200kmph (drag limited; estimated)

Price- Starting at Dh149,900

Powertrain and performance

The Ranger, it comes with a turbocharged 2.3-litre inline 4-cylinder motor, which is the only option. But worry not; it delivers good numbers. At full steam, it makes as much as 302 horsepower and 452 Nm of torque. Our estimates are a sub-8 second run to 100kmph from a standstill. Interestingly, it doesn’t come with a ‘Sport’ mode or paddle shifters.

The 4-pot motor is coupled to a 10-speed automatic which is also borrowed from the Ford (and possibly Chevy) vehicles. Interestingly, it comes with the ability to operate like a 6-speed auto when needed, not quite sure how that helps; and the engine isn’t as refined as say VW’s 3.6-litre V6 with mild observable NVH levels.

Despite its size, the Amarok is quite easy to manoeuver around the city and highways, but mall parking situations posed challenges and the 21-inch alloys allow for good grip but make the ride harsher. Braking was adequate in all situations we faced, thanks to the set of disc brakes all around, but be wary of the Amarok’s dimensions and weight (especially when loaded up).

The second gen comes with higher ramp angles and better ground clearance to ensure greater all-terrain capability. Even the fording depth has been raised to 800mm, up from 500mm. The 4MOTION all-wheel drive system allows for several drive modes, which can manage torque between each wheel individually using a multi-plate clutch. If our casual runs through parts of ‘kaccha’ and fringes of the deep desert were any indication, then this thing is built for the trails and dunes. It may not be the first to the peak, but it sure will give the popular off-roaders a run for their money.

The indicated range at full tank was 530 km, which isn’t record-breaking, but it is all you need. While 14l/100km fuel economy is in line with others of its class.

FUN FACT

The VW Amarok was designed in Germany and Australia. But it is built by Ford at its South African assembly plant in Silverton as part of the 2019 Ford-VW global alliance cooperation agreement.

Features and functionality

The good news is that this thing can haul. The loading bed isn’t the longest but with enough space between the wheel housings it can accommodate a Euro pallet loaded sideways and to keep freight dry, it comes with a mechanical tonneau cover that retracts with the push of a button in about 9 seconds. Even without the goods, it is advised to keep the cover closed to improve fuel economy. For the truly adventurous, people who like to tow equipment and mobile houses, know that it comes with a ball coupling with a maximum trailer weight of up to 3.5 tons. While on the insides, it has large door bins and two decently sized glove boxes.

Anyone will appreciate the big a/c vents in this pickup. But with only a seat heating feature, it shows that the Middle East may not be a top priority in some sense.

In terms of tech and safety, you have almost everything that a luxury SUV has, like a 360-degree view with a decent fish-eye rear camera neatly embedded in the VW logo outback. The rear seat also comes with an AC 230V 150W 3-pin outlet good enough to power a laptop and a regular 12V outlet as well. The Aventura being the top dog comes with a Harmon Kardon audio system with a whopping 640 watts; and a wireless charger to go with the Bluetooth feature. With over 25 assist systems including Blind Spot and Lane Departure assists, automated park assist, TPMS, and adaptive cruise control, I’d say the Amarok is well-stacked.

Verdict

If you lead a life, seeking off-road adventure and are keen on fulfilling adulting duties at the same time, the Volkswagen Amarok is one to consider. This is especially true for those who have a thing for brawny pickup trucks and an allergy to American brands. Only if the seats were softer, the aircon controls were physical knobs and it had a legacy like an F-150 or Patrol…but you can’t have it all.

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