The Amarok has taken a significant slice of the local market in its short two-year existence. And that slice could get bigger: word is that an SUV version is on the horizon, aimed at competing with the likes of the Toyota Fortuner and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
No small part of the Amarok’s success can be attributed to its modestly sized (and therefore thrifty and emission-friendly) but nevertheless powerful 2-litre engine and its overall modern carlike feel and high-level safety features. There’s a distinct appeal to a more urban, contemporary buyer rather than the traditional bakkie owner. Paradoxically, it’s that 2-litre engine that has prompted – not unrealistically – some mutterings. For 2012, the topline Amarok now features a biturbo diesel with a healthy 132 kW output. There is also a 90 kW version and a 118 kW petrol.
Our test drive of the uprated model took in a mix of surfaces from rolling freeway to dirt. A particularly badly corrugated section of gravel road felt unsettling at times, with the rear of the 4×2 double cab occasionally drifting off line. I suspect a load would have helped stabilise things, and possibly 4wd. The ride comfort, though, was very good. It’s hard to judge on that evidence whether the extra power makes a significant difference in heavy going, but there’s no question that the combination of plentiful urge and slick 6-speed transmission provide ample overtaking ability.
All Amarok double cabs are fitted with a switch-operated electronic differential lock. In really tough conditions, another switch activates Off-Road mode; up to 100 km/h, this tunes stability control and braking systems for the conditions. Its features include a unique-in-class Hill Descent Assist that can be adapted by the driver.
Economy is a strong selling point. The official figure is 7,9 litres/100 km for the 4×2, and we managed between 8 and 8,5 without making any efforts at economy.
One area that troubled early Amaroks does seem to have been noticeably improved. VW concedes that there had been complaints about the difficulty of synchronising clutch and accelerator, resulting in jerky pullaway and shifts. The 2012 Amarok, we can report, has cleaned up its act; gearshifts are now more in line with what you’d expect.
Price: from R313 500, including 5-year/90 000 km service plan.