CommercialFleet

First drive: Volkswagen Amarok

Volkswagen

Review

After an eight-month delay in launching its first 4x4 truck, Volkswagen has finally unleashed the Amarok on to the UK market.

But in a situation unheard of in the commercial vehicle market, hopeful buyers will have to join a rather long queue – each of VW’s 70 van dealers have been given between 10 and 20 vehicles and all have been sold, which means that orders taken now will not be delivered until at least January.

Fleet Van first drove the Amarok in Bratislava last September when Volkswagen originally hoped to launch it.

But the vehicle, which is built in Argentina, proved so successful there that the UK launch was put back.

First right-hand drive versions were apparently snapped up by buyers in South Africa, which meant us Brits had to wait our turn.

A Volkswagen spokesman said: “What you have to remember is that Britain is not a big market for this kind of vehicle.

"They are huge sellers in places like Asia, South America and Australasia so on that basis we just have to be patient and wait.”

It would be tempting to suggest that VW builds a few more PDQ, but of course the world of automotive production just doesn’t work like a tap.

At launch there is only a double-cab version on offer, using the 2.0-litre twin-turbo TDI unit from the Transporter offering either 122bhp and 250lb-ft of torque or 163bhp and 295lb-ft of torque.

Later there will be an automatic version and – maybe more importantly for fleet buyers – a 4x2 single-cab “cooking” version that extends the rear load area by 70mm.

On the emissions front, one of the models on offer just scrapes under the 200g/km figure at 199g/km – a first in the sector – while official fuel consumption figures on the combined cycle are 35.8-37.2mpg, a rare achievement for such a heavyweight vehicle.

Three trim levels will be available – Startline, Trendline and Highline. Safety features bristle in the Amarok.

Driver, passenger and head airbags are standard as is ESC stability control.

Four-wheel drive high and low modes are selected by pressing a button on the centre console – no extra gearlevers here.

For off-road use, the traction control system, ABS brakes, electric diff locks and anti-slip regulation (ASR) are all tuned differently.

There is also a Hill Descent Assist system that holds the vehicle at a constant slow speed on steep slopes.

Behind the wheel

Oh boy, is this vehicle going to shake up the 4x4 truck sector! Rarely have I driven a new vehicle that is so far ahead of the opposition in terms of smoothness.

It’s true that the latest generation of trucks from Nissan, Ford, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Isuzu are much more car-like than their agricultural predecessors, but it isn’t until you jump into an Amarok that you realise just how unrefined the opposition still is.

One of the benefits of coming late to the party is that you can learn from the mistakes of the others.

The VW engineers looked closely at the drawbacks of the current crop and ironed out all the problems.

My test drive took place both on road and on a pukka off-road course and the Amarok handled both with the utmost aplomb.

Despite the fact that we were sporting off-road tyres, the Amarok’s manners on the smooth roads were just like that of any large car – no clunky gearchanges, no fillings coming loose in my head and no shouting to make ourselves heard.

In the rough, this truck excels again. The Hill Descent system means that even amateurs like me can tackle scary ups and downs.

At one particularly steep upward slope my instructor told me to take my feet off the pedals – and like magic the Amarok rose majestically (and safely) to the summit.

VW chiefs must be gnashing their teeth at the long lead times. The danger is that potential buyers may be tempted to look elsewhere.

But they won’t find better in my book.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.