Have you ever come across the footage that showed a diesel Volkswagen Amarok V6 pulling a 747 on runway? Naturally, you take that sort of stunt with a grain of salt but after driving one, the picture starts to make a lot more sense.
What is it?
The 2020 Volkswagen Amarok V6 TDI580 Highline is the second highest specification Amarok you can buy, and is one of the few dual-cab utes that’s powered by more than four cylinders.
Read next: Volkswagen re-invents the dual-cab Amarok
That last point is a unique point of difference for dual-cab offerings, as the market is so heavily contested there’s becoming fewer ways to differentiate products against their competitors. Having a 3.0-litre V6 powerplant is a sure-fire way to appeal to the testosterone fuelled market though.
One rung below the range-topping Amarok TDI580 Ultimate, you can tell the two apart by noticing the black highlights (instead of silver) evident on the $64,990 (before on-roads) Highline and 20-inch black wheels. Almost $8000 separates the two big brute utes.
Despite reality telling us that the Amarok is actually quite old (touching 10 years now), it seemingly isn’t so as Volkswagen has been particularly clever in updating its entire range. In addition to supplying the whomping great engine that headlines the range, the Amarok V6 is brimmed with some cool features and tech that makes the interior feel a lot more palatable in 2019 than it should.
Volkswagen Amarok V6 Core review: 4x4 of the Year 2019
Highline highlights include bi-xenon headlights, tyre-pressure monitoring, dual-zone climate control, a 6.3-inch infotainment system with smartphone mirroring technology and native sat-nav. Our car was fitted with an additional leather pack which adds heated seats for the first row and leather-appointed upholstery.
What is it like to live with?
If there’s one thing you might expect to become accustomed to with the move to a dual-cab ute, it’s the utilitarian interior.
While the Amarok is still obviously a ute in nature, there’s plenty of luxury-like appointments that help bring the cabin ambience to a level above its rivals.
Plastics still feature heavily throughout the interior, but it does feels more ‘sturdy’, in a sense, than as if they were selected with cost-cutting in mind. At the end of the day, you can’t ask too much of a dual-cab interior but the Amarok presents nicely.
Confirmed: next Volkswagen Amarok will be a Ford Ranger
While the infotainment and dash layout itself is simple and easy to read, it does feel at least a generation behind where Volkswagen is at currently. It does still rate well, in terms of functionality and connectivity, against some of the other miserly infotainment units found in ute rivals, despite having a small touchscreen.
The leather-style seats are plush and easy to clean, and there’s room enough for a family to jump in and not feel cramped, even after a decent sized drive.
What is it like to drive?
The one thing that tends to dominate the Amarok V6 drive experience is, of course, its great big engine. Having a torquey V6 is such a novelty in this segment that you can’t help but put your foot down everywhere – it just pulls and pulls like a freight train. Imagine a performance-based variation of the Amarok ala Golf R, and you’re kind of on the money for engine ability.
The engine regularly produces 190kW/580Nm but is capable of an ‘Overboost’ function that’ll temporarily up the power output to 200kW which is good enough to launch the Amarok from 0 to 100km/h in a very un-ute-like (claimed) 7.3 seconds. It also comes equipped with a permanent four-wheel drive system and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
In practice, the Amarok V6 performs well off-road with more than enough grunt to get it out of trouble. We stuck to the relatively simple surface stuff but the Amarok remained extremely sure-footed on gravel and through small ruts, with the off-road mode handily engaging hill descent control down hills itself and smartly using the gearbox to steady itself up and down inclines.
It doesn’t have low-range a like a number of rivals, instead using off-road mode technology to navigate obstacles as mentioned above. It does have a mechanical rear differential lock for getting going on particularly difficult sections, however.
It never felt like we were even touching the sides of the off-road ability the Amarok can muster, we’ll have to have another go at some point.
The Amarok took care of overtakes with ease and managed its 2209kg heft well through winding bends on the way back to the city, with less body roll than you’d expect from a ute while still remaining incredibly comfortable for a dual-cab ute.
The gearbox loves to short shift which might ordinarily annoy some people but the effective torque means that you can still easily climb hills in sixth or seventh gear. It’s very well paired to the engine, in that regard. In addition to being ridiculously powerful, the diesel V6 is uncannily refined and smooth.
It wouldn’t be conceivably difficult to hit the Amarok V6’s claimed consumption of 8.9L/100km – and the performance is a hell of a trade off.
Once back in town, it’s quite easy to thread through traffic and manoeuvre about surface roads, and it is even fairly simple to judge its size when parking, for example. It’s more like an SUV to steer and ride in than a dual-cab ute, and that’s high praise for something can equally get down and dirty off-road as well.
Is it worth the money?
Volkswagens come with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and VW also offers capped price servicing with yearly intervals.
Something to consider is the fact that the Amarok V6 hasn’t been tested by ANCAP, and the airbags it does have only cater to the front row passengers.
Despite that being a pretty sizeable con in the ultimate weigh-up of values, if this is destined to be used primarily for work or only for two passengers – it mightn’t matter a whole lot anyway.
But for a product that’s so capable both on and off-road, is nicely appointed and roomy enough for even a family, we reckon the $64,990 (before on-road costs) Volkswagen charges for the Amarok V6 TDI580 Highline is very fair.
Pros: Strong, smooth V6 engine, car-like on-road behaviour, quality interior
Cons: Lack of rear airbags
Click on the photo at the top of the article for a photo gallery of the Volkswagen Amarok V6 by Tom Fraser.