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Volkswagen Amarok V6 Core review: 4x4 of the Year 2019

By Fraser Stronach | Photos: Ellen Dewar, 24 Feb 2019 4x4OTY

4x4 of the Year 2019 Volkswagen Amarok V6 Core feature

In 4x4 of the Year's company the V6 Core comfortably tops the rest when it comes to get-up-and-go.

THE V6 CORE is a brand-new Amarok variant and comes just two years after the 3.0-litre diesel V6 first appeared in the Amarok, but the basic design is effectively the oldest here.

The Amarok (with its various four-cylinder engines) first arrived in 2010, while the V6 engine dates back to 2004 and has been widely used in a number of Volkswagen and Volkswagen-family models including the Porsche Cayenne and numerous Audi sedans and SUVs.

This is the second appearance of an Amarok V6 at 4X4OTY. In its first appearance in 2016 it finished second in a photo finish to the then revamped Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series dual cab.

The Core is the new price leader in the Amarok V6 range, a stripped-out budget variant that undercuts the previously cheapest model (the Sportline) by $3K, making it the third cheapest of the eight shortlisted vehicles ($50,900 drive-away) despite being the most powerful of the lot.

Touring

The Core’s highway persona is dominated by the strong performance produced by its torquey and powerful V6. This engine has all the grunt you want at low engine speeds (550Nm available at 1500rpm) but also revs out sweetly and willingly when asked.

Rated at 165kW it produces 180kW in the crucial highway overtaking gears (third and fourth) at wider (70 per cent and over) throttle openings, which gives more zing when wanted. In this company the Core comfortably tops the rest when it comes to get-up-and-go.

Good refinement, too, from the engine, even if it makes its presence felt through being a bigger ‘six’ in the company of mostly small ‘fours’. The slick eight-speed ZF auto offers near seamless changes and nicely proactive shift protocols.

The Amarok is a big ute that feels small, nimble and handles sweet by ute standards. Unladen the ride can still be a little sharp on some roads, but the chassis is still very nicely balanced front to rear even without a load in the tray.

Bonus ‘touring’ points for the full-time 4x4 system, only one of two vehicles in the shortlist so equipped. Full-time 4x4 makes life easy in mixed touring conditions where, in a part-time 4x4, you may have to switch in and out of High-4. Throw in wet roads – sealed or unsealed – and the system is even better and safer.

Trail Driving

Things get even easier when you hit the trails. No need to engage drive to all four wheels, as all wheels are already being driven. And unlike some full-time 4x4s you don’t even have to lock the centre diff as it locks automatically. There’s not even low range to engage, as the relatively short first gear and specially calibrated torque converter effectively negate the need for low range.

It all works a treat, helped by the Core’s generous wheel travel and good visibility. Reasonable ground clearance, too; although, it’s a little low under nose, so it’s a good thing it’s well-protected there.

Interestingly, the 245/65s fitted to the Core’s 17s are smaller in diameter than the factory-spec tyres on the 18, 19 or 20-inch rims, so you lose a little clearance there. A notably low specified wading depth of 500mm is more of a concern and arguably the weak link in the Core’s off-road skill set.

Set-Piece Hill Climb

Given the Core doesn’t have low range it shouldn’t even be able to look at our steep set-piece climb, but, as other Amarok’s have done before it, it conquers it without much fuss (thanks largely to the good wheel travel) once the driver-switched rear locker is engaged, which also keeps the ETC active on the front wheels.

Engaging the rear locker or switching off stability control in soft sand are the only two off-road driver interventions needed; although, there is a third switch (labelled Off-Road) that activates hill-descent control if desired.

Cabin, Equipment and Safety

Compared to the Sportline, not an overly flash variant itself and previously the least expensive Amarok V6, the Core loses climate control, auto wipers and headlights, three 12-Volt outlets including one in the tub, body-coloured mirrors, a light-lift tailgate, and a few trim features. It gains some 4x4-friendly kit including 17s (instead of 18s) and vinyl floors with fitted rubber mats instead of carpet.

The Core’s cabin is understated but, while it has the quality finish of other Amaroks, the blanks for the omitted 12-Volt outlets and the back-to-basics air conditioning let you know that this is the budget model. As do the Core’s vinyl floors and rubber mats, even if they are a major bonus at clean-up time.

Like all Amaroks there’s tilt-and-reach steering wheel adjustment, spacious and comfortable front seats and a notably wide rear seat. However, like all Amaroks, there are no rear cabin airbags. It has a five-star ANCAP rating, but that was achieved a few years back and the goal posts have since moved.

Practicalities

A 3500kg tow rating and the power to fully exploit it, a standard tub liner, and a near one-tonne payload combined with the ability to fit a pallet between the wheel arches are all positives.
There’s plenty of aftermarket support to address the wading depth issue and the lack of heavy-duty recovery points beyond the standard screw-in towing eye. Plenty of space, too, in the wheelarches for bigger tyres, which it could do with.

Summary

At $50,990 drive-away the Core offers plenty of very good ute for the money. It excels in performance, on-road dynamics, simplicity of operation in 4x4 conditions and general practicality. However, for an extra $3K the V6 Sportline might still be the better buy.

This year's best 4x4s on 4x4 of the Year

2019 VOLKSWAGEN AMAROK V6 CORE SPECS:
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
Max power: 165kW* at 2500-4500rpm (*180kW on overboost)
Max torque: 550Nm at 1500-2500rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
4x4 system: Single-range full-time
Kerb weight: 2091kg
GVM: 3080kg
Payload: 989kg
Towing capacity: 3500kg 
GCM: 6000kg
Tyres: 245/65R17 111T
Fuel tank capacity: 80L
ADR fuel consumption claim: 9.0L/100km
On-test fuel consumption: 10.1L/100km
Base price: $50,990 (drive-away)
As tested: $50,990 (drive-away)