There is no denying that the Amarok is great vehicle straight off the showroom floor.
Hitting Australia in 2011 after critical and consumer acclaim across the globe, the Amarok has won a swag of awards here, including 4X4 Australia’s Best in Class for 2015 and 2012, and 4X4 Australia’s Ute of the Year in 2012 and 2011.
But, as most owners will tell you, there's always room for customisation – once you see the trucks below, we’re sure you’ll agree.
These eight Amaroks were part of a pack of 11 – from a stock-standard machine to a mini-monster truck with 100mm body lift – that gathered recently for a day of dirt at Queensland's Land Cruiser Mountain Park. See the vehicles in action here.
They are a handsome and practical bunch of vehicles owned by an enthusiastic group, and, more to the point, their modifications are some of the best we’ve seen…
THE CANYON RUNNER
Huy Nguyen loves this Canyon edition of the Amarok, which arrived with distinctive burnt-orange paintwork, a unique sports bar, leather seats, satellite navigation and a rear-view camera.
But the Brisbane construction project manager has been thinking about a bit more power than the 132kW supplied by the two-litre diesel – he’s dreamt about shoe-horning a Touareg diesel V8 under the Amarok bonnet.
“I was contemplating an engine swap, but don’t think that’s happening now,” Huy says. “Originally I looked at the V6, but my mate said, ‘No, go the V8’.
But by the time I finished, it’d be $40,000 or $50,000, so I’ll just wait for this engine to die out a bit.”
He’s got 16,000km up on his auto Amarok, bought in November last year. Since then, Huy and his mates at 101 Motorsport in Queensland have added a Rhino bull bar with a Runva winch, LED spotlights, Bilstein shocks all round, a 50mm body lift and custom-made alloy side steps.
There’s a Roll-N-Lock tonneau cover, Safari snorkel and tow bar with a set of Delta flares still to fit to help cover 33-inch BF Goodrich Mud Terrains.
Huy had a Holden Maloo for a while. “But I wanted to enjoy the Aussie outback and beaches, so went for the Amarok.”
Richard Catelan’s been in the business of designing and making aftermarket suspension for four-wheel drives, plus custom off-road recovery gear – bow shackles and the like – for 10 years.
Some of his biggest customers today are armoured-vehicle builders in the Middle East – hence Richard’s Outback Armour branding. While he allows his heavy-duty suspension kits to help four-tonne armoured Land Cruisers, extra-heavy Coaster buses and well-protected JK Jeeps handle better than new, it’s a side of the business cloaked in some secrecy.
But Richard’s Brisbane-developed kits for civilian four-wheel drives are another matter. And aftermarket suspension for Amarok utes here is a big part of that business.
He turned up for the Land Cruiser Park jaunt in his work truck, a tidy dark-grey dual cab Amarok. This one sits on Outback Armour struts and springs up front with an Outback Armour Expedition leaf pack on the rear. The front of the VW sits up 30mm and the back’s up 50mm. And those chrome alloy leaf springs – five primary and two secondary – allow Richard to carry 400-500kg in the rear.
There’s also a Sammitr canopy, dual-battery set-up, a TJM rear bar and 285/65R18 Nitto Trail Grappler tyres covered by body-coloured fender flares, for when Richard wants to go scrub.
It was a $40K on-road deal too good to refuse, Glen Mattiske says. The Gold Coast carpenter loved his Hilux, but Toyota’s pricing was an issue when he shopped for a new ute three years ago.
“So it was the price point, and the Amarok was a bit roomier and nice to drive,” Glen says. “It’s a work in progress, I’ve been chipping away ever since.”
The six-speed manual ute has 57,000km on the clock and close to $20,000 worth of extras. On days off, the keen surfer chases waves off North Stradbroke Island or heads north to Rainbow Beach to camp out with his family.
“It’s a bit of a toy, I love my fun cars. Keeps me out of trouble... or sorta out of trouble,” Glen laughs. “I’ve done most of the work myself, which has saved a lot of coin.”
His Amarok features a TJM snorkel, 18-inch Delta wheels and Delta flares over Toyo Open Country tyres. There’s custom-made rocksliders, a TJM rear bar, Seikel skid pan and Outback Armour suspension. A 35mm lift with custom 20mm spacers takes the ride up 55mm.
Glen uses the Sammitr canopy, with BedRug lining, and custom alloy roof rack for loads of building materials.
GOOD AS GOLD
Tristan Gibbons is an integral part of the Wolf 4x4 business, kick-started by his brother Ashley. As such, Tristan gets to try out gear, develop ideas and showcase Amarok accessories and modifications.
So this sand-beige metallic dual cab, bought early last year, is loaded with useful add-ons; maybe it’s not as wild as some, but it’s a stylish ute for touring rough country.
The auto Amarok has a Delta nudge bar up front and AFN winch mount for the Runva XP winch.
There’s a Seikel snorkel for water crossings and cleaner air, but Tristan’s left his two-litre engine in factory tune.
Inside has also been left standard; most Amarok owners apparently appreciate Volkswagen’s neat and tidy cabin features.
Tristan’s ute has a BajaRack up top with a 40-inch LED light bar for turning night into day, and a pair of five-inch LEDs on the sports bar for reverse.
The tray is covered by a Roll-N-Lock tonneau with a BedRug lining, a cargo manager (divider) and an EZDown fitted to the tailgate – lockable through the ute key’s remote fob.
There’s an extra length recovery hitch on the towbar and all this sits on Outback Armour suspension, with the underbody protected by AFN skid plates.
Wheels are the ubiquitous Delta Classics with 275/65R18 Cooper Discovery AT/3s.
Sydney stonemason Davie Steele didn’t like the look of the Toyota Hilux, and couldn’t wait six months for a Ford Ranger Wildtrak, so, after some research and test drive, he bought an auto Trendline Amarok.
“It’s like the Rolls-Royce of utes,” he reckons.
But Davie also understood his ute needed a few mods to carry loads of stone and tools through the week and head further into rough country on the weekend.
Now he’s almost done – once he chips up the engine, and gets his 100mm body lift certified.
This is one wild-child Amarok.
“I originally wanted to just lift it, put bigger wheels and flares on it,” Davie says. “Then it just escalated from there.”
But this is no toy truck, Davie carries up to 1.5 tonne at times, so he ordered the VW with heavy-duty rear springs. It has since gone on to Outback Armour suspension and their heavy-duty springs; the rear is super stiff.
The just-fitted 100mm lift, first seen by Davie on this outing, is complemented by Bushwhacker flares over 18-inch Delta wheels shod with Mickey Thompson Mud Terrains.
There’s a snorkel, hidden winch mount, nudge bar, driving lights up front and a Roll-N-Lock tonneau down back.
A black wrap for bonnet and roof sets off a very handsome, tall truck.
Trevor Manton has owned his Amarok Ultimate ute for just on two years.
The communications expert has had Toyota Hiluxes and Nissan Navaras before, but fell for the VW on a test run and liked the dynamics.
“So I decided to go with one and don’t think I’d ever go back,” Trevor says.
He and his family get out camping a bit with an off-road camper, taking some long-distance drives out west. His idea was to set this manual ute up for getting off the road, but not for hard-core off-roading.
So underneath went the full Seikel underbody protection panels, a Koni Raid suspension set-up for the Delta rims and 32.5-inch BF Goodrich rubber. The aftermarket suspension gave him about a 50mm lift, and the bigger tyres more again.
There’s a nudge bar mounted with phone and UHF radio antennas, a Warn 9.5XPS winch mounted behind the Amarok’s front bumper, a Safari snorkel plus a Baja Designs LED light bar mounted on the Rhino roof rack.
The checkerplate on the ARB sidestep has been powder-coated and the tray’s fitted with a Speedliner ute protection, Roll-N-Lock tonneau and a custom-made tool box.
The Amarok’s ECU has been re-mapped for a touch more power and Trevor’s thinking, once he’s added an air compressor and maybe some extra lights, he’ll have a very handy tourer.
Will Hutchins is one of those characters always on the move.
That’s handy in his line of business, looking after data centres and communications solutions around Queensland. It’s handy, too, to have a four-wheel drive Amarok decked-up to go anywhere, any time.
Will used to own a Surf, but when the Toyota’s head cracked it was time to move on. He looked at the Hilux (“too jumpy in the rear”) before settling on an Amarok eight months back.
The Volkswagen’s suspension was first to be reworked, replaced with an Outback Amour kit and a 40mm lift. Followed was an ARB bar up front, Light Force driving lights and Magnum winch plus snorkel.
A set of 205/65R18 Nitto Trail Grapplers sit on Nitto wheels.
Down back, Will has fitted a Roll-N-Lock tonneau with a set of Maxtrax mounted over the cover’s housing. Up top there is a Rhino roof rack with jerry-can holder, spare-wheel mount, long-handle shovel, hi-lift jack and an awning.
Inside, Will has replaced the factory head unit and Bluetooth in the dash with an android set-up, all hooked into his phone and UHF radio.
“In our business we need contact all the time, so I’ve got the UHF and 4G mast up front for constant contact in remote areas,” Will says.
Next up? An engine re-tune and bigger exhaust.
Wolf 4x4 needs a company demonstrator, and boss man Ashley Gibbons has just picked up his firm’s new Amarok to add a variety of extra gear for show and go.
After all, it was these Volkswagen utes that sparked Ashley’s switch from a loaded-up Nissan X-Trail to a more competent four-wheel drive. The utes also prompted his swap from being an IT consultant to a four-wheel drive accessory provider.
This particular ute began as a 2015 Dark Label edition, finished in Black Pearl and sitting on 18-inch alloys with 55/60R18 rubber.
Pride of place on the Wolf machine today is an AFN bull bar, the very first production bar of a new design from the Portuguese firm. Around this, Ashley’s fitted a Runva winch, Explorer 8500 Driving Lights and an antenna for the GME TX3540S UHF radio.
His dual cab now rides on Outback Armour suspension.
A Sammitr canopy with BedRug lining looks after the tray, while the roof is fitted out with South African-sourced Front Runner roof racks with a Wolf 4x4 awning and light bars.
It’s a smart, good-looking showcase on wheels (and since these photographs were taken, those factory wheels have been turfed for Delta Classics with BF Goodrich All Terrain KO2s).
Wolf 4x4 is a growing off-road business based north of Brisbane but catering to four-wheel drive needs across the country.
Now just on four years old, the firm has go-better gear for any number of four-wheel drives, but it is Volkswagen’s Amarok that brings in about 70 per cent of Wolf’s business.
It was a simple move that saw Ashley Gibbons switch from being an IT consultant to an off-road accessory supplier. Back then he was off-roading in a Nissan X-Trail, well worked over with Pedders suspension, Rhino racks and more.
"But I took it places it shouldn’t have gone and realised ‘this is not the right vehicle’," Ashley explains.
So he bought an Amarok, and discovered there wasn’t much aftermarket gear around to suit the German utes.
He searched online forums to see what was happening overseas – with the Amarok already on sale in Germany, Argentina and South Africa – and discovered there wasn’t even an English-language forum.
"So I started the Australian Amarok forum (ausamarok.com.au) which now has about 6000 members across Australia and New Zealand and a couple of international members as well," Ashley says.
"Everyone on there started to ask the same questions I was already asking, so I found a couple of products and started my own little company."
Ashley now sources Amarok accessories from around the world. There are Wolf 4x4-branded light bars, fender flares, bonnet protectors and awnings sourced from China, Taiwan and New Zealand.
The Brisbane-engineered Outback Armour suspension kits and recovery gear are major sellers, while Wolf is also the Australian distributor for Seikel products from Germany – snorkels, suspensions, lift kits, underbody protection and rock sliders.
From AFN in Portugal comes bul bars, winch mounts and more. Roll-N-Lock tonneaus come from the United States and other gear, such as EZDown tailgate struts, from South Africa.
"I don’t know [if] we’re the world’s best, but definitely in Australia we are the Amarok specialist. Amarok is our niche vehicle. That’s where we started and that’s what we want to look after."