Car Reviews

2014 VW Amarok TDI420 4Motion review

Isaac Bober’s 2014 VW Amarok TDI420 4Motion review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.

Back in 2012, Volkswagen fitted an eight-speed automatic to the Amarok, normally the preserve of luxury vehicles, which is borrowed from the Touareg.  And, just like in the Touareg, there’s no low-range… The eight-speed ‘box isn’t available across the range, rather it can only be had on dual-cab Amaroks with the (introduced in conjunction with the auto) tweaked 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder (132kW/420Nm). The rest of the range has to make do with a six-speed manual only.We’re testing the Amarok TDI 420 Trendline 4MOTION, which lists for $47,490 (+ORC). At the same time as introducing the eight-speed automatic transmission, Volkswagen also added, showing that it listened to the demands of potential buyers, a multi-function steering wheel and Bluetooth with audio streaming, which is standard on Trendline, Highline and Ultimate.

Editor's Rating

How we rated the VW Amarok 8.5
The Amarok, at least as far as truck-based utes are concerned, has changed the game forever. And the addition of the eight-speed automatic has made it a viable dual-purpose offering for work and play. The Volkswagen Amarok has the biggest load tray in the business, rides and handles like an SUV, has a frugal and grunty 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, and is better, in just about every way, than all of its rivals.
8.5

STYLING

The Amarok, at 5.2 metres long, is big and so, rather than try and disguise its bulk, VW’s crayon twirlers went bold with the design. It gets squared-off, pumped guards and styling cues from VW’s current family look, while the top-spec models get big alloy wheels, chrome rear bumpers, side steps and sports bars.

BEHIND THE WHEEL

With one of the largest interiors in the business, the inside of the Amarok is as comfortable as it is practical. interior that’s utilitarian, but it’s been crafted from good quality materials, and while the design is simple it’ll be familiar to anyone who has driven a recent Volkswagen (it’s reminiscent of a Tiguan’s dash).

VW Amarok Auto Interior

You get reach and rake adjustment on the wheel, and plenty of adjustment on the seat so accommodating either short or taller drivers won’t be a problem. And there’s decent room in the back seat, too. Indeed, I’m 181cm tall, and with the front seat set up for me, I could sit in the back with knee, leg and foot room to spare.

ROOM & PRACTICALITY

Featuring the largest tray in the class (1.55×1.62m), the Amarok will easily swallow a standard Euro-sized pallet between the wheel arches – 1.2m wide. The single-cab Amarok, with a larger tray (2.2m long), can handle two pallets. The Amarok’s load sill, at 78cm, is nice and deep, there are four sturdy lashing eyes in each corner, and the thing will lug 1175kg in the back. And, in terms of towing, the Amarok TDI420 is capable of dragging 3000kg with a 300kg towball download limit.

Probably our biggest concern is the ground clearance which is just 192mm for 4MOTION models – we scraped the belly a few times, although underbody protection meant no harm was done. While, as standard, all VW Amaroks are fitted with 3+2 leaf spring suspension at the back (heavy duty), our test vehicle was fitted with the optional 2+1 ‘comfort suspension’. This drops the overall weight of the vehicle by 20kg, and reduces the GVM from 3040kg to 2820kg.

Volkswagen Amarok showing its articulation.

In standard trim, the Amarok offers a decent 28-degree approach angle, but a fairly poor 23.6-degree departure angle (remove the rear bumper, though, and this improves to a front-end matching 28-degrees). Breakover is 21.4-degrees (although a lift will improve that).There’s no mistaking how big the Amarok is, indeed at 5.2m long you’d reckon tight tracks would do it no favours, but with a turning circle of 12.95m, the Amarok is pretty good, although it’s not as good as the slightly longer Ford Ranger, which offers a turning circle of 12.71m.

PERFORMANCE

With the exception of the entry-level Amarok TSI300, which runs a 2.0-litre (single) turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, all diesel Amaroks are twin-turbos. And, as mentioned, our test car is running the tweaked engine (TDI420), producing 132kW at 4000rpm and 420Nm from 1750rpm (fuel consumption is 8.3L/100km).

Volkswagen Amarok driving into the sunset.

On the road, the more-power engine is smooth and quiet, and mated to the eight-speed automatic, more refined than any other dual cab on the market. There’s a little bit of lag, sure, but name us a turbo-diesel backed by an auto that doesn’t have lag… And once it’s up and running it whips through the gears with a quality you don’t expect from a work-oriented vehicle. Indeed, sitting in eighth (an overdrive gear) at 100km/h, the tacho is showing just 1600rpm, which is right in the engines sweet spot, making overtaking an cinch.

RIDE & HANDLING

The Amarok might be more truck than SUV, but you wouldn’t know that from behind the wheel. Indeed, the Amarok is easily the best-driving dual-cab 4WD on the market and the comfort springs fitted to our test car give it an even plusher ride (more comfortable off-road with less tendency to bounce over obstacles).

VW Amarok Auto Opener

Indeed, the Amarok shrugs off minor imperfections in the road and barely shudders over broken patches in the road (and that’s without a load in the back, which most utes need to settle down). The steering is reasonably well weighted and direct with impressive straight-ahead stability, and while you’ll probably want to upgrade to a more agressive tyre for low-speed off-road work, on-road, the Amarok’s standard-fit road-biased Bridgestone Dueler HTs and the permanent 4WD make for impressive grip.

While all of its competitors offer low-range, the Amarok auto (the manual offers low-range gearing) makes do without it. Instead, it runs a low first-gear ratio (4.714), which is roughly equivalent to three low in the manual, and is designed expressly for low-speed grunt work. Indeed, the gearbox, unless you’ve thumbed the ‘off-road mode’ button, will skip straight to second gear.

While the low first gear isn’t what you’d call a ‘crawler’ gear it was low enough (and with the rear diff lock engaged) that we clambered up all of our test tracks at Mount Walker, NSW without even raising a sweat. Indeed, we crawled up one gnarly hill at around 15km/h (pulling 1700rpm). We’ve put plenty of 4WDs through their paces on this track, and it ain’t an easy one, stopping a non-rear-diff-lock-equipped HiLux dead. The downhill descent control is so capable that we confidently inched our way back down said hill with our feet off the pedals.

QUALITY

A standout in the category, the Volkswagen Amarok’s quality extends into the cabin with quality, hard-wearing plastics used that give the impression of a passenger car rather than usual commercial vehicle feel of being sat inside something made from the off-cuts of old lunch-boxes. There are big deep storage containers, all of the tie-down points seem strong and sturdy. The tray is deep and roomy while all of the mechanicals seems neatly tucked up and out of harms way. Although the lower-than-some-competitors ground clearance means the belly is exposed to scraping on some tracks, but our test car ran underbody protection and so no harm was done.

PRICING & EQUIPMENT

The eight-speed automatic is only available in conjunction with the tweaked 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel (132kW/420Nm) and in four-wheel drive, or 4MOTION guise. And pricing for the Amarok 4MOTION dual-cab cab chassis starts at $44,490 (+ORC), while the dual cab ute starts from $45,990 (+ORC) and extends to $61,490 (+ORC) for the Amarok Ultimate running comfort springs.

VW Amarok Auto Interior

So, what can you expect for your money? Well, in the Trendline TDI420 4MOTION that we’re testing (from $47,490+ORC) you’ll find 16-inch alloys, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity with a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, multi-function display (showing speed, distance to empty, etc), fog lights, deep storage bins beneath the front seats, and much more.

The Highline (from $53,990+ORC) adds 17-inch alloys, stainless steel sports bar and side steps, rear parking sensor and flared guards, dual-zone climate control and more. The Ultimate (from $61,490+ORC) adds 19-inch alloys, leather seats, and sundry other flourishes, it’s also available in either selectable four-wheel drive or permanent all-wheel drive 4MOTION.Volkswagen offers capped-price servicing on the Amarok for the first six scheduled services (each at a 15,000km interval and up to 90,000km) with prices ranging from mid-$400 through to high-$500.

SAFETY

The Amarok has a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, gets four airbags, traction and stability controls, brake assist and ABS, as well as Off-Road ABS/ASR and electronic differential lock. The dual-cab also has three child restraint points behind the rear seat backs.

Find the best demonstrator car deals for Practical Motoring readers around Australia on our Live Deals website. 


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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober