2019 Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate 580 Review (with video)
Toby Hagon’s 2019 Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate 580 Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.
In a nutshell: The flagship version of the Amarok lineup now gets a more powerful version of the familiar 3.0-litre V6 diesel.
Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate 580 Review Specifications
Price $71,990+ORC Warranty 5 years, unlimted kilometres Service Intervals 12 months, 15,000km Safety 5-star ANCAP rating Engine 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel Power 190kW at 3250-4500rpm Torque 580Nm at 1400-3000rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive Four-wheel drive Dimensions 5254mm (L), 1954mm (W), 1834mm (H), 3095mm (WB) Ground Clearance 192mm (claimed) Kerb Weight 2244kg Angles 28.0 degrees (approach), 23.6 degrees (departure), 23.0 degrees (rampover) Towing 3500kg Towball Download 300kg GVM 3080kg GCM 6000kg Spare Full-sized Fuel Tank 80L Thirst 8.9L/100km
There’s something of a power war going on in the dual-cab ute market right now and Volkswagen was clearly keen to settle a score with the latest update to its Amarok. Key to the changes is the adoption of a more powerful version of the familiar 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6. For now it’s only available in the flagship Ultimate, but expect it to filter down to lesser models over time.
What’s in the range and how much does it cost?
The Amarok line-up kicks off at $38,490 for a two-wheel drive dual-cab driven by a 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel.
By the time you add the V6 engine and four-wheel drive system most owners are demanding it’s $51,990+ORC, the starting price of the Core V6.
As the model name suggests, it gets the basics – alloy wheels, reversing camera and a 6.3-inch touchscreen incorporating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – but it’s not lavished in fruit.
Stepping through the V6 range – each increasing the level of standard kit – is the Sportline ($55,990), Highline ($60,490) and top-of-the range Ultimate tested here, a $71,990 proposition.
The Ultimate gets 20-inch alloys, metal pedals, leather, sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors and separate controls for the ventilation on either side of the cabin. There are other nifty touches, too, including side steps that incorporate LED lights to illuminate the ground when you’re approaching the car at night.
Notable omissions for a top-shelf ute include a 360-degree reversing camera (for a virtual overhead view) and smart key entry and start, meaning you have to put the key in the ignition (which is very noughties!).
It also misses out on rear airbag protection, a big oversight for a vehicle increasingly used for family transport.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
Designers have clearly thought about how the Amarok will be used, all of which pays of with a very functional interior.
Storage areas are plentiful, from the broad door pockets and decent centre console to other binnacles and a dash-top pod that comes complete with 12V power. Big or small, there are myriad spots for all manner of items.
The Amarok also has a great seating position not much different to that of passenger cars, with good adjustability to the steering wheel and easy access to all controls.
The front seats are also terrific, with good lateral support and a firm but comfortable cushion. Perfect for big adventures.
However, the dashboard and general layout is showing its age, particularly with the choice of materials and finishes. The plastics are quite hard, for example, with none of the tactility of newer materials that can add class to a cabin.
Those in the rear get quite a wide seat courtesy of the broad cabin, although the seat itself is quite high. While that’s good for vision, it can start to cramp the headroom of taller adults. Leg room, too, is acceptable rather than great, plus there are no rear air vents.
What are the controls and infotainment like?
Formal and functional: that sums up the assortment of controls in the Amarok.
On the centre stack the 6.3-inch touchscreen is positioned high, close to the driver’s line of sight. With main menu buttons surrounding the screen and a logical menu system it makes it easy to flip between functions, easily bringing up smartphone apps when they’re needed.
A trio of dials for the ventilation system incorporates buttons as well, again making it easy to adjust on the run.
The instrument cluster delivers the basics with two analogue dials for the speedo and tacho, but there’s a small digital display separating them that adds digital speedo functionality and more detailed information on things such as fuel use.
What’s the performance like?
Since the arrival of the V6 turbo diesel engine option in the Amarok in 2016 Volkswagen has held a performance advantage against its ute rivals. But the Ultimate 580 steps it up slightly to maintain that advantage against the newly arrived Mercedes-Benz X350d (exclusive first Outback test coming this week).
Peak power is claimed at 190kW (25kW more than regular V6 Amaroks), but in certain conditions the turbo can overboost, or increase the pressure of the air it is forcing into the engine.
That boosts power to 200kW or even 205kW in the right conditions, all of which makes it to the ground faithfully courtesy of a full-time four-wheel drive system.
The overboost only works for up to 10 seconds at a time and kicks in at higher engine revs, so you have to be driving it hard. Plus, it’s optimised for third and fourth gears, which is what the eight-speed auto will be in if you’re accelerating hard to overtake on a country road.
It also won’t work in very hot conditions, the engine automatically protecting itself from overheating.
In reality, the overboost likely won’t kick in much for most owners, mainly because there’s a heap of very usable torque that gets the job done most of the time.
The 580 makes 580Nm (hence the moniker for the car) at just 1400rpm. It all works nicely with the eight-speed auto, too, which shifts cleanly and offers a good spread of ratios.
Oh, and for the number crunchers, the claimed 0-100km/h for the Ultimate 580 versus regular V6 Amaroks (with the 165kW/550Nm engine) is 7.3 seconds versus 7.9 seconds – provided that overboost function has activated.
Despite the extra grunt, fuel use actually drops slightly, to a claimed 8.9 litres per 100km. We did a mix of driving, including plenty of off-roading and the engine typically used about 10 or 11L/100km. Drive it gently and you’ll hit that figure, but for most driving expect something in the low double digits.
What’s it like on the road?
Since its arrival in 2010 the Amarok has always been towards the pointy end of the ute field for road manners.
It taught many of the established ute players how to make a workhorse handle. Not that any of the basics are different to other utes: it has a ladder frame chassis underneath and leaf springs at the rear to carry heavy loads. But somehow Volkswagen gives the Amarok decent control where others bounce around.
While it’s not as relaxed as a regular passenger car, the general body control and comfort inches ahead of most utes.
The V6 Amaroks also pick up disc brakes at the rear for better and more consistent stopping power (most utes have inferior drum brakes at the rear).
Refinement is also good without being terrific. Tyre roar is certainly part of the 100km/h touring equation, although it’s not overly intrusive.
What’s it like off the road?
There’s a school of thought that suggests you need a dual-range transfer case for serious off-roading. But the Amarok does its best to challenge that thinking.
It has a permanent four-wheel drive system but it has only high range ratios, lacking that transfer case that all rivals possess.
However, Volkswagen has added quite a low first gear to allow for slow-speed crawling and maximising grunt down low. Combined with the 4×4 mode that adjusts the throttle sensitivity and gear shifts it works nicely, combining with the ample torque to ensure easy progress. It’s an accomplished off-roader.
For outback touring, sand driving and trudging along challenging tracks the V6 pulls strongly and there’s never an issue with forward progress. Only in very challenging terrain – very steep hills, over big boulders, etc – would a lower ratio be appreciated. But, even then, there was nothing that stopped the Amarok Ultimate over the varied and often challenging terrain we tested it over.
Traction is helped with a decent traction control system as well as a locking rear differential, splitting drive evenly between left and right wheels at the back of the car.
Before we get too serious, though, let’s talk tyres. The standard fitment for the Ultimate is 20-inch wheels with 50-series profile rubber. It’s not particularly well suited to serious off-roading, where taller side walls help with puncture resistance and moulding around whatever you’re driving over.
Fortunately, you can choose 19-inch or even 18-inch wheels, each better suited to off-roading. As a general rule the smaller diameter the wheel the better chance you have of finding a replacement tyre in remote areas, too.
So, if you’re planning on doing off-roading it’s worth considering the smaller rubber. Or you could buy a second set of wheels and tyres for when you do go bush.
Another thing to keep in mind is scraping various bits of the underside. The approach angle is decent, at 28.0 degrees, although the rear is much shallower (23.0) and it’s easy to scrape when coming off steep edges or coming out of deep creek beds.
And, while there’s decent ground clearance under the centre of the car, the fancy tubular side steps are prone to scraping over obstacles. They’re more show than go, so beware of damaging them.
Does it have a spare?
There’s a full-sized spare wheel and tyre under the rear tray. The Amarok V6 also gets tyre pressure sensors, providing crucial early warnings in the event of a slow leak or puncture.
Can you tow with it?
Utes are regularly used for towing and the Amarok is no different. While the tow capacity of the V6 once fell short of class leaders, an update in 2018 means it matches them with a 3500kg capacity.
You get the impression the engine wouldn’t have an issue shifting that sort of weight. However, do the calculations on towing that much and it’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to do it legally. It all comes down to the numbers.
Volkswagen quotes a GCM, or gross combination mass (the weight of the car, everything in it and the trailer) of 6000kg. The Ultimate 580 weighs 2244kg, so by the time you’ve hooked up 3500kg there’s a combined mass of 5744kg. That only leaves 256kg for people, luggage and towball download.
Typically, a towball download runs at about 10 percent of the weight of the van, although Volkswagen limits it to 300kg for the Amarok. Also, VW calculates its kerb weight with just 10L of fuel in the Amarok, so, add in fuel and subtract the 300kg towball mass from the above payload (256kg) and you can’t legally sit in your Amarok V6 and drive it or tow with it.
Of course, if you limit the trailer weight to 3000kg the equation is a lot rosier and the numbers start to add up, which for most people will suit just fine. Let’s work this out then, you split the GCM of 6000kg and you’re left with a trailer weighing 3000kg but the heaviest the Amarok can weigh is 3080kg, but we’ll stick with the 3000kg. So, subtract the kerb weight, bearing in mind it’s calculated with just 10L of fuel and no driver, and you get a payload of 756kg, minus the 300kg towball mass and you’re left with 456kg for luggage, fuel and passengers.
What about ownership?
Since late 2018 the Amarok also benefits from the five-year warranty with no limit on how far you drive. Servicing for an Amarok V6 occurs every 12 months or 15,000km. For the first five years or 75,000km services range in price between $515 and $878.
Like many modern diesel engines, the Amarok has a diesel particulate filter, which can become clogged if you do mainly short trips. To clear it out you have to drive for up to half an hour, preferably above 70km/h, at which point the particulate matter burns off.
What safety features does it have?
The Amarok maintains a five-star ANCAP safety rating but it would not achieve that rating today if it were retested to the stricter standards that now apply.
That’s in part due to the lack of side airbags, something unique in the dual-cab category. The potentially life-saving rear curtain airbags are lacking, which is disappointing given the multifunction expectations of a ute. The Amarok instead focuses its safety efforts on the front seats, with frontal airbags and side airbags protecting the head and thorax.
It’s also missing out on the latest active safety tech, including auto emergency braking.
That said, the Amarok has some useful safety systems, including the multi-collision braking system that automatically applies the brakes after an initial impact, potentially stopping the car from rolling into the path of another vehicle if the driver is incapacitated.
Tyre pressure sensors are also handy in giving early warning of a leak.