Volkswagen Amarok TDI550 Ultimate Review
Dean Mellor’s Volkswagen Amarok TDI550 Ultimate Review With Pricing, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Safety, Verdict And Score.
In A Nutshell The Volkswagen Amarok TDI550 is currently the most powerful (and torque-laden) of all the dual-cab utes on the Aussie market, although there are several competitors vying for top-dog status in the coming months.
Volkswagen Amarok TDI550 Ultimate
Pricing $68,490+ORC Warranty 3-years/unlimited km Service Intervals 12 months or 15,000km Safety 5 star ANCAP Engine 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel Power 165kW at 2500-4500rpm (180kW on overboost) Torque 550Nm at 1500-2500rpm (580Nm on overboost) Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive full-time four-wheel drive Dimensions 5254mm (L); 1954 (W); 1878mm (H) Turning Circle 12.95m Ground Clearance 192mm Towing capacity 750/3000kg Kerb weight 2216kg Payload 864kg Spare Full size Fuel Tank 80L Thirst (combined) 7.8/L/100km
THE MERCEDES-BENZ X 350f 4MATIC was billed as the giant killer that would steal the Amarok’s grunt crown. But a few weeks ago, Volkswagen announced the Amarok would be available Down Under, later this year, with a tweaked V6 offering peak power of 190kW and 200kW on overboost, putting it beyond the reach of the Merc. In Ultimate trim, the Amarok V6 is certainly one high-performing and supremely comfortable ute.
What is the Volkswagen Amarok TDI550 Ultimate?
The Amarok TDI550 Ultimate is currently Volkswagen’s top-of-the-range ute, packed with technology and comfort features, along with a potent 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine that’s claimed to produce a whopping 180kW of power in ‘overboost’ mode and a healthy 580Nm of load-hauling torque.
What is overboost? Volkswagen says the Amarok TDI550 has peak outputs of 165kW and 550Nm, but this climbs to 180kW and 580Nm for up to 10 seconds in third and fourth gears when full throttle is applied. In other words, when you might need rapid acceleration for overtaking, or you want to get a wriggle on and accelerate from 0-100km/h in less than eight seconds, the Amarok V6 will rise to the challenge.
The V6 is mated to an eight-speed transmission with power transmitted to all four wheels via a single-range full-time 4×4 system.
In Ultimate trim, the Amarok is a seriously well-equipped ute. Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control air conditioning; colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto; DAB+; six speakers; voice control for phone and navigation; colour multi-function display with trip, TPMS, speed warning, vehicle status, audio, phone, navigation and convenience menus; four 12V power outlets; Nappa leather seat trim, 14-way power adjustable driver’s seat and heated front seats; aluminium pedals and chrome interior trim. Exterior features unique to Ultimate include 19-inch ‘Milford’ alloy wheels with 255/55R19 rubber, a full-size spare, and extended sports bar.
The Amarok Ultimate’s tub is 1550mm long and 1620mm wide, so it can accommodate a full-width Euro pallet between the wheel arches and it features a matt black Durabed coating for protection and enhanced friction to stop loads from sliding around. There are four cargo tie-down points and cargo bed illumination.
Overall payload is 864kg and the Amarok TDI500 has a 3000kg maximum braked towing capacity and a 300kg maximum tow ball load.
What’s the interior like?
The Amarok has a wide cabin that provides an air of spaciousness not matched by many in the class. The driver’s seat is supportive and it offers an excellent range of adjustment in just about every way imaginable, so finding a comfortable seating position is not difficult. And the Amarok’s windscreen is not as raked as some, the benefit of which is excellent forward visibility, while the deep windows provide a good view to the sides.
The interior trim abounds with quality materials, from the Nappa leather with contrasting stitching to the soft-touch finishes on and around the dash. The dash design is quite conservative but features well-positioned and clearly marked switches and dials, while the colour touchscreen is located up high where it’s easy to read. The colour multi-function display is also bright and informative.
There’s plenty of width for rear-seat passengers, with enough shoulder room for three adults and decent headroom for those sitting in the outer seats, but leg room is not fantastic. There are two ISOFIX anchorage points for child seats. The rear seat has a 60/40 split and the backrests can be folded down or the seat bases folded up, providing additional (secure) storage space in the cabin.
What’s it like on the road?
The Amarok has always been considered one of the most dynamic of the dual-cab 4×4 utes to drive and on the road it offers almost carlike levels of refinement and handling that certainly equals, if not betters, many 4×4 wagons. Ride quality is best described as sporty; it’s on the firm side but not to the point of being uncomfortable. Steering response and feel is excellent and the Amarok corners with minimal body roll.
The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine is smooth, refined and responsive, and it delivers plenty of power and torque when needed. The engine is also well mated to the smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, which holds gears when you want it to but shifts down quickly if desired with a prod on the accelerator. Floor it and the Amarok’s overboost kicks in providing startlingly brisk acceleration – this thing really gets up and boogies like no other dual-cab 4×4 ute on the market.
The Amarok also fits the bill as a comfortable long-distance tourer. In addition to the aforementioned high quality interior, NVH levels are well suppressed in the Amarok, with mechanical, road and wind noise levels akin to a prestige passenger car. Fuel economy is also impressive, with a claimed extra urban figure of 7.3L/100km, ensuring a touring range exceeding 1000km form the 80L fuel tank.
Head off the blacktop and the Amarok’s full-time 4×4 system ensures there’s always good traction on unsealed roads. There’s a 40:60 torque split between front and rear axles in most conditions but the Torsen centre differential will automatically apportion more torque to the wheels with grip in slippery conditions.
What’s it like off the road?
Despite its single-range 4×4 system, the Amarok TDI550 offers strong off-road performance and, importantly, is incredibly easy to operate in off-road conditions, indeed as our Robert Pepper claimed, it might even be a 4×4 of the future. Simply steer it off the blacktop, select off-road mode at the press of a button and drive. If things get really tricky, you can also engage the rear diff lock by pressing another console-mounted button.
Off-road mode activates the Hill Descent Control (HDC) – this will disengage when the vehicle levels out – and recalibrates the ABS settings for better braking performance on loose surfaces by allowing the wheels to slip less than it would on bitumen to build a wedge of dirt ahead of the tyres. A Hill Start system prevents the vehicle from rolling back when the brake is released on inclines (it holds for two seconds and then releases) and, importantly, the electronic traction control system continues to operate on the front axle when the rear diff lock is engaged, providing impressive performance over uneven terrain, even when the Amarok can’t keep all four wheels on the ground.
The Amarok has traditional (for the class) separate body on chassis construction with a live-axle rear-end with leaf springs and independent suspension up front with coil struts, and wheel travel is pretty good, particularly at the rear. Approach, ramp-over and departure angles are respectable (28°, 23° and 23.6° respectively) and the Amarok TDI550 has 192mm of ground clearance. Wading depth is quoted as only 500mm, so you’d certainly want to fit an aftermarket snorkel to the Amarok if heading off-road.
What about the lack of low-range gearing, you ask? Well, overall reduction in first gear isn’t fabulous at 17.4:1, but the engine’s abundance of low-rpm grunt, the throttle’s millimetre perfect progression, and the auto transmission’s torque multiplying effect ensure the Amarok has decent hill-climbing capability. Sure, engine braking isn’t exactly great, but the HDC works so well you’ll find that low-range equipped vehicles following you will have to slow down to avoid getting too close, and the ABS system provides confident braking on loose surfaces in off-road mode.
The main thing holding the Amarok TDI550 back in rough off-road conditions is the standard fitment (on Ultimate) 255/55R19 tyre size. Owners who reckon their Amaroks will see a fair bit of off-road action would be well advised to ask their Volkswagen dealer to fit 17-inch rims with 245/65R17 tyres.
What abut safety features?
The Amarok underwent ANCAP testing in 2011 and was awarded a five-star rating at that time, and that rating still applies today. Standard safety equipment on the TDI550 Ultimate includes driver and passenger front and side airbags, three-point safety belts and headrests all round, three child-seat top tethers, two ISOFIX points, with Multi-Collision Braking System that automatically applies the brakes after a collision, traction control, Electronic Stability Control, Brake Assist, Trailer Sway Stability Control, Active Roll-over Prevention, four-wheel disc brakes, tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS), front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, dusk-sensing headlights, rain-sensing wipers, Bi-Xenon headlights with LED DRLs and fog lights.
The lack of airbags for rear-seat occupants is a glaring omission, and the Amarok misses out on technology such as lane-keeping assist and autonomous emergency braking, which are both featured on the recently launched Mercedes-Benz X-Class.
So, what do we think of the Volkswagen Amarok TDI550 Ultimate?
There’s little doubt that the Amarok TDI550 Ultimate is one of the most well-equipped and best performing dual-cab 4×4 utes on the market, but there’s plenty of competition on the horizon, especially with the impending launch of the Mercedes-Benz X 350d 4MATIC, powered by a 3.0-litre TDV6 that will produce a claimed 190kW/550Nm. Nevertheless, Volkswagen isn’t resting on its laurels, and will itself launch a retuned version of Amarok V6 later this year that will punch out a whopping 200kW.