Ford Ranger Wildtrak Vs Volkswagen Amarok 580 TDI Ultimate
Dan DeGasperi compares the Ford Ranger Wildtrak with the Volkswagen Amarok 580 TDI Ultimate to find out which one’s the best value performer.
2019 Ford Ranger Wildtrak Specifications
Price $63,990+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety 5 stars Engine 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder Power 157kW at 3750rpm Torque 500Nm at 1750-2000rpm Transmission 10-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 5426mm (L) 1860mm (W) 1848mm (H) 3220mm (WB) Seats five Kerb Weight 2239kg Payload 961kg Ground Clearance 237mm (claimed) Wading Depth 800mm Towing 3500kg (braked) Fuel Tank 80 litres Thirst 7.4L/100km combined-cycle claimed
2019 Volkswagen Amarok 580 TDI Ultimate Specifications
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Price $71,990+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety 5 stars Engine 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 Power 190kW at 4500rpm Torque 580Nm at 1400-3000rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 5254mm (L) 1954mm (W) 1834mm (H) 3095mm (WB) Seats five Kerb Weight 2244kg Payload 836kg Ground Clearance 226mm (claimed) Wading Depth 500mm Towing 3500kg (braked) Fuel Tank 80 litres Thirst 8.9L/100km combined-cycle claimed
THERE have long been luxury cars, sports cars and supercars, however over the last half-decade the luxury ute, sports ute and super ute genres have joined the fray.
Taking the four-wheel drive, five-seater dual-cab as their base, various new models have added the sort of safety, equipment and aggressive items normally reserved for high-end passenger vehicles.
Practical Motoring has already pitted the Ford Ranger Raptor against the HSV Colorado Sportscat; the two $70K-plus super utes, if you like. And the Ford won.
Now, attention turns to the Ranger Wildtrak as the more affordable, yet more safety packed and luxuriously specced model grade still using the same engine.
And for premium performance, the Volkswagen Amarok 580 TDI is newly released and presents as a fine Nappa leather-trimmed antidote to the brash, bush-bashing Raptor and Sportscat.
The question is, which one makes the better $60K-plus luxury-sports ute?
What Are The Ford Ranger Wildtrak And Volkswagen Amarok 580TDI Ultimate?
You can get cheaper V6-powered Amaroks than this new 580 TDI, which is priced from $71,990 plus on-road costs. But only this ‘Ultimate’ specification brings with it 580Nm of torque as well as 190kW of power from the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6, plus the plushness of its rival.
The Ranger Wildtrak is much cheaper, at $63,990+ORC. However, its 2.0L twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder only makes 157kW and 500Nm, the maximum any Ford dual-cab offers. For tradies who want grunt, then, its rival leads the way…
Even before a key is turned and mud is flicked up, though, the Wildtrak makes tracks with a longer equipment list. It gets smaller 18-inch alloy wheels compared with its rival’s aggressive 20s, while it lacks passenger seat electric adjustment and also paddleshifters for the automatic. But that’s about it for the shortfalls.
It then strides ahead with keyless auto-entry, a cargo shutter-blind, a 1.5-inch-larger (8.0in) centre screen, auto reverse-park assistance plus a comprehensive suite of safety technology that you can read about in the next section.
What Are Their Safety Features Like?
This is the biggest difference between the two of all.
The Wildtrak further adds rear curtain airbags to the dual front and front-side standard in both, as well as forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning with active assistance, adaptive cruise control, and auto up/down high-beam over the 580 TDI Ultimate.
On paper, it seems like we need to find an answer for this as well: is the Volkswagen Amarok’s sporty performance worth the extra over the more affordable and safer Ford Ranger? Let’s open them up then hit the road.
What’s Are Their Interiors Like?
Being $64-72K dual-cab utes, both interiors aren’t lacking for comfort and convenience. Beyond the spec differences above, both get leather covering the seats, heated front seats, power adjust for the driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, high-res touchscreens with slick interfaces and intuitive controls, satellite navigation, voice control, digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity.
A driver and front passenger will pick the Volkswagen every time. Not only is the plastic trim quality much better, but it feels more tightly screwed together. Best of all, the Nappa leather covering the wide front seats is superb, and they come complete with (manual) thigh extenders, humbling the vinyl-like hide and narrower buckets of its rival. Meanwhile the carpet-lined door trims cap off a fine front half.
The Ford has its good points up front, though. For a start it matches its bigger screen to twin colour trip computer displays – whereas its rival uses an old monochrome unit. And that centre screen has live traffic updates for its nav, a sole advantage it must be said. The seats in isolation are quite comfortable and offer good adjustment, at least for the driver, and both the glovebox and centre console storage bin are bigger.
Otherwise, though, the scratchy plastics, cheaper controls and rubbery stitched dash just don’t feel high-end enough.
It’s disappointing that neither dual-cab comes with rear-seat air vents, too, though at least both get 12-volt outlets for both in the back row and in the cargo tray (the Amarok also gets two up front versus one, but Ranger gets two USB ports up front versus one – which do you prefer?)
In terms of actual rear rider accommodation, the Ultimate ultimately puts its greater body width to good use by having a bench that is five centimetres wider – important if a trio are seated there often.
But in terms of actual comfort, the Wildtrak is miles ahead. Its backrest is less upright, and its bench is cushier and most importantly more tilted to afford longer-legged people more under-thigh support. Plus, it adds both 5cm in bench depth as well as an extra 5cm in legroom, to become – with headroom similar in each – the clear space winner overall. Add the fact that only the Blue Oval product gets rear curtain airbags, and this is the family (or workmates) cabin of choice.
The German brand has clearly put more emphasis on tray size. Actual cargo length is basically the same (there’s a half-centimetre in its favour) but the V6-powered ute smashes out another 6cm in tray width – including between its wheelarches. It’s enough to claim that a full-size Euro pallet can squeeze in there.
The tray lining itself is also better finished and sturdier than the slippery item in its rival, which may get a shutter blind – but it flunks out by being incredibly fiddly to use.
So, then, front and rear it’s a decent win to the VW Amarok. In the middle, though, it’s a landslide victory to the Ford Ranger.
What Are They Like To Drive?
Ford hasn’t been sitting on its hands with its recently updated dual-cab. Slotting the Raptor’s twin-turbo diesel into the cheaper Wildtrak (and XLT below it) is a masterful move. For $1260 more than the hoary 3.2L turbo five-cylinder nail, and an old six-speed auto, buyers can now access this advanced 2.0L four with an additional 10kW/30Nm, a 10-speed auto and the same 3.5-tonne towing capacity.
It’s the best $1260 you’ll ever spend. This twin-turbo is much quieter and smoother, slick to rev and instant to change gears – it consigns the cheaper, noisier, slow revving engine to a previous era. That said, the low combined-cycle fuel consumption claim of 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres moved to 9.6L/100km on test.
The Volkswagen V6 claims 8.9L/100km but shifted to 10.6L/100km on test. Even so, it’s the best 1 litre of extra diesel you’ll spend, because the 3.0L is a rockstar engine.
It’s quieter again than its rival’s 2.0L, though not by as much as its performance lead. The Amarok’s 7.3-second 0-100km/h claim feels credible; the Ranger wisely makes no such claim, but feels 9.5sec-ish.
An eight-speed automatic and permanent all-wheel drive harness the prodigious power well, and there’s instant and surplus overtaking response anywhere and everywhere. Its rival’s engine and auto are good; but this is superb.
Along with paddleshifters and a tipshifter – neither of which Wildtrak offers – plus sportier 20in tyres, the Ultimate also feels more agile and obviously more tied down.
It would be the sports ute of choice, except for the slow and vague steering, as well as some chassis shudder on rough roads. Worst of all, though, is the really tough urban ride quality that would test any tradie’s back (and patience).
The Ranger is a world of calm by comparison, yet it is still eminently enjoyable to drive. Softer and soothing, yet still well balanced, it soaks up bumps with aplomb while also steering with best-in-class precision and sharpness.
That lead gets longer off road. Across corrugations and over big ruts alike, the Australian-engineered, Thailand-made ute comfortably bests the German-designed, German-made dual cab. On the same dirt tracks, the former encourages speed and gains trust; the latter calls for caution as the driver braces for impacts.
The Ford delivers greater wheel articulation, too, although it must be said that across deeper surfaces going slowly, the Volkswagen still did about as well – only clipping a mudflap here and there. And that’s without low-range gearing, something arguably 8- and 10-speed autos don’t need anyway. Importantly, each gets a locking rear differential and hill-descent control, though.
So, Which One Wins And Why?
We can understand the appeal of the Amarok 580 TDI. The first thing we would do is put smaller wheels and tyres with thicker sidewalls (taller profile, or ‘chubbier’) on it, to be frank. It would go a long way to rounding off the impact of the firmer suspension.
It is expensive, however, and Volkswagen really needs to give this dual-cab the big once-over mid-life update it deserves – adding passive and active safety technology, and more convenience kit.
The Ranger Wildtrak is slower, cheaper up front and smaller in the cargo area, so if these things are important to you then myriad cheaper VW Amaroks start from a bit over $50K with only slightly less powerful versions of this same V6 engine.
On the upside, though, the Ford is better equipped, with better rear accommodation, sharper steering, much smoother ride quality, superior off-road comfort and more frugal economy.
In short, it wins the head by being more things to more people – the definition of a sports-luxury ute all-rounder. As for the driver’s heart, well, if it connects directly to the right foot then you know your pick…