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8-speed Amarok

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Review by Godfrey Castle

The Amarok TDI 4Motion gets an eight-speed automatic transmission, and we ask: are twin turbos any substitute for cubic capacity?

First a word of caution: once you test drive this vehicle you could find it very difficult to give it back! Manual transmissions are for farm bakkies: economy, power and the flexibility for enjoying either the open road or bumper-to-bumper traffic makes this vehicle a winner! Volkswagen’s engineers have obviously spent countless hours locked away in some highly secret office deliberating over data that would solve the question I’ve posed! And, rather than go with the flow of bigger engines, they decided to stick with their argument: take a twolitre bi-turbo engine and Whereas most bakkie manufacturers have gone for beefy cubic capacity, Volkswagen opted for their fuel-efficient two-litre, four-cylinder diesel motor, and then added two exhaust-driven turbos that see this engine developing 132 kW and 420 Nm of torque!

To prove a point in the cubic capacity war, Volkswagen engineers recently added an eight-speed automatic transmission to the Amarok, and this does two things. First, it provides a real low gear, so that the engine can quickly develop engine rpm in order to spin up the bi-turbos. And then it also has the benefit of gearing to move, well, almost heaven and earth!

Couple this power with permanent all-wheel drive, hitch a big caravan or boat on the back, and you not only have all the gearing and traction required, but also an automatic that makes driving easy and effortless. It’s a great drive train and it’s in this vehicle.

In its standard trim this vehicle is priced at R415 200. But there are so many extras you might like to add, such as Parktronic, leather seats, Electronic Stability Program (more on ESP below) and the radio.

Towing performance
If Volkswagen has achieved one thing with this eight-speed Amarok, then it’s hammering the last nail in the manual gearbox coffin. Why anybody would want to own a manual – or even tow with a manual – beats me. The Amarok is a pleasure in heavy traffic just as much as it’s a pleasure towing uphill.

Of course, the fuel-economical motorist watching the fuel gauge will save a few drops of diesel by manually flicking the automatic transmission lever down a gear rather than flooring the accelerator pedal to engage a lower gear.

When we hitched our Sprite Tourer SP to the Amarok, the suspension dropped by only 35 mm. The Amarok’s suspension, I believe, needs a family of two or more and a little extra load in the bak to help smooth out the bumps.

For me the most interesting point is its performance and fuel consumption. At sea level, this combination sprints from a standstill to 100 km/h in 15.13 seconds, does our hill climb in 1 minute 34 seconds and, on the flat, uses 10.8 l / 100 km at 100 km/h. Let’s put this up against the Toyota Hilux 3.0-litre D-4D Raider double-cab, which produces 120 kW and 343 Nm. The Hilux accelerates from a standstill to 100 km/h in 14.84 seconds and does the hill climb in 1 minute 39 seconds.

The Amorok’s eight-speed auto and bi-turbo engine certainly puts up a great argument for not opting for cubic capacity – and it gives the smaller two-litre engine the edge on the mountain passes. In this case, it used fifth gear going up the mountain on Ou Kaapse Weg. What we don’t know about at this stage is longevity: will the harder-working engine last as long as an unstressed one?

In addition, the permanent all-wheeldrive traction demonstrates a subtle superiority over its rear-wheel-drive competitors. Looking at the combination, you feel you can push the Amarok and Sprite Tourer further in cornering with less understeer – and let’s not forget the benefit you get when pulling off from your favourite campsite on wet grass!

If the going gets tougher than expected, you can always select off-road ABS and ESP and enjoy optimised traction and safe handling on just about any type of terrain. ESP, for the caravaner, helps keep the vehicle from swerving. This system evaluates data and recognises the direction the vehicle is travelling in, and then calculates exactly what brake force to apply to the wheels to help keep the vehicle stable.

The Amarok has a tough ladder-frame chassis for durability, but it also has a pleasantly soft side … and that is its cab comfort! It is nicely styled and well appointed for a workhorse. In fact, it’s nicely styled for a family vehicle. Some towing performance figures: at 120 km/h the engine revs at a low 2000 rpm, and you can expect a fuel consumption of 10.8 l/100 km.

Volkswagen claim for the Amarok a legal towing capacity of up to three tons (on a 12% gradient). However, it has a tare of 1875 kg and GCM of 5500 kg, so you’re only allowed to tow a caravan with a GVM of up to 1875 kg, providing no extra weight is added to the towing vehicle.

Furthermore, towing a caravan with a GVM of 1875 kg still begs the question: does cubic capacity play an important role with these heavier-than-average caravans?

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