Driving report: VW Amarok: Diesel meets flatbed

The situation was not without a certain comedy.

Driving report: VW Amarok: Diesel meets flatbed

The situation was not without a certain comedy. The top management of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles proudly presented the completely new Amarok with the words: "The continuation of the Amarok history". But you could also say: the Ford spelling. Because the new VW pick-up is created in cooperation with Ford. Volkswagen is the junior partner, because the car was developed by the people of Cologne. He also uses their technique. Even the engines of the VW Amarok do not come from Wolfsburg. And finally, Ford also produces the Volkswagen in Silverton, South Africa.

The cooperation makes perfect sense. Ford has decades of know-how in the small flatbed truck - a knowledge that Volkswagen tried to acquire with the first, completely independent Amarok generation, laboriously and at great expense. It was almost foreseeable that the pick-up would not exactly develop into a cash cow in the years that followed: the segment in Europe is too small, too fiercely competitive and too price-sensitive in overseas markets. Now, with the changed signs, the cards have been reshuffled. In addition, the VW people never tire of emphasizing that the old Amarok was a benchmark in many areas for partner Ford when developing the new pickup. And especially when it came to the quality of the new Amarok Ranger duo, Volkswagen made demands and brought impetus to the partnership.

The most important claim, however, was the integration of real VW DNA in the Amarok, which was certainly not an easy task given the general conditions - but one that was devoted to the people in Hanover, where Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is based, with great dedication. And voila, from the outside, the new Amarok looks surprisingly independent. VW designer Fatih Tabak concedes: "Proportions and dimensions could not be changed and some red lines could not be crossed." Despite this tight corset, the new Amarok appears surprisingly independent. The front view in particular seems as if there were no partnership at all - a phenomenon that other pickup cooperations have not mastered so well in the past. The typical, up-to-date Volkswagen design has been implemented perfectly. VW also went its own way in the rear area and even in the side view - with the high bonnet, a typical feature of the new Ford Ranger, contributing to the fact that the VW Amarok looks much beefier than its predecessor.

The VW designers, on the other hand, could really let off steam in the interior. Okay, the large central display in portrait format is from Ford and had to be taken over along with its controls. But the effort that went into the materials and controls was extremely high, because all the switches look just like you would expect from a VW. And all surfaces are designed in such a way that the premium light claim of the brand becomes clear. Even the most basic version of the Amarok, which is not even available in Europe, has a laser-engraved dashboard and matching decorative elements. The two-door single cab is a real workhorse that is all about utility. In Europe, the Amarok is generally only offered with a four-door crew cab.

The clearest leap in development, however, is experienced when driving. The new Amarok drives almost like a passenger car. In any case, it doesn't feel like what you would expect from a pickup and exudes more of an SUV's aura in terms of operation and handling. In a direct comparison, the brother, the Ford Ranger, can't keep up either. And compared to the old Amarok, the driving characteristics are a huge leap forward. A very important aspect is smooth running. This applies not only to the effective encapsulation of the thumping of the V6 diesel, but above all to the lack of rattling noises - an issue that is often annoying with pickups because of their length, their ladder frame and the flatbed structure. The only downside is the ride comfort on the road. The top equipment line, the Aventura, comes standard with very stylish 20-inch wheels with thin rubber tires. That looks great, but is no gain for comfortable driving.

Volkswagen offers three engines in Europe: two four-cylinder diesel engines with 170 and 205 hp and the V6 unit. With 600 Newton meters it is just right for a 5.35 meter long pickup. That's still not enough for brisk driving. On the one hand, the curb weight of the V6 Amarok is around 2.5 tons, on the other hand, the ten-speed automatic transmission is so tame and shifts up so quickly that the thrust seems to fizzle out. The possibility of manual shifting, on the other hand, is a joke: the two plus and minus buttons on the side of the shift knob lack any intuition. They could also be toggle switches on the headliner. In real life, most pickup buyers won't try it anyway. Incidentally, hybrid or even electric versions are not available for either brand until further notice.

Even if VW sees the Amarok as a fine lifestyle product for people with a soft spot for sport and leisure, who like to take something with them on the loading area, a pickup is particularly justified when the ground is rough. Then the Pan Americana equipment line is the better choice, which includes rear axle differential lock and AT tires, among other things. All-wheel drive is standard on all Amarok models anyway: simpler versions offer classic switchable all-wheel drive, more sophisticated versions such as the Pan Americana and Aventura have an automatic system with six different off-road modes. Unlike Ford, where they even have a particularly off-road version of the Ranger in their range with the Raptor, VW plays the off-road abilities less strongly: Another difference between VW Amarok and Ford Ranger. How big the price difference between the two will be, however, is still open: At Ford, the cheapest Ranger with a double cab starts at 43,185 euros.

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