VOLKSWAGEN AMAROK 4WD TRACK REVIEW
When we got an invitation to spend a day with the 4WD Amarok on a motocross track, it seemed an odd-enough pairing to put the laptop away, pull on the mud-plugging boots and front up.
A motocross track? Did Volkswagen want us to test the Amarok’s ability to land a set of doubles? Is Volkswagen gunning for an Amarok to star in a future Ken Block video? Was this a thinly disguised insight into the Volkswagen Group’s acquisition of Ducati?
In fact, none of the above.
The purpose of the day was more evident when the co-hosts were revealed: the JDR Motorsports motocross team, the Australian arm of which is sponsored by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles Australia.
Volkswagen Commercial had hired out the Oakdale Junior Motorcycling Club motocross track, 90km southwest of Sydney.
On hand were a pair of 4WD Amarok dual cabs, one in six-speed manual form, and the other equipped with the recently launched eight-speed automatic transmission.
Our only instruction was to keep the wheels on the ground, and within the confines of the circuit. Easy...
ON THE TRACK
Recent rain and a track surface riddled with the evidence of hard use made for a surface that looked set to embarrass the Amaroks.
Both examples tested wore their standard highway-terrain tyres, though the narrower 205-section tyres fitted to the basic automatic Amarok had a theoretical advantage in the mud over the 255s fitted to the manual Highline.
Regardless, both lacked the big-toe sized tyre lugs of the motocross bikes that had dug the track’s surface into a slurry.
Under the bonnets of both sat the 2.0 TDI engine, with manual transmission in 120kW/400Nm TDI400 form, and the new eight-speed automatic option in 132kW/420Nm form.
Keen followers of the Amarok line-up will also know that the manual (non-Ultimate trim) 4WD models are equipped with a low-range transfer case.
The automatic 4WD models make do without low range, but have instead a low crawling gear and a torsen centre-differential.
In Volkwagen parlance, our manual Amarok had ‘Selectable 4MOTION’, while the automatic uses ‘Permanent 4MOTION’.
Both were laden with a matching load (standard practice at press events), however Volkswagen chose to load these Amaroks with an untold fortune’s worth of JDR race bike in each tray!
This was certainly a novel selection for this purpose, and we did our best to avoid sloshing mud all over the pristinely prepped machines. Sort of.
The trepidation brought on by the Amarok’s standard tyres and the track’s ankle-deep mud meant our initial foray onto the circuit was a ginger one, with low range and ‘off-road’ mode selected in the manual model.
Incidentally, off-road mode is a button-selectable function in all 4WD Amaroks, and adjusts the stability control and ABS thresholds to allow a higher degree of tyre slip - essential in most off-road conditions.
Calling on every element of assistance available, we rolled onto the track, carefully maintaining momentum in third gear through the sloppiest sections.
Climbing the jumps and negotiating the often tight bends, the Amarok never threatened to stop.
We then repeated this approach in the automatic model, with similar results. In this, both Amaroks well exceeded our expectations.
Intervention of traction control could only be noticed through finite wheel-speed control, regardless of throttle input. This idiot-proof progress came free of the juddering and vibration that can characterise other similar systems when called upon.
Having proven both drivelines in loose mud, we then set about challenging the automatic’s hillclimbing ability - with no low-range transfer case to call on.
With no mountains about, we parked the automatic Amarok at mid-point on the steepest incline we could find on the track.
This was the approach to the table-top jump used by pro-rider Ryan Marmont at the morning tea break for jumping an Amarok lengthways (to give an idea of the gradient of the approach).
And it was slippery as well as steep.
The auto’s short first gear combined with the torque-converter enabled a fuss-free start up the climb, despite the relatively high 1750rpm arrival of peak torque. It easily lifted itself up and over.
This was a big feather in the auto’s cap. It managed the steepest gradient you’d wisely tackle in a vehicle with the dual cab’s modest clearance figures.
TMR TRACK VERDICT:
While not quite the most scientific of tests, both manual and automatic 4WD Amaroks impressed around the muddy Oakdale motocross track.
Both vehicles delivered beyond expectation on the day, and were certainly challenged by the unique terrain.
Ultimately, with an ongoing climb, or with any uphill obstacles, the low-range of the manual model will still have the overall off-road advantage, but the automatic Amarok is hardly the soft-roader many had feared.
With its on-road finesse, passenger comfort and proven load-lugging ability, the automatic-equipped Amarok is certainly among the best of an impressive crop of new-generation light utilities.
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- TSI300 4x2 cab-chassis - $24,490
- TSI300 4x2 ute - $25,990
- TDI340 4x2 cab-chassis - $27,490
- TDI340 4x2 ute - $28,990
- TDI400 4x4 cab-chassis - $35,490
- TDI400 4x4 ute - $36,990
- TDI340 4x2 cab-chassis - $30,490
- TSI300 4x2 cab-chassis - $31,090
- TDI340 4x2 ute - $31,990
- TDI400 4x2 cab-chassis - $32,490
- TSI300 4x2 ute - $32,590
- TDI400 4x2 ute - $33,990
- TDI400 4x4 cab-chassis - $41,490
- TDI400 4x4 ute - $42,990
- TDI420 4x4 cab-chassis auto - $44,490
- Trendline TDI400 4x4 cab-chassis - $44,490
- TDI420 4x4 ute auto - $45,990
- Trendline TDI400 4x4 ute - $45,990
- Trendline TDI420 4x4 cab-chassis auto - $47,490
- Trendline TDI420 4x4 ute auto - $48,990
- Highline TDI400 4x4 ute - $50,990
- Highline TDI420 4x4 ute auto - $53,990
- Ultimate TDI400 4x4 ute - $58,990
- Ultimate TDI420 4x4 ute auto - $61,490
Note: Above prices exclude on-road costs.
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