Volkswagen Amarok Highline Review Photo:
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Tim O'Brien | Feb, 23 2011 | 5 Comments


Vehicle Style: Twin-Cab 4X4 Ute
Price: $52,990 (plus on-roads)

Engine: 2.0 litre DOHC turbo-diesel inline four
Outputs: 120kW @ 4000rpm / 400Nm @ 1500rpm
Transmission: Six-speed ZF manual (no auto currently available)
Official fuel efficiency: 7.9 l/100km
On test fuel efficiency: (Not recorded)
CO2 emissions: 209g per kilometre



Black is white, the sea is red, 14 moons hang in the night sky and we’re living on a different world. How else do you explain Volkswagen’s Amarok?

A tough-as-boots twin-cab ute, ladder chassis, ‘north-south’ engine, a leaf-sprung live rear axle and a big tradies’ tub… since when do we find such things with a Volkswagen badge nose and tail?

But there it is, the handsome Amarok – Volkswagen’s “lone wolf” (it’s an Inuit word).

We spent time both on and off-road at the wheel of the up-specced Amarok Highline and came away convinced: this is one serious contender for the segment that HiLux has dominated for 30 years.



  • Quality: Tactile surfaces look and feel good. The dominating ‘Volk’s family-style’ dash is clean and well-designed, and controls are where you expect to find them.

    It feels a distinct step-up from the HiLux - it also feels tight (we couldn’t belt a rattle into it).

    The handbrake is on the wrong side, but the hill-hold assist means you will have little reason to reach for it off-road (or on).
  • Comfort: The seat cushions are typically VW-firm, but well shaped for on and off-road work and quite comfortable. Trim front and back is appealing charcoal-grey, and looks and feels hard-wearing.

    Importantly, rear leg and headroom is surprisingly good (more like a sedan) thanks to the long, wide and square cabin.
  • Equipment: Climate-controlled air-con, six-speaker CD/radio system, cruise control, multi-function display, map-lights, 18-inch alloys, chrome accents and dark tinted glass (rear cab).
  • Storage: One of the biggest tubs in the segment, 1555mm long and 1620mm wide and a load area of 2.52 square metres. With the heavy duty suspension it can take a 1.2 tonne standard pallet (1157kg, around 65 dozen-cases of wine in case you’re wondering), and tow 2800kg (750kg unbraked).


  • Driveability: The 2.0 litre turbo-diesel is strong and understressed. It pulls without harshness beyond 4000rpm (redlined at 5000rpm) and is well-matched to the notchy six-speed manual ZF transmission.

    Both 5th and 6th are overdrive gears. While 6th is pretty lifeless (the Amarok is pulling barely 1800rpm at 100km/h), change down, and there is a willing surge of acceleration for overtaking.

    At this point, best in class on-road.
  • Refinement: Again, best in class. Outside, there is the typical diesel clatter, but inside it’s barely evident. Road and wind noise is low and there is no ‘drumming’ or resonance from the empty tray.
  • Suspension: A quality double wishbone front-end and leaf-spring rear, the Amarok is available with ‘heavy-duty’ or ‘comfort’ suspension - we drove the heavy-duty spec, unladen.

    HD suspension gets extra leaves onto the rear springs.

    We were surprised then to find it such an easy and stable on-road ride – even over secondary road surfaces there was little pitching and jarring and good cornering grip.
  • Braking: Big 303mm discs up front and drums rear, with ABS and traction control. The Amarok also provides an off-road ABS and traction control setting that ‘ploughs-in’ the front wheels and halves loose stopping distances.
  • Off road: Off road it’s the real McCoy - this is no light duty truck. With a switchable high and low range 4MOTION 4X4 system, a super-rigid chassis and heavy under-body protection, the Amarok is built for the rough stuff.

    On steep rutted pinches and fire trails, it’s a match for the benchmark Triton. Like the Triton’s ‘super-select’ 4X4 system, the Amarok’s centre differential system and rear difflock allows the lugging torque of the diesel to simply ‘wind’ its way up and over.

    Approach (28 degrees), departure (23.6 degrees) and ramp-over angles are good, as is wheel articulation. And the descent-control’ makes easy work of loose, slippery steep declines.

    And, as we also found (but some didn’t), although shod with dual-purpose Bridgestone Dueller tyres, you don’t need a shower of revs with a four-wheel-drive system of this capability to get through the deeply rutted glue-pots that stopped some.


  • ANCAP rating: 5-Star.
  • Safety features: Driver and front passenger airbags, front head/thorax side airbags, electronic stability control with brake assist and ABS, off-road ABS/ASR and EDL.


  • Warranty: Three years unlimited kilometres (with roadside assistance)
  • Service costs: Before purchase, check with your Volkswagen dealer. (Watch this site for information as it comes to hand.)


  • Toyota HiLux SR5 3.0DT ($53,690): This is the one the Amarok Highline is hunting. The HiLux has a deserved reputation and unbeatable resale values. But it’s vulnerable; it’s costly and it’s ageing.

    On-road the Amarok is better, off-road it’s at least a match.

    (see HiLux reviews)
  • Mitsubishi Triton GLX-R 2.5DT ($47,990): The Amarok has a bigger tray and payload capability, is a better drive on road and, again, at least a match off it. The Triton holds a considerable price advantage though.

    (see Triton reviews)
  • Navara ST-X 2.5DT ($50,990): Nissan’s blunt Navara is a strong performer on road and not bad off it, but looks dated outside and in. But, it is heavily discounted at the moment and, like the others above, available in auto.

    (see Navara reviews)

    Note: prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.


Straight off the bat, Volkswagen has built a very, very competent twin-cab 4X4 ute with the surprising Amarok. It has leapt the other contenders in the class to take the challenge straight to number one – Toyota’s dominant HiLux.

Is the Amarok better? At this point yes, but, time will tell. With the HiLux, Toyota has consistently built a car people want – tough, gutsy, and loyal – that’s the task ahead for Volkswagen. And there is also Ford's new Ranger on the horizon.

Having no automatic will hurt sales, but if you’re in the market and don’t have the Amarok on your list, you might be overlooking the best in segment.

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