Six of the best

Jul 21, 2017 | Features, Luxury Trends, Slider

VW’s updated Amarok gains a brilliant new six-cylinder engine and proceeds to further blur the lines between bakkie and SUV

Us South Africans love our bakkies. We cart our kids to school in them, load large appliances on the back, tow our trailers, boats and caravans to the coast, do a spot of off-roading and, ahem, give our egos a boost while lording over the hoards of Polos and Corollas inching forward in stop-start traffic.

Never mind that bakkies are ultimately unsuited to an urban locale, where their comical size renders them difficult to park and they’re a drain on your wallet at the petrol pumps. But don’t attempt to find a rational reason why the Hilux and Ranger are often the bestselling vehicles overall in South Africa. You simply won’t discover one. A vehicle that’s been a perennial also-ran in the fiercely competitive bakkie segment hopes to net a bigger slice of that lucrative pie. Despite being the most refined of bakkies, Volkswagen’s Amarok has never quite been able to convince buyers that it should be their pick over the de rigueur Hilux and Ranger.

But that looks set to change with the big German pickup’s midlife refresh. Supplementing the 2.0-litre turbodiesel is a new 3.0-litre V6 that’s shared with such illustrious VW Group stablemates as the Porsche Macan and Audi A7 Sportback. And the lusty V6 transforms the experience. Forget what you know about bakkies.

The Amarok 3.0 TDI feels like an SUV with the hatch chopped off and replaced with a practical trough of a load bay. The engine spins throatily to the red line of the rev counter, pulling along the colossal Amarok at a pace that’s unmatched in this segment.

Coupled with VW’s lovely eight-speed auto box, it has the refinement to make you think long and hard about signing for that SUV, and rather consider joining the mobs of bakkie devotees.

If you can afford an Amarok 3.0 TDI V6 – prices look to start at more than R700 000 – rest assured you’re buying the best leisure bakkie. Good luck with parking it at your local shopping centre, though.

What else is new? Well, VW has tweaked some exterior design details, while the updated interior has a new dashboard, enhanced connectivity options, sumptuously comfortable seats and a clever bit of tech that amplifies the driver’s voice to the rear seats, perfect on those long road trips when the little ones are getting antsy and a digitally enhanced word or two is called for. But those advances pale in comparison with the engine.

Credit: Photographs Supplied, Text Terence Steenkamp