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Dare to enter the layer of the Volkswagen Amarok

Dare to enter the layer of the Volkswagen Amarok

Ah the Volkswagen Amarok. According to the folklores of the Inuit, the inhabitants of the Arctic regions surrounding Greenland, Canada and Alaska - m

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Ah the Volkswagen Amarok. According to the folklores of the Inuit, the inhabitants of the Arctic regions surrounding Greenland, Canada and Alaska – more commonly known as Eskimos – any hunter, foolish enough to be hunting at night, would fall victim to a massive wolf-like creature known as an amaroq.

The amaroq’s supposedly generally hunt alone, unlike ‘normal’ wolves which hunt in a pack, and that they would never second guess a kill.

Much like its mythological namesake, VW’s Amarok attests to the company’s sole aim of taking a large bite out of the South African bakkie market and generally, hunt down the established players such as the Toyota Hilux, Isuzu KB and the Ford Ranger.

Launched in late 2009, the Amarok is Volkswagen’s first proper attempt at producing an in-house developed one ton pick-up following an unsuccessful joint venture with Toyota, which resulted in the Taro, a rebadged left hand-drive only Toyota Hilux sold in European countries form 1989-1997.

Styled by current VW Group lead designer, Walter de’Silva, whose credits include the Audi A5 and R8, VW Scirocco and current Polo to name but a few, the Amarok was previewed in 2008 as the Robust pick-up concept in Search and Rescue gear to general positive reaction by the world’s motoring press.

Once in production, however, many an eyebrow was raised at VW’s decision to equip their new creation with a small 2.0-litre single-or brand new twin turbo diesel engine in a market which typically required a minimum engine size of 2.5-litres.

It triggered one of the biggest debates in the local bakkie market with many questioning VW’s decision and whether this was nothing more than a sheep in wolves’ clothing.

Yet, it also proved to be the Amarok’s main drawing card with many sceptics lining up at dealerships to find out for themselves if a 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel double cab 4×4 could really work. Indeed, many sceptics returned from their test drives, clearly stunned and surprised as the number of Amarok’s on the countries’ roads skyrocketed.

The Volkswagen Amarok

One of the first Amarok buyers turned out to be non-other than 11 times national rally champion and all round motorsport superstar, Sarel van der Merwe.

Not only did SuperVan make the Amarok his personal vehicle of choice, but he also made it the mainstay in his self-created Spirit of Africa 4×4 Challenge, a demanding off-road challenge designed to test the selection of competitors and their Amaroks to the limit.

Likewise, intrepid explorer, Johan Bardenhorst, famous for his many across Africa treks as shown in the television show, Voetspore, had his doubts but opted for three Amaroks during his trek from Cape Agulhas to Alexandria, Egypt in 2011.

Apart from a single breakdown, caused by an oddly fitted aftermarket bumper resulting in a gap between it and the protective skidplate under the car, leading to a stone damaging the timing belt and ultimately the engine, all three Amaroks ran smoothly till the end. The ability and impression the Amarok made on him was such that for his most recent expedition, following the equator, Bardenhorst once again opted for three Amaroks.

Returning back to South Africa, Bardenhorst commented that following the equator has never been this easy or comfortable. In fact such has been his confidence that he plans to use the equator-conquering Amaroks, as-is, for his next adventure.

As was the case with Bardenhorst, I also had my doubts as to whether a 2.0-litre engine would work in a bakkie, hence wasted little time when the moment arrived to get behind the wheel of the revised 2014 Amarok.

Although nothing has changed from a styling perspective, the biggest alteration has been the fitment of VW’s eight speed Tiptronic transmission, the first in a bakkie and which was especially lauded by Bardenhorst on his return, as well as a torque increase of 20 N.m. More controversially, however, has been the replacement of the traditional low range gearbox in favour of a very low rationed first gear.

Having been off-roading with my family since age nine, and knowing the importance of low range, I was most keen to find out how the Amarok fairs on the loose stuff.

What immediately stood out were the typical VW levels of refinement. Despite the fitment of optional 17 inch off-road tyres, the ride was extremely comfortable and the cabin free from any road or indeed engine noise. In fact, so quite was the engine upfront that it reached ‘haunted house’ levels in the cabin

As to be expected, build quality is typical VW with soft touch plastics throughout as well as a high level of specification which included climate control, an optional prototype Blaupunkt infotainment with Satnav and reverse camera, cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, four airbags, ABS, EBD and ESP as well as a four star EuroNCAP crash rating.

Where the Amarok really shines is in the drivetrain department. Here, the eight speed box is the undoubted jewel in the crown as the shifts are not only silky smooth but matched perfectly with the engine’s torque delivery.

With its on-road prowess established, it was time to go off-road. With off-road mode engaged, the Amarok made light work of a soft dune and on our test route and never once got stuck despite not having low range.

Also highlighted was the fitment off-road ABS which works in conjunction with the ESP to keep the Amarok stable on gravel. Does it work? How does braking from 100 km/h on loose gravel and keeping in a straight line sound…

My tenure over, I was left in total awe of a vehicle I once loathed. As many before me had found out, what the figures say on paper, doesn’t match the sensation and feel of getting behind the wheel and experiencing what VW’s wolf has to offer.

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