David Motton

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

For a do-it-all vehicle to take you from work to the campsite, is the VW Amarok the answer? We hitch up to see what tow car talent this pick-up has

Overview

Downsizing might be one of the motor industry buzzwords of recent years, but no one seems to have told Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

In place of the old Amarok’s 2.0-litre engine, the updated double-cab pick-up has a 3.0-litre V6 engine. So, what tow car ability does it have?

Well, the new Amarok is quicker and more powerful than before, but fuel economy and emissions are similar to the old model’s.

And the VW Amarok is priced above most double-cab pick-ups – is it worth the extra?

Towing

The Volkswagen Amarok is a very big vehicle indeed, at well over five metres long.

It has the heft to go with its size, with a colossal 2251kg kerbweight (including 75kg for the driver).

That gives an 85% match figure of 1913kg. The legal towing limit is 3100kg.

We matched the car to the biggest twin-axle caravan we could borrow, a Swift Elegance 645 with a MiRO of 1700kg. That’s a heavy van, but the Amarok has the muscle to cope.

The 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 has 221bhp, while even more power (242bhp) is available in short bursts.

Torque counts for more than power when towing, and the VW Amarok has barrel-loads of the stuff. With 406lb ft of torque from 1400rpm, it has 74lb ft more than the most powerful Nissan Navara.

That much poke makes for brisk acceleration, even towing a big twin-axle tourer. With the eight-speed automatic gearbox in Sport mode, we recorded a 30-60mph time of 10.3 seconds.

Out on the road, that sort of performance makes easy work of hills, although under hard acceleration the engine isn’t especially quiet or tuneful for a six-cylinder unit.

Permanent four-wheel drive helps make the most of the Amarok’s performance in all weathers.

Having taken the VW off-road, we can vouch for its capability over rougher ground.

The Amarok stops well, too, something that can’t always be said of pick-ups. Braking from 30mph on a dry track needed a respectable 10.7 metres.

Stability at speed is good. Only when slowing from 60mph did we sometimes feel the back of the VW moving around slightly.

In the lane-change test, the Amarok was firmly in control at moderate speeds. But as we pushed harder, we could feel the caravan beginning to tug slightly.

Overall, though, the Amarok is one of the best pick-ups that we’ve towed with.

Everyday driving

Now we know what tow car skills the VW Amarok offers caravanners, what’s it like in everyday life?

The updated model drives well compared with most pick-ups, but the best rivals have the edge over the VW. In particular, the latest Nissan Navara rides more smoothly.

Whereas the Nissan has car-like multi-link rear-suspension, the Volkswagen keeps the faith with tough but unsophisticated leaf springs.

Most pick-ups use this style of suspension to cope with heavy loads, but this can lead to a bouncy and poorly controlled ride, especially when the load bay is empty.

The Amarok rides comfortably enough on smooth roads, but it can bounce and fidget over imperfect surfaces.

Even for a double-cab pick-up, the Amarok is a very long and wide vehicle, and it feels it on narrow streets – at least the steering is very light, which makes the VW easy to manoeuvre.

The engine isn’t the smoothest out there, but it’s more cultured than those fitted to most rivals.

Space

The Amarok’s load space is long and wide, with enough room between the wheelarches to take a standard Euro pallet.

The payload is 1114kg, which compares well with the Navara twin-turbo automatic’s 1054kg.

Inside, the Volkswagen feels well screwed together, but don’t expect the soft-touch plastics you’d find in a VW passenger car.

There’s plenty of room up front, and we found the commanding driving position very comfortable.

In the back seats there’s enough legroom for adults to travel in reasonable comfort.

There’s only a slight transmission hump in the floor, and three passengers can sit side-by-side without too much elbow rubbing.

Running costs

Volkswagen positions the Amarok as a cut above its rivals.

Our high-spec test vehicle costs £31,995 (excluding VAT – or £38,394 including VAT), which is more than £4600 dearer than the priciest Navara – the Amarok is more powerful and has a higher payload, but that’s a significant premium.

You get satellite navigation, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, leather upholstery, heated front seats and 19-inch alloy wheels all as standard.

There’s plenty of safety kit included, too, including multiple airbags and electronic stability control.

Technical specs

Engine size2697 cc
Kerbweight2251 kg
85% KW1913 kg
Towball limit140 kg
Maximum towing limit3100 kg
Power221.0 bhp
Torque406.0 lb ft
Official MPG36.2 mpg
CO2204 g/km
30-60mph10.3 seconds
30-0mph10.7 m

Verdict

The VW Amarok tows well – indeed, it scooped the Best Pick-up gong at our Tow Car Awards 2017.

In addition, its six-cylinder brawn outguns the likes of the Mitsubishi L200 and Nissan Navara.

However, there’s a hefty premium to pay for its performance and the Volkswagen badge, and a Navara represents better value.

And finally, before you decide to use a pick-up like this as your tow car, a word of warning: some caravan warranties advise against towing with commercial vehicles.

Conclusion

Pros

  • It's a brawny, torquey, stable tow car – and heavy, too
  • The brakes are strong
  • Space is good for both people and luggage

Cons

  • Rivals offer better value for money
  • It isn't as refined as its passenger car siblings
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