Volkswagen Amarok Review & Prices
The Volkswagen Amarok is a cut above most pickups in both image and price. It’s closely related to the Ford Ranger, which offers similar practicality and comfort for a little less cost
What's not so good
Find out more about the Volkswagen Amarok
It can’t be easy, living as a twin. Someone is always going to get better grades, land the perfect job, or be the first to give mum and dad grandkids.
The Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger are as close to twins as two pickup trucks can be. They were developed as a joint venture and are even built in the same factory. The question is, which one is the favourite sibling?
There are some important differences to sway you one way or the other. While the Ford looks bold, brash and in-your-face, the Amarok is more subtle – if you could ever describe a two-tonne truck as subtle. Both inside and out, the Amarok is more understated than the Ranger.
Another difference is that while the Ranger is available as a single cab or a double cab, the Amarok is only sold in the double-cab body style. That won’t bother most buyers, as the majority of pickups in the UK are bought with two rows of seats. On the other hand, if you can live with just two seats and need the extra load bed length of a single cab you’ll have to go for the Ford.
Under the skin both the Ford and VW share most of the components that matter. Both come with switchable four-wheel drive on all models, so you can drive in two-wheel drive for better economy but switch to four-wheel drive in bad weather. There’s also a four-wheel drive low-ratio mode for serious off-roading.
There are three engines available, all diesels. The range kicks off with a lower-powered engine with a manual transmission, then above that is a more powerful version with an automatic gearbox, which represents the best compromise on power and economy for most people.
The Volkswagen Amarok is almost luxurious among pickup trucks, but you'd have to really need its rugged workhorse abilities to pick one over a conventional SUV
The third option is the most powerful, a 240hp 3.0-litre engine. The extra performance is useful, especially if you tow a heavy trailer, but choosing this engine does push up the price. In fact, it’s the only engine available on the top two specification levels.
At the opposite end of the range, the Life model has a pretty good spec for an entry-level commercial vehicle, but then even the most basic Amarok costs more than most pickups.
Next up is Style, which comes with all the kit you really need, including dual-zone climate control, 10-way powered adjustment of the driver’s seat and an uprated 12.0-inch digital display and touchscreen.
Whichever engine and trim level you go for, the Amarok shows just how far the best pickups have come. It handles really well for a truck, with precise steering and relatively little lean when cornering. The cabin is solidly put together, with lots of space front and rear.
Just don’t expect the Amarok to match the best conventional SUVs. The ride is bouncy without a heavy load in the back, and although the cabin looks good next to most pickup alternatives there are some hard plastics on show.
Which of the Amarok and Ranger twins is the favourite? It’s a close call; the Ranger offers more choice at a lower price, but we wouldn’t blame you if the Amarok’s more understated image led you to a different conclusion.
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There aren’t as many pickup trucks available in the UK as there used to be, as manufacturers look to bring down average emissions. There’s no more Mitsubishi L200 or Nissan Navara unless you shop for a used vehicle. But whichever new alternative to the Amarok you have on your shopping list, it’s going to be cheaper.
For a commercial vehicle, the Amarok is a premium product, and that’s reflected in VW’s pricing.
The Amarok drives well for a pickup, but it can’t match the comfort of a conventional passenger car
Double-cab pickups like the Amarok have a hard life. They need to be workhorses during the week and family cars at the weekend.
The trouble is, a vehicle that’s capable of being loaded with a tonne of cement isn’t necessarily the most comfortable way to get the kids to their football match on Saturday morning.
Like most pickups, the Amarok has leaf-spring suspension at the rear. This super-tough set-up makes it possible to cope with heavy loads of a tonne or more. Take that weight away, though, and you tend to suffer a fidgety, bouncy ride.
The Amarok is better than most pickups, but it still feels a little crude compared to the best large SUVs. You really notice this at low speeds around town, where the back of the Amarok bounces over potholes and manhole covers.
But if you’ve just picked up a heavy load from the builders’ merchants, the Amarok rides more smoothly.
Any of the engines have enough get-up-and-go for urban roads, although the entry-level 170hp is the least lively, especially if you’re making full use of the Amarok’s payload.
It’s a big vehicle, considerably longer than a large 4x4 like the Land Rover Discovery. Fortunately you sit up high with a good view forwards, and although the view over your shoulder isn’t so clear, even the entry-level model has parking sensors and a rear-view camera.
On the motorway
At 70mph, there’s some wind noise from around the door mirrors but not much else to disturb the peace. The engines are quiet once cruising along and road noise isn’t excessive.
All three engines have enough poke for motorway driving, although the 170hp starts to flag first, especially if there’s a lot of weight in the bed or if the Amarok is towing a trailer.
The 240hp engine pulls like a loco on full steam. It’s not so much the power, as the 600Nm of torque that makes the difference. This engine delivers effortless acceleration without needing to be revved hard.
On a twisty road
Piloting a pickup down a country road is like trying to squeeze a body builder into extra-small gym kit – it doesn’t really fit.
But although the Amarok is rather bulky for the average British B-road, it handles a lot better than most alternatives. There’s none of the steering-by-elastic-band vagueness you get with some trucks. It goes where you point it and resists lean well.
The 240hp version is pretty quick on the straight bits, albeit not as fast as the petrol-powered Ford Ranger Raptor. Given the trucks are similar, maybe VW has missed a trick by not making a high-performance version of the Amarok to take on the fast Ford.
Run out of Tarmac, and the Amarok can more than handle itself off road. The PanAmerica model has the edge on the rest of the range, thanks to a rear differential lock and extra under-body protection.
Lots of space for people and supplies, but it’s a shame there’s no single cab option
You almost need a step ladder to climb aboard the Amarok, you sit that high. Once you have clambered inside you get a clear view up ahead, although the view behind is more restricted. Every model has front and rear parking sensors and even the basic Life spec has a rear-view camera, so the iffy rearward vision isn’t too much of a problem. From Style trim upwards that’s upgraded to a 360-degree camera system. You also get huge door mirrors to help give a good view of whatever’s behind you.
Drivers of most shapes and sizes should be able to find a comfortable driving position. Even the most basic models have eight-way adjustment of the driver and front passenger seats. Style spec adds 10-way powered adjustment for the driver, while the PanAmerica and Aventura have the same for the front passenger. Whichever spec you go for there’s plenty of head and legroom, even if you are very tall.
There’s a lot of storage in the front of the cabin. Two cupholders between the front seats take care of your daily caffeine hit, and big door bins have space for a flask or a bottle of water. The glovebox is a useful size, and there’s more storage under the driver’s armrest.
Space in the back seats
You get loads of space in the back of the Amarok. It’s one area where the latest model is a big step forward over the older version. Passengers of six-foot-plus can get comfy in the back, and the cabin is wide enough to fit three adults without nudging elbows too much.
There are pockets on the seat bases for a little extra storage, although it’s a shame the bases don’t flip up like those in a Toyota Hilux to provide extra space for bags.
On the other hand, there are air vents between the front seats to keep everyone cool, and grab handles for when the boss starts doing donuts on the building site (or mum and dad decide to take the scenic route to school).
Volkswagen only offers the Amarok as a double cab, with two rows of seats. That’s great if you want your pickup to double as a family car, not so great if you want the longest possible load bed. Alternatives like the Ranger and the Isuzu D-Max have single cab versions that have longer load beds than the Amarok’s.
Compared with other double cabs, though, the Amarok has a generous load space. It’s 1,624mm long and 1,584mm wide.
Payloads for most models are over a tonne, which is important as that allows the Amarok to be classified as a light commercial vehicle for tax purposes. The entry-level Life with a manual gearbox has the highest payload of all – 1,103kg.
The Aventura models are exceptions, though, with payloads of 842-877kg. That makes them less appealing for business users than the rest of the range, both in terms of practicality and tax.
Every Amarok has a very high maximum towing figure. The 170hp Life can tow braked trailers weighing up to 3,420kg. For the rest of the range the maximum is 3,500kg.
Solidly screwed together for a commercial vehicle, but not as stylish or plush as the best conventional SUVs
Volkswagen charges more for the Amarok than other manufacturers ask for alternative pickups. So, if you are spending premium money, you have the right to expect a premium finish.
Do you get one? Well, the Amarok is more modern inside than most pickup trucks, and it feels solidly screwed together and made to last. But is that enough? If Volkswagen wants to persuade pickup buyers to spend more, then it probably is. But if VW thinks customers are going to trade-in conventional passenger SUVs, then probably not.
You don’t have to look too hard to find hard plastics that don’t really go with price tags that are well north of £50,000 for high-spec models. Leather upholstery is fitted to the PanAmerica and Aventura, which does give the cabin a lift.
The basic Life model has an 8.0-inch digital driver’s display, and a 10.0-inch portrait-oriented infotainment screen. Style models and above have a fully digital 12.0-inch driver’s display and a larger 12.0-inch touchscreen.
There’s definitely more showroom appeal with the larger displays. The Amarok may be a Volkswagen, but fundamentally the infotainment system has been developed by Ford. That’s not a bad thing, as VW’s infotainment isn’t the easiest to use and can be prone to annoying glitches.
The Amarok’s system is much better, with crisp graphics and straightforward navigation. The only real irritation is that the air-con controls are within the screen rather than separate physical knobs and buttons.
Wireless charging is fitted to all models except the entry-level Life, while music fans will be impressed by the stereo fitted to the high-spec PanAmerica and Aventura. It’s a powerful 640-watt system with eight speakers by Harman Kardon.
For the best fuel economy, choose the 170hp manual in Life spec. This achieves 30.1-33.6mpg, according to the official figures.
There’s a useful step up in performance with no significant penalty at the pumps if you choose the 205hp automatic in the same trim. This returns 30.4-32.8mpg.
Other models further up the range have bigger alloys, and slightly worse economy figures. Style-spec Amaroks with the 205hp engine return 30.1-32.1mpg.
The 240hp diesel is comfortably the most powerful of the three Amarok engines, but unsurprisingly it’s also the thirstiest, achieving a maximum of 28mpg in official tests.
Carbon dioxide emissions vary from 221-246g/km for the 170hp Life, up to 265-271g/km for the 240hp Aventura. That means whatever model you pick, first-year road tax will be high, but the more powerful model actually falls into the highest possible bracket.
Every Amarok except for the Aventura is classified as a light commercial vehicle for tax purposes. That’s good news if you are buying the car through your business, as you can reclaim the VAT element of the purchase price.
Commercial vehicle status benefits company car drivers too, as there’s a flat rate that doesn’t depend on the vehicle’s carbon dioxide emissions. For a 40% taxpayer, that means a bill of £132 per month in the 2023/24 tax year. That’s a big saving over what you’d pay for a conventional passenger car with such high emissions.
For years, pickups have lagged behind the safety standards set by regular passenger cars. The latest generation of trucks is changing that with excellent Euro NCAP scores.
The Amarok earned five stars when tested by Euro NCAP in 2022. It scored 84% for adult occupant protection, 90% for child occupant protection, 74% for pedestrian protection, and 84% for its safety assistance systems.
Unsurprisingly, the Ford Ranger matches those scores as it’s largely the same vehicle under the skin.
Every Amarok has driver, driver’s knee, front passenger, side, and curtain airbags. An autonomous emergency braking system that can detect pedestrians and cyclists as well as other vehicles is fitted to all models. Extra driver assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control and lane assist, are fitted to Style spec and above.
It’s a little early to decide how reliable the Amarok will be. The previous model isn’t necessarily a good guide, as the new Amarok uses lots of Ford mechanical components. Ford and Volkswagen as brands don’t perform brilliantly in owner satisfaction and reliability surveys, but there are some big differences from model to model.
If you value reliability above all else, we’d pick the Toyota Hilux from the current crop of pickup trucks. It has the benefit of a 10-year warranty, too, so long as it’s serviced by a Toyota dealer.
If the Amarok does go wrong, you can call on the three-year, 100,000-mile warranty.