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Long-term review

Volkswagen Amarok - long-term review

£55,440 / as tested £57,231 / PCM £599
Published: 23 Nov 2023
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Could the new VW Amarok be the ultimate family SUV?

For a long time now, I’ve wondered whether a double-cab pick-up wouldn’t make an excellent alternative to a full-size SUV.

Five seats, buckets of luggage space – albeit somewhat al fresco luggage space, unless you’ve got a load cover of some kind – and more off-road smarts than any Touareg/XC90/Range Rover/Q7 customer might require, plus the ability to take a job-lot of garden waste to the tip without lining the boot with a tarp: what’s not to like?

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This, at least, is the theory. And now I’ve got a few months with VW’s new Amarok to discover whether this theory is (a) genius or (b) utterly daft. Can a posh double-cab pick-up do the job of a big family SUV? Let’s find out.

So, KV23 AYK. You’re not going to lose it in the Budgens car park, that’s for sure. In second-to-topmost, off-road-focused ‘PanAmericana’ trim - which includes a rear diff lock, added underbody protection and black alloys – and wearing Bright Blue Metallic paint (a £600 option) the Amarok looks seriously purposeful, all square arches, debossed tailgate lettering and utilitarian seriousness.

My kids think it’s the coolest vehicle in the history of the universe, but then again they think Haribo on toast is the height of culinary sophistication, so do with that information what you will.

What the Amarok is, unquestionably, is utterly enormous. This second-gen ‘Rok is nearly 10cm longer than its predecessor, measuring 535cm from nose to tailgate. That’s 30cm – yep, an entire foot – longer than the new Range Rover. Whether you consider this a positive or negative may, I suspect, depend how often you find yourself having to squeeze into narrow parking spaces.

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By modern standards, the Amarok’s powertrain is similarly super-sized, too. The only engine available with PanAmericana spec is a Ford-sourced 3.0-litre V6 – the ‘Rok, remember, shares the majority of its hardware with Ford’s Ranger – making 237bhp and a grunty 367lb ft of torque.

Lesser versions offer the option of a 2.0-litre diesel, but with the Amarok tipping the scales somewhere in the region of 2,300kg, it’s got plenty of its own mass to overcome before it starts thinking about shifting whatever you’ve loaded on board. We’ll get stuck into driving dynamics in a later update, but suffice to say the Amarok won’t be troubling any supercars off the lights. But that’s fine: it’s a family car, remember?

And yes, you could argue a proper serious pick-up with proper serious four-wheel drive and proper serious differentials is maybe a bit… over-specified for family car duty. But here’s the thing: an Audi Q7 is over-specified for family car duty, but that doesn’t stop families buying it. In fact, pretty much every family car on sale today – with the possible exception of the Dacia Jogger – is over-specified for duty, it’s just a question of degree.

Also far from downsized: the price. Amaroks start at £33,000, but that’s without VAT. Our spangly version tips the scales at £47,255 before tax, or £57,231 taxed and on the road.

Viewed one way, that’s a lot of cash for a Ford-based pick-up truck. But viewed from the other side, it’s a plus-size SUV – complete with leather, Harmon Kardon stereo, CarPlay, lane assist and pretty much every other mod-con you might require – for £11,000 less than the cheapest Touareg. And, so far as I can tell, with the ability to scamper up an actual Himalaya, should the mood so take you.

So is the Amarok a very expensive pick-up, or good-value giant family SUV? Or both? Or possibly neither? And is it actually possible to park nearly-eighteen-foot-long truck anywhere in south-east England? All these questions answered over the next few months. Time to ‘Rok and roll…

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