Auto adds appeal to Amarok ute

ROB MAETZIG
Last updated 07:10 03/01/2013
VW Amarok
Fairfax NZ

EIGHT OF THE BEST: Volkswagen's Amarok ute wins praise for its eight-speed automatic power plant.

Volkswagen Amarok.
OUT THE BACK: The VW Amarok's rear tray is 1555mm long and capable of carrying up to 2.52 cubic metres of cargo.
Volkswagen Amarok.
Fairfax NZ
UP FRONT: At 100kmh along the highway in eighth gear, it feels as if the Amarok's engine is barely ticking over.

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I heard a great recent story involving a Volkswagen Amarok owner.

VOLKSWAGEN AMAROK DOUBLE-CAB AUTOMATIC
POWER PLANT: Four-cylinder 2.0-litre common-rail fuel- injected twin-turbo diesel engine, 132 kW at 4000 rpm, 420 Nm at 1750 rpm.
RUNNING GEAR: 4Motion permanent all-wheel drive. Eight- speed ZF automatic transmission. Suspension features heavy-duty leaf springs on a ladder-frame chassis.
HOW BIG: Length 5254mm, width 2228mm, height 1834mm, wheelbase 3095mm.
HOW MUCH: $64,990
WHAT'S GOOD: Lovely relaxed and highly specified drive.
WHAT'S NOT: Road oriented rather than agricultural - if that can be considered an issue these days. Price is high.
OUR VERDICT: This Amarok will have special application in the urban areas because of its ease of use
Seems he took his six-speed manual 4Motion TDI Highline model into his local dealership for its regular service - and the dealer loaned him a new version with an eight-speed automatic for use while his ute was in the workshop.

When the time came to the ute's return, the owner wasn't happy. It wasn't because he was dissatisfied with the service, but because he had just discovered how very good the automatic model is.

The man had every right to be envious too, because the auto transmission - which comes straight out of the Audi A8 luxury sedan - makes this Amarok quite simply the best on the market.

It might not be the best when it comes to hard-out offroad mud-plugging, because it doesn't have the solidity of the traditional transfer case and reduction gearing.

But what it does do very well is provide a very impressive motoring balance. It is still capable off the road, can tow up to three tonnes, and at cruise out on the open road the eight-speeder combines with the flexibility of the ute's 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine to provide an extremely relaxed drive.

It's not cheap at $64,990 with all the frills of its Highline level of specification, which makes it the most expensive Amorak, but it must have strong appeal for those motorists wanting real refinement with their lifestyle/workhorse product.

Powered by a twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel that is the most powerful of the Amarok range, it has 132 kilowatts of power and 420 Newton metres of torque on tap to go about its flexible work.

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First gear is configured for pulling away in off-road use or for towing, while the eighth gear is intended as a fuel-saving overdrive gear that operates at reduced engine speed. This means that all the hard work is done up to seventh gear - and the transmission then pops into eighth for lazy, long-legged motoring.

At 100kmh along the highway in eighth, it feels as if the engine is barely ticking over, and a high level of interior specification and exceptional sound deadening add to the relaxed experience.

That is despite the fact the Amarok's suspension system includes leaf springs at the rear, which can often mean a lumpy sort of ride. But this ute is so good, even when empty, you'd think it has independent rear suspension.

Naturally, being an automatic there are no reduction gears, but that has saved weight. And anyway, the combination of the low first gear, permanent 4WD and various electronic aids including a lockable Torsen diff and hill-hold mean the Amarok can cheerfully take on some quite heavy work.

This Amarok is like many other Volkswagen vehicles in that instead of being powered by larger engines, it has gone the smaller cubic capacity way but uses technology such as twin turbo- charging and common-rail fuel injection to extract optimum performance.

In this case, the VW engineers have increased the turbo boost so maximum power and torque are higher than the rest of the Amarok range, which offers 120 kW and 400 Nm.

The Highline level of specification means the exterior features chrome accents and a rear bumper, and 17-inch alloys with flared wheel arches. On the inside, there's a lovely leather- covered steering wheel with multi- function controls, and it has full Bluetooth connectivity.

A high level of safety equipment is also carried down from the current Amarok lineup. The new variant has stability control, and front and head/thorax airbags.

The ute is rated to tow three tonnes if the trailer is braked, and the rear tray is 1555mm long and capable of carrying up to 2.52 cubic metres of cargo.

Word is that this eight-speed auto will be introduced to lesser versions of the Amarok range, and if that happens they would be welcome additions.

All modern-day diesel utes need a wide selection of automatic versions - and this eight-speeder is such a beauty that it deserves to have a wider application.

- Taranaki Daily News

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