Amarok goes auto

It’s been a long time coming, but Volkswagen has finally been able to launch the automatic version of its much-vaunted Amarok ute – and at the same time has gone further towards closing the missing ranks in the total Amarok line with Super Single Cab versions.

Currently the automatic Amarok is only available in top-of-the-range Double Cab 4WD trim, although more versions are expected to follow.

In a massive slide away from current market trends, Volkswagen has chosen to use a single gearbox in its 4WD auto models, with no transfer case to give low ratios.

The 8-speed gearbox, made by ZF and also found in the Audi A8 luxury sedan, features overall ratios lower than might be found on an SUV or crossover, but an anticipated ultra-low “crawler” gear has not been included in this version, Volkswagen choosing instead to rely on its vast palette of electronic aids to ensure traction in extreme conditions.

However, a Torsen (torque sensing) diff. IS part of  the gearbox package to automatically apportion drive between front and rear axles as required. And Volkswagen says the torque multiplication of the torque converter in the auto ‘box compensates for this lack of a really low ratio. We’ll detail overall ratios elsewhere.

At the same time as launching the auto, VW has also seen fit to present its latest twin turbo version of the 2-litre TDI engine into the Amarok, lifting power to 132kW and 420Nm of torque to put it firmly into the ballpark of its “big ute” competitors from Ford, Mazda, and Holden, although the Nissan Navara ST-X 550 V6 still clearly leads the pack when it comes to power and torque.

In terms of pricing the Amarok comes in lower than expected. At $64,990 it’s around $3,000 more expensive than the Ford, Mazda and Holden, but just more than $2,000 less than the Nissan.

And for the first time in a ute the automatic transmission is combined with permanent four-wheel drive, improving further the simplicity of driveability, while all Amaroks get a tow rating of 3,000kg.

At the same time the Amarok has the widest space in the load bed between its wheel arches, at 1,220mm enough to put a pallet in lengthways across the vehicle.

The Highline level offers a high luxury specification level, with climate control aircon, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, 17 inch alloys with flared arches, leather multi-function steering wheel and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a single-disc MP3 compatible cd player/radio with iPod connectivity.

There are also chrome accents and a rear bumper.

The Super Single Cab offers a rear wheel drive 90kW/340Nm 2-litre TDI model or the 4Motion four-wheel-drive model with the 120kW/400Nm 2-litre Twin Turbo TDI engine, linked to a 6-speed manual gearbox.  
The “Super Cab” name refers to extra space behind the seats to cater for taller drivers or additional load space for more valuable items that owners may not want to put in the wellside.

Cab/chassis will also be available for those wishing to install a flat bed.

The same high level of safety equipment carries down from the current Amarok model line-up, with the new variants also featuring ESP as standard, as well as front airbags for driver and front passenger plus head/thorax airbags.

The Amarok Super Single Cab features a wellside that has been extended to 2,205mm with the same overall vehicle length and wheelbase as the four-door double cab. The load bed, which is 65cm longer than that of the double cab, can easily accommodate two standard sized pallets crosswise, one behind the other, leaving another 60cm of bed length available.

The 4WD models have a full 5-star safety rating, with 4 stars for the 2WD versions.

Volkswagen claims overall consumption of 8.3L/100km and CO2 emissions of 219 g/km for the new automatic, which is lower than any of its immediate competition.

Volkswagen chose a really iffy day to launch the Amarok, but it did at least ensure that we were able to test it in typical Kiwi winter conditions – i.e. wet and muddy.

After driving out of Auckland, on motorway and on country roads - all of which served to show that the Amarok auto has great flexibility, quiet cruising, and (still) the best on-road ride in the ute business - we arrived at a farm south of Auckland where a great course had been set up in the paddocks – bisected by a river – by off-road training guru Pete Richie and his Natural Instincts team.

Pete admitted he was a bit worried, because much of where we would be driving had in fact been under flood water scant days before our arrival, and the surface was slick with mud.

Our first test was a slithering slalom, and many of my colleagues battled to even get going. However, judicious throttle control, plus the standard traction control, got us moving along easily, then Pete encouraged me to show off a bit with some rally-style driving that got the vehicle about as far sideways as you could go without spinning!

The Amarok was very easy to control as I flicked it lock-to-lock while keeping the power on, and afterwards Pete was uber-enthusiastic about the Torsen diff’s ability to send torque to where the grip was.

Other tests showed the Amarok’s ability to crawl slowly as we traversed a sideling alongside the river, while the river crossings were a doddle, and the only piece of uncontrolled enthusiasm a mangled descent with mud-clogged tyres that the best way to control it was by keeping the power on so at least we could turn at the bottom without getting stuck in the mudbath there.

So how low is the gearing? The ZF HP8 gearbox has a first gear ratio of 4.714 to 1 but the final drive ratio is high at 3.7 to 1, giving an overall lowest ratio of only 17.44 to 1, better than your average “softroader” SUV, but not by a lot.

However, adding in the torque converter multiplication factor changes this dramatically, with our estimate (based on a typical multiplication factor of 2.5:1) of crawl speeds equivalent to 43.6 to 1 possible. To put this into perspective, the Land Cruiser 70 manual has overall gearing of 42.6 to 1.

Single cab pickups are considered to be the classic “workhorse” for the tough conditions in industry, construction and agriculture. The size of the load bed is what counts in these fields. The Amarok Super Single Cab combines the best of both worlds; ample load area while also ensuring the vehicle’s occupants has enough room. It is longer than the competitors’ models so that valuable items can also be easily stowed behind both seats, with plenty of room left over to find the optimal seat position. Fuel consumption in the Amarok Super Single Cab is extremely low: from only 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres, which is equal to a CO2 output of 195 g/km.
New Zealand will see the Amarok Double Cab Automatic launch in Highline spec level, including chrome accents and rear bumper, 17” alloys with flared arches, leather multi-function steering wheel and bluetooth connectivity. Amarok Super Single Cab customers will be able to choose between the rear wheel drive 90kW / 340Nm 2.0-litre TDI model or the 4Motion four-wheel-drive model with the 120kW / 400Nm 2.0-litre Twin Turbo TDI engine - both in connection with a six-speed manual gearbox. The same high level of safety equipment carry down from the current Amarok model line-up, with the new variants also featuring ESP as standard, as well as front airbags for driver and front passenger as well as head/thorax airbags.
Grant Doull, General Manager of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles NZ is understandably excited about the introduction of these new models into NZ; “Looking back, the initial launch of Amarok Double Cab in New Zealand in early 2011 has certainly been a great success for our brand. As we continue to see the cross-over of typical SUV type buyers opting to have a dual use Utility like the Amarok as their vehicle of choice, we see some terrific potential for our new 8 speed Amarok automatic. We are more than confident the unrivalled ride comfort and smooth transmission will help to quickly establish the Amarok Automatic in the NZ marketplace”.
“Driver comfort, safety, fuel economy, loading capabilities and in-cabin storage solutions are key attributes we believe the Super Single Cab can offer the user, when considering the hard working industries this type of model typically finds a home. The introduction of this additional variant also allows us to offer such a truly comprehensive model range in the NZ market; ;Amarok Super Single and Amarok Double Cabs, along with our Commercial van range; Caddy, Transporter and Crafter. The release of the new Double Cab Automatic transmission and Super Single Cab will again lay down a new benchmark for the Ute market and reinforce the evolving impact Volkswagen is having on the landscape of the New Zealand motor industry. We believe the Amarok is a game changer; not only as it re-defines existing Ute standards but it also means that now more than ever, Volkswagen has a car for every Kiwi”.

New Zealand Amarok Pricing
2WD TDI Amarok Super Single Cab - $41,990
4WD Twin Turbo TDI Amarok Super Single Cab - $49,990
2WD TDI Amarok Double Cab - $43,990
2WD Twin Turbo TDI Amarok Double Cab Highline $49,990
4WD Twin Turbo TDI Amarok Double Cab - $56,500
4WD Twin Turbo TDI Amarok Double Cab Highline - $61,990
4WD Twin Turbo TDI Amarok Double Cab Highline Auto - $64,990


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