Amarok is the Inuit word for wolf. We don't speak Inuit, but you can see what Volkswagen is trying to achieve with its surprisingly luxurious pickup.

The canis lupus is a hardy creature, living its life in the wilderness, traversing all sorts of challenging terrain. Yet it remains mysterious, majestic and a damn sight more appealing that the bin-scavenging foxes that keep leaving chicken carcasses all over downtown driveways.

Volkswagen sees its robust pickup trick in the same light: capable enough to tackle the odd mountain, yet stylish enough to draw appreciative glances from passers-by. It doesn't eat chickens though, only diesel.

VW Amarok review: The beating heart of the beast

The latest edition Amarok has improved on the "everyday usability" front with a new, more powerful engine, revised aerodynamics and suspension for a smoother ride, as well as a more familiar VW cabin - complete with the marque's touchscreen infotainment system and smartphone tethering capabilities.


The 2.0-litre TDI unit that powered previous Amarok models was fairly weedy, developing either 138bhp or 178bhp. Customers quite rightly argued that such a mammoth machine deserved a larger engine - and VW listened. The latest generation now comes fitted with a powerful 3.0-litre V6 diesel (borrowed from the Audi Q7) that develops a thumping 220bhp and 550Nm of torque in the range-topping models.

This engine choice is instantly noticeable, with the new Amarok gathering pace at an impressive rate on the road. The 0-62mph sprint takes just 7.9 seconds, despite it weighing about the same as a small cargo ship. That extra torque is also a welcome addition, particularly when towing heavy loads and tackling serious off-road inclines.

Surprisingly, fuel consumption has been improved slightly and CO2 emissions are now down to 199g/km. This is due to some tweakery in the exhaust system, improvements in aerodynamics and the fact that the new V6 engine doesn't have to strain as much to get this pickup truck moving.

Volkswagen also says that 160bhp and 201bhp versions of the same engine will come later in the year, alongside the option of a manual gearbox, but the 8-speed DSG box is silky smooth and that powerful engine is mightily addictive.


VW's engineers claim that despite sharing many parts with the Audi Q7 and the VW Touareg, the Amarok's engine has been tweaked for added robustness. It has undergone and extra 100,000km of testing for a start, plus it features protective cladding to ensure dust and dirt doesn't clog up important parts.

Volkswagen Amarok review: The premium pickup

It's highly likely that you'll see an Amarok towing a speedboat to the lake rather than hauling hay bales from the farmyard. The Amarok keeps things equally upmarket in its cabin with the latest interior tech: leather and electrically adjustable seats are available, soft-touch plastics festoon the dashboard and the 7-inch touchscreen MIB infotainment system packs in DAB radio, sat nav, CarNet and App Connect systems (supporting Mirror Link, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto).

Exterior design has also been improved; with a sharper front grille and optional bi-xenon headlights giving is a menacing road presence. There's also the option to add a "sports bar" at the back, which gives it a fastback look, as well as a set of lamps on the roof for the full mud-plugging package.


It's a comfortable place to be behind the wheel and feels more like whiling away the hours inside a jacked-up Passat than it does a typical pickup, with only the whistling of wind noise from the large wing mirrors and tyre roar from the huge 20-inch alloy wheels occasionally creeping into the cabin at speed.

Neat touches, such as a rear-view camera and audible sensors make parking the monster much easier - but there are occasions when it becomes clear that this isn't your typical road-going SUV. For example the suspension can be a bit unruly on scarred Tarmac and the Amarok's mass reveals itself when a corner is taken a little too hastily. Parallel parking its 5.25m-long body is a challenge in busy areas, too, but that comes part-and-parcel with a vehicle that can shift over a ton of gear in its flatbed.

VW Amarok pickup review: A mountain-climbing maestro

The European-spec launch edition Amarok will come in a neat Aventura trim level, which includes those aforementioned alloy wheels, a matte grey or popping blue paint job and the premium finish interior, which makes it very tempting to bubble wrap the goliath and never take it near a puddle in its life.


But that would be a crying shame because the Amarok makes a pretty formidable off-road companion, particularly when it is specified with the clever 4Motion all-wheel-drive system (a 4x2 model is available for less demanding tasks) and beefed-up suspension system.

The model we drove came fitted with all of the above, as well as a mechanical differential lock for the rear axle, meaning it was happy tackling some serious articulation without breaking a sweat.

Unlike other off-road rivals, the Amarok appears pretty simple though. There's no low-range gearbox to mess with, no terrain selection system or computer display wizardry. Instead, there's simply a button labelled "off-road", which automatically activates hill descent control (foot off the brake and let the car ease itself down steep declines) and the mechanical diff lock switch if this option is selected.

Expect to tackle 100 per cent inclines, slope angles of up to 45-degrees and water up to half a metre deep, with the clever 4Motion technology deciding where to send power for optimal grip at all times.


Plus, the added torque from that big V6 means the Amarok will even tow up to 3.5 tons of braked cargo in unfavourable conditions.

First Impressions

The improvements, both in terms of the new engine and the upmarket interior, are welcome additions and the Amarok can now truly claim that it is the only premium pickup truck in the segment to boast a diesel V6 and such a swanky interior.

Nissan's latest Navara NP300 rival is arguably better on-road, as certain models feature a 5-link independent suspension system (as opposed to archaic leaf spring system found on most pickups) that makes it handle much better on the daily drive. Plus, Toyota's all-conquering Hilux and Mitsubishi's latest Outlander would arguably beat the Amarok in a true robustness test.

But that sort of defeats the point. Anyone looking to step out of an estate or premium SUV and into a pickup won't be disappointed with VW's latest Amarok, it's a smart blend of capability with premium touches but it doesn't come cheap, with an anticipated price of £35,000 with all the bells and whistles.