Automatic control: Everyday ease of the Volkswagen Amarok 4x2 auto

BY GRAEME LUND - MAY 27, 2015

The Volkswagen Amarok caused a stir amongst the bakkie fraternity when it was launched in 2009, not because it was the German’s auto giant’s first in-house attempt at taking the fight to the Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and Isuzu KB, but due to its unusual fitment of a 2.0-litre Bi-TDI engine when the normal requirement was 2.5-litres.

Despite the ensuing debate that followed as to whether Volkswagen had made a potential fatal error at the first hurdle, Amarok sales took-off till the point where it has become just as familiar on our roads, as its aforementioned rivals.

Last year, another curve-ball got thrown into mix with the debut of a segment first eight-speed automatic gearbox on the range topping double cab 4x4 model, as well as a 20 N.m torque increase over the standard six-speed manual box.

More controversially, the dropping of the traditional low-range gearbox in favour of an ultra-low first gear again fuelled the fire of debate as many Amarok naysayers proclaimed that it won’t get far on the rough-stuff and would simply bog down without a transfer case.

Finding-out whether Volkswagen had shot themselves in the foot, our motoring journalist came away surprised and a changed man after a day’s on-and off-road. In spite of his initial concerns, the seamless drop in movement with each cog change, lack of engine noise, typical Volkswagen interior finish and quality, as well as off-road performance, left him mesmerised about a vehicle he once loathed.

What quickly became apparent following the auto’s launch was the fact that not all buyers wanted to go bundu bashing, but rather the ease and convenience that goes with the self-shifter. Hence, earlier this year, Volkswagen announced the availably of the eight-speed with power only going to the rear-wheels. 

Getting behind the wheel of our Candy White test model and running my hands over the dashboard, the rugged yet quality feel of the Amarok’s interior only reaffirmed why Volkswagen’s interior have become the benchmark.

With soft-touch plastics throughout and satin silver inserts at the base of the steering wheel and on the centre console, the Amarok diffidently came over as being more family sedan-like than double cab bakkie.

Standard equipment was just as impressive and included a six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth, USB and Aux input, electrically foldable and heated mirrors, two-zone climate control, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel, electric windows all around, heated rear window, daytime-running lights, four airbags, ABS with EBD and ESP, rear parking sensors and 17-inch Aldo alloy wheels.

On the move, the auto box continued where it left-off in the 4WD, providing unmatched shift quality with little to no indication of each gear changing, whilst being perfectly matched to the engine’s torque delivery.

Very soon, the Amarok also had the opportunity to prove that it could hold its own off-road when faced with probably one of worst gravel roads I had seen in a long while.

Although somewhat worried at the prospect of tackling the road with only two wheels providing driving power, the Amarok delivered a knock-out blow by easily clearing the problem patch with minimal slip and in complete comfort.

As with our motoring scribe, I came away from my tenure with the two-wheel drive Amarok auto surprised and brandishing a big smile on my face. It never once put a foot wrong and proved beyond doubt, that its presence in the market place can no longer be ignored.

To book a test drive, visit Volkswagen East London at 35 Wyse Avenue in Abbotsford, or contact them on 041 704 0400.