CALL OF THE WOLF: Dare to enter the lair of the Volkswagen Amarok
According to the folklores of the Inuit, the inhabitants of the Arctic regions surrounding Greenland, Canada and Alaska - more commonly known as Eskimos - any hunter, foolish enough to be hunting at night, would fall victim to a massive wolf-like creature known as an amaroq.
Much like its mythological namesake, Volkswagen’s Amarok attests to the company’s sole aim of taking a large bite out of the South African bakkie market and generally, hunt down the established players such as the Toyota Hilux, Isuzu KB and the Ford Ranger.
Launched in late 2009, the Amarok is Volkswagen’s first attempt at producing an in-house one-ton pick-up following an unsuccessful joint venture with Toyota, which resulted in the Taro, a rebadged left hand-drive Toyota Hilux sold in European countries from 1989 to 1997.
Styled by current Volkswagen lead designer, Walter de’Silva, whose credits include the Audi A5 and R8, Volkswagen Scirocco and current Polo to name but a few, the Amarok was previewed in 2008 as the robust pick-up concept to general positive reaction by the world’s motoring press.
Once in production, however, many an eyebrow was raised at Volkswagen’s decision to equip their new creation with a 2.0-litre single or bi-turbo diesel engine in a segment where most rivals sported 2.5-litre engines as a minimum. It triggered one of the biggest debates in the local bakkie market with many questioning Volkswagen’s decision and whether this was nothing more than a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
Yet, it also proved to be the Amarok’s main draw card with many sceptics lining up at dealerships to find out for themselves if a 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel double cab 4x4 could really work. Indeed, many sceptics returned from their test drives, clearly stunned and surprised as the number of Amarok sightings on the countries’ roads skyrocketed.
One of the first Amarok buyers turned out to be non-other than 11 times national rally champion and all round motorsport superstar, Sarel van der Merwe. Not only did SuperVan make the Amarok his personal vehicle of choice, but he also made it the mainstay in his self-created Spirit of Africa Trophy, a demanding off-road challenge designed to push the competitors and the Amarok to the limit.
Likewise, intrepid explorer, Johan Badenhorst, famous for his many trans-African treks as shown in the television series, Voetspore, opted for three Amaroks during his trek from Cape Agulhas to Alexandria, Egypt in 2011.
Apart from a single breakdown, caused by an oddly fitted aftermarket bumper, all three Amaroks ran smoothly and reached their objective. The ability and impression the Amarok made on him was such that for his most recent expedition, Voetspore Across The Equator, Badenhorst and crew once again opted for three Amaroks, two of which were fitted with Volkswagen’s brand new eight-speed automatic transmission.
Returning back to South Africa, Badenhorst commented that following the equator was one of his longest and most difficult expeditions yet, but it was also one of the most comfortable trips, thanks to the ease of drive in the Amarok auto. In fact such has been his confidence, that he plans to use the equator-conquering Amarok as-is, for his next adventure.
I also had my doubts as to whether a 2.0-litre engine would work in a bakkie, hence wasted little time when the moment arrived to get behind the wheel of the updated 2014 Amarok.
Although nothing has changed from a styling perspective, the biggest alteration has been the fitment of the aforementioned eight-speed automatic transmission, the first in a bakkie as well as a torque increase of 20 N.m. More controversially, however, has been the replacement of the traditional low range setup in favour of a very low first gear ratio.
Having been off-roading with my family since age nine, and knowing the importance of low range, I was most keen to find out how the Amarok fairs on the loose stuff.
What immediately stood out were the typical Volkswagen levels of refinement. Despite the fitment of optional 17-inch off-road tyres, the ride was extremely comfortable and the cabin free from any road or indeed engine noise. In fact, so quiet was the engine upfront that it reached ‘haunted house’ levels in the cabin.
As to be expected, build quality is typical Volkswagen with soft-touch plastics throughout as well as a high level of specification which included a six-speaker MP3 compatible radio / CD sound system, two-zone climate control, cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, a large glovebox between the front seats, and on the safety side, ABS with EBD and ESP, four airbags and a four star EuroNCAP crash rating.
Where the Amarok really shines is in the drivetrain department. Here, the eight-speed box is the undoubted jewel in the crown as the shifts are not only silky smooth but matched perfectly with the engine’s torque delivery.
With its on-road prowess established, it was time to go off-road. With off-road mode engaged, the Amarok made light work of a soft dune and never once got stuck despite not having low range.
Also highlighted was the off-road ABS function which, when activated, reduces the braking distance on gravel roads.Does it work? How does braking from 100 km/h on loose gravel and keeping in a straight line sound?
My tenure over, I was left in total awe of a vehicle I once loathed. As many before me had found out, what the figures say on paper, doesn’t match the sensation and feel of getting behind the wheel and experiencing what Volkswagen’s wolf has to offer.
To book a test drive, visit Tavcor Commercial Vehicles at the bottom of Mount Road, Port Elizabeth or contact 041 404 4400.
They say while some are destined to be great, others were born great; the latter certainly applies to the Toyota Hilux. From its humble beginnings as a small 1.5-litre pick-up, to its conquering of the South African market...
When it comes to cars - and specifically new and unfamiliar brands, South Africans can be a hard bunch to please. Changing to an unknown brand from an established one can either rank as a brave step and willing to take chances, or complete insanity combined with poor service and numerous trips to the workshop.
As one of the most important segments in the South African market, the premium hatchback segment has traditionally been a German affair with the Audi A3, Mercedes A-class and the BMW 1-series dominating sales charts. In recent times however, competition has increased as more and more manufactures embark on the quest to topple the teutonic trio.
In the last edition of Business Link Magazine, I had the opportunity to sample the facelifted Chevrolet Cruze, fitted with parent company General Motors’ now-familiar 1.4-litre turbocharged Ecotec engine which produces 103 kW and 200 N.m of torque.
It’s not often that a bakkie, or should that be truck, causes such a stir as the Ford Ranger has done. Even though this mini Ford F150 has been on the market for two years now, it still remains the most talked about vehicle in the bakkie segment with models leaving showroom floors quicker than the factory in Pretoria can build them.
When it was first unveiled at the 2008 Paris Motorshow, the pressure and expectations resting on the brand new Chevrolet Cruze could not have been greater as the full force of the economic meltdown was starting to take its toll on America’s Big Three automakers.
When it comes to offering the best of both worlds - work and play, there can be no doubt that a double cab bakkie strikes the perfect balance. On the one hand, you have a leisure orientated vehicle and on the other, a work vehicle with a decent sized rear load bay for your equipment.
I have always admired the Chevrolet Cruze with its unique stance and styling on the road. When General Motors recently launched a hatch version of this world-class vehicle, I wondered why they would want to fix a winning formula that definitely wasn’t broken.
When it comes to producing small city cars with a touch of style and something different from the norm, you can always count on the Italians to deliver. After all, city cars drive best in a country with crowded and congested cities. Fiat is then the ultimate symbol of these Italian city cars.
No doubt, South Africa is a ‘bakkie-mad’ country. We drive them to work and to everywhere else - they are part of our motoring culture. While the bakkie market, especially for double-cabs, is ever getting tougher, the competition still has a long way to go if they want to dethrone South Africa’s bestselling new vehicle, the all-conquering Toyota Hilux.
- Petrol price April 2017: AA predicts fuel price decreases even after fuel levy increases
- Here is your weather picture for Wings and Wheels Festival and IRONMAN weekend
- Hero Despatch cop goes beyond duty to help pregnant woman deliver baby girl
- East London police investigating after 34-year-old man brutally murdered
- Castle Lager is back at the 2017 SPAR Kirkwood Wildsfees