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Driven: Volkswagen Amarok V6 TDI 258hp. Image by Volkswagen UK.

Driven: Volkswagen Amarok V6 TDI 258hp
The battle for V6 pick-up supremacy rages between this VeeDub and the Mercedes X 350 d.


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Volkswagen Amarok 258 V6 TDI

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: thumping powertrain, chunky looks, superb refinement, cool factor

Not so good: expensive, some of the interior finishing looks dated, is the X 350 d a better bet?

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 TDI 4Motion 258hp
Price: Amarok range from 34,023 (inc. VAT); Highline TDI 258 from 42,857 (inc. VAT), car as tested 46,199 (inc. VAT)
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, 4Motion all-wheel drive
Body style: four-door one-tonne pick-up
CO2 emissions: 220g/km (LCV VED, flat rate of 250 annually)
Combined economy: 33.6mpg
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 7.4 seconds
Power: 258hp at 3,250-4,000rpm
Torque: 580Nm at 1,400-3,000rpm
Boot space: N/A; cargo bed can carry 1,112kg payload

Our view:

It ought to be clear by now that, as an outlet, we love one-tonne pick-ups. And, among this breed, we love the Volkswagen Amarok slightly more than most. We adored it in its original incarnation, especially as the magnificent Canyon version with the roof lights and orange paint, and then Volkswagen went one better and dropped the four-pot motors for an entirely V6 TDI-powered range in 2017, the culmination of this being the wonderful 224hp Aventura. Which had more cylinders (yay!) but fewer roof lights (booo!) than the Canyon.

Still, if it weren't for the arrival of the pesky Mercedes-Benz X-Class, also in 2017 (see why VW chose that year to go all-V6 for the Amarok, now?), then the Amarok would be our undisputed king of the pick-ups. However, there's a problem, and it's not your common-or-garden X 220d or X 250 d. No, it's the mighty X 350 d.

This thing has come charging into the pick-up class with the express purpose of being the ultimate premium machine choice. With a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel developing 258hp and 550Nm, Mercedes was confident that it had the chutzpah to eclipse the Amarok and stand tall at the head of the pick-up class. But Volkswagen wasn't keen on lying down without a fight, so in 2018 the previously 224hp/550Nm V6 TDI flagship was boosted to 258hp, to match the X 350 d, and 580Nm, to beat the Merc. Indeed, on a time-limited overboost function, the 258hp Amarok can actually kick out 272hp. Making it the most powerful one-tonner on sale in the UK today.

It's therefore a straight match-up between the Amarok 258 and the X 350 d for supremacy. So we're going to referee it as a head-to-head contest, and the three rivals listed below are all 'the best of the rest'. First up, looks. The Amarok has a chunky, no-nonsense appeal and it's certainly as urbane on the outside as any of Volkswagen's regular SUVs. But it's a familiar shape by now, having been around for the best part of a decade. The Mercedes, while obviously sharing much stylistically with its Nissan Navara source material, nevertheless just about scores the first goal here (on a VAR decision) thanks to its neat rear light clusters and slightly more elegant shape: 1-0 to the Mercedes, and not without some controversy that's whipping up a furore in the stands.

Inside, the Volkswagen and Mercedes cancel each other out. This relates to our previous observation about the X 350 d's cabin, which is that it has an upper half which is excellent, and better than the Volkswagen's, and a lower section which is not excellent and worse than the Amarok's. Where the Volkswagen falls down is in the antiquity of its dials and main interfaces - the instrument cluster looks like it is from a seven-year-old Polo, the satnav screen is positively tiny and the climate controls, while superior to the Merc's Nissan-derived panel, are still dated. The Mercedes, by contrast, has a wonderful interior if you keep your gaze locked onto the area above the beltline which sits just beneath the air vents - analogue dials ahead of the driver, sure, rather than Benz's current Widescreen Cockpit majesty, but with the digital, colour information screen between them, they still look like something you found on a pre-facelift GLC so the Merc truck feels more modern. It also has a much nicer steering wheel and contrast-stitched leather uppers, but then it all goes a bit sour as your eye travels towards the footwells, where its primitive gearlever, obvious Nissan architecture and so-so plastics make you wonder why the blazes you're forking out the best part of 50 grand for the privilege. End-to-end stuff in this department, then, but ultimately no goals scored by either side during a frenetic period so it remains 1-0 to the X 350 d.

The Amarok soon finds the precious equaliser with its engine, though. In defence of the X 350 d, we know the Mercedes 3.0-litre V6 (being replaced by the 2.9-litre straight-six in the company's car line) is a peach and when we last drove the ultimate X-Class, the example we were given was showing only 250 miles, so its motor was undoubtedly tight. However, even allowing for that, the more robust VW V6 really does feel markedly swifter. It sounds a little bit more enticing too, with a barrel-chested growl to it compared to the Merc's more muted rumble. Going into half-time, it's one-all.

Unfortunately, despite a rousing team talk in the changing rooms during the interval, the Volkswagen's defence comes out for the second half sleep-walking and is hit by a quick one-two sucker punch from the Merc, which has superior refinement and better handling. The multilink rear suspension on the X 350 d is by no means perfect on UK roads but it has the edge on the Amarok's set-up, managing to suppress the worst of 'unladen shimmy' on rough roads more convincingly than the VW - and this couples with first-class noise suppression, which the Amarok cannot match. Similarly, in the corners, the X 350 d has more poise, grace and grip than the Volkswagen, so it feels quicker across ground despite the Amarok's power advantage. With the clock ticking down, it's 3-1 to the Mercedes and the Volkswagen needs to conjure up a little magic from somewhere.

It hits the Merc's woodwork (as the match ebbs towards a close) with a couple of details, like the fact it can actually take more than a tonne in its load-bed (1,112kg) compared to the X 350 d's 965kg. This is because the Merc's sportier rear suspension precludes it from being a workhorse, but if you're wondering why we're letting the X-Class off lightly for this transgression, there are two points in mitigation: one, the four-cylinder Mercedes models can lug more than a tonne; and two, nobody is actually buying these high-end, 258hp V6 trucks with leather-lined interiors to do anything like hauling four-be-two and cement around in the back of them, so outright load-carrying capacity is not the handicap you might think it should be. The Amarok also almost gets one goal back with economy, as it managed a best figure of 30.9mpg on a country A-road to the Merc's 30.7mpg on a motorway run, but (again) this needs to be balanced against an overall figure of 28mpg from the VW (28.2mpg from the Mercedes) in similar driving circumstances and the fact that, as we pointed out earlier, the X 350 d's engine was brand new; turbodiesels always get more economical as they pile on more miles and loosen up, so it may well be that the Mercedes would have extended its lead here if it had been an older example.

With the X 350 d's fans whistling loudly from the terraces, begging the referee (us) to blow up for full time, there are just enough seconds left for the Volkswagen Amarok to get a late consolation goal, prodding the ball over the line after an ugly goalmouth scramble regarding price. At 46,199 as tested, the Amarok is by no means seriously undercutting the Mercedes; indeed, the opening price for the X 350 d (including VAT, as we're absolutely assuming most will be private and not commercial buyers at this sort of level) is 46,020. But, with options, the Mercedes edges out to the 50-grand mark and so it finishes up 3-2 to the X-Class V6.

However, it was a titanic struggle and the Amarok V6 258 put up an admirable fight. There's no doubt: if you want a plush pick-up truck, these two are the table-toppers and we wouldn't blame you for picking the Volkswagen - perhaps the Mercedes' strong Nissan influence makes you think it way too expensive for what it is. However, we think the Amarok has just been outmanoeuvred by its southern compatriot. Still, as one-tonners go, the Volkswagen is a tremendous creation and something we'd be quite happy to have in our lives on a daily basis. It remains one of our favourite things to ever issue forth from Wolfsburg.


Fiat Fullback Cross: lifestyle version of Fiat's take on the Mitsubishi L200, and it's quite good, actually, if not a match in the desirability stakes for the Amarok.

Ford Ranger Wildtrak: has a robust 3.2 five-pot and great steering, but it's not up to the job of matching the German trucks. A 213hp Raptor is on the way, though...

Nissan Navara: the, er, the Japanese elephant in the Merc's front room. Navara is what the X-Class is underneath, only it's cheaper. As for the VW, it comprehensively outclasses the four-pot Nissan, save for ride quality.

Matt Robinson - 11 Jan 2019    - Volkswagen road tests
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- Amarok images

2019 Volkswagen Amarok 258 TDI V6. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Amarok 258 TDI V6. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Amarok 258 TDI V6. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Amarok 258 TDI V6. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Amarok 258 TDI V6. Image by Volkswagen UK.

2019 Volkswagen Amarok 258 TDI V6. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Amarok 258 TDI V6. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Amarok 258 TDI V6. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Amarok 258 TDI V6. Image by Volkswagen UK.2019 Volkswagen Amarok 258 TDI V6. Image by Volkswagen UK.


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