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Driven: Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.

Driven: Volkswagen Amarok Canyon
Our man channels his inner American and falls in love with a German film star... sorry, pick-up.

   



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| Test drive | Volkswagen Amarok Canyon |

Overall rating: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: silky smooth drivetrain, pleasant ride whether laden or not, classy cabin, tough, hose-down load area, fantastic looks inside and out in Canyon trim.

Not so good: it's not cheap, middling economy, prepare for lots of people doing the banjo song from 'Deliverance'...

Key Facts

Model tested: Volkswagen Amarok Canyon
Pricing: 31,692 excluding VAT; 37,841 including VAT; car as tested 39,609
Engine: 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, permanent 4Motion all-wheel drive
Body style: four-door crew cab pick-up
CO2 emissions: 215g/km
Combined economy: 34.4mpg
Top speed: 108mph
0-62mph: 11.3 seconds
Power: 180hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 420Nm at 1,750rpm

Our view:

Pick-ups engender an unenviable supposition among the motoring public. If you want to own one, you're going to have to put up with endless insinuation that you are some sort of transatlantic redneck, whose idea of culture is a night out shooting alligators while downing endless bottles of Coors. But I bet a lot of you do want to own one, nonetheless. If you're like me, weaned on Back To The Future (I'm thinking of the black Toyota Hilux Marty gets at the end of the first film, not the DeLorean) and The Fall Guy, pick-ups have a magnetism all of their very own.

Clearly, a 'truck' is no longer an American institution nor something favoured predominantly in the Outback. Japanese and European manufacturers are offering ever more sophisticated products as they're keen to cash in via customers who recognise the pick-up as a truly practical alternative to an SUV. You see plenty of them on the roads, if you look carefully enough. Many have those aerodynamic lids on the back, which make them blend in as SUVs, but whether they're commercial vehicles owned by independent tradesmen or fashion accessories for road-going folk, they're clearly popular enough.

Some, however, can never hide their CV roots, riding badly when empty due to agricultural rear suspension. The Volkswagen Amarok promises to be different. Coming from a brand that prides itself on being a cut above the norm, it has a cabin that's every bit as luxurious as a decent spec Golf and the sort of tough, 'can do' attitude that is befitting of any vehicle with a 1,100kg payload and a 3.2-tonne towing capacity.

Without a shred of self-doubt, I'll happily declare I adore the looks of it; it's every little boy's dream truck. The Amarok is a great looking thing anyway, but slathered in Copper Orange metallic paint and fitted with loads of black body addenda, extended wheel arches and a set of 19-inch wheels on 255/55 all-terrain rubber, 'Tonka Toy' would be an insult to its chunky appeal. And then there are the roof lights. They're an optional extra (1,134 including VAT), sadly, but they are an absolute must, in my opinion. There's no finer looking pick-up in the world than an Amarok Canyon.

This continues inside, where two-tone anthracite and grey leather combines with standard-fit satnav with Bluetooth capability, dual-zone climate control, heated seats and cruise control, among other toys. It didn't have a USB slot, instead offering only an aux-in 3.5mm socket, but other than that it was true Volkswagen. You don't have to slum it among a sea of brittle charcoal plastic and window winders and the seating position is at once both commanding and car-like.

Parked in isolation, the Amarok looks a reasonable size. Parked in an airport car park, its monstrous dimensions come into play; a 2006 Mitsubishi Shogun Sport was like a Dinky model in comparison. Even getting its 5.2-metre long frame into a moderate space requires a multi-point parking manoeuvre, although its modulated throttle response, light steering and smooth gearbox make it easy to nudge about.

Volkswagen wants us to believe this is a workhorse and luxury 4x4 in one, so we subjected it to a dichotomous week of driving as a result. For the first few days, it lugged stuff about. Great bags of plasterboard and loft insulation were carted off to the tip, while it took about half of Sherwood Forest in firewood another day, with its general behaviour remaining civilised. And cleaning out the plastic-lined load bay, which showed no signs of wear and tear, was a doddle. The no-cost option roll-top cover's worth getting, too.

The second half of the week saw it playing the role of rival to the likes of a Land Rover Discovery or Jeep Grand Cherokee. It did mundane, everyday driving brilliantly. Its official economy isn't great and in reality it will only achieve 30mpg, which might seem old hat, but it is 2,070kg with a front end like the Eiger. There's no wind whistling round the lights on the roof, or indeed from anywhere else, the tyres don't roar and the beefy 180hp, 420Nm bi-turbo diesel is near silent unless you absolutely gun it past 3,500rpm. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is a peach too.

The Amarok can be hurried along a twisty road without becoming terrifying, although it is of course not designed for scintillating handling. The ride, meanwhile, remains hugely refined, although it will very occasionally bobble about to remind you of the empty load bed out back; it has 2+1 leaf spring suspension, but you'd be surprised how well it masks that fact for the vast majority of the time.

It's so mild-mannered as a road car that the attitude of pick-up haters comes as a shock when on the motorway. During one 300-mile return journey to Heathrow airport, I've never been more ruthlessly cut up on so many separate occasions in my life. Obviously, even allowing for the fact that it must be really hard to spot an orange, two-tonne pick-up that has its own gravitational pull and lights on the roof, this is down to some sort of reprehensible loathing on the part of small car drivers. Still, give 'em a flash of your pod of roof lights to show your displeasure and you're soon smiling again. In fact, whenever you think about the Amarok Canyon, you're invariably smiling broadly.

I'm prepared to accept this truck isn't perfect, so we can't (regrettably) give it full marks, not least because it'll set you back almost 40,000 as tested if you're a private buyer. But I'm also prepared to admit unashamedly that I have not felt this proprietorial about any vehicle for a long, long time. It's one of my favourite Volkswagens going, it's certainly a nicer, more characterful SUV than a Tiguan or Touareg, and it's also a brilliant workhorse. Master of all trades, jack of none? The Amarok Canyon gets very, very close.

Alternatives:

Ford Ranger: you'll need the 3.2-litre engine to match the Amarok's grunt and it's noisy with a harsher ride. It does look good, though, if not quite as sharp as the Volkswagen.

Isuzu D-Max: with great economy, a wide range of choice and a five-year warranty, the Isuzu is more obviously targeted at commercial buyers than private customers. Unless you're a builder, pick the Volkswagen.

Nissan Navara: you can get this thing with a 234hp V6 diesel but it is uncouth on road and not as stylish as the Amarok.


Matt Robinson - 26 Aug 2014



  www.volkswagen.co.uk    - Volkswagen road tests
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2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.

2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.



2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.
 

2014 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon. Image by Matt Robinson.
 






 

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