Volkswagen’s twin-cab Amarok is the poshest pick-up truck on the road, and as good on the motorway as it is on a muddy track says Charles Rangely-Wilson.
Until recently, I’d not driven or even been in many twin-cabs in the UK. They’re vehicles of the Outback or the Drakensburg, the Himalayas, Patagonia. All the remote places I’ve ever cast a fly-rod, now I think about it, I’ve been met by a pick-up at the airport ready for the rough roads to ‘out there’. It’s probably hard to live without one in those landscapes, where comfort is a luxury, but not breaking down is a must.
But back home, on more domesticated terrain? Is it really worth trading miles of motorway comfort for the tiny fraction of any UK journey that could involve a bit of rock-hopping or ford crossing?
Somehow or other, I’ve driven three twin-cabs in almost as many months and that must be because there is a growing market in the UK now, too. Not just among the farmers and construction workers, who have to use them, but also those buyers who’ve grown-up on Tomb Raider or had a mid-life crisis watching Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor traverse the globe, but don’t really want a motorbike.
That’s fine: the farmer with fields to visit in Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire is going to be delighted to discover that manufacturers vying for slices out of this more leisured market have got into an arms race of sorts.
A comfy arms race. Now that the twin-cab is the new SUV, it’s all about giving them on-road manners, along with motorway ease and kids-to-school comfort.
Originally launched in 2010, the Amarok (Innuit for wolf, in case you were wondering) was always the poshest of pick-ups. However, the latest incarnation, in trading the old two-litre for a new three-litre V6, has upped the ante big time. I tootled around Norfolk in one for a week, taking in the odd rough track just to make sure I got mud up the sides.
Somehow, Volkswagen has managed to create a pick-up that gives a genuine 36mpg on the combined cycle, runs as smoothly as any ordinary V6 car and has gallons of effortless oomph: 220bhp and stump-pulling torque. All with barely a whisper from under the bonnet.
The new Amarok has had a gentle facelift, too, a sort of botox smooth-over that looks fresher, but isn’t too obvious. Inside, the dash area has been less ambiguously updated and now includes the de rigeur infotainment system, touch-screen radio and satnav. Most noticeably great from a functional point of view are a phone system that is effortless to talk through and listen with and a decent sound system.
The quiet engine and ride help greatly. The front seats were perfect, although, in the back, it’s still upright and short-legged as with all twin-cabs. This Highline version came with leather, which is great in a car that gets mucky.
But for the ride, which was good – it would have been better with a half-ton of sand to tame those rear leaf-springs – the new Amarok was easily comparable, as a day-to-day machine, with something like the M-class Mercedes of only a few years ago. If anything, the engine was quieter, the gearbox smoother.
That’s how far these pick-ups have come. For comfort and luxury, the Amarok is currently king of the hill.
VW Amarok Highline 3.0 V6 TDI 4 Motion: The spec sheet
- Priced from £36,594 (including VAT)
- Annual Road Fund Licence: £210
- Combined fuel consumption: 36.2mpg
- Power: 220bhp
- 0–60mph: 8 seconds
- Top speed: 119mph