What’s the potential for an Amarok station wagon to follow the V6 utility coming on local sale in mid November?
TALK that the most powerful and most expensive one tonne utility yet offered in New Zealand might yet spawn a brawny wagon spin-off has piqued the distributor’s interest.
John Frear, who heads Volkswagen New Zealand’s commercial division, insists there’s no factory substantiation of speculation a seven-seater wagon edition of the updated Amarok might be on the brew as a heavier-duty alternate to the more refined Touareg and a third car-like model, the Atlas, that is set to be unveiled any day now.
The Atlas sounds tasty to Frear but, although VW Australia has expressed interest, his understanding is that this model – effectively the CrossBlue wagon concept shown at the 2013 Detroit motor show rather than the subsequent coupe revealed in Shanghai the following year – is purely for North America.
Whether the idea of a family-sorted Amarok in the same vein as the Ford Ranger-derived Everest and Hilux-spawned Toyota Fortuner ever realises is not clear, but the idea doesn’t disinterest.
“There’s been a lot of chatter on the net around both of those vehicles … as far as the Atlas is concerned, I understand that it is more of a VW passenger vehicle concept, a B-segment crossover vehicle designed for the North American market. But all that’s based on what I’ve read on the net.
“But there has been a bit of talk, in the last six to eight weeks, of a closed canopy Amarok-type vehicle, along the lines of a Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest. I don’t know where those reports have originated from.
“Certainly, in our discussions with the Volkswagen commercial vehicles factory, we have received no advice that this vehicle is on the horizon at all.”
Would such a vehicle be of interest? “I guess the cross-over between utes and SUVs is an interesting sub-segment … I think, certainly, that if such a vehicle was available we would have to take a look at that segment and see what it presented in terms of opportunity and fit. But that’s purely hypothetical at this stage.”
Discussion about the wagon comes as VW NZ preps release the long-awaited V6 Amarok which, though still four weeks away from the showroom, is already looking to be a winner.
The two six-cylinder editions arriving first, both in the doublecab automatic format that already achieves more than 60 percent of four-cylinder Amarok volume, have not even landed and yet the customer order list is already substantial.
All of this year’s assignment – what you’ll see in dealerships from November 14 – is largely spoken and anyone signing up for one today might not see it until March, depending on the chosen specification, Frear has confirmed.
“Certainly the pre-sales have been very strong, the vehicles that we land this year will go straight to customers and most of the vehicles arriving in the first quarter next year are pre-sold as well.”
The interest in the 3.0-litre edition, which for now only packages in the high-end doublecab four-wheel-drive automatic format, shows perceived prestige of having the gruntiest engine in the category is strong enough to offset the price of power.
A new rig that, in churning out 165kW and 550Nm of torque not only provides a significant lift over the most powerful twin-turbo four-cylinder engine that the German machine has had until now but also outshines all rivals (including the chart-topping Ranger), does not come cheap.
At $87,990 the flagship Aventura establishes a sizeable precedent in a sector where the best of the rest already carry stickers more suited to small sports cars than one-tonne sports utes.
The alternate $76,990 Highline is also pricier than rivals’ second-tier product, Frear acknowledges. Both variants come with lots of options and accessories that have potential to push up the buy-in all the more.
Yet at least 50 percent of orders to date have been for Aventuras and, says Frear, while some buyers are stepping out of Ford Ranger Wildtraks and Toyota Hilux SR5s, a significant count are trading out of expensive four-wheel-drive wagons.
“Our mix for the first six months is quite Aventura heavy – we have more of these coming initially than of Highline.”
There’s no excuse for the high pricing; VW has always said the drivetrain was expensive because it was developed for a high-end usage and the specification high.
Says Frear: “We think that the vehicle still represents good value at those prices when you compare it to what people might be looking at as alternate options.”
And those alternates aren’t necessarily other utes, he reinforces. “It’s interesting that, because it’s a ute, the initial consideration might be that it will only compete with other utes.
“But, I think, in reality, a lot of people who are looking at the Aventura in particular are people who might currently be driving a Land Rover of some description, an Audi Q7 or a BMW X5, those sort of large luxury SUVs.
“I’ve spoken to a number of customers who are currently in a vehicle of that nature who have told me ‘oh, but we’re really looking forward to getting into a V6 Amarok because it gives us everything that my current vehicle has but it’s a bit more functional at the weekend.’”
While introduction of an engine that has already served in the Touareg rates as the single biggest change associating with a facelift of this six-year-old model, the update also delivers a new cockpit and extra specification – including, at least, a factory sat nav and the same infotainment options now available to VW cars.
The line will also continue with the 2.0-litre twin turbocharged four-cylinder diesel that some rival brands have previously derided as puny. The refreshed 2.0-litre model arrive in February, apparently still from the factory in Argentina that supplies the current format. The V6 models, on the other hand, are coming to NZ from VW’s plant in Hanover, Germany.
While the V6 will initially stay in the high price zone, Frear says the intention was always to make it a core part of the range, so more editions cannot be discounted.
Nonetheless, this is a matter of addition; there will be plenty of 2.0-litre editions and, indeed, that engine will provide over a broader spectrum of specifications, body formats and drivetrain versions. For instance, this engine will implant in the Highline and Trendline in four- and rear-wheel-drive, whereas the V6 won’t – at least not initially - go to a rear-drive format here, even though that layout offers overseas. Nor will the Aventura specification be available with anything but a V6.
However, there seems every likelihood that a brand which has always promoted its vehicle as being as good as anything else in the category on payload, deck size, design, feature content and comfort will now use the engine to cement its contention that it should be considered the class king going forward.
Ford has certainly acknowledged in the past that Ranger’s optimums of 147kW power and 470Nm torque – and its five cylinder count and 3.2-litre capacity – have driven its journey to class leadership over Hilux.
VW says its V6 generates maximum muscle at only 1500rpm, meaning it is “thus able to deliver sufficient propulsive power and torque performance in any situation”, while also allowing good economy.
The brand has cited optimum economy of 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres, and all engines are Euro 6-compliant, meaning they have stop-start technology, too.
The extra heft also allows for overall towing capacity to upgrade. The Highline and Aventura are capable of pulling 3.5-tonnes, up from 3.2-tonnes of the existing version, an enhancement that allows Amarok to at last match the sector leaders.
Exterior updates are limited to a revised front bumper, extra chrome on the front grille, smarter alloy wheel designs and darkened rear tail-lamps, while new ‘4MOTION’ decals and V6 badging feature. The options list has been extended further, with more styling bars, load covers and hardtops available.