Amarok update includes power play

Is the Amarok finally set to get the bigger engine that fans reckon is required to gain level-pegging with the ute category giants?


TECHNOLOGY improvements implemented into the updated Volkswagen Amarok earmarked for a year-ending arrival seem certain to reach under the bonnet as well as into the cockpit.

However, a switch to a larger capacity engine, a tweak that is as much on the distributor’s wish list as much as most local customers’, is not being confirmed.

“That has been the subject of much conjecture amongst the public and with the press,” commented John Frear, head of VW New Zealand’s commercial vehicle division, when asked to clarify overseas’ reports that a new engine is set to implant in at least some update versions, while others will stick with the current powerplant.

He says VW head office in Germany will have more to say about this within a week or two, but in the meantime the local office is not allowed to spill the beans.

 Hanover-based VW Commercial has already stated that the current 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, which generates 132kW/420Nm in its most powerful form, is expected to stay in service as well. There is also talk that a new 2.0-litre diesel, with more power and torque and better economy and emissions, is also set to appear. But what chances of a bigger capacity unit also coming along, perhaps even a V6 diesel for cylinder count one-upsmanship over the sector-dominating Ford Ranger’s 3.2-litre five-cylinder?

He’s not saying ‘yes’… but he’s not quite saying ‘no’, either.

“I can say that the current engine will form part of the line-up with the new facelift and I’ll guess we will just have to wait and see what comes out in the next couple of weeks.

“I suspect there will be an announcement about an engine and powertrain configuration in one of the upcoming releases (from Germany). But, at this stage, I cannot say more than this.”

The parent brand would seem to have just the ‘right’ kind of powerplant in the 3.0-litre twin turbo already undertaking service in the current Touareg sports utility. There has been talk that Amaroks have been trialled by the factory with this 180kW/550Nm unit.

Frear says he does not disagree that a V6 Amarok would be a powerful sales tool in this market.

“I certainly think that, if another engine variant was available, it would certainly open up a larger segment of the market and bring more potential buyers to us – clearly that would be a good thing and we would be all for it.

“I think there has been a lot of conjecture and talk about that for the last couple of years and, certainly, it is something that both existing and potential new Amarok owners have been asking about and are waiting to see what will be announced.”

Frear’s comment comes in response to the factory’s release this week of artwork showing some of the styling changes affecting the five-year-old truck.

The newly-installed NZ boss, who has come to the brand from a stint at accessories’ brand Best Bars (and before that held management roles in in the steel and timber industries), is confident the update is going to please the existing fanbase and also make it more appealing to those people who are buying more for recreation than work.

He says the revisions will leave a model that already has a good reputation for excellent ride quality and comfort looking stronger in a sector dominated by the Ranger and Toyota Hilux.

“Amarok’s a great vehicle, and it offers a whole range of customers benefits that they don’t necessarily get elsewhere. Hopefully this facelift, with what it brings to the table in terms of additional features and options and so forth can help us appeal to those customers that we haven’t got at the moment.”

Last year Amarok was the country’s fifth-best selling one-tonne ute, but it’s whole-of-period 822 registrations is barely more than Ranger accrued in its best month last year. This year the VW has slowed its pace, gathering 122 sales between January and last month.

The other big enhancement is to the cabin. The overhaul is expected to deliver potentially class-leading infotainment plus the long-overdue fitment of factory sat nav, potentially across the whole of the range.

If that level of implementation plays out, it will be a generous response to a current embarrassment. Amarok is now the only mainstream ute not to have sat nav spread across the range; instead it has tended to restrict to high-end limited-edition models, but as an aftermarket fitout.

“I expect we will see that (sat nav) as a standard offering across the range.”

The infotainment setup might be the App Connect technology that has just been announced for the Golf here. This syncs a driver’s smartphone to their vehicle, providing access to driver-friendly apps through the touchscreen or completely hands-free.

Using Siri and Google Voice, drivers can have their text messages read aloud and they can reply to messages through voice to text.

App Connect is compatible with Mirror Link, plus Android Auto and Apple Car Play. For customers with access to Mirror Link (largely Android users), the Volkswagen app gives drivers access to extra features.

Also coming are new trims and — potentially — some active safety equipment.

Says Frear: “Obviously they are going for a much more passenger and SUV look and feel. It is a lot more similar to the current Passat and Touareg in respect to its layout and styling.”

He has not heard any particular criticism of the current cabin. “There will be many who would still say it has the best interior, and the best driving feel, of any on the market.”

“But I also think that the factory is also taking this as an opportunity to address that there are more people coming to Amarok from large sports utilities. So they are asking ‘what can we do to make it more attractive, and enhance the experience.”

Utilities generally have longer production cycles than cars, but VW has not made clear how long it expects this generation to stay in production. Frear says it is his understanding that this update will be the last for the current model, “but I have no information about when it might be replaced … but I think this the final major facelift before that it would occur.”