The Volkswagen Amarok has been around for a decade. When it first arrived locally at the turn of the decade, South African consumers were somewhat perplexed at VW’s boldness to power its bakkie with a turbocharged 2.0-litre diesel engine.
Despite the gags and jabs at this decision, Volkswagen persisted and everything eventually paid off. While the bakkie sells around 200 units every month, it’s a solid number that is proving that the automaker got the ingredients right when penning its Amarok.
Earlier this year, Wheels24 ran a story on the Amarok - explaining how the bakkie carved out a niche and a solid contingency of followers. Nowadays, the bakkie is still powered by the 2.0-litre engine, but Volkswagen’s turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine further enhances the range.The V6 engine offers 165kW/550Nm, but on the overboost 180kW/580Nm is available for ten seconds. In 2020, a 190kW/600Nm version will take over as the top-of-the-range engine in the Amarok range.
Wheels24 reached out to its readers and asked their opinion on the Volkswagen Amarok. And boy, the responses were eye-opening.
Loving the bakkie
Reader Ian Hurley was the first to respond to our call with a very truthful opinion.
He wrote: "I owned an Amarok 2.0-litre Bi-turbo for three years and it was an awesome vehicle to drive. It had more than enough power and torque, and was very light on fuel, too. In my line of work, however, I used to cover long distances, which meant that the bakkie had to be serviced every three to four months. It became rather expensive. The cambelt also needed to be replaced at 90 000km, which was crazy expensive!
"I sold it with 173 000km on the odo and bought an Isuzu KB250 X-Rider. Quality, power, and fuel efficiency is nowhere near the same, but it’s a lot cheaper to maintain and no cambelt has to be replace! I loved owning the Amarok and maybe I'll own another one someday."
Ashley Jurius is another Amarok owner who is on cloud nine with his ownership experience, saying: "I was not in the market for a bakkie and was looking to buy a Tiguan AllSpace. After test driving both vehicles there was no comparison after that. The Amarok is the perfect family vehicle and offers a comfortable ride both on and off-road. The off-road abilities are amazing and as a family we make it our mission to explore the outdoors every weekend."
Cornelius Holtzhauzen bought himself the top-of-the range Amarok bi-turbo in 2010 and has no qualms about his bakkie. He said: "We have our Amarok for 10 years now and it still drives and feels like new. I do a lot of heavy pulling with a low bed trailer and it does it without a sweat. It's truly amazing that this vehicle, with such a small engine, can pull itself and a low bed carrying a 1.8-ton car with ease in sixth gear and 120km/h. I love my bakkie, but would love a V6 more, though!"
The not so good
Rayne Nell had a very bad experience with his Amarok, which ended up costing him more than R100 000 in repairs!
Nell said: "I bought my first Amarok in early 2011. I was in my element with a bakkie that delivered. On 165 000km, I traded it for another one. Mid 2019, and after over 300 000km, disaster struck. Pieces of metal from the ERG valve went through the engine and ended up costing me over R100 000 in repairs. Now I am disillusioned and am looking at Toyota!"
Like Nell, Edward Rangongo also had a troubling experience with his Amarok. He does wonder, however, if the issues he faced was unique to the petrol model.
He said: "I owned an Amarok 2.0 TSI from 2014 - 2018. The bakkie was a complete disaster. It started giving me problems at 28 000km and the nightmare never stopped until I sold it after 150 000km. It would just stop in the middle of nowhere and after a few hours, start and drive as if nothing happened. This happened quite a few times and the VW technicians could not help me. Maybe the diesel one is reliable..."
Best leisure bakkie?
Jean Lambrechts perhaps summarises the Volkswagen Amarok ownership experience best.
He writes the following: "I've been an Amarok owner since 2015. I bought the 2.0 BITDI 4Motion manual in Highline specification and still owns it. Reason for the manual: I wanted the low range transfer case which the eight-speed automatic does not offer. The bakkie is now five years old with only a couple of km's to go when 100 000km ticks over on the odometer. It's been faultless so far and still drives like the I drove it out of the showroom.
"Initially, there was a lot of commentary coming from my friends driving Hilux's and Rangers, but now most of them have converted to the Amarok
"It really is the best lifestyle/leisure bakkie around, whether it's the open road, freeway, gravel, wet, sand, towing or not. My Amarok has completed all our journeys faultlessly, and that includes multiple trips to Mozambique, hunting trips, towing heavy trailers, fishing, scaling the Sani Pass, etc.
"The interior looks and operates similar to our Golf 7, which make swapping cars with the wife a breeze. The Amarok is my daily driver to and from work in Joburg traffic, as well. I can't see myself driving anything else."
The Amarok bakkie is true gem in our market. When driven back-to-back against the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, one can quickly establish just how well the drive is. Road holding is near-impeccable and the off-road prowess is undoubtedly a boon.
Given that the bakkie market has taken on a more leisure/lifestyle approach, the Amarok does drive like a car. You don’t have the weighty steering that’s normally associated with bakkies, and the pulling power of the V6 engine can have you mistaken for piloting a Golf TSI.
The positive responses do carry merit - and given our impressions on the bakkie we can believe every word. But with the good comes the bad, and it’s a shame that there are owners out there who have been given a raw deal regarding their ownership experience.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, every manufacturer (unintentionally) produce a bakkie or car that’s riddled with flaws. This include the mighty Hilux and Ranger - they too are not without fault. A saving grace for every brand is the quality of the aftersales service, but sometimes even the technicians can’t help you. Just ask Edward Rangongo.
Regardless, the Volkswagen Amarok is a brilliant bakkie. And the V6 is a sweet cherry on top of a delicious cake.