Officially introduced to Jamaica in 2012 by ATL Automotive Ltd, the Amarok is a relative newcomer to the pick-up market and is aiming to add some style and class to the segment. Its unmistakable sleek design is guaranteed to stand out in the highly competitive segment with heavyweight contenders like Toyota Hilux, Mazda BT50, and Mitsubishi L200.
No doubt, it's going to be hard to compete against the aforementioned pick-ups as they have all been tried and proven on our Jamaican roads; but the Amarok is up for the challenge.
To be truthful, at first, I was a bit skeptical of its performance because it looked like a 'pretty' pick-up, with its sharp European edges that scream sophistication over utility.
Nevertheless, when doing my research on pick-ups, the Amarok was always mentioned in a positive light.
A quick run-through
The interior has a refined feel and the customary VW layout, with piano-black accents to give it a premium look. As for the centre console, all the knobs are pretty straightforward, although the infotainment system takes some getting used to. This is something I've grown accustomed to with driving German-made vehicles. It's obvious they like to do things differently from everyone else.
Pairing the vehicle's Bluetooth with my phone took a little while. However, once it was done, it automatically reconnected every time I exited and re-entered the vehicle. Once connected, you will be able to see your call log as well as play music that is stored on your phone.
While there is not a back-up camera, there is a proximity sensor which is displayed on the infotainment screen that can show how close an object is from the rear of the vehicle. This was very handy and should be standard on all pick-ups.
There are other amenities that most persons would appreciate like huge door wells to store water bottles and enough 12V sockets for all passengers to charge their phones simultaneously. As for the seats, though comfortable, some more adjustment options would be welcomed.
This is where German engineering shines, as the two-litre bi-turbo engine is very responsive and intuitive.
If you want instant acceleration, while in drive mode, simply pull the gear lever back to engage sport mode. This will be indicated on the gauge-cluster screen which will show an 'S' instead of 'D'. Do the reverse to put the vehicle back in drive mode.
In drive mode, the computer keeps the eight-speed transmission in the highest gear possible at all times for fuel efficiency. Nonetheless, you can switch over to tiptronic mode to manually gear down if you want extra speed.
The journey begins
The destination this time was from Kingston to Balcarres, a small peaceful community in Portland. While driving through Junction, St Mary, I slowly realised that this vehicle was a tad bit wider than all of its competitors. This meant I had to occasionally hug the corners as well as being mindful of the size of the oncoming vehicle. From a handling perspective, it managed this effortlessly and, with the drum brakes, I was able to stop whenever I wanted.
By the time I reached Balcarres, I was still not able to test the 4-wheel-drive system, which is constantly on, by the way. So, I continued driving on the route hoping to see some challenging terrain - surprisingly, I didn't. This was a trip a car could have made, which wasn't my plan.
At this point, I started to search for an off-road challenge so it found an area called Hardwar Gap, where the surface was rocky and the declined slope was at least 20 degrees. At this point, I eagerly pressed the off-road button, which doesn't have a responsive click, so I had to look at the gauge cluster to know when it is on.
The Off-road Amarok Experience
When this is done, the computer kicks into full swing by effectively searching for the wheel with the most traction while constantly applying brakes to the other wheels. This means, the only thing the driver is required to do is steer.
Of course, VW has some complicated term for this, but I don't feel like getting into 'encyclopedia' mode; what's important is that it actually works. My passengers were in disbelief, even when one of the wheels was off the ground, so they kept looking at the brake pedal to see if I would press it.
The only drawback in this mode is that the vehicle starts to consume a lot more gas, as the computer is actively applying the power and the brake simultaneously.
Another noteworthy point is that there is no four-wheel-low gear. VW, instead, expects the driver to use the tiptronic and manually put the vehicle in first gear for steep inclines or declines. The company states that its first gear is lower than that of other vehicles, which provides the adequate torque needed to do the task.
Design and mechanical wise, it's a pickup that is ahead of its time, which can be good or bad thing, depending on the perspective of the buyer. The purist may want something that is more engaging, while the new-age driver will welcome all these technological assistance. In 10 years time, I'm almost certain most pick-ups will use the Amarok mechanical template.
What I like
Very responsive engine.
Intuitive technology for off-road driving.
Rear sensors come standard.
Absorbs potholes at high speeds very well.
Seats have limited adjustment options.
Center bin below the arm rest does not have a latch.
Leather steering feels a bit hard.
Engine: 2.0L Bi-Turbo
Hp: 180 hp
Towing capacity :
Transmission: 8speed DSG, Automatics
Type of rear suspension: Leaf Springs and Shocks
Ground Clearance : 8" / 230mm
Width: 6.4 feet/ 1944 mm
Length: 16.99 feet / 5181mm
Gas Tank size: 80L
Cost of test model: $6.290 m
Price Range for the model: $ 4.195m - $ 8.795m
Contact info: email - VWSales@atlautomotive.com or telephone - 1-888-ATL-SERV