All-wheel drive and stability control kept the bakkie pointing in the right direction during a skidpan test. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
All-wheel drive and stability control kept the bakkie pointing in the right direction during a skidpan test. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Our long-term test Volkswagen Amarok V6 has been roped into some unusual activities lately.

One of them was lugging a full load of topsoil to my house in preparation for onset of Gauteng’s rainy season. Unusual, in that we’d become so accustomed to using this executive double cab as a regular car that we’d almost forgotten it’s a workhorse.

That loadbox, usually reserved for a bicycle or the monthly shopping under its tarpaulin, was for the first time roped in for some heavy duty lugging by being filled with 1.2m3 of soil.

With its outputs of 165kW and 550Nm the 3l turbodiesel Amarok has earned its stripes as the most powerful double cab you can currently buy in SA. In its standing-start and overtaking acceleration it comfortably outguns every other bakkie and one could consider it the "Porsche" of pick-ups; in fact this engine was shared with a number of Porsche models.

Until the V6 version of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class comes along with its 190kW/550Nm, the Amarok is the punchiest double cab in its class against competitors such as the Ford Ranger (147kW/470Nm), Toyota Hilux (130kW450Nm), Nissan Navara (140kW/450Nm), Mitsubishi Triton (133kW/430Nm) and Isuzu KB (130kW/380Nm).

But it’s torque that you need to lug a full load of topsoil and the Amarok’s muscular 550Nm, available from a low-revving 1400r/min, did the business impressively. It was a heavy load that required gentler-than-usual acceleration and braking, but once on the move the big bakkie pulled comfortably. And if you really need more grunt, for instance to blast past a long truck, the Amarok has even more firepower in reserve, with 180kW and 580Nm available on overboost for about 10 seconds when the throttle’s fully applied.

The standard payload in the Amarok V6 is 867kg, but it can be increased to 1,010kg with the optional heavy-duty leaf spring rear suspension. This hardier suspension’s a good bet if the vehicle’s going to be used as a regular workhorse, but it will also make the ride notably firmer and bumpier — at least when the loadbox is unladen.

The Amarok’s burly torque dealt efficiently with a full load of topsoil. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The Amarok’s burly torque dealt efficiently with a full load of topsoil. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

In its standard suspension guise this VW delivers a smooth ride, making it feel more like an SUV than a workhorse. The Amarok V6 also has a 3.3-tonne towing capacity and electronic trailer stabilisation, which should make it a capable tow vehicle for boats and caravans.

The other unusual activity we undertook in the vehicle was a skidpan gymkhana test in a recent experiment to determine the effects of dagga on driving ability. A group of volunteers drove the gymkhana first sober and then stoned to see how their driving was impaired (see the article online at goo.gl/jihK8a).

It was testament to the Amarok’s all-wheel drive traction and stability control system that not one of the participants spun out on that slippery surface, not even while under the influence of marijuana.

As an added safety benefit a standard feature across the Amarok range, including the 2l versions, is a Post-Collision Braking System. Nearly a quarter of all road accidents are collisions with more than one obstacle, and the VW system automatically applies brakes after an initial crash to help avoid follow-on collisions.

The Amarok double cab V6 sells in three guises: the Highline 4Motion for R717,600, the Highline Plus 4Motion for R772,400 and the Extreme 4Motion for R807,100.

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