Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring


Red-hot 190 kW Amarok in a league of its own

Volkswagen gives the fastest bakkie in South Africa even more oomph.


South Africa is bakkie country. Of the 35 526 new vehicles weighing less than three and a half tons or that were sold in February, 8 815 were bakkies. This means that one in every four cars sold locally is a bakkie. It goes without saying that the bakkie market is a lucrative one and manufacturers’ intention to have a footing in this space is evident. With Toyota, Ford, Isuzu and Nissan sitting very comfortable at the top table, the others are lining up to fighting over crumbs. Over the last decade, Mahindra and Great Wall Motors have gained some…

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South Africa is bakkie country. Of the 35 526 new vehicles weighing less than three and a half tons or that were sold in February, 8 815 were bakkies. This means that one in every four cars sold locally is a bakkie.

It goes without saying that the bakkie market is a lucrative one and manufacturers’ intention to have a footing in this space is evident. With Toyota, Ford, Isuzu and Nissan sitting very comfortable at the top table, the others are lining up to fighting over crumbs.

Over the last decade, Mahindra and Great Wall Motors have gained some traction through more affordable options, names you won’t associate with bakkies like Peugeot, Renault and Hyundai keep popping up, while even Mercedes-Benz had its ill-fated stint in the light commercial segment.

Uncontested segment 

In whichever price bracket you are shopping for a bakkie, rivalry is fierce between carmarkers. The gloves are off for every piece of real estate, whether it be after sales back-up, engine, transmission, suspension, safety systems, creature comforts and endless accessories.

But there is one area that is virtually uncontested: on-road performance. While Ford, Toyota and Isuzu have all rolled out off-road performance offerings of late, Volkswagen has kept its bakkie flag flying on the tarmac with the V6 Amarok.

New Volkswagen Amarok

Volkswagen Amarok V6 TDI rear

What was already the fastest production bakkie in South Africa has now got even faster with the 190 kW version. The same 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine that did duty in the discontinued 165 kW version has now been uptuned to produce 190 kW of power at 3 000 to 4 500 rpm and 580 Nm of torque at 1 400 to 2 750 rpm. This is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission.

Speed the currency

Like the 165 kW version, the 190 kW also features overboost, which adds an additional 10 kW of power for a total output of 200 kW for a maximum of 10 seconds to assist with overtaking.

Apart from the power bump, very little has changed in the new top-end Amarok. In what is destined to be the bakkie’s swansong before the first offering in Volkswagen ’s partnership with Ford is rolled out in the next few years, bar the odd limited edition, the German manufacturer has focussed purely on bettering the Amarok’s unique selling point. Speed. And boy, have those mechanical craftsmen outdone themselves again. The way it accelerates still makes it kind of unreal to think you are in a bakkie.

New 190kW VW Amarok

The 190 kW of the Amarok V6 TDI

While the interior might be getting on a bit – it has been around since 2010 – it is nevertheless still comfortable. And going that fast in a vehicle weighing over two tons in such comfort in something that can actually primarily designed to carry a ton on the back is quite extraordinary.

Volkswagen claims that the 190 kW Amarok can achieve a fuel consumption figure of 9.5 L/100 km. During our recent launch we managed around 12 L/100km/h, but have to admit me made no attempt at driving it economically.

Pulling power

Bakkie buyers who tackle the real rough stuff will probably scoff at the idea of this Amarok not offering the traditional selectable low range gear they’re accustomed to on four-wheel-drive bakkies. But although the Amarok has proven its off-road prowess over the years, that is simply an added bonus to otherwise bigger drawing card.

Volkswagen claims that this 190 kW Amarok can get to 100km/h from a standstill in 7.6 seconds and it really does feel like they are on to something. We hope to put it through the test at Gerotek in the coming weeks to report how close we manage to get to that number.

The 165 kW version had a claimed 0 to 100 km/h time of eight seconds and the best Road Test Editor Mark Jones managed to record was 8.67 sec. But it should be noted that unlike performance cars which Mark makes use of left-foot braking to get the rpms going on the accelerator before launching, he does not apply this technique with any bakkie.

If you are going to be mechanically unsympathetic towards your Amarok, you are destined to shave off a few tenths of a second which will get you closer to the claimed time.

Unchartered territory  

Incidentally, the 165 kW version’s time weathered a much-hyped onslaught by the now defunct Mercedes-Benz X350d.

On paper the V6 Merc looked to be a serious contender for the crown with its 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine producing 190 kW of power and 550 Nm of torque and mated to a 7G Tronic transmission – serious equipment for a bakkie. But the best Mark could manage with the X-Class over a 0 to 100 km/h sprint was 9.43 sec, which was all of 0.76 sec slower than the Amarok.

Whether you put the Amarok’s time into bakkie or general context, it makes fascinating reading. Although they are not built for speed, the top end products from other carmakers takes over 12 seconds to go from 0 to 100km/h.

The new 190kW Amarok could come very close to eight seconds. And speaking of the eight-second barrier, in 2005 a Golf GTI ran a time of 7.98 sec and four years later a Honda Civic Type R recorded an 8.34 sec. To think that a production double cab now finds itself in that ball park. Crazy!

Amarok V6 TDI Price

But all this does come at a premium and the 190 kW Amarok is the most expensive bakkie money can buy locally since the demise of the X-Class. In Highline guise it costs R921 900, with the flagship Extreme derivative priced at R996 000.

Even though the Highline does include a few nice features Vienna leather seats, seat heating, bi-xenon headlights and font and rear Park Distance Control with rear-view camera, you still need to fork out R64 100 extra for more car-like comfort and better looks.

New Volkswagen Amarok interior

Volkswagen Amarok V6 TDI’s interior

In top-spec Extreme guise, you get Nappa leather seats,  the Discover Pro Media  infotainment system which includes satellite navigation, 19-inch Milford alloy wheels and a sports bar painted in body colour. A

Add just one optional extra and you are forking out seven figures. For a bakkie. One without a premium badge. But being in a league of its own, that number is kind of par for the course. If you want a fast bakkie, you have to pay for it. Fair game.

The Amarok comes standard with a three year/100 000 km warranty and five year/90 000 km Genuine Easy Drive Service Plan.

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