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The Volkswagen Amarok is now a proper off-roader

Thanks to the German carmaker’s tie-up with Ford

The all-new Amarok promises to be more potent off the tarmac. PHOTO FROM VOLKSWAGEN

When Volkswagen launched the Amarok in 2010, it probably felt that it had the expertise on how to create a proper off-roader. After all, this is the company that created the Iltis, whose four-wheel-drive system gave birth to the all-conquering Audi Quattro. However, the Amarok came with a reworked version of its manufacturer’s 4Motion tech that’s used by crossovers.

This system lacked a two-speed transfer case, which severely compromised the Amarok’s ability to tackle a variety of terrain types. In addition, the platform is already more than a decade old. In order to make amends, Volkswagen has finally debuted the all-new version of its utility truck.

Most of Volkswagen's unique touches are on the exterior. PHOTO FROM VOLKSWAGEN

But before we dive into the details, let’s get one thing straight. The Amarok is practically a rebadged version of the latest Ford Ranger. But the absence of the Blue Oval’s name in Volkswagen’s marketing fluff means that the German automaker is attempting to convince everyone that its truck is a homegrown product. However, there are clues that suggest that most of the Amarok’s differences from the Ranger are skin-deep.

Let’s start with the engines. Amarok customers are spoilt for choice with diesels. The single-turbo 2.0-liter unit has 148hp or 168hp. Add another turbo and this figure breaches the 200hp mark. There is even an optional 3.0-liter V6 with at least 238hp. Volkswagen will slap its TDI emblem on all these engines, but the displacement and output figures are uncannily similar to the Ranger’s powerplants. Even the sole petrol option is a 298hp 2.3-liter turbo that’s badged as a TSI, but it is just as big as Ford’s EcoBoost units.

The bed doesn't have the Ranger's inset step. PHOTO FROM VOLKSWAGEN

When it comes to both the transmission and the four-wheel-drive system, the sharing continues. The Amarok is equipped with either a 10-speed automatic or five-/six-speed manual transmission. With the exception of the five-speed stick shift, the options are practically similar to those of the Ranger. Even the shift-by-wire selector of the automatic looks like it was yanked out of the Ford.

Just like the Ranger, the Amarok will come with a part-time or full-time four-wheel drive that’s badged as 4Motion (as expected). But the big news that should end up working in Volkswagen’s favor is the availability of a low-range transfer case. This will allow the vehicle to confidently drive through muddy and rocky trails.

The all-new Amarok finally has a low-range transfer case. PHOTO FROM VOLKSWAGEN

The Amarok’s cab has typical Volkswagen lashings of leather and brushed aluminum, but most of the switchgear seems to be modeled after the Ranger. However, the German firm did try a little harder to make its pickup feel Volkswagen-ish from the point of view of its occupants. The digital instrument panel has a different interface, and the tablet-style infotainment screen appears to be running VW’s in-house software.

While the all-new Amarok is basically a Ranger underneath, Volkswagen did at least put in the effort to make it look a lot different from its American twin. While the Ranger employs design cues taken from the F-150, the Amarok has a statelier stance with slim headlights and taillights, a two-tiered radiator grille, and wheel sizes ranging from 16-21 inches. Top-of-the-line variants get Volkswagen’s patented LED matrix headlights. But if these press photos are anything to go by, it looks like this vehicle doesn’t get the Ranger’s clever inset steps below the load bed.

Just like the Ranger, the Amarok has several trim levels that cater to a wide variety of customers, from fleet buyers to lifestyle users. Volkswagen seems to target the latter quite extensively as its new truck will have two range-topping variants. The PanAmericana is basically the Wildtrak’s twin, and it is the Amarok’s premier off-road version. Meanwhile, the Aventura is geared for city use with chrome accents and a large wheel size.

Ranger Wildtrak or Amarok PanAmericana? PHOTO FROM VOLKSWAGEN

It would be unfair to say that Volkswagen simply rested on its laurels and let Ford do all the grunt work. After all, such a collaboration isn’t uncommon in the industry these days (like the BMW Z4 and the Toyota GR Supra). Additionally, the Blue Oval could learn a thing or two about the way its German partner does things.

The all-new Amarok will be produced in South Africa. For now, its core markets will be limited to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Australia, and New Zealand. However, its Ford running gear could give it the potential to be sold in more territories where this truck wasn’t available before.

Miggi Solidum

Professionally speaking, Miggi is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He pens the column ‘G-Force’.