The joint venture between Walkinshaw and Volkswagen to develop Australia-specific versions of the Amarok ute doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.
Hot on the heels of 2020’s road-oriented Amarok W580S and W580S comes a new variant, and this one is all about leaving the bitumen behind.
While the original Walkinshaw Amarok was designed as a bitumen-smart vehicle for those who would use the all-wheel drive capability in a sparing way, this time, the new car, the W580X is aimed at serious off-road use.
So, where the W580 and W580S had a more on-road-suitable tyre package and suspension rates to make it work on the blacktop, this time, Walkinshaw has shot for the badlands with a specific set of attributes to make the Amarok the best it can be in the scrub.
Read more about the Volkswagen Amarok
It’s an interesting marketing path to follow, but it’s hardly one that sees VW sitting around the campfire alone: The Ford Ranger Raptor was also designed in Australia to be a rough, tough off-roader, able to leap sand dunes in a single bound.
Nor is VW alone in seeking specialist design help from a third-party company: The Nissan Navara Warrior was modified in Australia by Melbourne-based Premcar with all modifications rubber-stamped by Nissan head office in Japan.
|Volkswagen Amarok 2022: TDI580 W580 4Motion|
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 5/10
Starting with the standard Amarok, Walkinshaw has added a few well-chosen W580X-specific bits and pieces some of which we’ve covered off in the Design section.
But beyond those, the new Amarok is also fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tyres, wheel-arch extensions, LED daytime running lights and bi-xenon headlights.
Inside, you’ll find specific cloth trim with Walkinshaw branding, dual-zone air-conditioning, heated front seats, paddle-shifters, full connectivity and a height and reach adjustable steering wheel.
For a little more wow you can also option up the ‘Luxury Pack’ which brings leather seats, 14-way electrically-adjustable front seats and an improved media centre that also incorporates navigation.
Meantime, a little more wow costs a lot more moolah; in this case $3690 more. Want the snorkel? Of course, you do: That’ll be another $1390, please.
But even without the heated leather, the W580X will set you back $78,890, or about $15,000 more than the Amarok 580 Highline with precisely the same driveline, and $25,000 more than the Amarok Core with the slightly less powerful 165kW tune in its V6 engine.
That would appear to make the W580X a fairly pricey proposition; a suspicion confirmed when you check the arguably further-developed Ford Ranger Raptor at $79,390 and the Navara Pro 4X Warrior (as it’s now known) at just under $70,000 in its fanciest trim.
But – and you’ll be hearing this a bit – neither of those competitors pack the same V6 punch under the lid.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
There’s absolutely no doubt Volkswagen has been sniffing the air and watching how private owners are modifying their dual-cab utes for off-road use. And full marks to VW for not simply tackling the obvious visual stuff and actually fitting the really hardcore bits.
Hardcore? Definitely, and the Walkinshaw editions include some stuff you see, and other stuff you don’t. Things like the breathers for the differentials, transfer case and even the transmission. The vents for these are mounted up high in the engine bay to reduce the chance of water entering the system.
The breathers themselves, meanwhile, prevent the build-up of internal pressure (sufficient to blow seals and gaskets) when these components get hot in harsh-use conditions.
Other changes are easier to see including the 40mm front suspension lift and rear lift with twin-tube dampers to suit rock-hopping, alloy bash-plates for underbody protection and rock-sliders (ditto).
There’s also a snorkel for the Amarok, but it’s an extra-cost option when, given the car’s intended use, should probably have been part of the standard package.
Beyond the practical, VW has also taken notice of the cosmetic changes owners make to their vehicles and, as a result, has added a 75-watt LED light-bar, branded rubber mats and the appropriate decals to drive the W580X message home.
How practical is the space inside? 8/10
The Amarok scores major comfort points by having a steering column that is adjustable for height as well as reach in a market segment where that’s no gimme.
The driving position as a result is better than average for a wider than average range of driver shapes and sizes. The touch-points are nice, too, with the steering wheel in particular having a lovely feel and size to its rim.
But other points of contact are less friendly and there seems to be plenty of hard, brittle looking plastic in evidence in plenty of other places. The central bin in the middle of the dashboard is a long way away from your seating position but other features like the cup-holders are well designed and intelligently placed.
The rear seat is typical of the breed with a firm cushion and a relatively upright backrest and is best for smaller folk or adults taking short trips.
As a ute, the Amarok does admirably and remains the only member of the dual-cab ute club (barring the monster US brands) with the ability to take a standard Australian pallet between its wheel arches. The light in the cargo bay is a brilliant piece of attention to detail, too.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 8/10
Walkinshaw hasn’t fiddled with the Amarok’s driveline, and why would it when the V6 VW turbo-diesel is the performance leader in its class.
With 190kW anywhere between 3250 and 4000rpm, and torque of 580Nm between 1400 and 3000rpm, the V6 makes a fairly grunty statement. There’s also an overboost function where the engine can, for short periods, huff up a bit more turbo-boost and clip 200kW.
The EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) system is water-cooled and the V6 also runs a catalytic converter and diesel particulate filter (DPF) to clean up tailpipe emissions.
Transmission is an eight-speed conventional automatic with a super-low first ratio to account for the fact the Amarok doesn’t use a second set of low-ratio gears as the majority of its peers do.
Both seventh and eight gears are over-driven, while sixth gear is 1:1. The all-wheel drive system, meanwhile, is a permanent arrangement with a centre differential to allow it to work on bitumen. A lockable rear differential is also fitted.
Volkswagen claims a braked towing capacity of 3500kg for the W580X which is right up there with the best of them. Like many such vehicles, however, using all that towing allowance often leaves you very little in payload terms before you’ve breached the factory GCM limit. Keep it in mind.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Volkswagen claims a combined cycle official fuel-consumption number of 9.5 litres for the W580X. To be honest, in 2022, that’s nothing really to write home about, but it’s probably to do with the lifted ride-height and more aggressive tyre tread pattern.
That said, the Ford Ranger Raptor achieved 8.2L/100km in the same test and the Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior just 7.0L/100km. Neither of those two, however, have the straight-line performance, nor the cubic capacity of the VW.
With a standard 80-liutre fuel tank, the Amarok W850X should be capable of more than 800km between fills.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 4/10
Volkswagen head office must cringe every time the words ‘Amarok’ and ‘safety’ are mentioned together. The vehicle has been copping flak for years, firstly when it was released without side-curtain air-bags for the rear seat.
That hasn’t changed, underlining how difficult is it to retro-fit such things, as well as the Amarok’s actual age.
Similarly impossible to incorporate has been autonomous emergency braking, rear-cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning or adaptive cruise-control, so expect all that gear in the next version of the VW ute. Those omissions have OH and S ramifications, of course, but since this version of the Amarok is aimed at the user-chooser (rather than fleet managers) that may not prove to be a major stumbling block.
In any case, you do get front airbags, stability control, trailer-sway control, a rear-facing camera and tyre-pressure monitoring.
The four-cylinder version of the Amarok was ANCAP crash tested and scored a maximum five stars, but that was way back in 2011 and the rating doesn’t apply to V6 models like the W580X. And it’s fair to say the rest of the world has moved on since then.
Warranty & Safety Rating
5 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 6/10
Factory warranty for the W580X is VW’s standard five-year/unlimited-kilometre cover. That’s about right, but it’s worth noting some of the South Korean brands better that with six and even seven years of cover, although, they’re not playing in the 4×4 dual-cab market. Yet.
Service intervals are every 20,000km or 12 months (which ever comes first) and there’s capped price servicing available at a relatively expensive $2050 for the first three services (three years’ worth).
Volkswagen also includes one year of free roadside assistance on the Amarok.
What’s it like to drive? 7/10
The driving highlight of the W580X is the same as it is for any V6 Amarok, that engine. It’s smooth, it’s powerful and it’s very flexible and it works beautifully with the eight-speed automatic transmission which has enough of its own smarts to pull back a gear or two when you’re decelerating down a long hill.
Our only gripe with the way the engine is laid out is the way the snorkel is configured. With the air-intake turned back towards the cabin (as it is as fitted by Walkinshaw) there’s a loud sucking sound as the air rushes into the snorkel on its way to the engine. Even with the driver’s window up, it’s quite a distraction and is likely to become pretty tiresome, pretty quick.
Even though the car’s off-road abilities have been the focus this time around, the Amarok is still very clearly an amalgam of priorities including towing and on-road manners.
As such, even the new dampers and 40mm front suspension lift haven’t been enough to erase the impact harshness from the rear suspension that betrays the vehicle as a work ute at heart.
The ride isn’t as bad as some, but it’s nowhere near as supple as some of its main opposition, the Navara Pro 4X Warrior in particular. On smoother roads, however, the way the Amarok covers distance with such effortlessness is very impressive.
The steering, too (which remains hydraulically-assisted as a result of the sheer age of the basic platform) betrays multiple masters by being slightly numb at dead-ahead and a fraction vague on turn-in as – possibly – a part-result of the all-terrain tyres fitted.
While there’s no doubt the Walkinshaw Group touches have given the Amarok an attitude adjustment for the better, it’s not so cut and dried when it comes to the dynamic and off-road improvements it has made.
Yes, the classier shock absorbers have probably endowed the vehicle with more outright off-road ability, but you’ll need to push it to the absolute limit of sanity to find out. Ditto the new all-terrain tyres. Yes, they do a better job on loose surfaces, but did VW need to refer to a third-party supplier to work that out?
So, while there’s value-add here, it’s not being mean to suggest the fundamentals of the Amarok haven’t been radically altered. At which point it comes down to the person handing over the cash to decide whether the $78,890 is over the top or a way of making an already good vehicle slightly better.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with accommodation and meals provided.