Bling builder's wagon or capable shoot vehicle? Ed Coles takes the VW Amarok Highline for a drive and finds it ticks all the desirable boxes
Renowned for hot hatches and hip camper vans, VW is one of the most recent manufacturers to add a pickup to its commercial range.
Refreshingly, no badge swaps were involved in the making of this vehicle, which is novel in this day and age.
First impressions are very smart; almost too smart, though, even verging on a bit ‘bling’. It certainly has a high-end feel to it, which is apt as this is the Highline edition — coming in at almost £5,000 more than the entry-level Trendline. I quite like the sparkly blue exterior, or Ravenna blue to give it its full title.
As always with modern 4x4s they seem to have grown. The optional 19in wheels bump it up a little, too. The best way of assessing the Amarok’s potential is by taking a look underneath. VW certainly isn’t messing about — it’s a proper set-up under there, with a traditional ladder chassis, leaf springs and a solid rear axle with diff, which beefs up the always-on 4Motion four-wheel drive system. The drivetrain appears to have a nice balance of good old-fashioned mechanical gearing and electronic witchcraft.
There are a few glimpses of the vitals, though most of them are guarded and hidden by a fair bit of plastic, but what we can see is pretty impressive. Ride height is a promising 195mm and gives the impression it should deal with whatever terrain is thrown at it.
I slide back out to take a look in the back. The Truckman top definitely ticks the right boxes, particularly if you’re a sporting type with some faithful canine companions. There is more than enough room for a dog box and sporting kit for a rural adventure.
As for the payload, to use the standard Shooting Times measurement, I’d say it would take about 20 full bags of wheat, but it is capable of carrying more than a tonne — or 1,112kg. The tailgate is a little high, as with most modern pickups, and it did take Buster a couple of attempts to jump in the back but, like me, the dog only has little legs.
Opening the bonnet, there is the standard plastic tea tray, but there are glimpses of the 3-litre TDI V6 diesel and its eight-speed automatic gearbox — a six-speed manual gearbox is also available.
The Amarok doesn’t lack any oomph. Putting your foot down soon unleashes the 254 horses — 201bhp for the Trendline — encased in the German V6, and it would be fairly easy to collect speeding fines if you’re not careful. That engine just keeps on going and, with up to 428ft/lb of torque, towing will not be a problem.
I’m not sure I managed to get into eighth gear, especially in manual sport mode. One thing I did notice when using the auto box is that when you move from park to drive, it slips over into manual a bit too easily — a minor criticism.
The first thing you notice is the four-door double cab. Being VW and at the higher end of the range, the interior of the Amarok is rather smart. However, it probably wasn’t enhanced by the debris I collected checking the birds in it.
Bells and whistles
There are many bells and whistles that come as standard on the Highline version. Full leather, heated, 14-way adjustable seats; touchscreen DAB radio with App Connect; hands-free phone facility; reverse sensors and a camera.
VW has thought about power-point placement — there are plenty. And it felt quite retro to see a good old-fashioned cigarette lighter fitted. It does feel comfortable and I could go on a long adventure in this. Everything is in the right place and is pretty user-friendly.
The particular VW Amarok Highline we’re testing has a few optional extras, including satnav, front fog lights with cornering lights, 19in Cantera wheels and diff lock. This last is activated electronically, as is off-road mode which also incorporates the hill-descent function.
Fit for purpose?
The Amarok is very good on the open road and around the country lanes it does feel very stable, not overly ‘boaty’ as some pickups can be.
The suspension is perhaps a fraction too hard but by no means unpleasant.
So the journey to our rural escapades is a joy but — crucially for Shooting Times readers — does it work off-road? With a few essentials loaded in the back, the off-road button is pushed and away I go.
Despite its large exterior the VW Amarok Highline is quite nimble through the wood and it deals with all the ruts, bumps and lumps with ease. From a test point of view, it’s a shame we’ve had such good weather recently.
The Amarok dealt comfortably with all the terrain that my shoot has to offer, but I do wonder a bit about the tyres — I’m not sure how they would cope on a wet November day picking-up. I’d probably be inclined to put slightly more rustic rubber on.
That said, the Amarok is easily as capable as its competitors and I could very happily live with it comfortably day to day.
Need to know
- Top speed: 127 mph
- 0-62mph: 7.4 seconds
- Annual road tax: £240
- MPG: Urban 30.7mpg, extra urban 35.8 mpg, combined 33.6 mpg
- Emissions: 220g/kg
- Kerb weight: 3.290kg
- Tow weight: 750kg
- Braked tow weight (12%) 3.100kg
- NCAP rating: 4/5
The bottom line
So to answer the question, bling builder’s wagon or capable shooting vehicle? I would say both. Ultimately, it comes down to price and, being slightly high end, the Amarok has a fairly punchy on-the-road price. With all the optional extras this model will set you back an eye-watering £46,095, including VAT. So the chances of the shoot captain buying me one are pretty slim.
But if you’re a sporting gent with a bit of cash and you want something different, the VW Amarok Highline could be right up your street.