I now consider the following to be pretty much complete, I have a couple of videos that I will post over the next couple of days and I might make minor changes to grammar if necessary.
This morning, the 29th of June, I picked up my Amarok from Europcar and headed out of Santiago, Chile in heavy fog. I periodically drive my girlfriend’s VW, so I am not super familiar with the info system. I just started driving and other than resetting the trip odometer I didn’t play with it until the fog lifted and I had an open stretch of highway. At first I was a little disappointed, I had heard about the great fuel economy that the Amarok was supposed to have, but the computer was telling me that I could only go 560km on the full tank of fuel. As I headed North out of Santiago I noticed that as my trip odometer climbed, so did my expected range. By the time I was about 150-200km into my trip the computer was telling me that I had 700km left to the tank, unfortunately at that point it started to fall. When the fuel gauge dropped below half a tank, I still had close to 400km left according to the computer.
The Amarok that I got was the 2.0L TDI paired to a 6 speed manual, it also happened to be the Highline, so it came with most of the bells and whistles. Basic driving of the truck was pretty much as I expected, a perky little diesel that is true to the Volkswagen name. I heard that the ride could be a bit harsh because it is setup as a commercial vehicle and that it settles down if loaded. Compared to my Jeep, the ride was quite nice and even when I went down a few roads that had seen better days, I was never jostled around too much.
The gearbox in the Amarok had nice short throws, so for anyone who has driven a standard vehicle where you really had to reach for 5th and 6th, this shouldn’t be a problem. Reverse is in the standard Volkswagen location and you have to push down on the shifter to access it. This is nice, in my current vehicle at just the right speed, I easily slip straight across from 4th into reverse when I decide to skip 5th and go straight for 6th. This only happens periodically, but when it does the transmission screams as I try to jam it straight into reverse at 100km/h.
I’m not certain which radio I had in the truck, but I dragged along my USB charge cable for my iPhone and a audio cable, so I would be able to listen to some non-Spanish music. I was very happy to find that the stereo recogonized my iPhone 5 and started to load music off of it and play it. The sound quality was quite good to my ears, but I am not what I would consider an audio guy, but for a stock system it was very good. I ran an audio meter on my iPhone when the truck was idling and again at highway speed. There was very little difference between the truck idling and shutoff completely. I was however very close to the Pacific ocean when I ran this test and there was a lot of noise from the wind and waves. At highway speed (120 km/h) at a constant engine speed the audio meter reported 78dB, which compares to a washing machine. It is a lot better than my Jeep with its removable hardtop.
The tailgate gave me a couple of surprises. First it had a built in lock, that I had to use the key in manually to unlock, next I had to hold out on the handle to close it. I am used to just slamming the tailgate shut, perhaps I could have done that to this one as well, but I tried to close it slowly and noticed that I had to pull out on the handle to get it to latch. The last thing that I found interesting was that in addition to the standard cables that hold the tailgate when it is open, there was a hydraulic shock that lowered the tailgate slowly. I have a video of it in action which I will post shortly.
Mid way through my drive, on one of my stops, I tried sitting in the back seat, directly behind the drivers seat. I am just shy of 6 feet tall and I had no problem sitting in the drivers seat or directly behind it. If you are much beyond 6 feet then it may limit the usefulness of the rear seats. The back of the rear seats could be folded down, but I found I had to get into the truck to get at both releases at the same time, if you had a friend it would be easier. There were the standard tools located behind the seats and when folded down, it provided a flat surface. You could also fold up the bottom of the rear seat. There was a cup holder located on the floor directly in front of the middle seat in the back of the Amarok. I didn’t play with it a whole bunch, but it looked like it was just begging to be broken or snapped off when someone gets in or out quickly. It might be possible to fold it down better then what I did.
One thing that I saw as a bit of a safety concern was a line drawn on the driver’s side mirror. If a vehicle is behind the line then you can safely pull out, you might be close to the other vehicle but there won’t be contact. I spoke to a couple of co-workers and they said that they have seen this on other newer vehicles. I have to say it concerns me, people are lazy and if someone glances up and sees that an approaching vehicle is behind the line they may be more likely to merge out without fully checking their blind spot and correctly judging the speed of the approaching vehicle.
During my drive at one point as I was pulling out of a rest stop, I pulled up to the “PARE” sign, looked just like a stop sign, stopped and then checked the highway for traffic before pulling out. There was a transport truck approaching and I decided to wait for it to pass, as I looked forward again I realized that I had a nice long acceleration lane and that I could safely pull out and not cut the transport truck off. I would have been easily able to slow down to merge out behind the transport if I ran out of acceleration lane. I stepped on the accelerator pedal and released the clutch, with a spray of gravel I was gone. Very quickly I accelerated and worked up through the gears. I had nothing to be concerned about. The Amarok was quick to accelerate and easily out paced the approaching transport truck. Not wanting to run afoul of the local police I tried to keep my speed near the speed limit. My rental agreement had a $200US clause if a police report was required, so I wanted to stay away from that as well.
Other than the current unknowns that we have about the Amarok being released into Canada, I have to say that overall I really enjoyed this little truck. It appeared to be well put together and well engineered. The combination of the size and the diesel engine will make it ideal for many work applications and for some of us a perfect personnel vehicle to be used as a daily driver.
There are a series of criteria that will affect if the Amarok will be my next vehicle.
- Volkswagen Canada has to actually bring it to Canada.
- The cost has to be reasonable, for the price of fully loaded F-150s, hopefully VW can be competitive in Canada.
- I want basically what I drove today, if VW doesn’t offer the TDI or makes too many other tweaks then the Amarok may loose its appeal.
- If my current vehicle pisses me off enough before the Amarok comes to market, then I may need something sooner.
At this point I think I am more eager than ever to have Volkswagen introduce this thing to the Canadian Market.