Down and dirty VW workhorse gets a new suit

NOT too many vehicles are as imposing as the first VW purpose-built pick-up, the Amarok and I can safely venture that the version we tried recently — titled the Amarok Aventura — is perhaps the most outrageous car to have decorated the driveway this year, other than the preposterous Ford Raptor, which looks like it just drove off the set of a Mad Max movie.

Down and dirty VW workhorse gets a new suit

NOT too many vehicles are as imposing as the first VW purpose-built pick-up, the Amarok and I can safely venture that the version we tried recently — titled the Amarok Aventura — is perhaps the most outrageous car to have decorated the driveway this year, other than the preposterous Ford Raptor, which looks like it just drove off the set of a Mad Max movie.

Now, pick-ups are not normally the soup du jour in these quarters, although we have had fun in some of them down the years, most notably the Toyota Hi-Lux and the aforementioned Raptor. The thing is that these things are usually of the genus ‘antediluvian’ in engineering terms and, in general, about as sophisticated as a wheelbarrow.

Such cars are, by nature, workhorses and do not lean towards any semblance of erudition. They are largely crude, rudimentary and rough-as-a-badger’s-arse, to use a colloquial term. They do not lean towards anything that might be described as polished, elegant, or cultured.

These cars are for working and working damn hard. They are, to paraphrase the current Taoiseach’s simile about hard-working people, cars that get up early in the morning.

Sometimes, however, they can be hard-working cars that get up early in the morning and do a long day’s shift, but can have a bit of glossy paint thrown at their muddied flanks to give them a cultured air that is not necessarily part of their inherent DNA.

Such is the case with the Volkswagen Amarok Aventura, which had been given a lustrous make-over to make it considerably more slick and polished than might ever have been expected from such a thing.

The Amarok, which is named after the Inuit word for ‘wolf’, apparently, but could also be a bastard confluence of ‘am-a-rock’, was conceived as a down-and-dirty pick-up and aimed at picking up sales not so much in leafy suburbia but in the Amazonian basin or high on the Pampas.

It will be at home on a cattle drive in western Montana moreso than in a Tesco car park (where it would barely fit anyway).

Like most of the pick-up breed, the Amarok boasts little by way of modern engineering trends, as evidenced by the Ben Hur-era leaf-spring rear suspension system. That said, the Aventura does come with a three-litre V6 engine and a pretty sophisticated double wishbone front suspension, amongst other fripperies.

And when you think about it, there has been a trend towards gentrification in the pick-up sector, a trend accelerated by the arrival last year of the Mercedes X-Class.

When Mercedes climb on the bandwagon, it does mean everyone else has to sit up and take notice — even if their contender is only a dandified version of the Nissan Navarra.

This upmarket trend in the sector has seen VW react by ditching the old two- litre turbodiesels which were standard when the car was first seen in 2010 and now there are three-litre V6s of various outputs offered as the engine choice.

In the case of the Aventura, that means a 3.0 V6 producing 258 bhp which is allied to an eight-speed auto gearbox and VW’s 4Motion 4x4 system.

As a top-end version of the Amarok, the Aventura also gets a unique paint job (Ravenna Blue Matte, if you must know), 20” alloy wheels, a sports bar (which is not a pub where you watch sporting events) in body colour, a leather multi-function steering wheel with paddle shifters, bi-xenon headlights and special ‘Ergo-Comfort’ front seats.

Standard kit, charmingly, also boasted a ‘load compartment coating’ which allegedly protects the rear bodywork and is resistant to abrasion and stone impact, anthracite and is also UV-resistant.

Options on the Aventura we tested included a full body cover which is lockable to protect whatever you carry in the back and a battery of roof-mounted LED auxiliary lights which, when activated, are so bright they would blind the devil himself. Handy, perhaps, in the Amazon basin.

Now, for those of you who have not already spotted this, the Amarok is what the Americans call a ‘truck’. On this side of the pond it is more politely referred to as a ‘commercial vehicle’.

This means that, even in dual-cab format (ie, with a rear seat bench which can cope with three passengers) the VW is a working tool and not a family runaround.

I am sure there may be some guys out there will try and persuade their better halves that it is indeed a fantastic runaround and great for the school and shop, but don’t get sucked in. This is a true commercial vehicle and even though VW may have jazzed it up in this Aventura guise, it is most certainly not a handy thing for tooling around town.

It is good to drive though and even with that Neanderthal rear suspension, it handles and rides rather well and the amount of sidewall on those huge tyres is going to cushion you from the worst excesses of the Irish road network.

One thing which might upset some die-hard pick-up fans is that the 4Motion 4x4 system does its own thing and there are no buttons to switch it on or off at your own discretion.

This is an arrangement which you have to put your faith in, but be assured that faith will be repaid handsomely. It will handle most off-road situations with ease and without you having to do anything.

It will also handle most on-road situations easily and without you having to break a sweat either. Another thing to note is that this three-litre V6 is not just pick-up fast, but proper fast, as illustrated by the 7.4 second 0-100 kph time, not to mention the 210kph top speed.

The V6 is not exactly thrifty, however, as is indicated by VW’s own 8.5 l/100 km claim, which is just 32.1mpg in old money.

One other thing which wannabes should note is while VW has upgraded all the infotainment/connectivity and climate functions into something a lot more sophisticated than you’d expect in a ‘ute’ (as the Aussies call them), the interior is obviously built for hard work and hard wear, so ease off on any expectations of luxury.

There is a sort of a ‘dashing’ feel about the Amarok and owners and potential owners will feel very comfortable getting their lumberjack shirts out of the back of the wardrobe and their steel-toed boots from the garage before they climb aboard.

This VW nearly demands that you dress the part when you get behind the wheel.

The Aventura model is outrageous and happily so, but it does not come cheap. Bear that in mind when you think it might be a good idea.

Colley's Verdict

The cost: The basic Amarok starts at €47,345, while the entry-level Aventura starts at €62,725 and the tester cost €68,545.

The engine: Fast, smooth, three-litre V6.

The specification: Very upmarket for a pick-up.

The verdict: Not a runabout.

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