Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara.
These are three great bakkies that you will not regret buying.
When it comes to spending my own money on a 4×4 double-cab, however, there is only one place I would go – a VW dealership.
The target: a Volkswagen Amarok V6 Extreme.
Why the Amarok
I am quite fond of low-riding coupes and sports estates, and I do not consider myself “bakkie guy”.
This is why I appreciate the modern design route that Volkswagen has followed with their Amarok.
It is styled similarly to their passenger car line-up, and is much more “21st century” than its competitors.
Its Discover Pro Media system provides you with an 8-inch touchscreen that enables Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the dynamic 3D navigation can be controlled with your voice.
Along with this, it shows several important stats – such as the angle at which your wheels are turned and the direction in which you are headed when you are off-roading.
Another big plus for the Amarok is the sheer amount of space it provides.
It is currently the widest bakkie for sale on the South African market, and the interior has made good use of this.
No shoulder touching will take place when you sit up front, and stretching to grab something from another part of the cabin actually feels like stretching – not just a slight lean.
You no longer have to squeeze anyone into the backseat either, as VW has created a spacious cabin.
The 12-way electrically-adjustable seats are dressed in Nappa leather, too, and the front two are heated as standard.
It has the necessary assist features such as park distance control and a rear-view-camera, and automatic climate control keeps the cabin cool.
Furthermore, it has a segment-first automatic post-collision braking system that stops the bakkie after a collision in order to avoid another one.
An electronic trailer stabilisation system assures your trailer stays put, while cruise control, up to four 12V power outlets, a multifunction steering wheel, and shifter paddles round out the driving experience.
It’s a looker
As bakkies go, nothing exciting or really different has come from the major brands in recent years.
“Special edition” is a name flung at mid-cycle updates that feature more plastic bits in an attempt to make it look “better”.
The Amarok, on the other hand, has been a looker since the day it arrived.
It has not seen much change since its inception, but revisions and tasteful updates have assured it stays modern and attractive.
No black plastic “flared arches” with fake screws, and no sticker kits that blurt out that this car costs more than the rest of the range are found here.
It stands atop 20-inch Talca alloy wheels, it has LED daytime running lights up front, the bumpers have stylish detail lines, and an Extreme branded sports bar adds style to the loading bay.
The Amarok was often criticized for its 2.0-litre engine it launched with, but it didn’t take long for Ford to follow suit by placing a 2.0-litre motor into their range-topping Ranger Thunder and Wildtraks, and even Toyota followed the downsizing route by placing the same displacement powerplant in some of their base models.
The Amarok Extreme variant, however, has been bumped up to 190kW and 580Nm of torque thanks to its 3.0-litre V6, turbocharged diesel engine.
It sports an 8-speed automatic gearbox that sends power to all four wheels, it reaches 100km/h in 7.6 seconds, and has a top speed of 207km/h.
If the most powerful bakkie in South Africa still doesn’t have enough power for you, an additional 10kW can be drawn from the motor for 10 seconds – thanks to an overboost function.
Off-road performance from the Amarok also places it among the top bakkies currently on the market.
The increased ground clearance provides a brake-over angle of 23 degrees, it has class-leading approach angles at the front and rear – with a water wading depth of up to half a metre – and it can climb up 45-degree angles with a load of one tonne.
If that’s not enough, it can drive on a lateral angle of 49.7 degrees.
The off-road ABS system, electronic differential control, and hill descent control then make the abilities of the Amarok accessible to anyone behind the wheel.
While on the topic, the maximum load capacity for the Amarok is one tonne – and the maximum towing capacity is 3.3 tonnes.
As a final brag, it is also the only bakkie that can carry a wooden Euro pallet completely flat between its wheel arches thanks to its wide hips.
The Volkswagen Amarok is by no means cheap, but it does offer a lot of value for your money.
The Amarok Double Cab “Extreme” 3.0 TDI 190kW is the top-of-the-range bakkie from VW, and has an asking price of R996,000.
With this you get a 3-year/100,000km warranty, and a 5-year/90,000km service plan.