On the worksite
First, let's get down to brass tacks: how ‘ute-y’ is the Amarok Highline?
If size matters, then it ticks all the boxes. The Amarok Highline is big—it has the biggest tray in the ute class, measuring 1555mm by 1620mm (that's big enough to fit a standard Australian sized pallet!).
The interior is also expansive, with Matt Campbell from Car Advice noting that three adults can sit comfortably on the back bench with a good amount of leg and head room.
Underfoot, the Amarok Highline will make light work of any worksite terrain. Its heavy duty suspension makes riding in the cabin a relative dream, or as Karl Peskett from Loaded 4x4 puts it: “VW has performed some magic on the suspension… the Amarok rides better than some passenger cars.”
What might set the Amarok back in this department is its lower towing capacity when compared with other utes on the market. The Amarok’s 2 litre diesel engine will spit out enough grunt for 2 tonne haulage. This may be more than enough for most towing needs, but it should be noted that rival models from Nissan, Ford, Mazda and Isuzu can beat that by half a tonne.
Off the road
Off road 4WD, the Amarok Highline is a dutiful performer, but not a beast.
A primary criticism of the Amarok’s performance off-road is a lack of low range, but as Chris Riley from carsguide.com.au reported, this doesn’t severely limit the ability of the vehicle. By switching to “Off-Road Mode” the electronic stability system, electronic differential locks and ABS become optimised for more challenging conditions.
Though as Karl Peskett notes, the Amarok’s small engine size means that it can struggle up some of the steeper inclines found in serious 4WD tracks. It is still capable, but as Peskett suggests, there are some better matched options available on the market if off-road is your primary goal.
Driving around in the city and highway is where the smaller engine will come in handy. Volkswagen decided to take a small hit to the engine size to increase the everyday practicality of the Amarok.
Volkswagen officially claims the Amarok will consume 8.3L/100km. Users have reported this figure to be surprisingly close, with James Ward reporting 8.8L and Matt Campbell higher again at 9.2L. Either way, it’s the most fuel efficient in the tradie ute market.
It’s also one of the biggest in size. While size may be an advantage as a working ute, it is less so as an everyday car. James Ward praises the Amarok’s easy handling and driving ability, but notes that it can be tricky to find suitable parking in narrow city streets; it’s not the ideal companion for the grocery shopping.
However, the 2015 model has parking sensors standard and reverse camera as standard which may help alleviate some of the parking pains.
It is a reasonable alternative to an SUV if you like things big. In addition to great comfort and technology—such as the 5 inch touchscreen display—the car is also safe. It has scored a 5 Star ANCAP safety rating, though safety conscious drivers will find a lack of rear airbags a significant drawback.
Whereas most utes are workhorses, the Amarok is more of a well groomed stallion. It is more than capable of doing hard work, but it likes to do it with grace, style and comfort.
The focus on city-minded features could make it a reasonable alternative to an SUV. However, its slightly under-powered engine doesn’t make it an extreme off-roader, whilst its sheer size can make navigating some city streets a challenge.
The 2015 Volkswagen Amarok Highline is a tradesman’s ute in a stylish body; ideal for the modern tradie, his mates and his family.