Close this search box.

Good things come in threes – Amarok PanAmericana Review

“Another Amarok write-up?”, you might be asking? That’s right! In a happy coincidence, Dave, Matt and myself each got the opportunity to try out one of the trim levels of the New Amarok. Dave got to try out the Style, Matt checked out the Aventura (and I even jumped in for that review with him), and now it’s my turn to have the PanAmericana. 

Being the (South) American member of the team, I find this only fitting. Whether that necessarily means that Dave is stylish and Matt is adventurous is a completely separate conversation, but I digress. But, as it turns out, good things do indeed come in threes!

They both covered the fundamentals of the Amarok very well in their reviews, so you can always revisit those for a refresher if you need. This means that for my write-up, I wanted to focus on living with it in a week that involved some city crawling and motorway driving. Utes are a very common sight in our roads and I wanted to see what it was all about.

I picked up the Amarok from the VW office, where it was parked among heaps of ID electric cars. It was interesting to see both camps of the controversial Clean Car Program sitting proudly side by side. The drive from the central location of the office to my next destination was my chance to start acclimatising with the Amarok’s dimensions and features. 

Most trucks have gone more aggressive in the looks department recently, but the Amarok, in regular VW fashion, is a bit more restrained. The PanAmericana gets some blacked-out details such as rims and door handles, but it doesn’t look out of place. The side steps and the meaty tyres complete the package and make for a handsome vehicle that VW can use as a canvas for owners to give their own take. 

Inside, you will see the same level of refinement and restraint. Materials are immensely better than what they were in the previous gen (I’m using my previous knowledge of the Brazilian-spec vehicles, which were not as nice as this even in the highest specs), and the seats would not look out of place in a midsize sedan. In the Panamericana, the armrests and seats get a very nice brown leather accent that continues the offroad motif and breaks the sea of black seen everywhere else. 

And then there’s the tech. The massive portrait-oriented screen hosts most settings and controls, and this is a double-edged sword. Moving of the A/C controls to a screen made them less responsive, less controllable and way harder to use. Gone are the days of the clicky physical A/C controls that VWs sported, and I’m still not convinced. Even more confusing is this redundancy of having an on-screen A/C button (that never goes away) exactly above a dedicated physical button to open that menu. Bonkers. 

The rest is relatively easy to use, even though the breakdown of the settings is not the most logical. I found myself using CarPlay most of the time, and that cannot be faulted: the connection is lighting quick even in wireless mode, and the amazing screen resolution and definition make the most of the feature, even allowing you to expand the view vertically to get the most of your maps. See, this is what I mean about the sword cutting on both sides. 

The next morning was a cold one, and in situations like that you can always trust me to check out a car’s heating system. Even with the convoluted climate settings, the heated seats get a dedicated button for their three settings, which will “save” and stay on like if they were a physical switch, and that’s great. Being the one in the team that’s always cold, this setting would stay like this all the way until December if this Amarok were mine. 

I eventually made it to my company’s parking lot, in one of those multi-storey carparks. I made it under the height check bar, but the steep ramp that led to the upper floors seemed like a stretch at 2.1m with this long of a vehicle. Given I remember having seen Rangers parked up there in previous occasions, I was almost sure it would make it. But better to be safe than sorry, I would hate to be the one to make the dreaded call, so I drove back home where I could park somewhere with infinite height clearance. 

When handling that usual commute, I gave the adaptive cruise control a try to mitigate the bumper-to-bumper traffic. Forget massage seats or thick carpets, this is what luxury looks like to me. Being able to look at the centre screen for a second longer to find what you are looking for or even blink for a sneeze without the fear of rear ending someone is something that really helps decrease traffic anxiety, and the implementation in the Amarok is spot-on. Its configuration is visible at all times in the great digital driver’s display, and it brakes and accelerates like a limo driver. 

To further facilitate moving around the city with a vehicle this big, having a dedicated button to open the cameras and sensors with one click would have been welcome. There are ways to easily interact with many of these assistances, but not the cameras. If only we had a redundant button that led to a feature already accessed through the screen that could be remapped… 

On a more positive topic, VW do know a thing or two about how to make a refined powertrain, so I would expect they would not let a badly implemented engine make its way to a car with a VW badge. This was quite possibly the most sensitive accelerator pedal I ever felt, but not for throttle response, instead I’m talking about start stop. I’m not the biggest fan of the feature for the time it usually takes to bring the engine back to life, sometimes in a less-than-smooth manner.

I expected this would be the case in a diesel truck, but I was positively surprised here – all it took was for me to rest my foot on top of the pedal for the engine to come back alive, in one of the best cases of automotive witchery. This very smart system and the smooth start of the engine made me use the feature for the whole time I had the Amarok. 

And speaking of smoothness, the gearbox is the same for the majority of the time and will do a great job at finding the right gear to be in. An amazing feature I picked up on it is the ability for you to limit the “top” gear the car should use. By using the + and – buttons without putting the car in Manual mode, you will see an indication of the gears you are disabling or enabling, respectively.  You could easily have the gearbox perform as a 6-speed unit if you wanted, and I think this could be useful in off-road or towing situations.

Fast forward to the next day and I started with a package pickup – I had a work vehicle after all! I had bought a new desk and figured the Amarok was the perfect candidate to transport a box I was expecting to be quite big. In the most anti-climatic scene of the week, the Amarok’s bed gobbled up the box like it was nothing, and the plenty of tie points and the textured surface of the bed made securing it a breeze.

The wireless charging pad has a steep angle that keeps the phone from jumping around while you drive, and while this might seem like something simple, many brands insist on getting this wrong. I’m not sure all sizes of devices would fit in this pad, and it’s important to call out that in two occasions, the phone got warm to the point that CarPlay started acting up, but I might blame Apple more than VW on this one. When connected, however, the Harman Kardon sound system goes hard, and its familiar mid and bass signature fills up the cabin and can be equalised to fit your listening style.

Not much later, I fit four full-size adults for a shopping trip, and everyone was happy and impressed with how much the Amarok’s interior improved over the past generation (the ones we had back home leaned a bit too much on the ruggedness to offer cheap materials – not the case here). We then went for lunch in busy Takapuna, where my partner works. We tried parking in her office’s carpark, only to face the same issue I did in mine. I had all the party as spotters, and with a vote of 3-to-1 against, we decided to park on the street and not risk it. 

So, by this time, it had become very clear to me that the Amarok (and all other trucks) are much more at home at the job site, the farm, or on the motorway, so the latter was where I headed the next day. In the Aventura review, I said “this should not drive this well”, and even with the slightly more off-road pretensions, the PanAmericana does not disappoint on the tarmac either.

You never forget you are driving a shed, but it’s a very competent one. The rear will still shake a bit when the road gets a bit shaky, but that’s to be expected and quite honestly part of the ladder-frame charm.  The double wishbone front suspension maintains as much contact with the ground as possible, and this translates into a very connected, confidence inspiring driving experience. Excellent road manners were always a highlight of the Amarok and this new generation manages to keep it up.

The V6 delivers many Nms of torque, 600 to be exact, and reminds me nothing of the clattery diesels of old. It sounds refined, has some V-engine hints at certain RPM bands and if you give it just enough poke, you are rewarded with some nice turbo whistle with a boost pressure indicator in the cluster. 

When you get to a straight, boring motorway, the Amarok eats miles like I do sour patches. There is virtually no wind noise and low levels of tyre noise, surprising considering their compound for this trim level. Just set up cruise control and you should be good for all the almost 700km of indicated range the car had when delivered to me. I can guarantee you will need a break way before the car does.

So, at the end of my week with it, I can easily say the Amarok was a 3-for-3 for us here at TarmacLife. All three of us had great experiences with it, and it’s undeniable that it is an extremely capable vehicle that and represents a meaningful evolution over the past gen while still keeping intact everything that made it successful. I have an extensive automotive CV but am still to add a pickup truck to the repertoire. This new-gen Amarok might have been the last push I was waiting for! Thanks, Volkswagen NZ, for the experience! And thanks, dear reader, for sticking this long!

Share your love


Support our advertisers

Paying bills

Ads from the Googles

Support our advertisers

One Response

  1. As one of the readers who made it to the end, I appreciated the thanks from the writer! Your week with the Amarok demonstrated how us city folk have such little use for the truck bed. Despite that, the ride is excellent and kudos to VW for having created a ladder frame pickup that can ride well with no payload in the back.
    Not to mention, the tech and materials inside which can match SUVs of similar sizes.
    Great review Harry!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *