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First look: VW unveils its HiLux fighter

Load up: Volkswagen's new Amarok is destined for Australia in the second half of 2010.

Volkswagen set to gun for one-tonne ute market with twin-turbo dual-cab Amarok

2 Dec 2009

VOLKSWAGEN will use twin-turbo diesel power and unprecedented levels of refinement to take on Toyota’s HiLux with its new Amarok one-tonne ute.

The German giant has revealed details and released images of its all-important light commercial range that will go on sale in South America soon before its Australian release in the second half of next year.

Production of the ute is about to begin at VW’s Pacheco plant in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

To start, VW will only offer a dual-cab variant with a choice of two diesel engines and manual transmission.

A single-cab Amarok will follow about 12 months after launch, while a turbo petrol engine is likely to arrive 18 months after launch. An auto transmission is also expected at some point.

The five-seater Amarok diesel engines are both 2.0-litre four-cylinders featuring common-rail fuel-injection, similar to units available in the new T5 Transporter van range, but with different calibration.

3 center imageThe entry-level unit features a single variable geometry turbocharger and produces 90kW of power and a healthy 340Nm of torque at 2000rpm.

The meatier version features two variable geometry turbochargers and produces 120kW and 400Nm from just 1500rpm.

VW will offer only a six-speed manual transmission at launch. An automatic, a popular option in Australia, could be as far as three years away.

VW engineers said the type of automatic was yet to be decided and the dual-clutch DSG-type automatic might be unsuitable given the low speed off-road work and heavy loads expected. A regular torque-converter-type transmission might be selected instead.

Fuel economy is likely to form a key part of VW’s pitch to customers, with the entry-level diesel returning a combined figure of just 7.6 litres per 100km and an emission figure of 199g/km C02.

The more powerful diesel is also miserly, with an official rating of 7.8L/100km and 206g/km.

Thanks this kind of economy and an 80 litre fuel tank, the Amarok could travel more than 1000km before a refill.

The standard Amarok is rear-drive, but two all-wheel-drive options are available.

A constant four-wheel-drive system, 4Motion, is available for customers who want a traction advantage but don’t need to go too far off road.

For those who need greater off-road capability, VW offers a switchable 4WD system with a Torsen centre differential that can be engaged with the press of a button.

This system transfers 60 per cent of torque to the rear axle and 40 per cent to the front.

It features a low-range gear set for extreme conditions.

Both 4WD systems are available with an optional rear differential lock to improve the Amarok’s ability to cover tough terrain, helped by 280mm of ground clearance.

The Amarok features a ladder-frame chassis like other workhorse utes, running MacPherson struts at the front and leaf-spring suspension at the rear.

VW unashamedly targeted the HiLux when developing the Amarok, saying their vehicle’s body is stiffer than the Toyota’s which is already way more rigid than the competition.

A VW officials told GoAuto on a prototype test drive in Argentina in October that Amarok would be available with a regular steel tub and an optional, locally produced aluminium tray.

Steel wheels, 16-inches in size, are standard, but 16-inch and 17-inch alloys are available.

The Amarok will be rated to carry 1150kg as a double cab, while the single cab variant is expected to carry a little more.

The maximum towing weight for a braked trailer is set at a generous 2800kg.

The steel tub features four tie-down points on the floor, while optional higher mounted tie down points are expected.

VW says the 2.52 suare-metre cargo area is large enough to carry bulky items such as a quad bike. The tub is 1555mm long and 1620mm wide, with a class-leading 1222mm between the wheel arches.

The Amarok is set to bring a new level of safety to the workhorse ute class with electronic stability control, which is likely to be standard across the range in Australia.

Front and side curtain airbags are also available, and anti-skid brakes are standard.

When the driver hits the Off Road button in the cabin, the anti-skid brakes and ESC operate differently. The vehicle’s computer control unit allows the car to slide around more than it would on tarmac and the brakes are tuned to lock up slightly in order to build up a mound of gravel in front of the tyre to aid deceleration.

In Off Road mode, the standard hill descent control comes on automatically when sensors detect a steep gradient. This feature allows the driver to hand over control for the braking and acceleration to the vehicle.

The ESC also features a hill hold assist feature which momentarily holds the vehicle still to enable smoother hill starts.

The Amarok’s radio antennas are integrated into the wing mirrors.

VW is aiming to match the Hilux on price in most markets, but concedes this might not be possible in all markets including Australia, where Hilux models are imported from Thailand with the benefit of a free-trade deal. VW Australia is yet to decide the pricing for the Amarok.

It will be available in three model grades in the South American market, which may not match the yet-to-be-decided Australian specifications.

The base model, which runs unpainted front bumper, steel rims, manually operated window winders and mirror adjustment.

Next up is the Trendline which features a body coloured front bumper, electric windows and mirror adjustment, CD sound system, climate control, cruise control, multi-function display, front fog lights and 16-inch alloy wheels.

The Highline model caps off the range and features chrome highlights, including a chrome rear bumper, body-coloured wheel flares, 17-inch alloy wheels, colour contrasting instrument panel, cloth seats with leather trim highlights and a premium sound system. Features such as factory satellite navigation and leather seats are expected to be available as options.

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