THE humble 4×4. Well the 2016 Volkswagen Amarok Atacama is certainly a 4×4, but humble it is not. There’s a reason it’s the market leader – it’s awesome on road, and brutally tough off it.
In case you missed Volkswagen’s exceptional marketing campaign when it launched the current Amarok, this year’s model began its life as the naked ute, the un-shelled star of a series of TV commercials that saw it chucked around the desert like a rag doll, and had people guessing for ages exactly which vehicle it was.
So with that in mind, we took the Atacama up hill and down dale (what is a dale, let’s go with it’s a hill), putting it through its paces on road, ahead of some serious off road testing at the back of Ourimbah on the NSW Central Coast.
It didn’t matter what we threw at this thing, it lapped it up – mud, water, rocks, uneven ground – and at no point were we not confident of the capabilities of this solid brute of a truck, even impressing a hardened 4WD enthusiast and some trail bikers with the toughness of the VW.
Built on a full-length ladder frame chassis, the Amarok Atacama is powered by 2-litre bi-turbo 4 cylinder engine that puts out a respectable 132kW of power and 420Nm of torque, and is coupled with an eight speed automatic transmission, with full-time four wheel drive – drawing 7.9L/100km on average.
The Amarok Atacama comes with its own set of custom add-ons, including a black rear bar (the one most people call a roll bar, even though it isn’t actually a roll bar), Atacama design strips down both sides, 18-inch Durban black wheels and a matt black rear bumper, as well as bi-xenon headlights and LED light bands that double as daytime running lights.
Inside, you’ll find a leather steering wheel, a host of electronics and safety gear that includes hill start and hill descent assist, push button off-road mode (that adjusts the automatic transmission, and kicks in electronic stability control and diff control automatically), electronic stability control, motor drag torque control, anti-slip and ABS.
The seats are hard wearing cloth (but are really comfortable), and most surfaces stand up to some solid punishment. There’s no denying VW geared the Amarok towards towing and off-road (the core of any good 4×4), and it comes with a 3-tonne towing capacity (although some rivals have stepped clear of that now and are pulling 3.5-tonne).
It’s family friendly, you could fit two child seats in the back (the cab is the biggest in the class), and still have room for a normal human to squeeze in, and up-front there is stacks of room to move around and get comfortable on a long family holiday. It drives like a family sedan rather than a ute, it’s that comfortable.
In the ample load area – it’s the only dual cab 4×4 in Australia that can accommodate a full pallet in the rear tray – you will find an anthracite-coloured and UV-resistant protective coating that ensures your tray space is looked after, no matter how hard you are on it.
We’re not going to lie, no vehicle is ever perfect but the list of negatives is not massive here. To name a few, the touch-screen is annoying to navigate with, and could be distracting. There’s no air bag for the rear bench seat, the auto gearbox option is an expensive upgrade, and a bunch of its rivals have bigger, beefier engines (that said the Amarok is definitely more refined and delivers its power exceptionally well).
The 2016 Volkswagen Amarok Atacama comes in four colours, including the limited edition Horizon Blue Metallic (as tested), Deep Black Pearlescent, Natural Grey Metallic, and Candy White. It has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, and hits the road at $62,288 (drive-away) – with just 500 of the Atacama model variant available in Australia.
Our test vehicle was provided by Volkswagen Australia. To find out more about the 2016 Volkswagen Amarok Atacama, contact your local Volkswagen dealer.
RoadTest: 2016 Volkswagen Amarok Atacama
Pros – It’s refined and responsive; it’s a beast off-road; big inside and out.
Cons – no manual override for off-road; no rear air bag; average touch screen.