IF you think special edition specifications and trims are only reserved for city cars and SUV’s, think again. This is the limited edition 2018 Volkswagen Amarok Dark Label; a German ute with attitude.
It’s based on the flagship Amarok Highline, and as the name suggests, each Dark Label truck is loaded with black trinkets – including 18-inch wheels, matte black mirrors and black side steps. There is a choice of black or grey paint, too.
Inside, the Dark Label is less obvious. Aside from the bespoke floor mats, you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the standard VW Amarok, right down to the Alcantara trimmed leather seats and black headlining.
In keeping with its Highline roots, it’s bundled with a DAB radio, satellite navigation, reversing camera, voice enhancer (more on that in a moment), and the guide and inform functionality, designed to make life on board even easier for occupants.
The chunky, go anywhere looks of the exterior are somewhat at odds with the interior though, and while the outside may have you believe that this is a smooth work ute, the interior has you believing that you’re in a Volkswagen passenger car.
That’s thanks to the fact that the materials employed are rather plush, with soft touch plastics in more places than you’d expect. For the record though, all five seats offer great support, making the Amarok a capable long distance cruiser.
The interior is vast, with cabin acreage more generous than most utes. Due to that size, V6 models pack a unique feature that amplifies the voice of the driver through the rear speakers, to ensure that you can always maintain a conversation. Nifty.
Other technology fitted as standard to the Amarok Dark Label includes rain-sensing windscreen wipers, automatic headlight control with coming home and leaving function, and power adjustable heated and folding door mirrors.
We were disappointed though that the seats are manually adjustable and there’s no key-less entry and start, like many top level pickup trucks, with electric seats only found in the Ultimate variant of the Amarok range.
A digital display sits between the speedo and rev counter, but the interior feels functional rather than particularly flash.
Under the bonnet is the 165KW and 550Nm version of the astonishing 3.0-litre V6 engine. This V6 TDi packs plenty of low end torque, which means it’s incredibly quick and can achieve the 0-100km/h sprint in just 9.0 seconds.
That’s almost two seconds quicker than the similarly powered 3.2-litre Ford Ranger. However, it’s not just the performance that impresses; it’s remarkably refined and quiet with only faint growls during heavy acceleration.
Drive is delivered to the road via the smooth and responsive eight speed DSG automatic gearbox and a permanent 4MOTION four-wheel-drive. It gives the Amarok excellent driving manners.
Its broad stance and low centre of gravity means there’s very little body roll going into the corners, and the lengthened leaf springs cope well with the bumps and divots of everyday road use.
Its electromagnetic steering is light and easy at low speeds, while heavy at motorway speeds. Noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) levels are respectable through the cabin, though the rear half can sometimes suffer from elevated tyre noise at higher speeds.
Full time 4WD in the Dark Label means that there’s always huge reserves of grip too, and while some may give the Amarok flak for not offering a proper low range gearbox, first and second gears on the automatic are “unusually” low.
A proper low range transfer gearbox, and a much higher ride vehicle height could see the Amarok become a favourite for off road enthusiasts if Volkswagen were to chase that market.
The load bed measures 1,555mm long by 1,620mm wide, making it the largest and widest of any double cab ute and the only ute truck capable of carrying an IBC (intermediate bulk container) or Pallet length-ways through the wheel arches.
In terms of weights, the larger gross vehicle weight (GVW) means the Amarok is capable of carrying 1,112kg – far more than the segment average – although the 3.1 tonne towing capacity is beaten by some of its competitors.
It’s well screwed together, and has thus far proven to be reliable, but despite all its strengths, the Amarok faces stiff competition from established players like the Ford Ranger and all-conquering Toyota Hilux.
Relatively left-field choices like the Holden Colorado and Nissan Navara also continue to make their presence known. That said, the V6 turbo diesel in the Volkswagen Amarok is an absolute gem, and will likely win over even more fans as time goes by.
At $62,990 plus on-roads, the Dark Label packs impressive levels of kit while maintaining a reasonable price tag, and if that isn’t enough to sway you, life with that 3.0-litre V6 most certainly will.
Our 2018 Volkswagen Amarok Dark Label was provided by Volkswagen Australia. To find out more, contact your local Volkswagen dealer.