VW has a habit of getting into all sorts of car genres it doesn’t necessarily have experience with. Sometimes it works for them, sometimes it doesn’t. And the VW Amarok I was VW’s attempt to enter the world of pickup trucks.
The VW Amarok I is actually not the first attempt at a pickup truck by the Germans at VW, the first being the Tago but that was essentially a Hilux with VW written on it. The first Amarok isn’t exactly a full-blooded VW either, but it’s very close.
Sometimes it works out for them when they enter new market segments, sometimes not. Take for example the VW Fox which was a failure, but the VW Up! was a real success in the city car market. Then we have the VW ID.4, which was a success, and their first fully electric car. Then there was the VW Scirocco which was their attempt at a sports coupe but which was riddled with issues like teenage pimples and died quickly. The VW Tiguan was their first entry into the crossover segment and it worked out for them. And the VW Amarok I?
Let’s just say that the VW Amarok I was a family and status-oriented truck rather than a work truck, thus appealing to those 3 people who wanted something even bigger than an SUV. Yes, the Amarok is the kind of truck that does better on pavement than off-road, in the same theme as the Ford Ranger. And yet you can see it’s not built for the job and that’s shown in sales, with the Amarok being retired in 2020, and the next Amarok will be built on the Ford Ranger platform because the Germans want to let someone with experience in the field handle it.
Otherwise, as a private buyer, the Amarok is kind of like a Touareg with a open boot. It has roughly the same features, it has the same 3.0 TDI (facelift versions after 2016), just the suspension and comfort level differs. Or just buy a Touareg outright.
VW Amarok I Engines
- 2.0 TDI of 140-horsepower – The village bike, this 2.0 TDI is decent on the Passat, but putting it to work under the hood of the VW Amarok I is like making Jennifer Lopez carry all her ex-boyfriends, husbands and fiances on her back.
- 2.0 Bi-TDI of 178-horsepower – As with the Transporter, this is one of the engines that irreparably damaged Amarok’s reputation. It chuggs down oil, and the cooler for the EGR is made from materials taken for another part and doesn’t handle the heat. Specifically targeted is the CFCA engine code, and essentially all 2.0 Bi-TDIs until 2013, because in 2016 it’s retired.
- 3.0 V6 TDI with 204, 224, and 258 horsepower – In 2016 VW wakes up from its crushing drunkenness and realizes that the 2.0 TDI engine is a total failure in combination with the Amarok, so it retires it with the coming of the facelift and instead comes up with a 3.0 TDI which is much more suitable for this. Apart from the cost of the timing, this engine has nothing to be nervous about.
VW Amarok I General Issues
- The rear suspension is on leaf springs, as you’d expect from a heavy-duty truck. This is all well and good, except that the boot needs to be permanently loaded, otherwise the rear suspension is rather unstable.
- The paint is good quality but not quite up to the standards of most sheperd of shepherds, so check if it’s chipped. In particular, it’s targeted at the rear side, where theoretically a protective coating has been applied but most likely it didn’t happened.
- The dual mass flywheel wears out quicker than you’d like because that’s the VW tradition, and here we’re dealing with a truck that does hard physical work and the stress is even greater and so the manual gearbox and flywheel don’t really cope. We don’t have an issue with the DSG automatic gearbox instead because it wouldn’t have coped so it wasn’t fitted, but we have a ZF-sourced 8-speed gearbox which is decent.
VW Amarok I Verdict
The VW Amarok I is visible from the satellite that it’s a status car. Few bought it for work, but most wanted a more exclusive, less practical, and probably bigger Touareg. Enormously large. So if the Touareg is too mundane, too cheap, too comfortable, too practical, and too cramped for you, then the VW Amarok is the answer for you. After which you can go to driving school for a DAC-444T, because you’ll always want more.
Which engines do I recommend? Definitely, without a doubt, only 3.0 TDI diesel with 204 or 224 horsepower. It’s the only engine worth it.