VW’s new pick-up is a winner

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YOU can view them as tough, workaday sloggers with dents and scrapes and mud on their boots, the willing navvies of the auto-world.

Or as the dolled-up, show-off steeds of young bloods flexing their motoring muscles in a Friday night parade, says Keith Ward.

In the USA, the pick-up truck stands as a number one best seller, ahead of any mere passenger car you care to mention. Here in Britain it has a minority appeal, until now satisfied almost exclusively by Japanese brands, notching around 25,000 sales a year.

With the new Amarok, VW’s commercial vehicle division is presenting a European challenge - although for the time being they are building it in Argentina: a marauding gaucho-mobile from the Pampas.

Its credentials include being VW’s official support vehicle at the gruelling Dakar rally and the first winner of the new International Pick-up Award, as judged by the Van of the Year jury.

At competitive prices from £16,995 (for commercial users claiming back VAT), it offers one engine - the VW group’s proven 2.0-litre diesel outputting either 122 or 163 PS - either permanent or push-button selectable 4WD through a six-speed manual box, and three levels of trim. With the 122 PS engine it claims to be the first pick-up in its class to duck below 200 g/km in CO2 emissions, so reducing tax penalties.

Its aim is to be the “most refined, advanced and efficient in its class, with quality and convenience to match those of passenger cars.” So the basic Startline includes dial-up air-con, all-round airbags, electric windows and radio-CD. Top Highline trim runs to climate control, cruise, six-speaker audio, 18-inch alloys, privacy glass, leather and chrome bodywork bits. On the options list are sat-nav and soft or hard tonneau covers.

In practical terms, the open cargo area of 2.5 square metres can take a standard Euro-pallet sideways. It is claimed to be best in its class. The ladder-frame chassis promises off-road strength, which we tasted over a fairly challenging woodland course in North Yorkshire. Albeit unloaded, the Amarok survived rut and rock, inched its way steadily up and down steep-ish trails and waded across and along bubbling streams.

For the off-road initiated, it boasts a 28-degree approach angle, 23.6-degree exit angle, a half-metre wading depth (“to the top of its tyres”) and an ability to climb and descend 45-degree, or 1-in-1, slopes. All versions include ESP, with off-road ABS and electronic diff lock, hill hold assist, hill descent control and trailer stability control.