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Volkswagen Amarok Canyon

 

Charge of the light brigade: Volkswagen has added a lot of visual drama to the Amarok with this limited-edition Canyon model. We drive it.

Base price: $69,990.

Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo diesel four, 132kW/420Nm, 8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 8.3 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 7.7 seconds.

Vital statistics: 5254mm long, 1834mm high, load tray 1555mm long, 1620m at widest point and 1222mm between wheel arches, fuel tank 80 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels with 245/65 tyres.

We like: Makeover extends to interior, smooth performance and handling of Amarok base vehicle.

We don't like: Lurid trim not all tastes, light bar limits city carpark access.

How it rates: 8/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? It might look like somebody's gone crazy at an automotive aftermarket outlet, but the Volkswagen Amarok Canyon is in fact a full factory model – albeit one being produced in limited-edition numbers.

Based on the Amarok double-cab model, the canyon might be a dress-up but it's done in a dramatic way. The hero colour is copper (exclusive to this model) but you can also have silver, grey or beige.

The Canyon has special 17-inch alloy wheels on Pirelli Scorpion tyres, stylised underbody trim, tinted tail lights and a large 'styling bar' over the tray. The hard lid for the tray is a New Zealand-designed and produced item, but comes standard with Canyon for our market.

On the inside, the upholstery is two-tone and exterior body colour is used for both stitching and some dashboard detailing, such as the ventilation outlets.

If there was every any doubt that this is a townie's truck, take a peek at the tray: it's fully lined with heavy duty carpet!

The standout feature on Canyon is of course the roof-mounted light bar, although that's actually an option: at $3000 it takes the total price to $72,990.

WHAT'S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The Amarok has always been out to prove that there is a substitute for cubic inches in ute-world: on paper its 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine looks underwhelming, but with 420Nm of torque and an eight-speed automatic transmission it's a powerful and sophisticated machine.

How does it compare to the mainstream competition? It doesn't match the sheer grunt of the 3.2-litre, five-cylinder, 470Nm Ford Ranger. But it does make the 3.0-litre, 343Nm Toyota Hilux look pretty old-school. The Amarok retains hard-core off-road ability, but one of its claims to fame is also excellent on-road manners. Like the rival Ranger, it can justifiably be considered an alternative to a family SUV, with crisp performance, good steering and a surprisingly capable chassis through the corners.

No, sporting it isn't: the ride is still unsettled on urban surfaces and the centre of gravity is high, resulting in a lot of body roll. But you need not fear a road trip in the Amarok.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The grey and orange interior colour scheme might not be to all tastes, but it leaves you in no doubt that you're riding in the Canyon.

The cabin architecture is otherwise standard Amarok: it's chunky and very simple, with familiar VW switchgear and audio components. You also get typical VW build quality: still plenty of hard plastic, but the assembly is beautifully consistent and there are some nice surprise-and-delight detail touches, such as soft lining around the door storage bins.

The rear seat of a ute is never going to be as comfortable as an SUV, but the Amarok's back bench is comfortable enough for everyday family duties: there's enough slope in the backrest to allow occupants to settle in and you even get dual cupholders.

Word to the wise if you are using the Canyon as urban warrior: during our test we did get stuck in an inner-city carpark, which had a roof that got lower as the ramp rose upwards. The light bar was simply too tall to go any further once the car got half way up the ramp. Good thing a reversing camera is fitted to this model. Come to think of it, good job somebody got out of the vehicle checked the height.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? It'll depend whether you like monster truck styling detail and orange trim.

The standard Amarok Highline is $65,990, so the Canyon represents quite good accessory value for $69,990. Perhaps less so with another $3000 on top (literally and metaphorically) for the light bar – but then that almost seems like a must-have for this model.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  • Air conditioning: Manual
  • Audio: CD
  • Automatic lights/wipers: No/No
  • Blind spot warning: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Cruise control: Yes
  • Driver footrest: Yes
  • Head-up display: No
  • Heated/ventilated seats: No
  • Keyless entry/start: No
  • Lane guidance: No
  • Leather upholstery: Yes
  • Parking radar: Yes with camera
  • Power boot or tailgate: No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: No
  • Rear ventilation outlets: No
  • Remote audio controls: Yes
  • Satellite navigation: No
  • Seat height adjustment: Yes
  • Self-parking technology: No
  • Split/folding rear seats: Fold only
  • Steering reach adjustment: Yes
  • Stop-start: Yes
  • Trip computer: Yes

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