2021 VW Amarok W580 review: First local test drive

2021 VW Amarok W580 review: First local test drive

Article from Car Advice.

The Volkswagen Amarok TDV6 gets the special vehicles treatment with the locally developed W580 and W580S.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Looks the business
  • Epic cornering grip for a double-cab ute
  • Effortless TDV6 power
  • All-wheel drive climbs out of corners, more stable in the wet

Cons

  • Lacks advanced safety aids and rear airbags
  • Tight back seat space
  • Expensive servicing costs
  • Price could be a stretch given lack of mod cons

The 2021 Volkswagen Amarok W580 – a joint project between Volkswagen Australia and the Walkinshaw Automotive Group, the former parent company of Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) – is starting to arrive in dealerships after more than a year in development. And now we’ve driven it.

Regular models in the current Volkswagen Amarok line-up remain, but there are two new flagships: the W580 and W580S.

The W580 has been designed to build on the Amarok’s benchmark on-road driving dynamics; an off-road variant is expected early next year.

The W580 has been added to the top of the line-up to send this generation Amarok out on a high note before the new model – based on the next Ford Ranger – arrives in local showrooms in early 2023.

Priced from $71,990 plus on-road costs for the W580 and $79,990 plus on-road costs for the W580S, the latter works out to be a tick over $85,000 in the traffic (in round numbers) depending on variations in stamp duty and dealer delivery charges.

Power from the 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 remains unchanged, but it still has the most grunt in the diesel ute segment, with 200kW on overboost and 580Nm on tap through much of the rev range.

As before, the V6 engine – previously used in the Porsche CayenneAudi Q7, and Volkswagen Touareg – is paired to an eight-speed auto and permanent all-wheel drive.

Most double-cab ute rivals can only operate on sealed roads in rear-wheel drive; a shortcoming that became apparent on the dicey, wet tarmac weaving through the Snowy Mountains during our preview drive this week. More on that shortly.

The W580 effectively starts life as a Highline 580SE before additional parts are fitted in Melbourne by the Walkinshaw Automotive Group, which did the engineering and development work on the suspension and tyres, as well as subtle design changes.

The first modifications, however, are made on the production line in Pacheco, Argentina. (German production of the Amarok ended last year, now all examples come from the one factory in South America.)

Amaroks that are destined to become a W580 are fitted with unique seats: manually adjustable suede cloth in the W580 and electrically adjustable Vienna leather ergonomic seats on the W580S (rather than nappa leather on the Aventura, formerly known as the Ultimate).

Both front seats in the W580S have 14-way power adjustment, the W580 front seats have manual adjustment.

Both W580 models are fitted with shift paddles on the steering wheel and come with black roof lining – previously reserved for Ultimate, Aventura and special-edition models – as well as a black rear bumper and black mirror scalps.

Both models also come with dual-zone air-conditioning, extra 12V power sockets in the cabin, plus one in the ute tray. A USB port enables Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to be activated in the infotainment screen (which is small by current standards).

There’s also an old-school 3.5mm audio socket for external music players, and a CD slot above the infotainment system.

In addition to the body-hugging leather sports seats, the W580S (which has accounted for 80 per cent of demand so far) gains embedded navigation, a sail plane on top of the ute tub, a five-piece tub liner, dual exhausts, bonnet stripes, and extra trim in the mid section of the lower bumper.

A tow bar is still a dealer-fit option and an 18-inch steel spare wheel is slung under the rear of both models.

Once the donor vehicle arrives in Australia, Walkinshaw fits new twin-tube front and rear shock absorbers, 20×9-inch alloy wheels, and 275/50-series Pirelli Scorpion ATR tyres, W580 headrests, black side steps, and a new front-end appearance.SPONSOREDFeel the power of the truly powerful Amarok now! Build your own

Both models are fitted with new upper and lower grilles, front parking sensor garnishes, LED foglight globes, and W580 stripes along the doors.

Front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera are standard on both models.

Conspicuous by their absence: advanced safety technology such as autonomous emergency braking, blind-zone warning, rear cross-traffic alert, speed sign recognition and lane-keeping assistance.

Also missing are mod cons such as radar cruise control and a sensor key with push-button start – all features which are fast becoming the norm, even in the ute class.

Warranty is five years/unlimited kilometres (as per other Amarok variants) and service intervals are 12 months/20,000km, whichever comes first.

Service costs over the first five years or 100,000km are as follows: $503, $797, $836, $797 and $687, which is more than twice the cost of routine maintenance capped-price programs for a Toyota HiLux or Ford Ranger.

About 1000 examples of the W580 are scheduled to be built this year; about one-third of the initial allocation have already been sold.

Buoyed by this success, Volkswagen is considering an off-road version to sell alongside the road-biased W580 models. If the rugged version gets the green light, the plan is to have it in local showrooms in early 2022.

2021 Volkswagen Amarok W580 and W580S
EngineTurbo diesel 3.0-litre V6
Power190kW at 3250–4500rpm (200kW on overboost)
Torque580Nm at 1400–3000rpm
TransmissionEight-speed torque converter automatic
DrivePermanent all-wheel drive
Length, width, height, wheelbase5254, 2019, 1882, 3090mm
Approach, departure, rampover, ground clearanceNot listed as this was published
Kerb weight (W580, W580S)2227kg, 2284kg
Towing capacity3500kg
Payload (W580, W580S)905kg, 848kg
Fuel claim, combined9.5L/100km
Fuel tank capacity80L
Turning circle12.45m
ANCAP safety ratingFive stars (2011)
Warranty5 years/unlimited kilometres
CompetitorsFord Ranger RaptorRam 1500Chevrolet Silverado
Prices (plus on-road costs)$71,990 (W580), $79,990 (W580S)

On the road

Some people are having a sook because the Volkswagen W580 has no extra power. So let’s address that first.

With 190kW in standard mode, 200kW on overboost, and 580Nm across much of the rev range, the Amarok already has the most power and torque in the diesel ute class. It even has more grunt than the diesel Ram 1500. Only the V8 petrol-powered US pick-ups can outpace the Amarok TDV6. None of the others get close.

In our VBox testing, we’ve recorded a 0–100km/h time of 7.8 seconds when shifting gears a little earlier than the Amarok TDV6 does when left to its own devices. Without selective shifting (just leaving it in drive and flooring the accelerator pedal) it stops the clocks in about 8.2 seconds.

Both of these times are comfortably about two seconds quicker than rivals such as the Toyota HiLuxFord RangerIsuzu D-MaxMazda BT-50 and Nissan Navara.

Four-wheel disc brakes help wash off speed more effectively than the front disc, rear drum arrangement of most rivals.

More engine power would of course be nice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make financial sense to invest in a power upgrade this late in the model cycle. This generation Amarok only has about two years remaining before the new model turns up based on the next Ford Ranger.

Contrary to perception, finding a bit of extra grunt is not simply a matter of turning the wick up on the turbo. It costs vehicle manufacturers millions of dollars to redo fuel economy and emissions tests. Such investments only make sense at the start of a model cycle, not at the end.SPONSOREDFeel the power of the truly powerful Amarok now! Find a dealer

Independent aftermarket tuners don’t have to meet the same stringent emissions standards, but taking that route runs the risk of voiding the vehicle’s drivetrain warranty.

For those who may be wondering, the Pacheco-built 580Nm Amaroks don’t require an AdBlue diesel additive because they are rated to Euro V emissions standards.

Earlier, German-built 580Nm Amaroks required an AdBlue diesel additive every 5000km to 10,000km (depending on use) because they were rated to stricter Euro VI emissions standards.

Any further development of this engine was deemed cost prohibitive and therefore quickly ruled out.

Instead, Volkswagen Australia and Walkinshaw Automotive focused on what they could address: features, styling, suspension and tyres.

The W580 design upgrades were styled from the same pen that delivered the HSV Colorado SportsCat, HSV GTS-R W1 and every HSV sedan, coupe and ute for the past 25 years.

The styling changes may seem subtle in the photos but are more apparent in the metal. The brief from Volkswagen was to create a bolder appearance without being over the top. Volkswagen customers are said to favour understated design.

About 20 different wheel patterns were drawn up before settling on the style you see here, opting for five spokes given there are five locating nuts rather than six on other utes.

The forged alloy wheels are 20×9 inches (rather than 8.0 inches wide) and, individually, are 4kg lighter than the Highline 580 wheel, despite being larger.

The rims themselves are made by the same OEM supplier Volkswagen uses for its passenger and sport cars in Europe, and has passed pothole tests inside the former Holden proving ground at Lang Lang. Genuine Volkswagen tyre pressure monitors are fitted locally to work seamlessly with the onboard monitors in the donor vehicle.

Volkswagen Australia is yet to decide what to do with the countless sets of 18-inch Highline wheels and tyres (with inbuilt sensors) that come off the donor vehicles.

Discreet fender flares cover the extra 23mm offset of the wheels. The W580’s turning circle is apparently not disadvantaged by the vehicle’s wider track and wider tyres.

Curiously, the W580’s turning circle is listed at 12.45m kerb-to-kerb (after an average of six tests), versus 12.95m listed for the standard Amarok which has a narrower track.

Volkswagen and Walkinshaw are checking the numbers, but as this article was published these were the figures listed in the respective Amarok brochures. As a guide, most other utes have a kerb-to-kerb turning circle of 12.5m to 12.7m.

The front and rear springs are the same as the donor vehicle, but the front and rear shock absorbers are a twin-tube design and the internal bore has grown from 32mm to 35mm to accommodate more oil, which in turn delivers a more controlled damping force.

The shock absorbers are assembled by Monroe in Adelaide to specifications set by Walkinshaw Automotive. They were tuned to suit the Pirelli Scorpion ATR 275/50R20 tyres by the same engineers who worked their magic on the HSV GTS-R, W1 and HSV SportsCat, among others.

It might sound like a cop-out, but Walkinshaw engineers had their work cut out for them given the standard Amarok is so good to begin with.

At first, the changes feel subtle. In fact, some buyers may not notice the difference initially. Having recently spent plenty of time in a number of standard Amarok TDV6 utes, initial impressions are that the suspension and tyres on the W580 have less flutter over bumps at open road speeds. At low speeds, however, the ride is a touch busier than a standard Amarok TDV6 Core or Sportline.

There is ample grip in corners, but the improvement doesn’t become apparent until you find yourself on a slippery mountain road, or push the W580 into a tight bend in the dry.

With all-wheel drive and a wider contact patch across the tyre tread, the W580 has a level of grip and stability foreign to other utes.

As luck would have it, gloomy weather made the Amarok shine. It’s more sure-footed through tight bends; you can feel the wider footprint on the road. Combined with all-wheel drive, it climbs out of corners.

Of course, you can’t overcome the laws of physics. And threading a 2.2-tonne mass through slippery bends on a mountain pass still requires caution and finesse.

But there is no question the Amarok has a clear edge against the current crop of utes, which are predominantly two-wheel drive on sealed roads and running skinnier all-terrain or highway-terrain tyres.

Other notes: the W580’s digital speedometer has been recalibrated to accommodate the larger rolling diameter of the new tyres. However, there is less tolerance than usual. The standard Amarok shows 100km/h when in fact GPS speed is about 95 or 96km/h. On the W580, when the digital speed display shows 100km/h you’re in fact doing 98.5 to 99km/h based on our V-Box data. Translation: there isn’t a lot of wriggle room for drivers who might be tempted to push the edge of speed limits.

We didn’t take detailed fuel consumption numbers on the preview drive, because we weren’t driving for economy on this run and spent a fair amount of time exploring the vehicle’s potential.

That said, in other Amarok TDV6 tests we’ve matched or undercut the fuel-rating label average of 9.5L/100km when on the open road. In last year’s ute mega test we averaged 8.0 to 8.7L/100km. We will run more detailed fuel economy numbers once we get the W580 into the CarAdvice garage for a longer test.

Dislikes? I can take or leave the go-fast stripes. And the dual exhausts look the part but don’t add sound.

I love the wheel design, the stance, the subtle fender flares, the black roof lining and the paddle shifters on the steering wheel. But a more aggressive appearance could be worth exploring next time around.

As with the rest of the Amarok range, the W580 is missing mod cons such as speed sign recognition, radar cruise control, and push-button start. Back seat space is tight and there’s no curtain airbag protection in the rear.

It’s also one of the few utes in the class without advanced safety aids such as autonomous emergency braking, blind-zone warning and lane-keeping assistance – features that are increasingly becoming standard.

Despite these shortcomings, the Amarok still has a five-star ANCAP rating for front seat occupant protection based on tests in 2011. If tested to today’s more stringent standards, the current-generation Amarok would not earn a five-star score due to the lack of advanced crash-avoidance aids and the lack of rear airbags.

All that said, fans of the VW Amarok clearly don’t mind living without such creature comforts in exchange for turbo diesel V6 power and permanent all-wheel-drive grip.

Volkswagen delivered a record number of Amaroks in Australia last month, despite the vehicle nearing the end of its model cycle and being one of the oldest utes in the segment.

Verdict

First impressions? The 2021 Volkswagen Amarok W580 feels like the hot hatch of utes, at least against the current competition – even if it is analogue, old-school, and lacks the latest technology.

Volkswagen and Walkinshaw have taken what was already the benchmark for on-road dynamics in the double-cab ute market and raised the bar to the next level.

It’s an awesome first effort and hopefully a sign of things to come.

OUR RATINGS BREAKDOWN

Rating: 7.7

8.8 PERFORMANCE
8.0 RIDE QUALITY
8.5 HANDLING & DYNAMICS
7.0 DRIVER TECHNOLOGY
7.7 INTERIOR COMFORT & PACKAGING
7.0 INFOTAINMENT & CONNECTIVITY
7.2 FUEL EFFICIENCY
6.5 SAFETY
7.0 VALUE FOR MONEY
8.8 FIT FOR PURPOSE

Our ratings explained

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