The Volkswagen Amarok takes on the elements and wins
What a difference a day makes, right? One moment I'm taking the Amarok – or Big Blue, as it's come to be known – through the sunshine and the next, the country has been plunged into a snowstorm. That said, there could be worse vehicles to be driving when the roads get slippery.
But let's rewind. A few days before the 'Beast from the East' arrived, I'd chosen to take the Amarok for a quick dip in a nearby creek. Why, you may ask? Well, in truth I'd not really tried the truck out in anything nearing challenging conditions – save for a brief stint on a snowy road in the Brecon Beacons – and had been using it mainly on the road for commuting. With a capable four-wheel-drive system, differential lock and that big, strong V6 diesel powering the whole affair, this seemed like a waste of its considerable prowess on the rough stuff.
So I imagined that a brief stint of water-based driving would do the trick. The reality, however, was that the creek wasn't that deep nor all that challenging – but then the Amarok does look good for these photographs.
I didn't realise – like many people – the extent of the snowfall due to hit the UK until it was pretty much on top of us. That said, I jumped at the opportunity to take on some snow in the truck, glad that – for once – four-wheel drive would be coming in handy.
Leaving to head home on the day the snow arrived, I switched on the Amarok's 'off-road' button. Untouched up until this point, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use a function designed specifically for tricky conditions. What does it do? Well, it engages the off-road Anti-Lock Braking System as well as the car's 'downhill driving assistant'. In addition, it shifts up the gears quicker to lower revs and therefore provide better traction.
In practice, it works very well. There were no issues throughout the drive home, despite the roads becoming really rather snow covered. The Amarok didn't even stumble on the steep and ungritted approach to my house – though you'd like to think that a four-wheel-drive pick-up wouldn't falter here.
I only realised the quality of the off-road system the next morning, however. Coming back down said driveway, I tapped the brake and the Amarok automatically engaged the downhill assistance system, bringing the truck safely and slowly down the gradient. Given that I'd already seen other cars slide miserably down, it was impressive.
And when the snow thawed, the Amarok transitioned seamlessly into being a reliable, dependable daily driver. Economy figures still aren't brilliant – I'm getting around 23mpg during a mix of motorway and B-roads – but elsewhere the Amarok continues to deliver. It's relatively comfortable, and only really gets unsettled by larger bumps in the road. Of course, it's not able to offer SUV-like levels of refinement, but for a pick-up it's not bad at all.
I even – shock of all shocks – gave the Amarok a clean. I have the mindset that a dirty car is a happy car, and the big Volkswagen certainly looks better with a good layer of grime on it. However, given the amount of grit and salt on the roads of late, I thought it deserved at least one good shower. I'll admit, it does look good when clean – though I'm still far happier when it's caked in mud.
I'm off to Oman at the end of March to test the Amarok in slightly different conditions to the ones we experience here. Of course, I won't be flying Big Blue out on its own plane –much as I'd like to – but I'll be testing equivalent models on sand instead. It'll be interesting to see how it copes. I've got high hopes for it indeed.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
MODEL: Volkswagen Amarok Highline
ENGINE: 3.0-litre V6 diesel
MAX SPEED: 119
MPG (COMBINED): 34.9
EMISSIONS: 212g/km CO2
MILEAGE (TO DATE): 3,719