Tackling tricky conditions in the Volkswagen Amarok

The Amarok is a mixture of the very practical and the rather impractical. Over the Christmas break, I came to realise both of these factors quite quickly. Let me explain. Preparing for the annual pilgrimage from Hampshire to my girlfriend's parents in Dorset, we readied presents and luggage for 10-day trip away from home – and immediately hit a snag.

You see, though the Amarok is really rather large, there's no cover over the rear load bay. If you'd like all of your presents and clothes to get wet, you could put them here – but if you don't, you can't. So we ended up packing the rear section of the cab to within an inch of its life and, when we needed to stop en-route, I needed to remain in the car for fear that prying eyes could see straight through to the valuable cargo we had inside. As you see, impractical.

Then, once the Christmas frivolities had ended and we commenced the second leg of our journey to my family's home in south Wales, we had to transport one large bookcase and two large shelving units with us. A set of ratchet straps, a variety of cardboard pieces and one or two sections of bubble wrap later, and the furniture was safely tied into the Amarok's load bed – the lashing points at each corner of the bed proving hugely useful. And in contrast, we have the practical side.

I'd also like to point out that the difference between a fully-loaded Amarok and one with nothing in the back is night and day. The ride is transformed, and whereas it tends to feel quite lumpy when it's light at the rear, it becomes far more composed when there is – in this case at least – plenty of furniture in the load bed.

Having arrived in Monmouthshire without any fuss – the sat-nav having done a decent job at getting us around the worst of the post-Christmas traffic – the next job was to hunt down some snow. I'd heard that there had been a fair amount dropped on the hills, so the following day we went, four-up in the truck, to find some powder. After all, what else is a truck for if not to take on tricky conditions?

Heading up to Storey Arms in the Brecon Beacons, the view from inside the truck out became whiter and whiter – though the roads had been very well gritted by the time we made it there. That said, there was still a fair amount of slush in the margins of the road, and the Amarok's four-wheel-drive instilled a sense of security despite the conditions.

A quick detour down to look at the waterfalls in Ystradfellte close to Penderyn saw us heading down a track which definitely hadn't been gritted – yet the Amarok remained sure-footed. I did attempt to see if it would step out of line with a boot of throttle – and it would – but it was predictable and easy to manage.

I stand firmly in the camp that cars – or trucks, in this case – look a whole lot better when they're dirty. After close to 300 miles and a decent drive through slush and grit, the Amarok looked bang-on, in my eyes at least.

Packed up to the gunnels once more, we headed back to Hampshire. Like I mentioned, the truck is a mixture of the extremely capable and the annoyingly limited. Oh, and the fuel costs at the end of the trip? Given we managed to travel around 350 miles in total, filling up the tank cost around £80. Yes, that is quite a lot – but then you never expect a pick-up to be the last word in economy. It managed around 34mpg on the motorway, though dropped to the mid-20's in everyday driving, which is acceptable for a truck of this size and power.

All in, the Amarok had proved itself in some tricky conditions and when fully loaded, with only a couple of negatives to be drawn from the period.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE MONTH: Finding out how the Amarok deals with everyday life

MODEL: Volkswagen Amarok Highline
PRICE: £41,971
ENGINE: 3.0-litre V6 diesel
POWER: 221bhp
0-60MPH: 7.8secs
EMISSIONS: 212g/km CO2

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