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2023 Volkswagen Amarok review

We go hands-on with the 2023 VW Amarok – it's a jack of all trades and master of . . . well, most.

Utes are everywhere these days, and why not? In a world where sedans are slowly fading away, they're the ultimate multi-taskers, conquering the urban jungle and the great outdoors with equal aplomb.

With a seemingly endless array of options available and new players entering the market all the time, buyers are spoilt for choice. Adding to that list we now have the 2023 Volkswagen Amarok, Volkswagen's first play in the Australian ute space since 2015.

2023 VW Amarok on mountain

The Amorak was co-developed with Ford (which uses some of the same elements for its Ranger). It's a ute that doesn't just want to raise the bar, but leap over it like an an Olympic pole vaulter and serve a diverse range of needs. But how high can it actually leap?

Arriving at Melbourne Airport for our test-drive to Trawool in northern Victoria, there was a sense of anticipation. The test route would put various models of Amarok through their paces, offering a variety of terrains to challenge its capability.

First up: The 2023 Amarok Style

I was in the Amarok Style variant for the first leg of the trip and I was immediately impressed.

With a starting price of $66,990 before on-road costs, it's expected to be the best seller of the range. Volkswagen estimates that it will account for 60% of new Amarok sales.

2023 VW Amarok RangeIt's not hard to see why. Ours was powered by the same 3-litre V6 diesel engine as the Ford Ranger, boasting 184kW and 600Nm of torque, but customers can opt for a 2-litre twin-turbo diesel engine making 154kW and 500Nm.

But power aside, it was the comfort that really won me over. The ride in this Amarok felt like no other ute I've ever driven. It offers up a smooth, comfortable ride that rivals anything else on the market right now.

The Style's 12-inch vertical touchscreen infotainment system is as sharp as it is responsive, and while there is a slight learning curve to navigate its features, any owner will quickly adapt.

It also offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are a breeze to use thanks to the screen's vertical orientation.

The VW digital cockpit – operated through the 12-inch driver's display – is user-friendly, offers some fun data points to assist with off-roading and is frankly, quite enjoyable to play with. Apart from that, it gets some extra goodies including 18-inch alloy wheels, IQ.Light LED matrix headlamps and a 360-degree camera.

Next up: The 2023 Amarok Adventura

Following the impressive Style variant, the Amarok Adventura was next in line for testing. Pricing starts at $79,990 before on-road costs.

Buyers can choose between the V6 diesel and a 2.3-litre turbo petrol engine that produces 222kW and 452Nms – an option not many ute buyers have had until recently. However, the Adventura is more suited for those who aren't planning on taking their ute off-road and going 4-wheel driving.

As a result, it comes with 21-inch wheels, which means less sidewall and a stiffer suspension set-up. While the Adventura is still comfortable, the Style offers a more refined ride.

The Adventura also features a signature X Design front bumper in chrome and a moulded sailplane with an electric roll cover, adding a touch of flair to an already eye-catching design.

Giddy up: The 2023 Amarok PanAmericana goes off-road

The final ute on the list was the Amarok PanAmericana which you can only get with the previously mentioned V6 and starts at $75,990 before on-road costs.

This is the model designed for serious off-roading and it doesn't disappoint.

It rides similarly to the Style, ensuring a comfortable experience, but with additional features such as darkened sports exterior accents and a Harman/Kardon premium audio system that's seriously impressive.

2023 Amarok Panamericana offroad

We took the Amarok PanAmericana off-road, handling some serious terrain without breaking a sweat.

Despite heavy rainfall the night before, which had even caused trees to block the route in some places and muddy conditions on steep hills, the Amarok just kept going.

It is a very capable off-roader and comes with a range of preset off-road settings, including Slippery, Snow/Sand, Mud/Rut and Tow/Haul modes (as well as Normal and Eco modes for on-road driving). However, the 2023 Amarok PanAmericana proved so competent that it was kept in low range with the diff lock on with no problems.

One of the features we did use was the hill descent control which worked like a charm in the wet, muddy conditions.

2023 Amarok offroad on mud

Other goodies exclusive to the PanAmericana include 18-inch alloy wheels in all black with all-terrain tyres, a signature X Design front bumper in black and a spray-in tub liner.

What else has changed on the new Amarok range?

Several changes from the previous generation Amarok have improved its off-roading ability, such as moving the front wheels further forward to reduce front overhang by 33mm and the rear wheels further back to reduce rear overhang by 44mm.

This results in 30-degree approach and 26-degree departure angles.

The roof load has increased from 225kg to 350kg, making it easier to transport bigger items like awnings and tents.

And while the new Amarok retains a 3.5-tonne towing capacity, the GCM has increased by up to 400kg for a maximum of 6,400kg. Down-ball weight has also increased by 50kg to 350kg.

How safe is the 2023 VW Amarok?

Safety is paramount, and the new Amarok is packed with over 30 new safety systems. Clearly, there are too many to list here, but depending on the grade chosen, these may include:

  • Lane assist with lane keeping and departure warning
  • Swerve steer assist
  • Dynamic road sign display and speed sign recognition
  • Adaptive cruise control (ACC) with stop and go function
  • Park assist plus with park distance control (front and rear)
  • Rear traffic alert
  • Tyre pressure monitoring system

Additionally, there are 9 airbags, roll-over mitigation and an emergency call via smartphone in-range connection.

What's it like for passengers?

As a mildly tall person, I hopped into the back of the PanAmerica and found the rear seating to be surprisingly accommodating.

Although my knees still brushed against the driver's seat, there's definitely more room than you'd find in some competitors. This is partly thanks to a 175mm increase in wheelbase, which has translated into a more spacious cabin for occupants.

VW Amarok: The verdict

The new Volkswagen Amarok line-up offers an enticing mix of power, comfort and off-road prowess. Whether you're looking for a daily driver with enough muscle to haul your toys or a serious off-roading machine that can conquer any terrain, there's likely an Amarok to suit your needs.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok towing boat

Having experienced the top-half of the Amarok range offerings, I came away most impressed by the Style variant.

It strikes a fantastic balance between comfort, power and price, making it an ideal choice for the majority of potential buyers.

However, if your budget can stretch a bit further, the PanAmerica is an absolute stunner, both in terms of appearance and capability.

It's worth noting that we didn't have the opportunity to drive the Core or Life variants on this particular trip, but rest assured that they'll be put through their paces in due course.

We're looking forward to spending some more time with the Amarok, where we can see what it is like to live with day-to-day and report back on fuel efficiency.

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