Read Unsealed 4X4’s first drive 2020 Volkswagen Amarok V6 Core 500 Manual Review with performance, off-road ride and handling, practicality, safety and verdict.
2020 Volkswagen Amarok V6 Core 500 Manual Review
Price From $49,950 Warranty Five years/unlimited km Safety Five-star ANCAP Engine 3.0-litre diesel V6 Power 165kW at 3250-4500rpm (180kW overboost) Torque 500Nm at 1250-3000rpm Transmission six-speed manual Drive Part-time 4WD with low range Dimensions 5254mm long, 1954mm high; 1878mm wide; 3490mm wheelbase Turning Circle 12.95m Maximum Braked Towing Capacity 3000kg Payload 1004kg Fuel Tank 80 litres Thirst 9.7L/100km
It’s something plenty of people have been hanging out for, available overseas the Volkswagen Amarok V6 with a manual transmission has finally launched in Australia. Not only does it provide a slight cut on price over the automatic, but also brings with it a completely different 4×4 system. Now it’s worth bearing in mind that, like so many things, there are some compromises in opting for the V6 with a six-speed manual over the stalwart ZF eight-speed auto, which we’ll cover below.
So, VW bolted on a manual to the V6 engine, what’s the big deal?
Beyond building your left leg muscle for free is that for the first time, the Amarok V6 has part-time 4×4 with a low-range transfer case. The Amarok V6 auto is full-time 4×4 but with no low range just a crawler first gear. The manual V6 now means you can get access to the more-power engine with proper low-range and a part-time 4X4 setup.
The six-speed manual transmission is almost the same unit as the one found in the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel Amarok already on-sale, save for some different gearing (5.07 in first and a 3.7 rear differential ratio) and sundry other changes. But because that engine doesn’t develop the same torque potential as the 3.0-litre V6, this Amarok Core – essentially a three-pedal version of the Core 550 – is down-tuned as a Core 500, producing 500Nm rather than 550Nm of torque.
The manual also misses out on the full 3500kg towing capacity the V6 auto boasts, offering a maximum braked towing capacity of 3000kg. That will be a decisive factor for quite a few punters, however, the slightly lighter manual transmission gives the Amarok Core 500 a touch more payload capacity (1004kg), so it’s swings and roundabouts.
If this V6 engine has the least torque in the range, should I even consider it?
If you like the idea of manual Amarok or just a manual-equipped V6 ute, you absolutely should check this out. The 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 engine produces 165kW at 3250-4500rpm and temporarily overboosts to 180kW when needed (for a few seconds when you floor it). Torque, as mentioned earlier, is 500Nm at 1250-3000rpm – an excellent peak torque spread that betters plenty of this vehicle’s competitors.
What’s not apparent, on paper, is the manual shifts nicely and is a pleasure to operate for extended periods. The clutch pedal is predictable and bites progressively, and the action through the gate is accurate and easy.
Despite being a part-time 4×4 driving only the rear wheels on sealed surfaces, rather than all four in the automatic-equipped variant, fuel consumption for the manual is 0.7L/100km higher at 9.7L/100km on the combined cycle, which can be attributed to the auto’s additional two ratios and propensity to get to the highest gear as quickly as possible. But in sixth gear at 100km/h on the highway and the thing revs at just a touch more than 1500rpm which is right in the meat of the torque band.
What’s it like off-road?
Like the auto, a press of the off-road mode button tells the Amarok to tailor its ESC and TSC to suit slippery conditions, though unlike the automatic-variants you’ll need to also engage four-high once you leave the bitumen behind, or four-low which gives a final crawl ration of 51:1 – better than most competitors except for off-road-centric utes like the Jeep Gladiator Rubicon.
Hill descent control and hill start assist automatically engage when off-road mode is engaged, and that’s handy when you need to get going on a steep incline. The clutch engages just before the pedal’s fully released and in first gear it’ll easily get going and crawl along without much throttle at all. And it’s the same on steep descents, where braking on the engine in first- or second gear works seamlessly with the hill descent control which automatically switches on in low range and works in both forwards and reverse and works from speeds of 2 – 30km/h.
Though we tested the Amarok on some steep hills with both scrabbly and wet surfaces at the Melbourne 4X4 Training and Proving Ground. Even without the tyre pressures dropped we managed to drive across some soft sections in four-wheel drive high range without getting stuck. Indeed, we only had to engage low range on some difficult water crossing exits up a steep incline. The rear diff-lock is standard and disables both the traction and stability controls.
Swapping out the tyres would be one of the first things buyers should consider as the road-oriented tyres (on 17-inch alloys) clog quickly and don’t shed mud or grit very well.
What’s else has changed?
Compared to the Amarok Core 550 (auto), not a lot. You get the same basic but practical interior, centred around a 6.3-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, though it doesn’t have sat nav (you get that from mirroring via your phone). Six-speakers fill the cabin with average audio quality and the fabric seats seem up to scruff for work-life and off-road adventuring (aftermarket seat protection is recommended), and for those uses, the easy-wash rubber floor mats are good too. Elsewhere there are plenty of storage options and the tub measures the same (Euro pallet friendly) 1620mm wide by 1555mm long. Some creature comforts are missing but remember this is a sub-$50k Amarok V6.
So, what does it cost and what do you get?
Pricing for the Amarok Core 500 manual is $49,950+ORCs and there’s a Core Enduro pack available which adds some retro-inspired decals, a bonnet protector and black styling bar for no added cost, despite VW telling us it’s $1200 worth of gear. Standard inclusions are 17-inch alloys with a full-size spare mounted underneath the tray, reversing camera, rear parking sensors and a 6.3-inch infotainment.
How safe is it?
Like all current-generation Amaroks, the new V6 manual carries the same five-star ANCAP rating awarded to the ute in 2011. Over five decades since it was originally tested, ANCAPs standards are currently much more stringent and there is now obvious missing safety gear like rear-seat airbags, AEB and lane departure warning that is present on some competitors.
So, what do we think?
We’ll get our hands on a manual V6 in the next couple of weeks and put it through its paces across our test tracks but this first drive, in a controlled environment, are enough to get us excited about the manual V6 Amarok. Sure, we’ve still got questions, like what are the full differences between the transmission in the four-pot and the V6, whether the clutch has been beefed up and why the torque has been turned down. Stay tuned.