VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana

VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana review: Bugatti of bakkies? Picture: VW Commercial Vehicles.

VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana review: Bugatti of bakkies?

Where it once commanded the entire premium bakkie sector, the competition is lining up to take it down! We test the VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana.

VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana

VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana review: Bugatti of bakkies? Picture: VW Commercial Vehicles.

We’ve got the impressive-looking VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana parking out front. And a couple of years ago that would have been a surefire guarantee of a week’s worth of bakkie balling. Untouched by any of the rank-and-file proletariat, a test in a V6-powered Amarok was a one-way ticket to a smooth, fast, sophisticated and utterly fulfilling bakkie experience.

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Except, nowadays, the R1-million bakkie club has 10 members … and counting. From exotic stuff like the new Ineos Grenadier Quartermaster and Jeep Gladiator, to top-of-the-range but common-on-our-roads Rangers and the like, the VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana no longer gets a free pass just because it’s a six-cylinder Amarok and therefore lead superhero in the Marvel universe.


VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana
VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana. Picture: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

In the intervening stretch since the previous Amarok was on sale, VW Commercial Vehicles had time to reflect on the pick-up truck’s sales strategy and positioning. It decided to team up with Ford and build the new-generation Amarok and Ranger together at the Blue Oval’s plant in Silverton. I know, this fact will undoubtedly piss off a lot of Amarok and Ranger fans on both sides. But it really ought not to, because the car manufacturing world being what it is nowadays, this was the only way another Amarok was going to get built. Volume-wise, the Amarok was never really a contender against the more utilitarian trucks that have the local market pretty much sewn up. Developing a brand-new standalone bakkie – when the company is focusing on establishing its electric ID range globally – simply was not viable.

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Looks-wise, the new VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana trades in the inoffensive, clean-cut lines of its predecessor for a more macho, athletic physique. Perhaps in a bid to differentiate it from the Ford Ranger, there are slashes and swage lines all over the body work. The PanAmericana, which is seen as the off-road-ready derivative in the line-up, gets a black X grille and black 18-inch rims shod with knobbly all-terrain rubber. There’s a black powder-coated styling bar and side steps as well as colour-contrasting exterior mirrors and door handles. It’s a big, wide and wild-looking beast, with a chunkier presence than a year’s supply of Pedigree chum.


VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana
VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana. Picture: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

As you’d hope for a R1-million bakkie, the powerful exterior cohabitates with high-quality comfort on the inside. The Amarok is immediately comfortable the instant you hop aboard with a typically agreeable driving position courtesy of height and reach adjustable steering. There are genuine leather seats, carbon-fibre-look trim, an 8-inch digital driver display, 12-inch tablet touchscreen and an immense Harman Kardon premium sound system to guarantee a top-notch experience. That touchscreen though, that’s derived from Ford’s SYNC4 system, but Volkswagen has given it its own clean-cut look and feel. Unfortunately, in our opinion, it’s not as intuitive and easy to use as Ford’s version. Although, we are holding VW to a very high standard here. Afterall, they practically invented ‘intuitive usability’ with the cabin of the Golf.

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Don’t think the, at times, iffy touchscreen software means the VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana falls short. Far from it. Exclusive luxury items like automatic IQ Matrix headlights, auto wipers, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, wireless charging, USB-A/USB-C ports, wireless Apple CarPlay and 10-way heated front seats abound. There’s even a separate 230V power outlet for rear passengers. Speaking of the rear, there is immensely spacious rear accommodation for family or your Fortnum & Mason hampers. Consider the day further won with all this Volkswagen-specific tech assuaged by appropriately snug-fitting panels and smooth-to-the-touch fabrics.


VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana
VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana. Picture: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

So, on to the main event: the VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana’s six-cylinder biff machine beneath the bonnet! It’s no longer VW’s engine – the company is more worried about developing new EVs, remember – but it still has enough power and torque to break drive shafts. Where you had 190 kW, you now have 184 kW and 600 Nm of torque. On the open road, however, it feels anything but neutered. That’s because thanks to a convenient overboost function, every time you floor the JuJu pedal you get a full ten seconds of boost. Zero to 100 km/h is battered in 7.38 seconds according to our test data. That’s actually faster than claimed. In a league where most musclebound bakkies can only hasten with the speed of an unfussed earthworm, this speed is worth celebrating.

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The uncanny thing about the Ford-derived V6 TDI is how quiet it is. From start-up right through to hard acceleration, there is none of the agricultural tick-over usually synonymous with a piece of farm machinery. At speed, the engine note builds to a gruff six-cylinder TDI holler. Hear it and you’ve already smartly picked your way through a few gears thanks to the smooth moves of, once again, Ford’s ten-speed automatic gearbox. Our only criticism is we would have liked paddle shifters behind the wheel, it’s that much fun to drive.


VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana
VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana. Picture: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

The VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana may still be leaf sprung at the rear, but it doesn’t ride like the Titanic. In fact, VW made a point of tuning the Amarok’s ride specially. It utilises the longest leaf springs on the market, affixed alongside the ladder-frame chassis and not underneath it, giving the Amarok the best compromise between toughness and ride comfort, apparently. Lovely weighting to the steering allows you to savour every corner and even though it’s a pretty big vehicle, it’s fun to drive spiritedly. The old Amarok’s permanent 4Motion AWD has been replaced with the Ford-developed on-the-fly system, so you can tailor drive parameters just so.

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You might think it’s a shame to even get such a vehicle dirty. But with a flick of the off-road program the Amarok transforms from city chic to off-road tough. Keen off-roaders will know the VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana boasts figures on par with the best in the segment. Ground clearance of 235 mm, approach/departure angles of 30 and 26 degrees respectively, as well as a wading depth of 800 mm. Down dip and up dale you can go with the new VW Amarok. Its most impressive off-road qualities are its traction and power. You can rely on the V6 TDI’s brute strength to get you out of any situation. It can pull uphill from stationary without so much as a hint of wheel spin, no matter the surface. Go figure when it is rated to handle a 35-degree-incline hill start with a full one-ton payload on board. Never mind its towing capacity of 3 300 kg, also with max payload at the back. It’s one mighty bakkie.


VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana
VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana. Picture: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

Of course, all this mightiness doesn’t come cheap – R1 106 300 for the VW Amarok V6 TDI PanAmericana we tested. But be in no doubt, while the R1-million bakkie club might be a lot more crowded these days, you can still hang your hat on the mighty Amarok. The Bugatti of bakkies. The only doubt must be, in this economy, how many people can actually show their support with monthly payments in excess of R20 000 a month. But, even here, where there’s a will there’s a way.


  • Best for: Excelling in every conceivable department: fast, easy to drive, SUV-like luxuries, immensely capable off road.
  • Not so sure: Appeal largely depends on if you can afford to spend R20k a month… for a bakkie.
  • Figures: Volkswagen Amarok 3.0 V6 TDI PanAmericana 4Motion
  • Engine: 2 997 cc 6-cyl twin-turbo diesel
  • Power: 184 kW, 600 Nm
  • Performance: 7,38 sec 0-100 km/h (tested)
  • Gearbox: 10-speed auto
  • Economy: 8,9 l/100 km (tested), 8,4 l/100 km (claimed/combined)
  • Tyres: Goodyear Wrangler 255/65/R18
  • Braking: 100 km/h – 0 in 3,08 sec (tested)
  • dB measurement: 85.2 ave
  • Price: R1 106 300

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