The ute to have? VW's Amarok V6 Darkside tested
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VW Amarok V6 Darkside
- A touch of class in a rugged segment
- Boat loads of power on tap
- Impressive handling for a ute
- Lack of tray liner and tow bar
- Pricey end of the ute segment
- Cheap-feeling dash and controls
If you’re in the market for a ute, you’ll be aware of just how crowded the segment is in New Zealand, with numerous manufacturers jumping on the double-cab hype, trying to get a piece of the profit.
But which ute sits atop this ever-growing list? Ford’s Ranger Raptor is the most expensive, but that’s because you’re paying for a plethora of off-road features designed to plow through sand dunes at speed.
If you’re after something more refined, something that possesses more torque than anyone ever should need, you’ll probably land on Volkswagen’s Amarok V6.
Just recently, Volkswagen whipped the covers off the Amarok V6 Darkside Edition, which is a high spec Amarok that has been completely blacked out with a bunch of accessories and a custom Carbon Steel finish. For the Darkside, it seems that Volkswagen has taken on the mantra of Henry Ford who said those famous words about any colour being an option, as long as it was black.
Stepping into the Darkside, everything is just as dark in the cabin as it is on the exterior, hence the name.
The dash is a mix between VW’s classy European feel, and what you’d expect to see in a rugged, work ute. A 6.3-inch touchscreen display handles the infotainment in the centre of the dash, and powers an impressive six-speaker audio system.
Front and rear Park Distance control comes standard, along with a rear view camera, a system that I found incredibly useful while attempting to parallel park on Ponsonby road. Unfortunately, the Darkside makes do with a regular cruise control system, as opposed to rivals in the segment with adaptive cruise control.
Both the front and rear seats are covered with ArtVelours upholstery with carbon-like accents on the bolstering. This gives the cabin a sporty feel, and also somewhat contradicts the workhorse nature of the ute.
Auckland | Wairau Valley
$258.06 p/w $1,032.23 p/m
Manawatu / Wanganui | Palmerston North
$579.52 p/w $2,318.07 p/m
Manawatu / Wanganui | Palmerston North
$594.04 p/w $2,376.16 p/m
Canterbury | Christchurch
$524.34 p/w $2,097.37 p/m
Arguably the only downside when it comes to the interior is the lack of legroom in the rear seats. Headroom wise, it’s more than adequate but it does suffer lack of second-row space that a lot of double-cab utes have.
At the business end of the ute, the burly, turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 makes a hefty 580Nm of torque and 200kW. If you discount the large American-built trucks sold here in New Zealand, these two figures are significantly larger than anything else in the segment.
Despite the large nature of this engine, the turbo lag is almost non-existent with that peak torque figure being available from just 1250rpm. This means that the Amarok can 100km/h from a standstill in just 7.3 seconds before topping out at 207km/h.
As the Amarok makes use of Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, this mountain of torque is effortlessly put down to the tarmac. Despite the leaf spring suspension system in the rear, the Amarok rides remarkably well on the tarmac as well as loose surfaces, and body roll is almost non-existent. Power delivery is smooth through the gears, and the impressive torque curve never leaves you waiting for power.
For those interested in hauling heavy loads, the maximum payload is 702kg in the tray, and the (braked) towing capacity matches the segment standard of 3.5 tonnes. It’s also worth noting that neither a tray liner nor a tow bar comes as standard, the Amarok V6 features “Tow bar preparations”.
Priced from $79,000, the Amarok Darkside is quite a tidy package, and arguably the pick of the Amarok bunch (if you’re a fan of the colour black of course). VW will also through in its 5 year/ 150,000km mechanical warranty.
Up until recently, the Amarok’s main competitor was Mercedes-Benz’ Navara-based X-Class ute. With that gone, the Amarok V6 is the only pick for those wanting a powerful workhorse with a touch of European class.