Chest-thumping VW Amarok Ultimate TDV6 580 is brutal
THE only thing more important to boys than their toys are the numbers on the back of their cars.
Fast Fords and Holdens have for decades worn badges that reveal how much grunt is under the bonnet, now such numbers have made their way onto workhorse utes.
Meet the Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate TDV6 580.
Proving VW knows its target market, Australian-delivered examples get a shiny "580" badge in a font apparently inspired by classic Holden GTS or Ford GT logos.
With 200kW of grunt on overboost and 580Nm of torque this turbo 3.0-litre V6 is the most powerful diesel double-cab four-wheel-drive on sale in Australia today.
With an as-tested 0-100km/h time of 7.8 seconds (half a second slower than the claim) it's equal-fastest in the class alongside the Ram 1500 petrol V8 - and comfortably a couple of seconds quicker to the speed limit than all other diesel double-cabs.
The original 165kW/550Nm TDV6 introduced in 2016 - which will continue to power cheaper models in the Amarok range, including a new basic Core model from $50,000 - also stops the clocks in 7.8 seconds.
However in the 550 you need to tap the paddle shifters so the eight-speed auto doesn't hold on to gears too long.
The 580's recalibrated auto optimises shifts for brisk acceleration, without needing to faff about with manual shifts.
Other points of interest: the 580 must run ad blue, an exhaust cleansing additive. VW says the 13.5-litre reservoir will need a top-up every 5000 to 8000km in heavy use and every 12,000 to 15,000km or so with light use.
It costs about $1 per litre at a service station - or more if you get the dealer to add it during a service. Stricter emissions requirements mean new diesels will require ad blue in the future.
There's also a hefty price rise: up from $68,490 plus on-roads to $71,990 plus on-roads, just a few thousand shy of the aforementioned Raptor.
The Amarok is a different beast. It's a performance-luxury ute with the best road-holding in the class and the most comfortable seats.
As with the superseded 550 Ultimate, the 580 Ultimate has heated front seats trimmed in soft Nappa leather with 14-way electric adjustment.
New, black roof lining gives the cabin a lift. External bling extends to 20-inch wheels, up from 19s previously.
The suspension feels a little busier on the low profile 20-inch rubber but it's still plush compared to most rivals. Precise steering, cornering grip, and the super-responsive engine and transmission are highlights.
For all its merit, however, the Amarok is outclassed in other key areas.
There's still no sensor key or push-button start, no 360-degree camera, no radar cruise control, no autonomous emergency braking, no forward crash alert, no lane-keeping assistance and no speed-sign recognition.
All of the above are available on certain rivals, although no one ute has the lot.
The Amarok is also the only ute among its peers without curtain airbag protection for back seat occupants.
VW is able to advertise a five-star ANCAP safety rating even though the result is from 2011.
If the Amarok were assessed against the latest criteria it would likely get a three-star rating due to the lack of autonomous braking and rear airbag protection, among other anomalies.
ANCAP is introducing expiry dates on future star ratings to prevent companies from publishing out-dated results.
If safety is a priority it's best to view the Amarok as a two-seater with extra storage across the back seats.
That said, buyers seem more interested with what's under the bonnet.
Amarok TDV6 sales are up 65 per cent in the first eight months of this year versus the same period in 2017. Cheaper four-cylinder models now only account for 20 per cent of sales.
A flawed genius. Best-in-class to drive but lacks advanced safety aids and creature comforts that are increasingly standard on cheaper rivals.
Volkswagen Amarok Ultimate TDV6 580
Price: $71,990 plus on-roads
Warranty/servicing: 3 years/unlimited km; $1728 for 3 years
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, 190kW/580Nm
Safety: 5 stars, 4 airbags, rear camera, individual tyre pressure monitors