With a sea of 4-cylinder dual cab diesels swamping your attention, the choice often comes down to separation by degrees. Do you choose the visual appeal of one brand’s styling design over another, or the additional goodies included in a flashy special edition tailored to capture your imagination rather than actually deliver any tangible performance enhancement?
But if you are looking for a bit more than bravado and searching for the muscle to get the job done, then consider the VW Amarok 3.0L diesel V6. In a similar class, there is the humongous Jeep Gladiator with its petrol V6 but its specialty is freedom lifestyle and it can’t get within cooee of the pulling power of the Amarok’s 3.5 tonne towing capacity.
From the outside, the Amarok dual cab ute isn’t a bad-looking vehicle. The Amarok’s first iteration separated itself from the pack by being more brash and less utilitarian but, after a decade, it’s now a familiar look and feel. In standard guise, its subdued styling neither attracts unwanted attention nor looks out of place on the school pickup run or performing the respectable daily duties of the second family vehicle. The same could be said of the interior. It’s like your favorite comfy pair of jeans. They’re getting on a bit and don’t making any fashion statements but, given how good they feel, you just don’t care!
But with the 580 having such a cracking good V6 that’s smooth, powerful, and efficient, it would seem only fitting that Volkswagen should leverage this performance and create something a little special for their loyal customers. And so, in partnership with Walkinshaw, they’ve created a GT spec ute.
With new accented front-end styling, wider flares, dual rear side pipe exhausts and bespoke 20-inch gloss black rims and decals, you could be mistaken for thinking this is just another window-dressed marketing show pony, but you’d be very wrong.
The Walkinshaw edition has a real brutish stance to it. The wider track and lifted front end gets rid of that limp nose droop. Beefy side rails and a rear sports wing yell “don’t mess with me”.
Slip the genuine ignition key into the barrel and give it a tactile twist forward to light up the dash and wind over the V6. After an initial snort, followed by a satisfying burble. things settle back down into a relaxed idle.
Things look a little dated in the cabin, but not completely boring thanks to several refreshes. There’s a smallish carry-over LCD screen for nav, phone and audio control. The red backlighting for the switchgear and controls are an intriguing hint of the hidden performance potential in this beast.
Front seating is very good. Finished in two-tone grey, there’s plenty of power adjustment to get both driver and front passenger comfy. And the heaters do a magnificent job of warming the tush, but sadly there’s no heated steering wheel for icy mornings. Rear seats are bolt upright with not much leg room, and some rear vents in the console would be nice.
Slip the lever into drive and squeeze on the throttle and there’s not a lot of urgency to get moving. But fear not, as the tacho pulls past the 1800rpm mark, the torque comes on thick and fast making throttle response equally and oppositely proportional to the smile on your face, right around the time you pull the pin before being on the wrong side of the speed limit.
But put straight-line acceleration aside and consider the accepted standard for a working man’s dual cab 4×4. Driving in stop-start traffic, heavily laden or hauling a load, there’s an expectation for a modicum of comfort plus a desire for acceptable off-road capability. The Walkinshaw Amarok seemed at odds with the accepted norm. The steering felt a little heavy; the combination of tall rims wrapped in Pirelli Scorpion 275/50R20 rubber bands and suspension tuning gave the supple ride of a standard Amarok all the finesse of sitting on a skateboard. It was too firm to accommodate suburban road irregularities and cringe worthy on carpark speed humps. The Walkinshaw wasn’t a stereotypical ho hum work ute at all.
But when it was time to let the Walkinshaw have its freedom away from the confines of the city that hampered and smothered its eagerness to please; oh my… how things changed. As its personality morphed, the engineering intent behind this brute made perfect sense. Like a jet fighter that looks crippled on the ground but pierces the air like a crafted blade; the Walkinshaw just needs to be in its preferred environment. Sports car it’s not, but it is a dual cab with a genuine sporty feel.
At a quicker pace on country roads, the steering was responsive and that portly feel from lock to lock now felt nicely weighted for incremental adjustments to the changing road direction, with a reasonable amount of feedback from the surface below. Turning in to corners was enjoyably responsive, no doubt enhanced by the different offset of the new 20” rims combined with those excellent Pirelli suctions cups. It was comforting to see a sports dual cab with 190kW on offer have discs on each wheel. Firm braking before corners offered a reassuring confidence to rein in the Amarok’s 2200kg curb weight with authority. Engaging sport mode, the 8 speed auto came alive and responded smoothly to paddle changes, and I really liked the discreet size and placement on the paddles recessed into the back of the steering wheel.
The more I drove the Walkinshaw, the better I understood its brief and the more I appreciated what they’d achieved with this GT ute. This was a dual cab correctly calibrated for driver engagement and enjoyment when on-road touring in grand style.
It’s offered with a 5-year unlimited km warranty and assured service pricing of $503 every 12 months or 20,000km. The current Amarok may not include the very latest in driver assist systems, missing out on blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert or autonomous emergency braking. The fact there’s no rear curtain airbags for passengers could be a sticking point for some. But what it does deliver is sparkling performance and noteworthy sports handling with rear tub capacity and genuine towing capability.
All of which adds up to a very attractive proposition. The Walkinshaw W580 demonstrates just how good the Amarok base is, by unlocking its potential with some quality, well-engineered enhancements sure to pique the interest of a driving enthusiast. Now, I can’t wait to get my hands on the Walkinshaw off-road version.
Model as tested: Amarok Walkinshaw W580S
Engine: 3.0 litre V6 TDI580
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel: Combined 9.5L/100km
Safety rating ANCAP 5 Stars (Previously rated on four cylinders, V6 not yet tested)