Six months ahead of the launch of Walkinshaw’s next special-edition Amarok, we get hands-on with the V6-powered W580X
The biggest Volkswagen Amarok news for 2022 will undoubtedly be the reveal of the Ford Ranger-based second-generation ute which will hit Australian shores next year – but Volkswagen still has a few tricks up its sleeve for the first-gen vehicle.
A skunkworks partnership between Volkswagen Australia and Melbourne engineering firm Walkinshaw resulted in the best on-road ute Chasing Cars has ever tested – 2021’s Amarok W580S and W580.
It was hinted at the time that the Walkinshaw deal included another vehicle: an off-road special to go head-to-head in 2022 with the Ford Ranger Raptor, Nissan Navara Warrior and Toyota HiLux Rugged-X.
Just before Christmas, CC videographer Ky Riordan and I were given static access to a final W580X prototype at Volkswagen’s Sydney headquarters.
Close inspection over a couple of hours reveals the W580X to be just as serious – if not more so – than last year’s audacious W580S, with the outgoing Amarok platform given much more than a warming over in preparation for more serious off-roading capability.
Thick new steel plating to protect sensitive components including the transfer case and transmission (5mm thick) and rear differential (8mm thick), plus a breather kit mounted very high in the engine bay for more peace-of-mind when crossing water headline the changes, alongside a switch to a more aggressive 18-inch forged alloy wheel and Pirelli Scorpion AT Plus off-road tyre package.
The suspension hardware from the W580S remains the same but the Monroe shock absorbers with their 35mm internal bore have different valving and a different tune – plus the shocks are painted blue, as opposed to black on the W580S.
Rock sliders clamped to the chassis are fitted to the side of the vehicle and are certified to handle three times’ the Amarok’s mass.
Ride height remains the same as the on-road W580S, with a 40mm lift at the front end compared to a standard V6-powered Amarok. The W580X is marginally higher from the ground at the rear end due to the deletion of the sports exhaust from the W580S.
Priced at $77,390 before on-road costs, the off-road focussed W580X will sit second from the top of the V6 Amarok lineup in its final full year on sale in first-generation form. Options include a $4690 luxury package that bundles 14-way heated leather seats and navigation, plus a factory-approved $1390-fitted Seikel snorkel.
Convenient additions like an integrated LED light bar with a factory-fitted button next to the gear shifter are added to the W580X, above a “marine grade” silver bash plate stamped with Amarok lettering.
The W580S will remain at the top of the tree, priced at $81,490, while the lower-spec $74K W580 has been deleted from the lineup. Beneath the Walkinshaw-badged variants sit the regular members of the Amarok lineup, which takes in Core, Sportline, Highline and Aventura trims.
Sitting beneath the bonnet of the Indium Grey prototype we were granted playtime with is the Volkswagen Group’s 3.0-litre single turbo diesel V6 that makes 190kW of power (254 horsepower) and 580Nm of torque – though 200kW flows during temporary overboost periods.
The V6 motor sends torque to all four wheels via an eight-speed torque converter automatic and a permanent all-wheel drive system that has remained controversial during the Mk I Amarok’s lifetime.
Conventional four-wheel drive with low range is offered in just one specification of Amarok V6: the 165kW/500Nm TDI500 Core six-speed manual that Chasing Cars reviewed in 2018.
Strong uptake of the automatic and AWD-equipped Amarok V6 in recent years – it now accounts for 90 percent of Amarok ute sales in Australia – gives the impression that many owners don’t miss low range.
However, the coming 2023 changeover to the second-generation Amarok, which runs Ford’s T6.2 Ranger platform, running gear and Ford/PSA Lion 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 engine, will give auto Amarok buyers a true four-wheel drive system.
The Walkinshaw-developed Amarok W580X will run for about a year before the arrival of the all-new Amarok and Volkswagen Australia are bullish that the local partnership can continue in some way once the new generation vehicle settles in the market.
Based on the Amarok Highline TDI580 specification that is priced at $63,490, the Amarok W580X feels remarkably fresh in person for a decade-old product.
Design is subjective, but to our eyes, this is still a handsome vehicle, with the conservative, squared-off angles ensuring the Amarok is ageing gracefully.
The fit and finish of the Walkinshaw-developed componentry feels up to factory standard, and there’s real thickness and solidness to the bash plates found beneath the vehicle, seen only when on hands and knees. We’re looking forward to testing these properly.
Inside, eyes can’t help but be drawn to the small 6.5-inch touchscreen display running an older Volkswagen operating system – but in comparison to newer systems on the Golf hatchback that don’t work as intuitively, it’s kind of pleasant to go back in time.
Hard but durable plastics are used around the cabin but they have a high-quality feel and grain to them. The prototype was fitted with the standard suede Highline seats which are comfortable and regulate temperature well.
However, the best experience will be had by optioning the luxury package, which brings the best seats of any ute in Australia – 14-way electrically-adjustable and heated Vienna leather pews that are very reminiscent of the supportive front chairs found in VW’s Passat large car.
It’s clear that the interior of the next-generation Amarok will take a dramatic step forward in 2023, incorporating a vertical touchscreen and digital driver display – but Volkswagen says that despite being based on the Ranger, the cabin of the new Amarok will retain a number of VW-sourced parts.
A number of aftermarket parts were fitted to the W580X prototype to demonstrate customer possibilities. These included a flat roof rack, plus a load system atop the tray allowing stowage of recovery boards plus a large ruck sack.
Blacked-out badging all round gives the W580X a stealthy look – particularly when set against smoky Indium Grey paint.
Volkswagen Amarok 2022: prices in Australia
All prices listed are before on-road costs.
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