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Sportline leading the Amarok charge as more V6 models arrive


The V6 diesel engine offered in the Volkswagen Amarok ute now accounts for over 70 per cent of the pick-up’s sales in Australia, off the back of a more affordable Sportline variant launched earlier this year.

Speaking with Chasing Cars at the launch of the new 190kW/580Nm Amarok 580TDI Ultimate, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles marketing manager Nicholas Reid said the key metric of 70 per cent arrived earlier than expected.

So far this year, 5,882 Amarok 4×4 utes have found homes in Australia, up 235 units (4.2%) on last year’s result off the back of a buoyant pick-up market that is up 6.4% in 2018. The figures place Volkswagen’s ute eighth in the segment.

“We anticipated that [V6] would get north of 60 per cent this year, so 70 per cent has surprised us,” Mr Reid said. “I think what’s contributed to this is that we’ve really focussed on talking about the V6 as our key message. We’ve specifically branded and talked about the Amarok V6, because it is our number one selling point, and we’ve identified that.”

The Amarok’s three-litre V6 turbo diesel, which until this week has been offered only in 165kW/550Nm guise, has become the Volkswagen ute’s major point of difference in dual-cab mad Australia – a point not lost on Volkswagen.

“We talk about Australia as a capacity-driven market. We always knew that, but we didn’t see the uptake coming as quickly as it did. There are other three litre engines o the market, but the combination of the V6 and the output of our engines really hit the right note with owners,” Mr Reid said.

The gross combination mass afforded by the V6 engine has also appealed to the towing community, Mr Reid pointed out. “When we increased the V6’s towing capacity for the 2018 model year to 3.5 tonnes, we’ve seen a big uptake in the recreational towing segment – probably bigger than we anticipated.”

The Amarok V6 Sportline.

When the V6 engine first became available in the Amarok in late 2016, the range opened with a $59,990 Highline variant, which was later bumped to $60,490. For 2018, the Amarok V6 lineup was expanded to include the a $55,990 Sportline grade that has almost permanently been offered at $53,990 driveaway.

The Sportline lost some of the Highline’s premium kit – the sports bar, integrated navigation, bi-xenon headlights and side steps were all deleted – but the healthy discount has seen the affordable Sportline grade become the most popular Amarok V6 grade.

“The Sportline was a bit slow to start with, but from June onward, it’s been our number-one seller. We’ve kind of found a sweet spot in the market, and I think the word’s got out,” Mr Reid said. “That sweet spot seems to be around that $53,000, $54,000 mark for the Sportline.”

Unless renewed, the driveaway price of $53,990 for the V6 Sportline will expire at the end of September, which will see the on-road cost rise to about $62,000.

The incoming Amarok V6 Core.

The Sportline was not designed to be the entry point to the V6 lineup. At the national launch of the Amarok V6 in December 2016, a Core model – reflecting the nomenclature of the entry-level Amarok four-cylinder – was flagged, and until recently, Volkswagen executives did not expect the V6 engine to breach the 70 per cent watermark until the Core’s arrival.

Almost two years later, the V6 Core grade is just about ready, arriving in Australian dealerships in October. Chasing Cars has seen the Core, which reverts to durable parts like black mirror caps and door handles, 17-inch wheels in high-profile Bridgestone Dueler H/T tyres, hardy cloth trim and vinyl floors.

The V6 Core will retain the same 165kW/550Nm tune as the Sportline and Highline grades. That’s a boon for Australians, as in the European market – which runs without a four-cylinder Amarok – the most basic specifications use a detuned V6 with either 120kW or 150kW of power.

2017 Volkswagen Amarok V6 TDI engine – Chasing Cars

A price has not been confirmed for the V6 Core but a figure just north of $50,000 is anticipated. “We haven’t really thought too much about getting it under $50,000,” Mr Reid said. “We just want to get the Core to market at what we think is a very competitive price. We see it positioned against the Ranger XLS. We think we can demand a premium over [that] because of the standard features, and the engine, being our big trump card.”

All Amarok V6s currently make use of a ZF-built eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission, but a six-speed manual has been in the offing for the V6 for some time. Volkswagen aim to offer a V6 Core manual in 2019, which Mr Reid says “would definitely give us the opportunity to get under the $50,000 mark.”

While the Sportline has drawn in some buyers looking for a more affordable V6 ute, Mr Reid said the Core would draw “more trade and more rural buyers, whereas Sportline V6 is that recreational base product – and then as you push up into the Highline and Ultimate, you get more of the business owners, and people looking for an alternative to an SUV.”

The newly arrived Amarok V6 580TDI Ultimate in the new colour, Peacock Green.

The Amarok V6 Ultimate grade came in for an engine update this week, with the 165kW/550Nm tune swapped out for a beefier 190kW/580Nm arrangement. On overboost, the V6 Ultimate now produces the pleasantly round power figure of 200kW – just in time to see off the incoming Mercedes-Benz X350d, which will produce 190kW/550Nm. The Ultimate’s power boost sees its 0-100km/h time drop to 7.3 seconds.

With the Ultimate now positioned at $71,990 before on-road costs, the Highline at $60,490, the Sportline at $55,990, and the Core landing soon at probably a little over $50,000 – a range spanning just over $20,000 – the question will soon turn to whether there is a continuing place for the four-cylinder variants in the Amarok lineup.

We’ll be driving the Amarok V6 Core when it arrives in the market next month, and you’ll catch our coverage of the new V6 Ultimate 580TDI model later this week.