The Life sits second on the ladder in the Amarok family tree – but is this the best value dual-cab ute for those who want a true workhorse?
The Volkswagen Amarok family is growing, and now there are two very commercial and fleet buyer-focused utes in the range.
While the Core is as basic an Amarok as money can currently get you, the next rung up offers the choice of the ute in question: the Life variant. And I think it’s arguably the sweet spot of the entire range.
I’ve already had the chance to sample the Panamericana and Aventura flagship grades in the Amarok stable, but can the lower-tier Life bring a lot of what I liked about those high-grade pick-ups into a much more accessible and affordable package?
The Life is priced from $56,990 before on-road costs, making it a little bit cheaper than the comparable Ford Ranger XLT 2.0-litre ($59,990 before on-road costs), and is more affordable still than a Toyota Hilux SR5 ($61,930 before on-road costs).
But it’s more than just the sticker value for these utes. Ultimately, what many ute buyers want is a comfortable, practical and capable workhorse. But does the Life variant fill this brief?
I’ve been to the gorgeous Yarra Valley outside Melbourne to drive the ute in question, so buckle up as I tell you all that you need to know about Volkswagen’s more affordable dual-cab.
As standard, the Volkswagen Amarok Life is fitted with the following features:
Volkswagen has also announced its wide array of accessories that will be able to be purchased for the Amarok. Volkswagen expects that an average of $3500 will be spent per Amarok on accessories in 2023.
How does the Life variant stack up in terms of value, then?
The most important thing is that the Life comes with the essential features tradies and workers would need for a workhorse ute, while still offering plenty of technology, modern LED headlights and lighting, and creature comforts that make this ute suitable just as much for daily life and play.
All in all, for the $56,990 sticker price, I think the Life is well equipped even though it’s only one up from the base Core variant.
There’s a fair bit to talk about here. For starters, getting out on the open road in the Amarok Life, this ute is remarkably SUV or car-like in the way it drives down a bitumen road.
Rarely have I driven a dual-cab ute with such pleasant road manners. The suspension is generally a little on the firm side, but this in turn benefits the ute’s on-road handling characteristics.
Driving the Life through some of Victoria’s best twisty roads during the launch, at first I thought this ute wouldn’t be entirely well-suited for the job at hand.
But the reality was that the Life was remarkably fun to drive, and as I have said, felt more like a grounded SUV than the bumpy and jumpy dual-cabs of days gone by.
Volkswagen says the new Amarok has a unique suspension tune and is overall different to its related Ford Ranger cousin.
And having driven the higher-spec Panamericana and Aventura grades in the Amarok family tree, I completely agree that the Amarok feels like a unique product, and not just a Ford Ranger with Volkswagen badge slapped on the front.
To say that would be a disservice to the hard work that has gone into this new Amarok.
I can happily say that the Amarok Life rides just as well as its more expensive siblings, and is genuinely very comfortable. The driver seat has been completely redesigned and is pretty supportive – I could happily drive long distances without any comfort troubles whatsoever.
It’s remarkable how the Amarok rides on the rear axle, too, and it doesn’t suffer from the jittery leaf-sprung ride quality that is ever-present in competitor utes such as the Toyota Hilux or Isuzu D-Max.
Powering the Life variant is the same 2.0-litre twin-turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine that has been used previously in the Ford Ranger and Ford Everest, and even in the last Ford Ranger Raptor.
This powertrain produces 154kW of power and 500Nm of torque – by no means rookie numbers – and this engine certainly left me wondering if you really do need the V6 turbo-diesel that is available in higher grades.
I was able to drive the Life both on-road and off, and not once did I think that the Life’s 2.0-litre twin-turbo unit needed more grunt. Power is plentiful, and torque comes in low and strong in the rev band – there’s certainly no need to rev it out.
Speaking of off-road, it was certainly a very slippery day in the national parks behind the Yarra Valley, with recent rain making things a little dicey for our convoy of Volkswagen dual-cabs.
But equipped with nothing but highway tyres, four-wheel-drive high and a rear diff lock, the Amarok Life powered through with ease.
Some sections were particularly sketchy, with quite a lot of opposite lock required to keep the Amarok straight and true through the really slippery stuff, but I was altogether impressed at just how effortlessly the Amarok made the whole thing seem.
Although things got tricky in parts, we didn’t need to use low range at all – high range seemed to do the job more than adequately.
As part of a convoy, we also tested articulation over decent size mounds, drove through some impressive bog holes and attempted some relatively steep ascents and descents – again, the Amarok did the job without fuss and did well to not scrape itself over every obstacle.
The Amarok Life is therefore more than up to the task of playing dual roles with a unique personality for each. It’s both a comfortable-riding workhorse and a capable off-roader for weekend fun.
In terms of overall driving, in my opinion, the Amarok Life rides and handles just as well as much more expensive versions of the Amarok, but for a much lower sticker price.
Inside the Amarok Life, things are pretty much as you would expect for a second-tier Amarok. There are some cheap, scratchy plastics around the place, however it can be argued that the Life’s interior is more built for a hard-working tradesperson rather than a premium-feeling school run.
The seat material is cloth – no leather here, folks! – but the chairs themselves are very comfortable and supportive. However, there is no electric adjustment for these pews.
While major touch points of the cabin are finished in leather, such as the steering wheel and gear shift lever, the majority of the cabin trim is covered in hard-touch plastics. The only exception to this is the small door armrests which are soft cloth for your elbow to rest against while driving.
Again, I didn’t come into the Life expecting the most premium interior of the bunch, but it’s certainly worth noting.
Do you really need leather and plush cabin trim elements in a ute that is likely to be used for work? I don’t think that you necessarily do. It all depends on how much you will want your nice ute scratched up from time to time.
Cabin technology for the Amarok Life includes a 10.0-inch central portrait touchscreen and an 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster.
While the portrait screen is slightly smaller than those offered in higher grade Amaroks, it does the job more than adequately. However, I’m not the biggest fan of the fact that the climate control is now all buried within the infotainment system.
The digital instrument cluster is certainly not the biggest in the market, but it’s somewhat customisable and is clear to read and understand.
It’s also worth noting that the Life does not have keyless start – a feature I would expect if I was paying close to $60,000 driveway for a ute in 2023.
But what about the back seat situation?
It’s surprisingly comfortable in the second row, even for a bigger guy like myself at around 180cm. Nowadays, utes are getting much better with back seat packaging and the Amarok is definitely one of them. However, being a lower-tier Amarok, the Life has no rear air vents and just a single 12-volt power outlet.
In terms of cargo space, which will ultimately be crucial for tradies and commercial workers, the Amarok Life has almost 1000 litres of rear tray space, and can carry up to 988kg of payload back there, too.
Volkswagen Australia also states that you can fit an Australian-spec pallet within the rear wheel arches, too.
There are a total of six tie-down points which can be adjusted to suit within the tray space, and there is LED strip lighting in the tray, too, which could be handy when packing up after work at dusk.
All Amaroks, including the Life, are able to tow a maximum of 3500kg braked.
The Volkswagen Amarok has been recently tested by Australia’s ANCAP safety authority where it received a five-star rating, which applies to all dual-cab models, including Life.
The Amarok scored 86 percent for adult occupant protection, 93 percent for child occupant protection, 74 percent for vulnerable road users and 83 percent for safety assistance.
As standard, the Life includes the following safety features:
How does all this work when you’re out on the road? I found that the Volkswagen safety systems were quite well tuned in general and were certainly not annoying like quite a few of the systems out there on the wider market.
I loved that the Amarok wouldn’t continuously bong at you like some other car makers. Thank you, Volkswagen, for keeping things quiet!
The Life has an impressive amount of safety gear – there has been a big change in safety for dual cabs over the past couple of years – and I believe the Amarok is a solid choice if you want a ute that is both safe and practical.
In terms of running costs, the new Volkswagen Amarok will cost $1800 for a five-year service plan, working out to an average of $360 per year. Service intervals are every 12 months, or 15,000km – whichever comes first.
Every new Volkswagen product, including the new Amarok, is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
For fuel economy, the Amarok Life with its 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel engine is claimed to have a consumption figure of 7.2L/100km, however during the launch, we didn’t get anywhere close to that figure.
On a mix of highway, country roads and mild off-roading, we averaged between 9.8L/100km and 10.0L/100km during our trip.
However, the 2.0-litre unit is much more frugal than the V6 turbo-diesel engine, which has a claimed fuel consumption figure of 8.4L/100km.
I started this review asking the question about whether the Volkswagen Amarok Life is the best value tradie workhorse for the money.
And now, after having driven the car quite extensively during its official launch, I can safely say that the Amarok Life is the real sweet spot in the range.
Yes, it’s true, you can go and spend much more money on the Style, the Panamericana or the flagship Aventura, but the reality is that the Life variant is all the ute most people will ever need.
It rides well, it’s comfortable and has great seats, it’s practical and certainly off-road capable and has enough punch for 95 percent of circumstances. And let’s not forget, it’s also the most car-like and un-dual-cab experience you will likely have in this segment.
But what don’t I like? Some of the cabin materials are a little bit cheap for the price of the ute, it lacks a core basic keyless start feature, and it’s a bit thirstier than its claimed numbers.
But, for the most part, the Amarok Life nails its brief.
I could easily see a tradie, commercial worker or fleet buyer being very happy with the Amarok Life. It will be able to do most things with ease, from carrying large payloads to going off the beaten track, and will even get you to that cool campsite spot you’ve always wanted to experience.
After all, and this may sound very cheesy, the Amarok Life really is the ute for life. Not just for off-road or for the worksite, but a very livable and refined dual cab in 2023.
Available V6 engines have claimed much of the attention surrounding the new Ford Ranger – but the improved two-litre unit is more than adequate for most
Key specs (as tested)
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