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Those fabled bakkie debates around South African braais are set to get even more heated with the release of an upgraded version of the Volkswagen Amarok diesel.
The 2-litre bi-turbodiesel model, which already made as much power and more torque than the 3-litre Toyota Hilux and Isuzu KB, has received an upgrade that bumps the power output up from 120kW to 132kW. This makes it the second most powerful four-cylinder diesel double cab on the market, trailing only the 140kW/450Nm version of Nissan's Navara 2.5 dCi.
The VW's twisting force of 400Nm remains unchanged and is still delivered low in the rev range - between 1500 and 2250rpm. This to many bakkie buyers is even more important than power and they'll be pleased to know that the VW still trumps the 343Nm Hilux and 360Nm KB in this regard.
As for straight-line performance, VW claims a 10.3-second 0-100km/h sprint and 184km top speed for the 4x2 models, with marginally slower figures reported for the 4x4. Official fuel consumption, on the unrealistic combined cycle, is listed at just 7.9 l/100km for the 4x2 and eight on the dot for the 4x4.
IN THE REAL WORLD
While giving the bakkie an extra 12kW may seem like a very minor upgrade, the Amarok is now a lot better to drive in the real world, according to our launchman, Jesse Adams of Star Motoring, who drove the 132kW bakkie on its Gauteng launch:
"We never really had any doubt that the 2-litre bi-turbo Amarok was as powerful as VW claimed. The 120kW and 400Nm it was given at its launch around two years ago has always been there, but it was sometimes hard to find because it came in such a small window of power band.
"If you pulled away from a standstill without enough throttle, you'd stall. Too much, and you'd chirp the tyres and leave behind a cloud of clutch material.
DOES THE TRICK
"Volkswagen says the maximum torque output's still exactly the same, but it now feels like it comes in at much lower revs and as a whole the driving experience is much more relaxed and liveable.
"Along with the extra power, I'm told that there were revisions to some of the gear linkages to make shifting less clunky, and the clutch slave cylinder's been changed to feel less grabby.
"It all adds up to a huge improvement," Jesse concludes, but, and this is a big but, "there's still a huge gap in the Amarok range where a V6 engine option should be. Of course VW's spokespeople won't confirm anything, but we strongly suspect a 3.6-litre petrol, and possibly a 3-litre TDI in the near future. For now though, this bi-turbo four cylinder is good enough to tide us over."
As before, the Volkswagen continues to offer the option of a less-powerful 90kW/340Nm 2-liter turbodiesel and a 118kW/300Nm 2.0 TSI turbopetrol in the Amarok, along with the usual single cab and double cab body styles as well as 4x2 and 4x4 drive configurations. The latter can switch between RWD and 4WD at the push of a button and also offers a low-ratio case for trickier terrain.
Off-road ABS and ESP stability control are highlights on the active safety front. Double cab models are available in Trendline and Highlight trim packages and all come with a five-year/90 000km service plan.
THE BILL - AMAROK DOUBLE CAB
2.0 TSI 118kW Trendline 4x2 - R313 500
2.0 TDI 90kW Trendline 4x2 - R341 700
2.0 TDI 90kW Trendline 4x4 - R391 900
2.0 BiTDI 132kW Highline 4x2 - R375 100
2.0 BiTDI 132kW Highline 4x4 - R425 300
Ford Ranger 3.2 DC 4x4 XLT (147kW/470Nm) - R437 950
Isuzu KB300D-Teq DC LX 4x4 (120kW/360Nm) - R407 400
Nissan Navara 2.5dCi DC LE 4x4 (140kW/450Nm) - R428 000
Toyota Hilux 3.0 DC 4x4 Raider (120kW/343Nm) - R424 900