Wolfsburg, Germany - After seven years of making do with 2-litre engines (insert milk jug and Coke bottle joke here), Volkswagen has finally upped the power ante with a high output turbodiesel V6 in its Amarok double cab. But, all of VW's customers, and even the potential ones, who have been hankering for a badder German bakkie since 2010, will now have to put their money where their mouth is because this one won’t come cheap.

The Amarok V6 is scheduled for South African launch this July, and while we don’t have exact pricing yet, we were given a rough idea of costs while on a test drive in Germany last week. Our local line-up will comprise a Highline derivative likely to come in just over the R700 000 mark, and a top of the line Amarok Extreme just below R800 000. Both derivatives come with the same 165kW/550Nm (180/580 for ten seconds of overboost) 3-litre engine permanently driving all four wheels through the same eight-speed auto gearbox as current 132kW/420Nm 2-litre biturbo versions.

We’re also waiting for exact equipment specifications, but expect the Highline to mirror the current 2-litre version with items like cruise control, a colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone prep, cloth seats, electric mirrors, ABS with EBD brakes, and four airbags. The Extreme (called the Aventura overseas) will add satnav, 19” wheels (20" as an option), leather upholstery, 14-way electric front seats and a moulded body-colour roll bar in the load bin among others.

Even after repeated questioning of German top brass at VW’s light commercial vehicles factory in Hannover, the brand remained mum on why it took so long to include what seemed an obvious engine fitment from the start of Amarok. Nevertheless, we have it now, and it shouldn’t disappoint even the torque hungriest buyers in the leisure pickup market. Though it’s tuned to specific parameters here, the 3.0 under the hood is essentially the same unit as found in Porsche’s Macan, Cayenne and Panamera, numerous big-bodied Audis including A8 and Q7, as well as VW’s own Touareg SUV. In other markets there will also be two less powerful Amarok V6s, but we’ll get the top version only.

Effortless performance

Volkswagen quotes a tow rating of 3500kg (with a braked trailer of course) with over a ton of load capacity, and while my test drive didn’t involve such work-oriented activities, I did get to blast it for a few hundred kilometres of high-speed Autobahn highway. As expected it’s a refined piece of hardware which delivers heaps of power in a swelling surge typical of big displacement turbodiesels. It ticks over fairly quietly with a faint turbo whistle at idle and at traffic-congested speeds, but when the road opens for a full-throttle burst the beast beneath the bonnet roars to life in a way that’ll send its most muscular rivals running for cover with towbars tucked beneath their bumpers.

It’s a beautiful marriage with that self-shifter too, happily ticking through its eight ratios until it settles on an ideal match for revs versus speed. At 3000rpm the Amarok V6 cruised at around 180km/h (on an unrestricted section of Autobahn, obviously), and even then it would skip down three gears in a blink with a right foot hoof.

The V6 introduction will coincide with a facelift of the rest of the Amarok range in July (the current Ultimate model will be discontinued), and though it’s a fairly insignificant refresh on the outside, the interior has been upgraded to be even more upmarket than it already was. Infotainment systems have been upgraded with better screens, CarPlay has been added for Apple phone users, and the remoulded seats have even been given a nod of approval by a group of chiropractors from the "Healthy Back Campaign". I can confirm they are very comfortable over long distances.

There are some hard plastics if you go scratching around at the back of, and underneath the dashboard, but as a whole the new model’s cabin is easily at a level of quality to take on the larniest bakkies at the premium end of the market. But none of them can match this V6 in sheer grunt.

Not by a longshot.

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