Best of both worlds: The locally built Amarok PanAmericana, a collaboration between Volkswagen and Ford, might be a tad expensive but it makes up for this with great features.
Online forums were set ablaze in 2020 when the news broke that Ford would be building not only its next-generation Ranger at its plant in Silverton, Pretoria, but also the next Volkswagen Amarok.
Memes, some of which were, um, typically South African, nearly broke the internet. The bakkie world went mad.
But, in case you didn’t know, badge engineering is nothing new. The biggest local exponent of this is undoubtedly Toyota, with its fondness for Suzuki’s designs. In the bakkie world, though? Well, it’s pretty much sacrilegious. The only thing worse is a “jou ma” joke.
The thing is, this collaboration works. Sure, the world was waiting with bated breath for the second act of the overall brilliant, but dated, (original) VW Amarok 3.0-litre V6.
And, yes, the VW purists have raised their eyebrows and given their 10 cents’ worth on the notion that it is no more a VW than Eskom is a functional entity.
And yet, on the exterior detail front which, for many bakkie pundits, is a deciding factor, it’s largely VW. Those IQ light LEDs upfront, the horizontally focused lines … You get the idea.
Then there’s the interior trim — plenty of Ford to be found here but also VW’s unique approach.
Front and centre in the trim of the PanAmericana test vehicle is the identical tablet-style 12-inch infotainment screen found in the Ranger Wildtrak and Raptor which, unfortunately, has the same annoyances, the layered interface and tiny integrated click points for external functions, such as Android Auto, for one.
It is not bad when you are parked but interacting with it on the move is like trying to thread a needle on a roller coaster.
Another example is the Easter egg hunt to find and optimise the climate options. This definitely reminds me of VW products, such as the Golf R. It’s clearly meant for sophisticated, tech-savvy individuals, not some flip-flops and sweatpants-wearing oke.
As for the 12-inch digital instrument cluster layout, well, that’s more VW than many VWs. Driving info is readily available, it’s easy to configure, and the graphics are crisp. There are buttons on the steering wheel to control functions such as volume — no digital sliders to be found here.
The overall fit and finish? The PanAmericana derivative boasts a sophisticated approach. This is in contrast to the more utilitarian-with-niceties finish found in its American cousin, the Ranger Wildtrak.
In fact, I’m trying to think of a plush interior execution from VW Commercial Vehicles and I’m coming up seriously short.
Yes, yes, it’s a Ford, I know. But it’s also VW at its very best.
The black leather upholstery, with brown adornments, is called “Cricket”. The brown tastefully extends to the armrests, seatbacks and centre storage bin. While I’m not fond of brown inserts, for this off-road-focused luxury bakkie, it works a charm.
The Amarok PanAmericana walks the walk — and then some.
Under the bonnet beats a creamy Ford-donated heart in the form of a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel oil burner that produces a mighty 184kW and 600Nm of torque. In layman’s terms, that’s enough to tow the moon into a different gravitational orbit. Probably. We’re pretty sure.
How about the 10-speed automatic gearbox? There are no qualms here as it covertly distributes drive to the wheels. The plentiful torque figure helps extract the maximum potential from the box that, 99% of the time, accurately predicts and adjusts according to throttle inputs.
The other 1%? Well, the vehicle did, on occasion, get a tad over-excited when modulating the throttle before a planned overtake and, as a result, knocked down a few cogs in the 10-speed. This is hardly necessary since there is plenty of grunt on tap for just that.
The refined ride quality and bump absorption remind me of the first-gen Amarok. It won over buyers with its sturdy and unruffled nature over pimply roads and the tranquil cabin was another feather in its cap.
In fact, I’m willing to say, once again, VW has one of the most comfortable contenders in its direct segment. No VW-ness in this dinner jacket-wearing Ranger, opine the naysayers — I’ll just trail off here for dramatic effect …
This is a bit awkward but the Volkswagen Amarok 3.0TDI V6 PanAmericana 4Motion, as tested, costs a sturdy R1 084 600 — and it is not even the range-topping derivative. That is R60 000 more than its near-comparatively-specced Ranger Wildtrak cousin and R100 000 less than the mad-as-a-hatter Ranger Raptor.
While the Amarok PanAmericana is a superb bakkie, with more than enough redeemable qualities to easily forgive the badge-related bloated elephant in the room, that price leans on the side of over-steep.
Isn’t the point of joint venturing to make the bean counters happy? To eliminate the need for costly platform developments and refinements to keep asking prices down? Then again, I’m hardly qualified to speculate what goes on behind closed doors when pricing matters are discussed.
I am, though, in a position to comment on matters of fuel consumption. During the test tenure, the Amarok PanAmericana registered 9.2 litres/100km during suburban driving and dipped to a respectable 8.5 litres/100 km on highway jaunts. Not bad. It certainly doesn’t have the wayward drinking habit of its V6 petrol-powered Ranger Raptor cousin.
The VW Amarok PanAmericana is an astoundingly good bakkie. That Ford brawn, the VW finesse …
Instead of lamenting this strange-on-all-accounts joint effort, shouldn’t we applaud what these brands have achieved together?
In fact, the locally built Amarok makes a fitting analogy for South Africa — with the kaleidoscope of cultures and backgrounds that call our country home, we can still, on occasion, and despite our differences, come together and do something extraordinary. And then complain about the price.