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2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TDI600 review (video)

Welcome to the 2023 Volkswagen Amarok. Firstly, yes, it is based on the Ford Ranger. And yes, it even features a Ford engine. But with the Volkswagen you get a more refined experience, especially inside. It’s also made in South Africa rather than Thailand – if that makes any difference?

Here we’re testing the Aventura model which is the flagship, foreman or even project manager-focused model. Uniquely for this class, Volkswagen offers a turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine but only on the Aventura. It supplies 222kW and 452Nm.

However, we suspect most buyers will go for the turbo-diesel V6 as tested here due to its stronger 600Nm torque figure, which is going to be better for towing.

Although this is not going to be a comparison, throughout this review we are going to reference the Ford Ranger in some areas because this borrows a lot from Ford, and it’s the first of a new generation so it is going to be of interest to consumers, initially. It’s no bad thing though as Ford brings its extensive expertise which is perhaps more comprehensive than VW’s experience in this specific segment.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura: Specifications

Engine: 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6
Output: 184kW@3250rpm / 600Nm@1750-2250rpm
Gearbox: 10-speed auto
Drive type: Part-time RWD/4WD, locking rear diff
Wheels: F & R: 21×8.5, 275/45
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 2332kg
Power-to-weight: 12.67:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 8.4L/100km
Our consumption: 10.5L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 80L/Diesel
Power efficiency: 21.90kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 4.21 seconds*
0-100km/h: 8.71 seconds*
60-110km/h: 6.03 seconds*
1/4 mile: 16.50 seconds at 141.1km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.769g*
100-0km/h braking: 43.17m in 3.41 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.008g*
Decibel at idle: 45*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 73*
Starting price: $79,990

*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura: How much does it cost?

It’s an expensive one, starting from $79,990. That makes it one of the dearest models in the segment. The 2.3L petrol is the same price. You could say the Amarok can get away with a higher price due to Volkswagen’s premium undertone.

For comparison, the equivalent Ford Ranger Platinum retails from $78,190, and the flagship Toyota HiLux GR Sport starts from $73,990 (all excluding on-roads). Let’s see if the Amarok carries over its luxury flavours from the previous generation model.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura: Interior & packaging

While the Ranger is macho and imposing to look at, the Amarok is more sophisticated in its design. Both the front and back are completely bespoke on the Amarok, with a unique semi clam-shell type of bonnet, a detailed grille area at the front, and more defined wheel arches that are curvaceous rather than long and slab-like.

Volkswagen fits its own headlights and taillights, with the Aventura getting LED technology with auto levelled and adaptive high-beam with active shadowing. Going with the Aventura also gets you a set of big (for this class) 21-inch alloy wheels. These aren’t the best for serious off-road enthusiasts, but they do give the Amarok added street appeal. They wear 275/45 Goodyear Wrangler tyres, front and rear.

The Aventura comes with a power roller shutter over the cargo bed, too. This is a very handy feature because it allows you to carry tall and bulky items when you leave it open, but you can still lock it up securely like a traditional hard cover.

Inside, this is definitely one of the most refined and classy propositions in this segment. Including against the Ranger. The dash sculpting on the passenger side and the multi-tone trim provides added depth, and although the huge 12-inch, vertical-style touch-screen housing is the same as the Ranger, the screen runs Volkswagen’s own operating system.

We like the simpler tile layout for the touch-screen over the Ford’s animated and perhaps more colourful setup, but it is a bit more complicated in our opinion. Having the grid-like design here is easier to digest and engage with, especially while on the go. The switchgear is also much nicer and has a premium feel.

Passenger space and comfort is very good. In fact, this is one of the bigger cabins of this specific class, and there’s heaps of storage around the place, including a large centre box. Front passengers are cradled in lovely bolstered sports seats, with leather and electronic adjustment. It’s easy to find a spot-on driving position – something Volkswagen has always been great at.

Rear passengers get their own climate vents and charing port, and there’s a flip-down arm rest with cup holders. Some might argue that one charging port is not good enough in this day and age, particularly as utes are often used as family vehicles as well as work trucks. We agree.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura: Powertrain & handling

Despite 4Motion written down the sides (usually attached to VW’s clever on-demand AWD models), this features the same part-time four-wheel drive system as the Ranger, running as rear-wheel drive in the default mode. And like the V6 model Rangers, there’s a 4A mode that acts like a centre differential, so you can drive on the tarmac with the added grip and safety of all-wheel drive.

Ground clearance is rated at 232mm on this trim spec, which is 2mm lower than the equivalent Ranger Platinum. The wading depth is the same at 800mm, and the approach angle is the same, at 30 degrees. The departure angle is slightly better in the Amarok, at 25.6 degrees, compared with 23 degrees. The Aventura comes standard with a tow bar.

Under the bonnet you’ll find Ford’s 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6, producing 184kW and 600Nm – the same outputs as seen in the Ranger. However, Volkswagen also offers an interesting 2.3-litre turbo-petrol option with the Aventura as mentioned, taking power up to 222kW. Such an option is not available in the Ford in Australia.

Out on the road you can’t feel the Ford underpinnings. It feels like a Volkswagen, with the solid and planted feel that German cars are known for. Ride comfort is okay for a ute, but the handling and body control is excellent. This turns in with almost no body-roll at all, and the steering feels quite nice and reasonably precise. Low-profile tyres no doubt help.

The V6 is gutsy and makes the vehicle feel stronger than it already is. This is probably going to go down well with typical ute drivers as they tend press on and rush about. We like the deeper note of the V6 over the 154kW/500 diesel four-cylinder options (also a Ford unit). And performance is obviously superior. On a private road we timed 0-100km/h in a respectable 8.74 seconds – not bad for a 2332kg beast (tare).

In terms of fuel economy, the V6 is rated at 8.4L/100km and we experienced around 10.5L/100km during our test. A lower rate is likely after extended use in real-world conditions, without the performance testing that we do. Its 80L tank provides a theoretical average range of 952km, or about 762km using our tested average.

On rough country roads the suspension absorbs impacts well, leaving a surprisingly comfortable ride inside. Perhaps more importantly, the wheels remain firmly planted on the road, instead of bouncing and skipping like in some vehicles with leaf springs at the back.

Off road performance is also very good, and again, you can engage that 4A mode for added security on general dirt roads or in wet weather. As suggested, if you are planning on doing lots of off-roading, we’d recommend opting for some smaller wheels and bigger-sidewall tyres, or simply checking out some of the other variants. This is because these fairly low profile tyres are road-oriented and do not provide much flex to wrap around chunky terrain.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura: Key attractions/reasons to buy

  • Split personality: There is no doubt this Amarok Aventura is a classy beast. In some ways it fills the spot left by the old Mercedes-Benz X 350, in that it can perform as a work truck and a refined evening vehicle.
  • Robust off-road potential: It’s a proper off-road vehicle with a live axle at the back and a locking differential, with enough driving mods and support systems to get you around Australia in one go.
  • Adaptive 4WD: The Amarok V6 comes with a ‘4A’ driving mode that allows you to drive on tarmac with the benefit of all-wheel grip and safety.
  • Touch-screen: It’s not only massive, but it’s easy to use while on the go (and easier than Ford’s system in our opinion).
  • Double barrel: A vehicle that has been developed by two different companies has to be better than one that goes solo. It’s like having two brains.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura: Key considerations before you buy

  • Price: It is one of the most expensive utes in this specific class (excluding those big American trucks).
  • No longer purebred: We’re not sure if that’s a bad thing as highlighted by our last point in the attractions, but it would have been nice if VW kept its own V6 we think.
  • Low-profile tyres: The Aventura is not the ideal variant for those interested in doing properly rough off-roading. But it’s a pretty easy fix.

How does it rate against its rivals?
  • Price
  • Quality look & feel
  • Interior tech
  • Powertrain performance
  • Ride & handling
  • X-factor (does it stand out in its class?)

Final word

The Aventura is great for those aspiring to live a more adventurous lifestyle but still want to retain some class and sophistication around town. Its advanced tech inside is also very easy to live with and highly capable. Mainly, the high price is what will cause some buyers to turn away.

Brett Davis

Brett started out as a motor mechanic, but eventually became frustrated working on cars that weren't his. He then earned a degree in journalism and scored a job at Top Gear Australia back in 2008, and then worked at Zoom/Extreme Performance magazines, CarAdvice, and started PerformanceDrive/PDriveTV in 2011 with Josh Bennis, and ran it for 12 years. He's now the owner and managing editor here at Driving Enthusiast.

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