Bakkies are a staple of the South African vehicle market, with many of the double-cab offerings being used as leisure vehicles by their respective buyers, so their relevance is well documented.
The Toyota Hilux remains the king of the sales charts while the Ford Ranger has proven its mettle by trouncing the former on a few occasions.
Then there is the Volkswagen Amarok, the only German offering in the segment (until the Mercedes-Benz X-Class arrives in the next few months), which manages to offer something slightly different.
For starters, it has the most powerful turbodiesel engine in the market in the form of the 3.0l V6 TDI variant, which makes 165kW (180kW on overboost) and 550Nm through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and 4Motion four-wheel drive system.
It is a similar unit to the one we previously experienced in the Touareg, among others, and offers the smooth, effortless disposition that was so lacking in the 2.0l TDI models. The eight-speed gearbox makes for convenient driving in all conditions and works well in unison with the power delivery of the vehicle.
Aside from the silver smattered grille with the V6 motif and the V6 TDI on the load bin door, the model could easily pass as any other model in the range. For those who like a more stand-out feature to differentiate their model from the lesser ones, you can opt for the Extreme variant, which comes with 20-inch Suzuka wheels, a body colour sports bar and white contrasting stitching on the leather steering wheel and leather seats.
Our long-termer arrived with 18-inch dual-terrain tyres which, to be honest, tend to add more road noise at the national limit and a certain bounciness on less than even road surfaces than I experienced in a variant I test-drove, which had 19-inch lower-profile tyres.
I would have also apprecia-ted running boards as getting in and out of the vehicle is cumbersome, especially for kids.
Other than that, the almost eight-year-old Amarok seems to be ageing gracefully, in spite of it being the oldest bakkie among the mainstream brands. Its fit and finish, build quality and ride quality more than match — and to some extent overshadow — some of its newer adversaries.
The V6 engine itself has given the vehicle a new lease on life, with overall refinement now lifted a few notches higher.
With just more than 1,758km on the clock, and 383km of those covered in our care, fuel consumption is hovering in the 15l/100km range, largely due to the judicious use of the throttle on my part and mostly urban driving. We expect that fuel consumption figure to dip slightly in the next few weeks as the engine gets into its stride.
We will put that loading capacity to the test, too, over the six months we have the vehicle, while some towing, thanks to the tow bar fitted to our test car, is also on the cards.
For now, we are again reacquainting ourselves with what we’ve previously deemed as the best double-cab bakkie on the market, and after my recent drives in the model, it seems that assessment remains true.