VIDEO: 2023 Volkswagen Amarok review

The original Amarok was something of a pioneer. We drive the Ranger-twinned successor to find out if it stands up to VW’s claim of being the dual-cab ute segment’s most premium offering.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura Blue Ute 63
Score breakdown
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling

Things we like

  • Upmarket cabin
  • Smooth, natural steering
  • Supple ride on 18-inch wheels

Not so much

  • Price jumps across the range
  • Aventura’s firm and busy ride
  • Rear seat space far from generous

Review: 2023 Volkswagen Amarok

There’s a football World Cup, we’re in South Africa, and we’re driving a Volkswagen Amarok.

We could be writing about the German brand’s first ever dual-cab ute in 2010, except the sense of déjà vu is broken by more than the absence of fervent, multinational flag-waving.

While soccer’s quadrennial tournament is this time taking place in Qatar, we’re back in the nation of bakkies to drive the highly anticipated successor (where it will be built, switching from Argentina).

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Pan Americana Ute Bronze 55

The European one-tonner, due here in April, once again enters a fray dominated by the Japanese, yet this time it’s not doing so quite so single-handedly – co-developing Amarok MkII with the latest version of the Aussie-American Ford Ranger.

Shared platform, shared drivetrains, shared technology. And shared roof, glass area, doorhandles and side-mirror caps.

Shared sales might be trickier, simply because, unlike Ford and other key rivals, VW Australia has chosen to eschew cab-chassis, 4x2, and single-cab sub-segments – throwing its entire marketing payload into the dual-cab 4WD category. (4x2 and single-cab versions have been created for other markets.)

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Pan Americana Ute Bronze 15


Amarok pricing has yet to be finalised, but we know it will be higher across the range.

Volkswagen is pitching it as the segment’s “premium ute”, trading on a combination of upmarket interior and heavily loaded standard specification.

Five model grades have been confirmed for Australia, with the next set of Walkinshaw-badged specials not expected until 2024.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Style 50
Volkswagen Amarok Style

Every grade has, at a minimum, a large infotainment display (10 or 12 inches), wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, wireless phone charging, LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping aids, rear parking sensors, speed-limit notification, and nine airbags (five more than the previous Amarok).

A vinyl-floored Core returns as the base model, and the Life adds some more niceties before the mid-pack Style – tipped to be the most popular variant and expected to cost from mid-to high-$60K before on-roads – ramps up the list of fancier features and exterior addendums.

The new-to-VW PanAmericana badge marks where the Amarok puts a touch of extra emphasis on off-roading with all-terrain tyres and softer suspension, and introduces leather seating.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Pan Americana Ute Bronze 42

Aventura again denotes the flagship, fulfilling the road-biased brief with huge, 21-inch wheels – three inches up on the largest tyres currently available on the Ranger. (Next year's Ranger Platinum will adopt 20s.)

PanAmericana could start somewhere in the $75-80K bracket; the Aventura is anticipated to start above $80,000 – very possibly above the $81,490 Walkinshaw W580S that was previously the most expensive Amarok.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok features

See the table below for a progressive list of each trim grade’s key features, plus drivetrain options.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Core
LED headlights10-inch infotainment display
17-inch alloy wheelsWireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
Towbar with brake controllerDigital radio
LED tray lightingWireless smartphone charging
Cloth upholstery8.0-inch digital driver display
Vinyl flooring2.0-litre turbo diesel with manual or automatic gearbox, part-time 4WD
2023 Volkswagen Amarok Life
LED foglightsPrivacy glass
Electric tailgate lock (via central locking)Carpet flooring
Front towing hooksFront parking sensors
Leather steering wheel and gearshifter2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel with 10-speed auto, part-time 4WD
Auto-dimming rear view mirror
2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura Blue Ute 88
Volkswagen Amarok Aventura
2023 Volkswagen Amarok Style
Matrix LED headlights12.0-inch infotainment display
18-inch alloy wheels12.0-inch digital driver display
BedlinerDual-zone climate control
Stainless-steel sports barInterior ambient lighting
Keyless entry and start360-degree camera
Artificial-suede seats (optional leather seats)2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel with 10-speed auto, part-time 4WD
Heated front seats3.0-litre V6 diesel with 10-speed auto, full-time 4WD
10-way electric driver’s seat
2023 Volkswagen Amarok Panamericana
All-terrain tyresBlack leather seats
LED tail-lightsElectric front seats
Roof railsBlack headlining
X-Design front bumperArtificial Leather-covered dash and door inserts
Tonneau coverPremium audio system
Spray-in bedliner3.0-litre V6 diesel with 10-speed auto, full-time 4WD
Black sports bar and rear step
2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura
21-inch alloy wheelsElectronic roll cover
X-Design front bumper with chrome accentsArtificial Leather-covered dash and door inserts
SailplanePerforated-leather seats
Chrome side mirrors3.0-litre V6 diesel with 10-speed auto, full-time 4WD
Chrome rear step2.3-litre twin-turbo petrol with 10-speed auto, full-time 4WD

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2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura Blue Ute 73

2023 Amarok: Interior space, comfort, quality and tech

The 2023 Amarok once again pushes the envelope for upmarket ute interiors.

There are only a few elements of the Amarok’s interior that are obviously shared with the Ranger – the ergonomically brilliant squeeze-to-open doorhandles, chunky gearshift lever (though with VW’s own leather covering), portrait infotainment screen, and digital driver display (with some variations).

Various design elements – such as the T-shaped dash, 3D-style vents, and rugged infotainment/mode shortcut buttons – plus an assortment of smart finishes successfully achieve a distinctive look and for the Amarok’s cabin.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Interior 10

Style, PanAmericana and Aventura variants feature a dashboard plateau fully covered in artificial stitched leather – greyish brown in all our test cars – the same material of which is applied to the upper door cards.

PanAmericana adds material on the doors seemingly influenced reptile skin.

The middle sections of the doors, not just the armrests, yield to the touch, and smooth plastic inserts of various finishes are cleverly blended into the mix. The slightly rough black headliner is about the only notable disappointment.

The two-tone leather seats manage to feel both broad and supportive, offering an impressive level of sustained comfort over long distances.
2023 Volkswagen Amarok Pan America 23

As with the Ranger, the Amarok’s rear seat isn’t the most commodious in the dual-cab ute class, but there is respectable space – and deeply scalloped seatbacks aid knee clearance. There’s decent foot space under the seats and plentiful headroom, while air vents are welcomed as a first for the Amarok.

Storage options include bottle-mould door compartments, seatback pouches, and cupholders in the centre armrest. The rear of the centre console featured 12V and 240V sockets, but the latter will be replaced by USB-C ports for Australia.

Back up front, the Amarok shares double bottle holders in the front doors but omits the push-out dash cup holders found in the Ranger.

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2023 Volkswagen Amarok Back Seats

2023 Amarok tray practicality and towing

2023 Volkswagen Amarok load and towing
Tray length (mm)1624
Tray width between wheel arches (mm)1227
Load lashing rating (kg)400
Load clamps rating (kg)250
Payload (kg)1200
Towing - braked (kg)3500
GCM (kg)6000-6500

The Amarok’s tray continues to fit a Euro pallet courtesy of a 1624mm length and 1227mm between the wheel arches.

Six load-lashing rings have a tensile load rating of 400kg, while a track system incorporates four moveable clamps each with a 250kg limit.

LED tray lighting is standard on all Australian Amarok models.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura Press Tray 11

The PanAmericana comes with a tonneau cover; the Aventura features an electronic roll cover.

Maximum payload has also increased, from one tonne to just under 1.2 tonnes – one of the best figures in the segment.

There’s again a 3500kg braked towing capacity, while VW says the permissible total weight of vehicle and trailer has increased from 6 to 6.5 tonnes.

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2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura Press Tray 9

On the road

The original Amarok was a pioneer in many respects, including its car-like interior and driving position.

This aspect hasn’t just been retained but seems to have been further emphasised. The driver’s seat – powered from the Style upwards – can be adjusted surprisingly low.

The front seats feel like best-in-class contenders, with excellent shape, cushioning and bolstering from the entry Core up to the range-topping Aventura. The leathered PanAmericana and Aventura variants, in which we spent most of the two-day launch, proved immensely relaxing for hours behind the wheel.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Pan Americana Ute Bronze 25

Aventura is a particularly intriguing model, as the only Amarok to get its own (stiffer) front dampers, its own (faster) steering tune, and a set of huge, 21-inch wheels that dwarf those of any other variant.

The negative result of the first and third elements is a ride that is always firm, mostly busy, and sometimes jiggly. It tends to smooth out with increased speeds but generally feels like a set-up that will struggle on Australian roads.

There was an obvious contrast to the PanAmericana, with its softest-in-range suspension tuning clear despite launch models being fitted with 20-inch wheels rather than the 18s that will be the standard Australian spec.

A brief drive of a Style on 18-inch wheels provided another indicator of the improved ride that can be found elsewhere in the range.

On the positive side, the Aventura will hold the most appeal for any keen drivers who are looking to migrate from a passenger car or SUV to a dual-cab ute.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Pan Americana Ute Bronze 20
The flagship Amarok equips itself commendably well along curving country roads, keeping both lateral and vertical body movement in check.

The steering is quite superb, with an uncannily natural and meaty weighting and a responsiveness from the straight-ahead that makes it easy to point the Amarok exactly where you want.

As dynamically excellent as a well-engineered large SUV? Let's not get carried away; there are still limitations to what can be done with a ladder-framed, leaf-sprung chassis.

The all-season Goodyear Wrangler HT 275/45R21 tyres also grip strongly, refusing to squeal even under load in hairpins and making less noise than the wind around the side mirrors (at least on the South African launch roads).

There’s not quite the same crispness off centre in the PanAmericana or Style, with their slightly slower racks and slightly smaller tyres compared with Aventura, but the steering is still otherwise excellent.

Our time in a mid-range Style twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel was limited to an off-road course and a very short on-road drive.

That was still long enough to mark another similarity with the Ranger. It’s well worth paying the relatively small premium for the V6 diesel.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Pan Americana Ute Bronze 8

The smaller diesel is a good engine, no doubt, but the V6 is smoother, stronger and more responsive.

However, a Sport mode and paddleshift levers would have been desirable.

As in the Ford twin, the six-cylinder is also linked to a permanent all-wheel-drive system where the four-cylinder diesels feature electronically selectable part-time set-ups.

Disappointingly, a Mustang-sourced 2.3-litre twin-turbo petrol engine – the most powerful engine with 222kW and set to be a no-cost option on the Aventura – wasn’t available to test. This will be the Amarok’s only exclusive engine compared with the Ranger as Ford Australia opted against it.

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2023 Volkswagen Amarok Ute Press Event 4

Off road

With about 95 per cent of the global launch drive spent on the road, there's not a great deal we can report about the new Amarok's off-roading capabilities.

From the one-hour scramble we did have around a mountainous wine region near Cape Town, the VW suggested - not surprisingly – similar capabilities to the Ranger.

Unlike the original Amarok that used specially calibrated eight-speed auto, the second generation features low range.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Style 70
The new Amarok looks fun off-road, but most of our drive was on sealed roads only

We were given an 18-inch-wheeled, twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel Style with part-time 4WD for the exercise rather than the more off-road-focused PanAmericana that features a softened suspension, all-terrain tyres, and comes standard with the V6 diesel and full-time AWD.

Our VW guide had us switching between 4 Low and 4 High, and occasionally employing the locking rear diff (to be standard on all Aussie Amaroks), though just 2 High (RWD) would probably have been sufficient for the vast majority of the dry, rocky trails.

The Amarok's approach and departure angles have improved slightly over the predecessor, while the ramp angle is marginally shallower.

Wading depth makes a big gain, from 500mm to 800mm - matching the Ranger.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Style 65


First impressions are that the Amarok mostly delivers on its premium-ute promise.

It’s a shame the Amarok has lost its 100 per cent individuality, but it was either alliance or bust for the second generation.

The shrewd decision to partner with Ford, however, has allowed the Amarok to retain many of the virtues appreciated by fans of the original – while VW’s designers and engineers have ensured this is no cut-and-paste Ranger experience.

Comparisons with the Ford are inevitable and inescapable (and even the old Amarok), though first impressions - as we await to see how ride quality translates to Aussie roads – are that the Amarok mostly delivers on its premium-ute promise.

The other key question is exactly how much of a premium Volkswagen will charge for that.

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2023 Volkswagen Amarok specifications

Model 2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura
Body Dual-cab ute
Drive Full-time 4WD
Engine 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel
Transmission 10-speed automatic
Power 184kW @ 3250rpm
Torque 600Nm @ 1750-2250rpm
0-100km/h (claimed) Not available
Fuel consumption (combined) Not available
Weight 2540kg
Suspension Strut front, leaf-spring rear
Length/Width/Height 5350/1910/1751-1884mm
Wheelbase 3270mm
Maximum payload 1.19 tonnes
Roof load 85kg (static); 350kg (driving)
Maximum braked towing capacity 3.5 tonnes
Approach/Ramp/Departure angles 30/21/26 degrees
Ground clearance 237mm
Wading depth 800mm
Tyres 275/45R21
Wheels 21-inch alloy
Price $80-85,000 (estimated)

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Score breakdown
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling

Things we like

  • Upmarket cabin
  • Smooth, natural steering
  • Supple ride on 18-inch wheels

Not so much

  • Price jumps across the range
  • Aventura’s firm and busy ride
  • Rear seat space far from generous


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