Volkswagen Amarok Aventura review: the poshest one-tonne ute on any terrain?

David Linklater
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Volkswagen Amarok Aventura


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Base price
Body type
double cab pick-up
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CO2 level g/km
Fuel Consumption (l/100km)
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Maximum power kW
  • Arguably the best one-tonner to drive
  • Upmarket look and feel to cabin
  • Awesome powertrain and AWD system
  • $100k-plus with options
  • Flaky wireless phone projection
  • Aventura silver trim looks a bit cheesy

Posh utes have been a thing for over a decade now; natural when these pickup trucks have become utterly mainstream and appeal as much to family/lifestyle/adventure buyers as work/fleet.

So which is the poshest ute of all these days? Maybe a high-end Ford Ranger like the Wildtrak or Platinum, given the model’s impressively broad range of talents, technology and refinement.

But surely a flash Ranger with even more emphasis on design and quality now wins the All Terrain Tuxedo award? That’s pretty much what the Volkswagen Amarok Aventura is.

It’s no secret that Ford and VW are teaming up on commercial vehicles. So the Amarok is based on the Ranger platform, which in the case of the Aventura is the strong, smooth 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 engine and full-time AWD system underneath, but with VW’s own styling and choice of materials inside and out.

Where VW does claim to have stepped in and revamped the Ranger platform is around steering and suspension.

The Aventura in particular is unashamedly aimed at on-road use. Same considerable 4x4 ability in terms of the hardware, but on tarmac-oriented tyres and with design detail more along the lines of a car than a truck. If you want the off-roady V6 one, that’s the Pan Americana.

In fact, the main equipment differences between Pan Americana and Aventura are mainly to make that adventure/luxury distinction. Apart from the tyres (Pan Americana has all-terrain rubber), Aventura gains more chrome, Advanced Park Assist, body-colour sailplane, heated steering wheel, softer Savona leather upholstery… and even “premium” floor mats.

Aventura still has considerable 4x4 ability in terms of the hardware, but it's on tarmac-oriented tyres and with design detail more along the lines of a car than a truck.

VW has certainly done a good job of injecting its own brand into the cabin, with unique cabin architecture that includes lots of subtle design detail in the shapes and textures that will be familiar to drivers of other VW vehicles. Still lots of hard plastic (it’s a truck at the end of the day), but it looks swish and that black/brown trim combo does look and feel nice. The front seats are actually VW-specific, and they impress for comfort and support.

The centrally positioned portrait screen will look familiar to Ranger owners – presumably that’ s one hard point that the VW design team had to work around – but the instruments and OS have all been reskinned with VW menus and graphics.

It’s safe to say the Ford stuff is still lurking in the back end, though. The infotainment screen is very-VW to use but the operation has some familiar quirks, like the wireless phone projection that’s slow to connect and very eager to drop out… refusing to hook up again until you stop and restart the system. Exactly like the Ranger.

RVE liner takes the tray into SUV-boot territory.

Our test vehicle ramped up the luxury-ute vibe with an awesome tray liner from RVE ($1190 plus fitting) that made the deck just like the boot of a car. It’s tough marine-type carpet so pretty weatherproof, but we also got an automated roller-cover (also RVE, $5365 plus fitting)… just like a Ranger Wildtrak. Not quite as slick, since the remote is a separate item rather than integrated into the key (as per Ford), but a neat setup at the back all the same. And yes, you can easily pull the liner off its Velcro mounting if you want to do some dirty work.

There’s no change to the Ranger-sourced 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 and AWD system, which gives you the choice of 2WD, fully locked-up 4WD (with low-range) or a road-oriented on-demand AWD model (“4A”). We’ve had lots of experience with this powertrain and we love it: the Ford F-150-derived V6 is a mighty (and mighty smooth) engine, making the 10-speed automatic a bit more settled than it is in the four-cylinder models, and the 4A setting works wonders for on-road traction and cornering stability.

Where VW does claim to have stepped in is around steering and suspension. And while it’s hard to make a firm judgement without driving them back-to-back, we do reckon the Aventura has the best steering feel of any ute on this platform and the most stable/speedy cornering attitude – although some of the credit has to go the larger wheels and road tyres.

The ride is really impressive too, although those big 20-inch wheels do introduce a bit of thump and bump around town.

Amarok Pan Americana is the off-roady one - but also works beautifully on tarmac.

While we’d argue the Aventura has the “best” handling/ride combo, you could argue the Pan Americana is better balanced: it has softer suspension, smaller wheels and all-terrain tyres with more give, which does all work really well on the road as well as off. It’s a matter of taste.

Ah, taste. These modern one-tonners are monsters on Kiwi roads (Aventura is 5.4m long), but if you want a truck with true class and maximum possible on-road smarts, it’s hard to go past this VW. It’s beautifully executed, although it is also expensive: $90k plus a whopping $6555 Clean Car fee. Add in our test vehicle’s highly desirable tray liner and cover and you’re looking at $103,000 to drive this away; entirely reasonable for a luxury… um, SUV?

Aventura is also about to offer a unique selling proposition, with the impending arrival of a 2.3-litre petrol-turbo version (again, engine courtesy of Ford): more power but less torque than the V6… and even bigger wheels.

ENGINE: 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6
POWER: 184kW/600Nm
GEARBOX: 10-speed automatic, AWD with low range
CONSUMPTION: 9.6l/100km, CO2 254g/km (3P-WLTP)
PRICE: $90,000


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