We drive VW's eight-speed auto Amarok
Volkswagen is still resisting the call from power-hungry bakkie lovers for a V6 engine option in its Amarok pick-up, but at least it’s now offering a hi-tech eight-speed auto gearbox option in its current range-topping 2 litre biturbo model.
The idea is that with eight gear ratios, the 132kW and 420Nm four-cylinder turbodiesel can operate within its powerband more accurately and this is a good thing for a bakkie that’s known for making peak torque inside a narrow rev-range. A torque converter, rather than a dual-clutch setup as in the brand’s DSG transmissions, is used in the eight-speeder, which is better for heavy-duty applications such as off-roading or towing as clutches could slip under heavy loads.
With the new eight-speed option comes permanent all-wheel drive – a first in this class of pick-up according to VW, so if your blood’s of old-school stock that likes to choose when power’s shared between front and rear wheels, you’ll need to opt for the six-speed manual gearbox that’s still available in the range.
The automatic Amarok takes a simpler approach to off-roading, with switches for rear diff lock and an “Off-road” mode that enables hill descent control and less sensitive ABS braking, being the only engageable functions via the centre console. Other than that, it’s just a normal automatic gear selector with a sequential style forward and back shift feature that could come in handy while towing.
There’s no traditional transfer case as in manual transmission Amaroks with four-wheel drive, but VW says the first gear ratio in the eight-speeder is similar to what low range would be anyway. In normal driving conditions, the bakkie pulls off from a stop in second or even third gear in some circumstances and only selects first when towing (up to three tons) or if the gas pedal is really stomped on.
Eighth gear is an overdrive ratio that will activate in highway situations, and helps the biturbo TDI engine return a claimed consumption average of 8.3l/100km.
GEARBOX ENJOYS HUNTING
Volkswagen introduced its latest Amarok to the media at a remote desert locale in Namibia last week, where long, straight diamond-mining roads and steep inclines up sandy dunes had the new transmission hunting up and down for the correct ratios on a regular basis. It does so almost seamlessly, with an almost DSG-typical shift speed, and I was impressed with the gearbox’s perceptiveness to terrain and available traction.
Still, I think Volkswagen should consider a bigger displacement engine option in its bakkie range, especially in a market like ours where frequent recreational activities require big hauling power, but for now the Amarok’s eight-speed option will take up some of the slack against better endowed competition. It also carves a nice niche for urban dwellers who spend much of their work week in traffic congestion, and makes older four-speed auto options in other bakkies seem prehistoric.
The new Amarok 2.0 BiTDI 4Motion Auto Highline comes in double-cab guise and is priced at R461 100, which is R25 600 more than the equivalent six-speed manual, and includes a 3-year/100 000km warranty and a 5-year/90 000km service plan. Service intervals are set at 15 000km. -Star Motoring