The best way to do this is to simply get stuck in traffic, as most of us Jozi and Pretoria folk spend our afternoons creeping along at 5km/h with nothing to look at but the guy in front picking his nose.
Some cars do have special talents, but more often than not it’s difficult to find the time to test them. That’s why we jumped at the opportunity to attend the 2013 Spirit of Africa. It was the perfect opportunity to test the Volkswagen Amarok in various on- and off-road conditions.
Volkswagen gave us a new 103kW/340Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel model to complete the 500km journey to the middle of nowhere, somewhere near Tzaneen.
Truth be told, it was a mind-numbing journey made bearable by the comfortable interior and a gutsy diesel engine. The Amarok had no qualms travelling at the national speed limit and proved to be a useful long-distance cruiser. The manual gearbox and delicate clutch took some getting used to, but once we were up to speed, cruise control was engaged and the car simply lapped up the miles. Fuel consumption quickly fell to around 8.0 litres/100km, which is unmatched in this segment.
This long journey also did its part in revealing a few things I didn’t like. This particular model doesn’t have audio controls on the steering wheel and the radio is a bit 2005, if you know what I mean. It doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity, USB or an auxiliary input. At this price all of this should really be standard fitment.
Other than the above, the Amarok was very easy to live with. It’s closer to an SUV than an LCV, which makes it the best option for someone who spends most of his time on the blacktop. I could easily see myself living with one on a day-to-day basis.
Those who do like to use their car for the odd off-road excursion will be pleasantly surprised by the Amarok. I know there are a few jokes out there concerning the microscopic size of its diesel engine, but these jokes stem from insecure owners of competitor vehicles who haven’t driven the Amarok yet. It’s a very capable off-road vehicle that can handle anything you throw at it.
The fact that around 20 single-cab Amaroks complete the Spirit of Africa every year proves my point. This event pushes both car and driver to the limit. At the end of the competition day, I was as drained as a keg at a student party, but the Amarok felt as good as the day it rolled off the factory floor. Out there in the middle of nowhere, it even picked up RSG to sooth my tired and weary body.
I’m enormously impressed that Volkswagen built such a fantastic bakkie. It is after all the first time it’s tried its hand at something like the Amarok. In town it’s comfortable and as easy to live with as a Golf, but out there in the middle of nowhere, it’s even better.
If you asked me a month ago what the best bakkie in South Africa is, I would have said that the Ford Ranger is way ahead of the pack. Now? Well, pretty much the same answer. I still think the Ranger is the king, but the Amarok is uncomfortably close to the throne.