Vital Stats

Turbodiesel 2.0L I4
178 HP / 310 LB-FT
6-Speed Manual
0-60 Time:
11.0 Seconds (0-62)
Top Speed:
110 MPH
All-Wheel Drive
31 City / 37 HWY (Euro cycle)
Base Price:
20,000 pounds
As Tested Price:
37,841 pounds
There are those European automakers that compete in the North American market and those which don't. Volkswagen, for its part, may stand firmly in the former category, but there are still entire model lines that remain out of reach for American buyers: diminutive hatchbacks like the Up! and the Polo, of course, but also entire brands like Seat and Skoda which (unlike Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini) aren't offered Stateside altogether. But there's another brand within the Volkswagen Group whose products don't, in Wolfsburg's estimation, warrant shipping to the United States – one that would be all too easy to forget. And that's Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

Though its products wear the familiar VW emblem, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles stands essentially as another brand within Europe's largest and most successful auto group. It mostly produces vans like the Caddy, Transporter, Crafter and Caravelle, but is also responsible for the only pickup truck built in Germany: the Volkswagen Amarok. Like its van stablemates, the Amarok isn't offered in North America, so we crossed the pond to drive it for ourselves (and, of course, for you) to see what we were missing out on.

Driving Notes
  • Previewed by the Robust concept back in 2008, the Amarok has been on the market (certain markets, anyway) since 2010. Assembled both in Argentina and in Hannover, Germany, the Amarok is similar in form to other short-bed, four-door pickups like the Mitsubishi Triton (similarly not available in America) and the Honda Ridgeline.
  • The version we drove on both paved and off-road sections of the Millbrook Proving Ground in the UK was the Amarok Canyon, a special edition that's based on the mid-spec Trendline (not on the base Startline or top-spec Highline) but upgrades with more bells and whistles, from 19-inch alloys and running boards (which are mounted too close to the body to actually use as a step) to tinted glass and two-tone upholstery. As a result of all the extra equipment, the relatively reasonable 20,000-pound UK starting price (before tax) balloons to a comparatively enormous as-tested price of 37,841 pounds (including VAT). That makes this fully-loaded pickup about the same price in the UK as an entry-level Touareg, which starts at nearly $45k in the US. Significantly more, for comparison's sake, than the Honda Ridgeline that starts here at just under $30k and tops out at $37,505.
  • Powering the Amarok Canyon – an interesting trim name considering the GMC pickup of similar size and nameplate – is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI packing 178 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. (A scrawnier 138hp version available on base models.) It's mated to either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission, and drives through VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive system. We drove both versions, and found ourselves wondering why more pickups aren't available with stick-shifts back in America, because the combination of rough-and-tumble truck with manual transmission, quite frankly, proved intoxicating. (Last we checked, for reference, you could still get three pedals on the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon, Ram HD, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma, but that's about it.)
  • With the six-speed manual, the Amarok Canyon will run from 0-62 miles per hour in 11.0 seconds and top out at 110 mph. (Add another 0.3 seconds and cut two mph for the automatic.) In other words, the Amarok is not one of Volkswagen's more performance-oriented models, but then it's not designed to be.
  • Driving the Amarok on a variety of surfaces, we were, however, impressed with the combination of truck attributes and German engineering – a rare combination considering that every pickup available Stateside is a product of either an American automaker or a Japanese one. Their trucks may be able to haul more than VW's, but if you've ever stepped into a pickup and felt a bit of a disconnect between the ruggedness of its construction and that of its fit-and-finish, the Amarok would likely surprise you with its German build quality. The overall feeling is of a truck – inside, out and underneath, right down to the knobs and interior trim – that has been hewn from sturdy materials.
  • What you shouldn't expect, however, is for the Amarok to drive like a Touareg with a pickup bed at the back. It's not a crossover – it's a truck, and it drives that way (even if it exhibits more car-like refinement than most). But after a day of piloting nimble hot hatches and cossetting diesel luxury sedans (more on those to follow if you watch this space), the Amarok proved a breath of fresh, earnest air and left us with a big smile across our faces. This writer never considered himself much of a truck guy, and in truth has not driven many pickups; it took the Amarok's unique combination of go-anywhere capability coupled with German engineering to really see the attraction (especially where necessity doesn't dictate the form).
  • Which only raises the question: should Volkswagen bring the Amarok to North America? We don't doubt that it would find a fair few customers in American dealerships (and maybe a few more in Canada, where European tastes often prevail), but the Amarok was never designed with the US market in mind. And four years since its introduction overseas, the opportunity may have passed VW as the Amarok soldiers along. But sooner or later, Volkswagen will have to replace the Amarok with a new model. When it does, we hope it at least takes American tastes and potential demand into account. Because as it stands, we're missing out.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Months Ago
      Unless they move production, the "Chicken Tax" will likely keep this and the global Ranger out of the US. A 25% tariff makes the business case a little tough.
      • 5 Months Ago
      VW sells vehicles in markets that they can make money, that is why the U.S. does not the best VW has to offer, they cannot make money. VAG makes a ton selling Audi in the U.S., not with VW. You will not see this truck in the U.S.
      • 5 Months Ago
      I love VW I own one never have had a problem with this or the one before this one and it had150,000 miles on it when I sold it. but I don't think this truck would do well here . I mean 180 hp most of the trucks here have over 300 hp and most people that buy trucks buy them to tow with so a truck with less then 200 hp I don't think will do well. yes it has over 300 foot pound of torque but that is still less then most truck Chevy dodge and ford truck had even the Toyota and Honda have more to them then that how ever there is that chance of there being a market of people who want a truck but don't need to tow anything and then they can get good MPG.
      • 5 Months Ago
      It's crazy that Toyota & Nissan hadn't really tried to take over this market segment earlier. I still see a lot of Honda Ridgelines around & I think Honda is prepping a new revised model in the coming months. There is pent-up demand for midsize 4-dr/shortbed trucks as larger offerings get more expensive each year. We know Chevy/GMC is getting their trucks ready. Ford has been kinda "iffy" on doing something (that's credible) smaller than their bread-and-butter F-150. But the market has been left open as smaller CUVs have gotten more popular. The truck/SUV/SUV market hasn't been too certain as more attention goes to higher fuel efficiency & staying current with exterior designs.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Too expensive for the NA market in dressed up form - the way most like their 'work' trucks. Another VW product whose ship has sailed in NA. Of course they could build a truck here, as was pointed out below. But I have my doubts right now. VW is still lost here with it's wavering 'decision tree' promises and bad dealer repair network. 40 years driving VW and they are looking more and more clueless. Time for some more focus groups, right VW!!!??? doh!
      • 5 Months Ago
      Sorry, that interior looks like$18K, not $38K
      • 3 Months Ago

      I was surprised this past week to pass an Amarok on the highway on my commute to work - and I'm in south Texas! Since these trucks aren't sold here, it had to have come from Mexico. We often see oddball vehicles from brands that don't market in the states, but this one really surprised me. Not a bad looking truck, but I'm not sure it would make much of a dent in the market where I live if it were to be brought over. 

      • 5 Months Ago
      £38,000, which comes out to $65,000. And that's before the chicken tax, so it will come out to over $80k. $80k for a Barbie truck which has no advantages over a $22k F150. Europeans piss me off.
      Tommaso de Masi
      • 5 Months Ago
      £38,000? That's $65,000. It's cool and all, but for that price...I'm all set.
      • 5 Months Ago
      I'm sure GM will have something to say about the Canyon name. That is definitely a wanna be yuppies truck, no serious person would buy one. A positive is the diesel engine, but that interior is just plain boring. Stay across the pond.
      • 5 Months Ago
      VW will bring it here because it is designed for 3rd world countries and we are one.
      • 5 Months Ago
      It's astounding that the Amarok hasn't made it to the US, considering VW's lofty sales ambitions. They must know that Americans like pickups. The stick/diesel/4Motion combo sounds like a winner.
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