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Amarok, new love-child of Ranger

Chalk and cheese, that is the difference in the August 2020 sales figures for the newlyweds, Ford and Volkswagen with their respective Ranger and Amarok ute offerings. Ford has moved nearly 25,000 Rangers Vs VW’s 5,500 Amaroks (YTD). Australia is supposed to be Amarok’s biggest market which suggests, as Mercedes found out with their X-Class experiment, that the cachet of a premium brand doesn’t necessarily translate into instant sales. In the case of the X-Class, it’s now dead and buried, sales will cease when existing stocks are depleted and there are no plans for a replacement.

The Amarok was going the same way as the X-Class, a Dodo until Volkswagen and Ford decided to create a union, based on the necessity for VW and a nice fillip for Ford. Ford is the lead partner and using its truck expertise – which Volkswagen’s commercial division doesn’t enjoy – to create the platform that will spawn a wagon variant for one or both makers.

The co-sharing of platforms isn’t new and does make sense because the cost of bringing a new vehicle from concept to production is enormous. It can be a fruitful experience too as witnessed by the recently released Isuzu D-MAX/Mazda BT-50 partnership which has produced two genuinely good vehicles.

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Ute.

The base of the project is said to be the existing T6 architecture (designed here in Australia) that Ford currently uses globally on the Ranger and locally with the Everest, but revised for the next eight years to keep it fresh when it will be fully replaced. So whilst it’ll be a reskinned Ranger for the modern world, it’ll be a totally new offering for Volkswagen and we might as well call it T7.

But the big question is what will be the point of difference that Volkswagen will make with their offering? Will it be purely cosmetic and rely on styling alone to draw customers in or offer something a little different in the drivetrain?

There’s been plenty of chit-chat on the forums and the news sites about the form of these two and looking at the engine choices it seems the Ranger will feature as its base engine/trans combo the impressive 2.0-litre bi-turbo four-cylinder turbo-diesel and 10-speed auto seen currently in Ranger and Ranger Raptor with outputs of 157kW/500Nm.

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Ute.

We’ve driven and towed with bi-turbo powered Rangers and found the 2.0-litre to be quite the performer, and this will likely bring out the haters, we prefer it over the 3.2L five-cylinder diesel that’s been around since 2011. The jokes about the capacity of little motors to pull a load are a joke. Five-hundred newton-metres paired to a ten-speed gearbox means a seamless delivery of energy all the time compared to the 3.2-litre/470Nm and only six-speeds falling into a torque hole on each upshift. Driving one will make a believer of you.

I’d expect the bi-turbo to feature in the Amarok as well, whilst Ford has flagged other options.

For Ford’s commercial users a detuned single-turbo version of the 2.0L diesel should be good for 130Kw/420Nm and meet market expectations for cheap and cheerful, but for those who always want more, there’s the 2.7-litre V6 petrol Eco-Boost with a claimed 230kW/540Nm or a 3.0-litre V6 single-turbo-diesel producing 185kW/600Nm.

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak interior.

Meanwhile, the German auto publication AutoBild reckon that Volkswagen will be building a type-R Amarok go-fast model with a four-cylinder diesel (an upgraded version of the bi-turbo Ford unit you’d think) with 230kW on offer (that’s 300HP in the old money) to draw in the performance crowd. Better hope there’s a disc-brake back end to go with it!

Of course, we’re now living in a moment of transition technology-wise and you’d have to think that a hybrid is on the cards. The likely combo would be a petrol Eco-Boost engine from Ford mated with the hybrid generator/battery/motor pack in much the same fashion Jeep has announced with their 4xE project which you can read about here.

You can also expect Ford’s legion of fans will want to stay with a part-time 4X4 system but that’s not to say that a full-time transmission isn’t out of the question as Everest is exactly that. I reckon Wildtrak and the upper-spec Amarok would be a motsa to go down that path and offer a premium choice for cashed-up buyers looking for AWD capability on the bitumen.

Volkswagen Atlas wagon.

There’s been a couple of teaser artist renditions circulating of how the Amarok might look and sadly most renditions never see the light of day, toned-down so as not to offend, but there are a few styling cues I reckon Volkswagen will lean on from a project that was scuttled when the Ford ute partnership was announced.

In the States VW market a wagon called Atlas. A styling exercise was done using its monocoque to create a ute, something that’s been done in the past and seen here in the shape of the Brumby and in America with the Honda Ridgeline, different because it doesn’t have a separate chassis.

Just so there’s no confusion… new Amarok and Ranger will be built on Ford’s T7 base which is a ladder-frame, full-chassis jigger. A monocoque ute is likely something Luddites can’t swallow, like a coil-sprung back end with disc brakes!

Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak Ute.

The Atlas Tanoak (that’s a tree) is the creation and it’s a handsome thing, way-sexier than the current bland Amarok and a point of difference from Japanese and American styling. A near-production prototype was built and demonstrated to the world’s press in 2018 and many came away impressed, so it’d have to be offering something to the new Amarok project in recouping some of the Tanoak’s development costs.

You’ll likely have to wait until 2022 before Amarok version 2.0 sees the light of day and well after Ford’s release of new Ranger. If you crave German things you better start saving.

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