Who: Volkswagen (and Ford)
What: A new generation ute
When: Early 2023
Why: To capitalise on the booming ute market
The all-new Volkswagen Amarok is coming into focus, thanks to new design sketches released by the German brand, plus the reveal of the new-for-2022 Ford Ranger it is twinned with.
Volkswagen gave us our first look at the cabin and, as expected, it shares a lot of similarities with the Ranger. That's because (for those unaware) Volkswagen has partnered with Ford to co-develop the new model to save costs, which means the Amarok will no longer be built on a unique VW platform and instead share much of its mechanics and technology with the Ranger.
Development of the project has been led by Ford Australia's engineers and designers in Melbourne, but Volkswagen insists it will still retain some unique elements. This is hinted in the latest design sketches, which show a cabin with many similarities to the Ranger – such as the large central touchscreen – but some specific VW elements.
“What you see here is very much a Volkswagen,” said Ryan Davis, director of Volkswagen Australia commercial vehicles. “A strong competent stance in the way that it presents. And as we've expressed before. It has genuine Volkswagen DNA. This is the car that our designers in Melbourne and Europe have been working tirelessly over the past few years to come up with a car that expresses the absolute attributes of Volkswagen.
“And inside, it's Volkswagen DNA, from the steering wheel to the switchgear, and seats and design. It's what we would expect of a Volkswagen, and that's what we've got in this new Amarok.”
On the outside the Amarok is expected to share the same larger dimensions as the new Ranger – which is actually a product of Volkswagen's influence – but with a unique front-end design treatment to separate the two models on the road.
The 50mm expansion of the Ranger's width has been done to allow for a standard palette to fit between the rear wheel arches in the tray, something previously only the Amarok could claim. So even though Ford has taken the lead, Volkswagen has still been able to influence the direction of the shared models.
This is evident under the bonnet, where Ford will follow Volkswagen's lead and offer V6 turbo diesel performance. But whereas the current Amarok features a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, which it has shared with Audi and Porsche, the new model will switch to a Ford-built V6; believed to be based on the same unit found in the F-150 in the USA.
Even though Australians have overwhelmingly chosen the V6 over the four-cylinder Amarok, Ford's twin-turbo 2.0-litre four-pot may make a more appealing entry-level model for the Volkswagen.
As confirmed by Ford when it launched the new Ranger, the Amarok's permanent four-wheel drive system will be shared across both models. The Ranger has also adopted the Amarok's four-wheel disc brake set-up, ditching the drum rear brakes.
One of the biggest question marks surrounding the new Amarok will be what Volkswagen Australia does with its relationship with Walkinshaw Group following the successful launch of the W580, W580S and upcoming W580X.
Walkinshaw has been able to beef up the appeal of the Amarok with an improved ride and handling package, as well as unique styling elements from the same team behind HSV.
The popularity of the program would seemingly make continuing it a no-brainer, but with Volkswagen potentially now having direct access to the upcoming Ranger Raptor hardware, doing its own rebadged version of the hero model could be an option too.