24,946. That’s the amount of HiLux 4X4s that Toyota has sold so far this year, up to October. Along with the Ford Ranger, the Toyota HiLux is by and far the best-selling ute in Australia, and often jostles as one of the best-selling vehicles overall.
On the other hand, Volkswagen has sold 6,476 4X4 Amaroks. It’s still quite a reasonable figure, but the other players in the market dwarf it. It’s a good ute, with a loyal fan base and great potential as a 4WD tourer. What’s stopping it from being a complete sales success? Whether they are right or wrong, there’s probably two things people don’t like about them: the two-litre engine, and the lack of low range (on the automatic models, at least). A lot of Australian 4WD buyers are quite a traditional bunch, who aren’t necessarily big fans of change.
Now, Volkswagen has made a big change: In addition to the two-litre four-cylinder engine, a 165kW, 550Nm turbo diesel V6 is going to ruffle the feathers of the competitive Ute industry. We were lucky enough to grab the keys to a Highline V6 Amarok from the office, drag out an SR5 HiLux behind it, and were able to a head-to-head comparison.
HILUX SR5 INTERIOR
AMAROK V6 INTERIOR
|Seating option:||Leather accent||Leather or Alcantara|
|Air conditioning||Climate control||Dual-zone climate control|
|Screen||6.1″ touchscreen||6.33″ ‘Discover’|
Off-road, the HiLux and Amarok perform quite similarly. If you look at the specs, you’ll notice that the HiLux has the edge with ground clearance, approach and departure angles. We did notice this a bit on the track, but to be honest, for decent off-roading, you would want to look at a slight suspension lift for both vehicles. Some slightly taller tyres, which should be able to clear the body, steering and suspension, would also be very beneficial.
HILUX SR5 OFF-ROAD
Our test Amarok wasn’t technically released when we filmed the review, and I have to say I was driving it quite nervously to avoid damage. What certainly didn’t help on our test vehicle were the side steps: big, chrome units that sit down quite a bit lower than the bottom of the car, ruining your sill and ground clearance. We didn’t have the tools available to remove these steps, and they really did hinder our progress off-road.
AMAROK V6 OFF-ROAD
What we could drive, we found the Amarok and the HiLux to be quite capable. This is mainly due to their off-road traction control systems, which proved to perform quite smoothly and effectively. When you’re driving vehicles with this fairly advanced traction control systems, it’s important to keep feeding a steady throttle, which allows the ABS module to direct torque to the right wheels.
What’s better off-road? In this case, it’s the HiLux, mainly because of those ridiculous steps on the ‘Rok. We are going to have to re-visit this, without steps for a more even and thorough comparison.
|front track, mm||1,535||1,654|
|rear track, mm||1,550||1,658|
|approach angle, mm||31||28|
|departure angle, mm||26||23.6|
|ground clearance, mm||225||192|
|wading depth, mm||700||500|
|tray length, mm||1569||1,555|
|tray width, mm||1645||1620|
|wheel arch width, mm||1109||1222|
|Kerb weight, kg||2075||2,169|
|braked towing, kg||3200kg||3,000|
EXTERIOR & ON-ROAD
HILUX SR5 EXTERIOR & ON-ROAD
AMAROK EXTERIOR & ON-ROAD
Over its predecessor, the HiLux is no doubt a big step ahead in terms of on-road driving and comfort. The steering is sharp and precise, and the engine is very quiet and willing. The new gearbox is a fairly smooth unit, as well. The suspension setup is quite firm, leaving a fairly jiggly ride over uneven surfaces. But it does feel solid and tight, so to speak.
It’s a funny thing to think that 4X4 utes have come so far over the past years, and none have pushed the refinement envelope more than this V6 Amarok. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re driving a big Passat most of the time, with a smooth, quiet and powerful driveline, combining with surprisingly supple suspension. The experience is very car-like, only just can you feel the leaf-sprung rear end clatter around on undulations or dirt roads. This car is incredibly quiet and refined, even sometimes rewarding to drive sportingly.
The HiLux is no doubt a fine vehicle for daily driving and gives the driver a satisfying kind of ute-like experience. But, it’s thoroughly outgunned by the Amarok, not only because of the V6 but through the smooth suspension, nicely dialled handling and very quiet driving experience.
It’s a tougher call than I thought it would be, to be honest. I thought the Amarok was going to be a clear winner over the HiLux. Because our off-road driving test wasn’t really conclusive, and those steps really held the Amarok back, the HiLux did make a fair bit of headway. Little additions like the extra battery mounts, accessory fuse box and overall solid feeling does make the HiLux a great 4X4 choice, especially if you’re keen to do some touring.
But, the kind of advances that the Amarok makes in this segment is too big to ignore. There’s only around $3,000 between them, and there is no doubt that the Amarok now leads the segment for power, refinement and on-road manners. If I was laying down my own hard-earned money, I would buy the Amarok. I’d be looking straight into a small suspension lift and some taller tyres, and would get rid of those side steps faster than you can say ‘puddemongumtree’.