Sep 01, 2023

Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 2023 Review

The Volkswagen Amarok is a classy dual-cab ute pitched at a premium price. Its links with the Ford Ranger are well known, but this VW Amarok Aventura TSI452 4MOTION distances itself as much as possible because it’s powered by a turbo-petrol engine rather than the traditional diesel employed in this sort of vehicle. Volkswagen has only fitted this engine to its flagship model, recognising its specialised appeal. It’s a shrewd play because the Ford EcoBoost engine definitely has its plusses and minuses in this application.

The 2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura 4x4 dual-cab ute is the flagship of the range and comes priced at $79,990 plus on-road costs.

It’s the same price whether you are opting for the orthodox 3.0-litre turbo-diesel TDI600 V6 or the 2.3-litre turbo-petrol TSI452 we are testing here.

Apart from outliers like the wild Ford Ranger Raptor, electric LDV eT60 and Jeep Gladiator Rubicon, there are no more expensive ‘one-tonne’ dual-cab 4x4 utes on sale in Australia than the Aventura. Its closest rival is the recently released Ford Ranger Platinum, priced from $78,190 plus ORCs.

The forthcoming Ford Ranger Wildtrak X (from $75,990) and Toyota HiLux GR Sport (from $73,990) are next in the pricing line, but they are more off-road focused than the Aventura.

The unique selling point of the 2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 4MOTION is the 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine under the bonnet.

There is no other orthodox high-end (so adios Raptor) dual-cab ute in this segment that offers a petrol engine. VW reckons it’s a feature that should appeal to buyers who appreciate petrol power but now want a ute.

The engine is a Ford unit, which reflects the fact the Amarok uses the same Ford architecture and powertrains as the Ranger, albeit with some tweaks to the chassis and interior and an overhaul of the exterior style.

Amaroks bound for Australia are even built in a Ford plant in South Africa.

As the flagship model, the Amarok Aventura comes fully kitted-out.

Exterior flourishes include a distinctive X-design front bumper, a sail plane, side steps, roof rails, a powered roll-top, a bed liner and lighting for the cargo box, keyless entry and huge 21-inch alloy wheels that reflect a ride and handling focus for the Aventura (more on that later).

We’d love it if the tailgate had a damped function as it clangs open quite uncouthly.

Key interior gear includes keyless start, ‘Savona’ leather seat trim, 10-way power adjustment and heating for both front seats, dual-zone climate control with rear air vents, ambient lighting and rear privacy glass.

The only standard colour is white. Seven metallic options are all priced at $990. Our test car also came with a $499 trailer brake controller. Upper-spec Rangers get this feature standard.

The Amarok range comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, one year of roadside assist and 12-month/15,000km service intervals.

Capped-price servicing averages out at $360 per visit to the workshop over the first five visits.

Like the rest of the range, the 2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 4MOTION comes with a five-star ANCAP rating based on 2022 protocols.

The Amarok collects an 86 per cent rating for adult occupant protection, 92 per cent for child occupant protection, 74 per cent for vulnerable road user protection and 83 per cent for safety assist.

Much of the rating is based on results for the Ranger, with additional frontal offset and side impact testing specific to the Amarok.

Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection headlines a suite of driver assist systems that also includes adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, lane centring, keeping and departure prevention, blind spot monitoring (sans the trailer coverage provided by the Ranger), rear traffic alert and traffic sign recognition.

Our experience of this lane support system in both Amarok and Ranger is it is among the best calibrated on the roads at the moment.

The Amarok Aventura also includes a 360-degree overview camera, front and rear parking sensors, an automated parking aid, roll-over mitigation and adaptive load control that adjusts stability control parameters to take added weight into account.

The Amarok is fitted with front, side/curtain, rear, knee and centre airbags. This is a big improvement on the old Amarok which had no rear-seat airbag protection.

There are two ISOFIX and two child-seat top tether anchor points fitted to the rear seat.

If you’ve sat in a high-spec version of the current Ford Ranger such as a Wildtrak, then the 2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 4MOTION’s interior will have some familiar features.

The 12-inch touch-screen is an obvious crossover. Operated by Ford’s SYNC4 system, it includes embedded sat-nav, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connection, AM/FM and digital radio and Bluetooth.

Audio is broadcast via an eight-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.

Interior tech also includes a wireless smartphone charging pad and both USB-A and USB-C outlets.

The 12.3-inch digital instrument panel is the same size and uses the same info options as the Ford Ranger, but VW’s designers have changed the look so traditional speedo and tacho circular gauges are included. It’s an improvement over the Ranger.

The Amarok misses out on a VW equivalent of the FordPass smartphone app that links with an embedded modem and provides remote starting and unlocking features (among many other things).

The 2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 4MOTION’s 2.3-litre four-cylinder EcoBoost turbocharged petrol engine has previously seen service with the Ford Mustang in Australia. It’s also offered with the Ford Ranger in overseas markets.

The single-turbo engine delivers 222kW at 5900rpm and 452Nm at 3350rpm. That makes it the most powerful engine in the Amarok range in Australia, topping the 125kW single-turbo and 154kW biturbo diesel four-cylinders and the 184kW 3.0-litre V6.

However, only the single-turbo diesel offers less torque at 405Nm, while the biturbo has 500Nm and the V6 600Nm.

The Amarok Aventura drives via Ford’s 10R80 10-speed automatic transmission and a torque-on-demand BorgWarner 4x4 system that can run in 2Hi, 4Hi, 4Lo and has an Auto mode that utilises a multi-plate clutch to allow all-wheel drive running even on dry bitumen surfaces. A locking rear differential aids with serious off-road work.

The 2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 4MOTION’s official combined fuel economy rating is 9.9L/100km, according to local ADR testing.

That makes it officially the thirstiest Amarok powertrain on offer in Australia. Volkswagen also recommends more expensive 95 RON fuel as the minimum for this engine.

During our real-world testing the Aventura averaged 10.2L/100km across a variety of driving conditions, but not including towing or serious off-roading. Treated in a similar way, the 2.0-litre biturbo is more frugal and the turbo-diesel V6 a bit thirstier.

Combined with the 80-litre fuel tank standard across the Amarok line-up, that means the turbo-petrol Aventura can deliver a range up to about 700km between refills. That will decrease once you add a load, tow or engage low-range.

The 2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 4MOTION is amongst the most pleasant 4x4 dual-cab utes you can drive.

Most of that is down to the excellent core platform upon which the Amarok rides. To that VW has added a suspension tune for the Aventura that utilises a sophisticated monotube damper to uprate ride and handling.

Mixed in with all that is the petrol engine and its characteristics, which add both plusses and minuses.

To the plusses first. The petrol engine is quiet and more refined than the diesel engines also employed in Amarok. Sans diesel clatter it makes a cabin already well damped from tyre noise and gravel spatter even quieter.

Combined with that is a ride that avoids crassness despite the big wheels. There is evidence of patter and some impact from sharp-edged hits, but much of the traditional ute chassis shake has been damped.

Then there’s a steering system that is well weighted and accurate.

All up, the Amarok Aventura TSI452 is a nice way to cruise along on the open road. Combine that with a high-riding seat position and light low-speed steering and it’s not too bad around town either. Just be cautious because it’s a long and high vehicle.

But with all this weight to carry, the engine does feel somewhat hampered.

It has less pulling power down low than the V6 diesel Aventura, and without a Sport mode, an overboost or a sensible manual gear-change function like flappy paddles, it can’t tap as enthusiastically as possible into its higher revving capabilities.

The weight, length and width of the Amarok means it’s not a vehicle for hunting out tighter road sections, even if its engine might enjoy that sporting scenario.

All up, this combo comes across a bit incongruous – like putting a diesel engine in a Ford Mustang.

There are other bits and bobs to note. Even without a load onboard the all-round disc brakes needed a firm pedal application before providing reassuring retardation. This is a shortfall we’ve noted with Rangers as well.

And as we didn’t drive with loads in the back, we can’t tell you how that impacts engine performance. We can tell you the rear-end connected better than usual in unladen ute form over bumps and lumps, dry or wet, but didn’t have the sheer security and communication the front-end displayed.

The fundamental 2023 Volkswagen Amarok package is very good off-road, as we have established in various other drive reviews.

This car retains many of the features that help that, including specific off-road drive modes.

But with its road-oriented wheels and highway (H/T) rubber there was no desire to engage Mud/Ruts or Slippery mode and take the Aventura TSI452 anywhere more challenging than a gravel road.

In those circumstances it was secure and communicative to drive.

The 2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 measures up the same as the diesel models when it comes to key tray dimensions.

That means it can fit an Aussie pallet between the wheel-arches. Remember, however, the storage box for the roller cover will eat into space.

But in comparison to every other Amarok bar the V6 Aventura, which it beats by 14kg, its payload is lower at 872kg.

Other key weights include a 2228kg tare mass, meaning only the single-turbo base-model Amarok Core manual and auto are lighter. The Aventura V6 is a substantial 104kg heavier.

Gross vehicle mass (GVM) for the Aventura petrol is 3100kg, gross combined mass (GCM) 6200kg and maximum braked towing 3500kg with a 350kg ball weight.

Take all that into account and it’s pretty clear you’re going to have to be judicious with payload if you try and tow anywhere near the claim.

The 2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 4MOTION is as luxurious as it gets when it comes to interior presentation and packaging in the dual-cab world, let alone the Amarok range.

The quality of the materials that are commonly seen and touched is high and the design is functional, attractive and solid.

As already mentioned, VW has redesigned the instrument cluster with a proper tachometer to measure engine speed. It works better than Ford’s effort. They do share the same substantial ability to customise the information displayed in the cluster.

The front seats are sizeable, comfortable and supportive. VW’s made some worthy modifications here as well.

Much else is shared between the two vehicles, of course. You get the big infotainment screen between the seats that is mounted quite low and is not angled enough toward the driver.

The VW version loses the physical air-con buttons included with Ranger. Instead, there are shortcut tabs. Climate adjustments are made via the screen or voice command.

While it has sizeable displays of its own, it connects with and displays Apple CarPlay proficiently.

Also straight from the Ranger is that gear-change lump that at least now seems to have better calibration than in its early days when it was too easy to miss shifts.

And there is acceptable storage, including double glove boxes and door and seat-back pockets.

The rear seat offers acceptable space, but substantial front seat padding does impinge. Once beyond 180cm, you may struggle behind tall front-seat passengers. The seating position is knees-up, reflecting the Amarok’s core ladder-frame construction.

The rear seat-back and seat-base both fold to enhance interior functionality.

The 2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 4MOTION is not for everyone.

Its high pricing alone ensures that, let alone the way its use of a petrol engine won’t suit most buyers ahead of the orthodox diesel alternative.

Despite all that, the core ute remains one of the best on the market.

This model is something different and specialised that will appeal to those looking for a refined ute experience rather than a workhorse and are willing to pay absolute top dollar for it.

2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 4MOTION at a glance:Price: $79,990 (plus on-road costs)Available: NowEngine: 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrolOutput: 222kW/452NmTransmission: 10-speed automaticFuel: 9.9L/100km (ADR Combined)CO2: 225g/km (ADR Combined)Safety rating: Five-star (ANCAP 2022)

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2023 Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TSI452 4MOTION at a glance:Price:Available:Engine:Output:Transmission:Fuel:CO2:Safety rating: