After deciding to upgrade our tow vehicle, the real time-consuming task began: test-driving different models, researching, reading vehicle reviews from Google, and writing down all the pros and cons we could think of regarding each vehicle.
Right from the beginning I was always interested in the Volkswagen Amarok, as I had taken notice of them when they first came out a few years ago. The only issue back then was they did not have an automatic model, which is the only gearbox we were looking for.
Now that it was time to upgrade vehicles, the VW Amarok was definitely going to be high on my test drive list. I only decided to test drive three vehicles, nothing against any of the other models, I just had three particular models in mind and was not really interested in some of the other makes.
The first vehicle I drove was the Ford Ranger: big, powerful and very quiet, which was everything I wanted. The issue with the Ford though was price. I couldn’t seem to get the dealers to budge on the price at all and thought it worth shopping around still.
Next on the test drive list was the Toyota Hilux, a well-known, “everyone has one”, reliable vehicle. I couldn’t fault it – it was nice to drive, handled great and had plenty of torque. I found it very responsive and actually thought it was better than the Ford Ranger. The Toyota dealer was extremely helpful and also pretty negotiable on the price as well.
Finally I tested the Volkswagen Amarok. I headed to our local dealer and spoke with Tony Michael from Northstar at Kippa Ring. Tony had a Highline demo model with the 8-speed auto and I absolutely fell in love with this car. It was responsive, very quiet, had smooth gear changes and in my opinion the interior was the nicest of all the makes. As we would be travelling extensively in the vehicle, doing a lot of kilometres, it needed to be comfortable inside and out. So we paid our deposit and was told we might have a 3-month wait, so wait we did. It only took about 6 weeks and we had our new car. Now I couldn’t wait to get extras fitted.
First off we got the windows tinted, an absolute must for protection of the interior – and I think significantly improves the outside look of the vehicle too. Then we sent it off to Superior Engineering at Burpengary to fit a 40mm Dobinson Lift Kit with heavy duty on the front and medium on the rear. We did order heavy duty on the rear but because the heavy duty Dobinson is rated to have a constant 300kg in the tray it actually lifted the rear of the vehicle by 78mm and the car looked like a sniffer dog in an airport. Superior contacted Dobinson and they were told to take out two leaves from the rear leafs and they will bring it back to the medium rating. This dropped it back to a 40mm lift with a nice level ride.
Next I needed to put on the three-piece hard lid to lock away any other goodies I wanted to buy – or maybe just to hide the groceries. Then went on the Hayman Reece towbar and a Redarc electric brake controller. The Redarc brake controller has a hidden remote unit which goes behind the dash and the only part seen is the little brake light and a dial to change the brake capacity while driving. This helps keep inside the cab nice and tidy.
The only issue experienced with the Amarok so far is that VW does the only wiring harness for the towbars. I had to take it back to VW to install the wiring harness and that was a very costly exercise (over $800) which was a bit disappointing.
Finally, I wanted more lift in the vehicle so I decided to change the wheels and tyres. I went to an 18×8.5″ American-made rim with 275x65x18 Hankook RF10 A/T’s. This gave the vehicle a good 50mm lift from standard.
Now the vehicle sits an easy 100mm taller than standard and drives like a dream. I even feel that the steering is lighter with these bigger wheels and with the suspension it has made it a perfect combination.