When the Volkswagen Amarok was launched in Mzansi almost a decade ago, a lot of tails got wagging. Some from excitement as their favourite manufacturer was bold enough to climb onto the bakkie podium, this mostly enjoyed by brands like Toyota, Ford, Mazda and the Mitsubishi. To a lesser degree even the Chinese have tried to come close to the role players with brands like JMC, Foton and GWM (these to me being somewhat better built in terms of Chinese quality standards previously on our shores), coming to the party.

The writer enjoying a good view of himself…

In an era, and culture, of a people who believe in their “trusted” V6s, why would a self-respecting brand want to try something out of the box? Why would they even go as far as calling it a 4×4 (4Motion as they call it) when it obviously lacked the proper off-road components – the transfer case of which we are all accustomed to? Some 4×4 enthusiast went as far as saying that it will not even take off from the ground, citing reasons that “there is no replacement for displacement”.

Up until about a year ago, VW were determined enough to even launch the current V6 3.0 TDI, this proving the ongoing success of the Amarok bakkie and its willingness to conquer the podium.

The Spirit of Amarok Media Challenge

This year’s event took place last month and was staged in Nelspruit – Mpumalanga, on an off-road track designed by our very own legend – oom Sarel van der Merwe. Oom Sarel is also the founder of the Spirit of Africa Challenge, which is proudly sponsored by VW SA.

This particular challenge was meant to expose media and motoring journalists to the upcoming Spirit of Africa Challenge 2019, and I would personally like to applaud VW SA for this step as the average journalist is seldom part of such.

We were exposed to various off-road obstacles, which included rocky technical climbs and descents, speed sessions, driving blind folded and changing a spare wheel. To show how serious the PR guys were at VW, accommodation was tents and some were closer to nature than what they would have ordinarily opted for. This was an unforgettable experience for most, not to mention a first, but we all came out alive and had the best time of our lives.

Amarok capability

The average driver may never be exposed to how capable this bakkie is, mostly because many have not ventured that much off the beaten track and the bakkie is so comfortable to drive that one can understand why it gets treated as a car, of which it is not. The Amarok employs very clever technology to be able to conquer any rough terrain like any other traditional 4×4, and the first gear is low enough to afford this truck the torque of what we are used to. Coupled to that is the inclusion of a rear differential lock (diff-lock as South Africans affectionately call it).

I have had the privilege to conquer tracks so rough, unexplored and broken in an Amarok in Lesotho that convinced me of its off-road prowess – the road from Mokhotlong and Semonkong, is basically untouched, with some sections requiring rocks to be packed to make way. Let me not mention that this is right on the cliff and any mistakes could land you very far below – roads so bad that locals thought we were crazy and suicidal, but the Amarok bakkie took it in its stride. This bakkie is not receiving much attention as what I would expect on the off-road scene, but trips such as these, certainly do bring a different perspective and are a real eye-opener.



The Amarok is long, big and wide compared to most, but as that may be, it is a very capable tool to conquer tough Africa. It will not tackle tight short corners like a mountain goat but you will not be denied access into wild Africa either, and tame her.


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