Volkswagen Australia and the Walkinshaw Automotive Group – the former parent company of HSV – have taken what was already the benchmark for on-road dynamics in the double-cab ute market and raised the bar to another level.
The Volkswagen Amarok W580 and W580S have been added to the top of the Amarok line-up as a fitting send-off ahead of the arrival of the all-new Amarok in 2023. Priced from $71,990 and $79,990 (before on-road costs) respectively the pair are powered by an unchanged 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 making 190kW and 580Nm and driving all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The first batch of 30 Amarok W580 and W580S models sold out in “minutes” says Volkswagen Australia, prompting another batch to enter production. It’s estimated that 1,000 examples – including an upcoming off-road focussed variant – will be built before 2023.
Buyers of the first batch of utes will get a Walkinshaw track day and factory tour thrown into the deal.
What’s the Volkswagen Amarok W580 and W580S all about?
It’s based on the Amarok 580SE and is enhanced by Melbourne-based Walkinshaw Automotive Group with a range of suspension and aesthetic upgrades. The W580 scores manual-adjust seats while the W580S gets 14-way electric-adjust seats with Vienna leather trim. Both variants feature paddle shifts, a black roof lining, and a black rear bumper and black mirror scalps.
Dual-zone climate control is standard, as is a 12-volt power outlet in the tray. The audio system is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible. Upper spec models also feature a sail plane on top of the ute tub, a five-piece tub liner, dual, side-exit exhaust outlets, bonnet stripes and an extra trim section on the lower part of the bumper.
But perhaps the biggest change to the Amarok W580 and W580 is the new Monroe-sourced twin-tube front and rear dampers. The internal bore of the dampers grows 3mm to 35mm and accommodates more oil to provide what Walkinshaw says is “a more controlled damping force”.
The W580 and W580S ride on lightweight 20-inch alloy wheels and are arrested by four-wheel disc brakes, just like all V6-powered Amarok models.
How does the Volkswagen Amarok W580 and W580S drive?
On the road the model feels as punchy and smooth as any V6 Amarok. The transmission is decisive and wonderfully well calibrated to driver input, making the paddle shifts feel just about redundant.
The suspension tune and nine-inch-wide wheels (13% wider than standard) give the Amarok W580 and W580S even more grip and surefootedness than the regular model, which is really saying something given how capable that model is. It feels like a ‘GT ute’ would, if such a thing were to exist, and is surprisingly nimble given its weight, and light rear-end.
Turn-in and mid-corner grip is like no other ute in the segment. And while we wouldn’t say the Amarok is ‘car-like’, it’s about as close to driving a sedan-based ute as we’ve experienced. Power down tends to favour the rear, which adds to the Amarok’s driveability on winding roads, and the stopping power is impressive, with a firm, but well-modulated pedal.
Perhaps the biggest difference in the ‘W’ versions of the Amarok come from its ride. While ultimately like the derivative model, it does control complex inputs exceptionally well. You get the sense there’s a little more travel on offer and perhaps a whisker more compliance. While only a back-to-back comparison would say for sure, it’s obvious to us at least that the suspension package is a winner.
What’s the interior of the Amarok W580 and W580S like?
The Amarok’s cabin was a class-leader until the new Mazda BT-50 arrived. But that’s not to say it still isn’t one of the best in its class… and the Walkinshaw touches certainly help.
It’s a quality, comfortable cabin with a logical layout and a great deal of front-seat space. All the hard surfaces are matte finished and have a pleasant, uniform grain that looks good. We also like the smaller diameter steering wheel, leather wheel rim, gear shifter, tactile buttons, and easy-to-read instrument panel.
The 6.5-inch infotainment screen feels a little small compared to newer ute rivals but is still entirely functional. Digital radio is included as standard, and the quality of the audio system is terrific – far and away one of the best of any ute sold Down Under.
But keep in mind, the Amarok is a ute with one of the smaller back seats in this category and is the only ute on the market to not offer rear curtain airbags. It also doesn’t offer autonomous emergency braking and received its last ANCAP safety rating a decade ago (2011).
The last word
Volkswagen Australia and the Walkinshaw Automotive Group rightly identified the desire for a sporty ‘GT’ ute in Australia and delivered a package we think suits the market very well. And while there’s no avoiding the fact the Amarok is far from being the most modern ute in its class, the sales rush this model has created can’t be ignored.
Yes, it seems that when it comes to expensive, well-kitted utes, us Aussies just can’t get enough. The Amarok W580 and W580S are a refined, powerful, and pretty decent handling pair of utes we think offer something particularly special. And we can’t wait to see the off-road package hit the streets.