Volkswagen Australia is considering building a rival to the Ford Ranger Raptor, with a high-performance off-road version of the Amarok W580.
The first examples of the 2021 VW Amarok W580 – a road-focused “grand tourer” performance ute developed exclusively for Australia – are yet to arrive in dealerships and local assembly is yet to commence.
However, before Job One rolls off the Melbourne assembly line with locally-engineered parts jointly developed by Volkswagen and the Walkinshaw Automotive Group – the former parent company of Holden Special Vehicles – the German car maker has revealed it is now considering adding an off-road version to the mix.
The 2021 Volkswagen Amarok W580 has the same power as the flagship models from its single turbo 3.0-litre V6 (190kW/580Nm) but has a range of enhancements to suspension, wheels and tyres to improve road-holding.
Volkswagen Australia deliberately designed the vehicle to capitalise on its class-leading on-road dynamics.
“The Amarok is already the benchmark in the segment for (on-road dynamics) so why not take it to another level,” said Nick Reid, national marketing and product manager for Volkswagen commercial vehicles Australia.
“It’s a point of difference to the bulk of rivals. We’re zigging when everyone else is zagging. When everyone else is going off-road we’re going to hone our performance on-road.”
However, when asked about plans for an off-road version of the new VW Amarok W580, Mr Reid said: “I think there’s a place for an off-road version and the off-road market is huge and you can’t ignore that.”
Mr Reid said the challenge in creating a more rugged version of the Volkswagen Amarok W580 was finding the right balance of accessories and enhanced off-road ability.
“There is also huge demand among people who want to (modify vehicles) themselves,” said Mr Reid. “The aftermarket is huge so you can’t please everyone in that space.”
In the top-end of the ute segment, the Toyota HiLux Rugged X comes with heavy duty accessories but with no changes to the supension or tyres. The Nissan Navara Warrior goes one step further with off-road tyres and suspension, while the Ford Ranger Raptor goes the whole way with a completely unique suspension layout, heavy duty Fox shocks, gnarly BF Goodrich KO3 off-road rubber, and bulging fenders front and rear.
However, none of those locally-developed utes have the power to match the Amarok TDV6 (190kW/580Nm).
Volkswagen is investing in special editions of the current generation Amarok towards the end of its model lifecycle because it must soldier on for another two years until the arrival of the 2023 version, a twin under the skin to the next generation Ford Ranger.
It is unclear whether the off-road version of the VW Amarok W580 will be as aggressive as the Ford Ranger Raptor or fill the void between it and the Toyota HiLux Rugged X and Nissan Navara Warrior.
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