Volkswagen's Amarok will pick up an eight-speed automatic transmission this month along with more power from its 2-litre twin-turbo diesel, and a rumoured price hike of around $4000 over the manual model.
The Amarok will be the first 4WD commercial in New Zealand to offer an optional eight-speed transmission. It will be available only with the revised 2-litre unit, which delivers 132kW of power and 420Nm of torque, up 12kW and 20Nm on the existing twin-turbo under the bonnet of the six-speed manual. A single-turbo 90kW/340Nm version of the engine is also available in entry-level models.
Also arriving from the Amarok plant in Argentina is the first single cab models: a cab/chassis/tray with 4WD and a wellside with 2WD.
The eight-speed automatics come with a new 4WD system. The 4WD in the present manual Amarok is selectable - the truck is often driven in 2WD until 4WD is needed.
But the eight-speed auto comes with full-time 4WD with Torsen centre differential, a similar set-up to the German carmaker's flagship SUV the Touareg.
This is the main reason the 4WD automatic is expected to cost about $4000 more than the 4WD manual equivalent. At the moment the Amarok range is priced between $41,000 and $65,000.
Volkswagen NZ general manager Tom Ruddenklau wouldn't confirm pricing for the automatic. "We will announce the price when we launch it" he said.
He expects the automatic to dominate Amarok sales. "Perhaps two or three to one, because of its refinement and how well the eight-speeder drives," he said.
"It's so good we might find owners of SUVs getting into it. We expect it to appeal to first-time ute buyers as well."
The automatic carries the same 3000kg braked towing capacity as the rest of the Amarok range and comes without a low-range transfer case. VW claims it doesn't need one - the eight-speeder's short first gear handles off-roading and towing and the tall top ratio aids cruising at a claimed 8.3 litres/100km, or 34mpg.
The appearance of the automatic and the single-cabs will boost VW's share of the NZ commercial segment. It sold around 500 manual-only double-cab variants last year and is aiming for a sales mix of between 700 and 800 models this year.
The single-cab's 2205mm tray length (650mm longer than the dual-cab) provides six lashing points and 3.57 square metres of load space, up from the dual-cab's 2.52 square metres.
The single-cab Amarok's tray is shorter than that of the Ford Ranger (2317mm) and Mitsubishi Triton (2220mm), but made up for by a 1222mm load width, shared with the dual-cab, which is 83mm wider than the Ranger's.
The Amarok was the first workhorse commercial to receive a five-star crash safety rating, which will also apply to the new single-cab with its standard side airbags.
Electronic stability control, brake assist, electronic differential lock, trailer sway control, traction control and ABS brakes calibrated for off-road use are also standard on all variants.
Base Amaroks ride on 16-inch steel wheels, have remote central locking, load area lighting and an unpainted textured black plastic finish for the bumpers, doorhandles and exterior mirrors (which are heated, electrically adjustable and incorporate the radio antennae).
Interior features include automatic air-conditioning, a two-speaker MP3-compatible CD sound system, electric windows, plastic-coated hose-down floor coverings, height-adjustable driver and passenger seats, centre armrest with storage bin and a folding rear bench on dual-cabs.
Bluetooth is standard on all double cabs but not singles. Other equipment includes cruise and a multi-function steering wheel in addition to the underbody protection and mechanical rear differential lock.
Highline models get wheelarch flares to go with the 17-inch alloys, a optional stainless-steel sports bar, optional side steps, chrome rear bumper, rear privacy glass and chrome highlights on the front bumper and exterior mirrors.