Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Phil Iscariot

On test... VW Amarok Double Cab 2.0 BiTDi Highline 4Motion

I’m handing the reigns to my friend Phil for this one. And I’ll tell you why…

I don’t actually know much about bakkies. But. I do know this: you can divide the real bakkie experts into two distinct camps:

1. The Disciples of Hilux; and
2. The Other Lot who are misguided enough to believe there is something better than a Toyota Hilux.

Phil is one of The Disciples. Which is why asking Phil to drive the new VW Amarok was something akin to heresy. He had little choice though. Phil and I were off to do the World Single Speed Championships for mountain bikes held in Winterton – a lovely little town on the Free state/KZN border, and a long way from home in Cape Town. I certainly wasn’t going to do all the driving.

The Amarok resting on my tough-as-nails Cotic Simple rigid fork, single speed

“Well,” snorted Phil as we stowed our bikes and camping equipment in the load bay, “Isn’t this ironic. We’re doing a race for hardcore, stripped-down mountain bikes with no gears and no suspension… and we’re driving there in this blinged-up, luxury barge that thinks it’s a bakkie. Besides, no 2.0-litre engine – even if it’s a fancy bi-turbo diesel – is going to give the kind of lowdown power a good, solid 3.0-litre oil-burner can.”

(We’ll fastfwd quickly – there’s not much space on the page and we need to get to the useful stuff)

Drivedrivedrive… stopoverinLadybrand… drivedrivedrive… arriveinWinterton… dotherace… drinkbeerpartydrinkbeer... sleep… drivedrivedrive… stopoverinGraafReinet… drivedrivedrive. Home… unpackcar.

“You know,” said Phil, patting the front wheel arch and squinting thoughtfully into the late afternoon sun, “This is not a bad car at all. Not bladdy bad. And it’s only a 2.0-litre you say?”

That’s all Phil said, but I’ve known him since Standard Six and the subtext was substantial. Beneath that small compliment, a struggle between loyalty and betrayal played itself out. He might never admit it but I know – and he knows I know he knows – Phil is thinking of swapping camps.

The Amarok simply never missed a beat in those six days. The spacious, comfy leather interior, and the quite extra-ordinary absence of any wind or tyre noise – even on dirt roads – made the 3000+km round trip a pleasure. It drives more like a luxury car than a bakkie. And with the speed control pegged at 120km/h in sixth gear and the revs sitting below 2000rpm, the fuel economy was particularly an impressive at 10.4 litres per 100km.

Yes, it’s been said that the Amarok might not be at its best on serious off-road terrain under heavy load, but if, like Phil, you are actually using your bakkie as more of a lifestyle vehicle than a workhorse, you can’t do better than this Volkswagen. Besides, Sarel van der Merwe owns one. And if it’s good enough for Sarel, it’s good enough for me. And Phil.

The Amarok Double Cab 20 BiTDi Highline 4Motion starts at R435 500

(as published in the Khuluma - Kulula's in-flight mag)

That's me at the Single Speed World Champs trying out an ultra pricey hand-made titanium 29er made by US firm Black Sheep. A rare steed indeed...