Tough nut and an automatic choice
Venture north of the Tropic of Capricorn and the Toyota Land Cruiser is a more common sight than the Corolla - and for a very good reason.
For as long as Toyota has been a household name in South Africa, the Land Cruiser 70 Series has been the ultimate "tough-as-nails" workhorse.
The 70 Series range has just had a 2013 model-year update with the addition of a new Double Cab version, while ABS brakes are fitted on all models, together with many other improvements.
The new body style - which is the fourth member of the range alongside the existing Single Cab, Station Wagon and Wagon (aka troop carrier) - hit local showrooms from mid-December.
The new addition was born out of a need to have a vehicle that combines the carrying capacity of a pick-up with the flexibility of a double cab. "The Double Cab will carry five adults in comfort without sacrificing the one-ton payload (920kg for the diesel and 1005kg for the petrol model) or the Land Cruiser's legendary toughness - in short, it delivers go-anywhere carrying capacity in style," says Toyota SA's general manager of marketing communications, Kerry Roodt.
Under the bonnet is a 4.2-litre diesel engine good for 96kW at 3800rpm and 285Nm of torque from 2200rpm. There's also the option of a 4.0-litre petrol power plant on the 79 Single Cab and Double Cab. The power of the 170kW kicks in at 5600rpm with torque of 360Nm at 3800rpm.
All models come standard with differential lock, five-speed manual gearbox and low-range transfer box.
The new ABS braking system operates when the vehicle is in H2 and H4 modes (except when differential locks are engaged).
76 Station Wagon (4.2 Diesel) - R506700;
78 Wagon (4.2 Diesel) - R484000;
79 Pick-Up Single Cab (4.0 Petrol) - R417900;
79 Pick-Up Single Cab (4.2 Diesel) - R444800;
79 Pick-Up Double Cab (4.0 Petrol) - R463900;
79 Pick-Up Double Cab (4.2 Diesel) - R487000. - Quickpic
The launch in Namibia this week, of an eight-speed automatic transmission for the Volkswagen Amarok was not just about testing this new option, but also reacquainting oneself with the off-road capabilities of this increasingly popular bakkie.
What is it?
The official name according to the press sheet is "Volkswagen Amarok 2.0 BiTDI 4Motion Auto Highline". Quite a name, but also quite a vehicle.
Don't worry that the vehicle might be a bit light in the pants with just a 2.0-litre engine. That 132kW of power and 420Nm of torque delivers the goods and, having previously used it with a manual gearbox for some heavy-duty construction work, it's up there with vehicles with bigger engines.
How does It look?
The Amarok gets the mix right when it comes to ruggedness and style. Drive in comfort on the home-office grind but come the weekend it will take you wherever you want to go in the great outdoors. Keep in mind that the Amarok has no need of any fancy gimmicks to beef it up.
It looks great just the way it is.
What is it like to drive?
We drove around 500km around the southern part of Namibia which consisted of tar, gravel and off-road. And whatever was dished up, the Amarok swallowed it with glee.
I've never considered myself an off-road pro but heck, the Amarok makes anyone look good when the going gets tough.
Rocky outcrops don't pose any threat and even steep sand dunes are handled with ease ... as long as you keep those revs right.
The top speed of 179km/h is reached in seventh gear and it takes roughly 11 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100km/h.
Any special features?
The eight-speed transmission is a first in this class and is designed to mate ride comfort, good off-road ability and a healthy level of fuel consumption. It's a big ask, but after two days behind the wheel I reckon Volkswagen have nailed it.
Throw in the fact you have permanent four-wheel drive, ESP, hillstart/hill descent assist, ABS, daytime running lights, climatronic two-zone airconditioning and a radio/CD and it falls into the go-anywhere kind of vehicle - in comfort.
Should you buy one?
If you have a lazy left leg, enjoy the rugged image of a bakkie yet still enjoy the comforts of a sedan, the Amarok definitely is in contention for a signature on the dotted line.
At R461100 it scores highly, but before you whip out your pen, keep in mind the BlueMotion version will be headed our way come April.
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