What is it: 

Amid all the hype over the Ford Ranger Raptor twin-turbo V6 petrol, there is an unsung hero in the petrol ute class – the Volkswagen Amarok Aventura with 2.3-litre turbo petrol power – and its performance is genuinely surprising.

How has no-one else figured this out yet?

Price:

The VW Aventura is the flagship of the Amarok range and starts from $82,990 plus on-road costs (about $7000 cheaper than the RRP for the Ford Ranger Raptor).

This RRP equates to $88,500 drive-away in NSW according to the Volkswagen Australia website.

Registration and stamp duty vary in each state so check drive-away prices for your postcode on Volkswagen’s website.

Engine:

The VW Amarok Aventura is available with a choice of single-turbo 3.0-litre V6 diesel power (184kW/600Nm) or single-turbo 2.3-litre four-cylinder petrol power (222kW/452Nm) as a no-cost option.

That is, take your pick, the price is the same.

We tested the petrol version and, contrary to what you might expect, came away with our minds blown.

While the ute market is predominantly diesel in Australia, the 2.3-litre turbo petrol (the same engine from the Ford Mustang four-cylinder or Ford Focus ST hot hatch) makes a compelling proposition.

Stick with us. I know you’re not convinced (and maybe never will be) but please keep reading. 

Even though few buyers have twigged, there is definitely a market for this turbo petrol option.

Especially if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of AdBlue (increasingly a requirement on new diesel utes) or diesel particulate filters.

We tested the petrol version of the Aventura mainly because we were curious to see how it performed compared to the V6 diesel – and came away shocked by its performance.

Transmission:

Both the V6 diesel and 2.3-litre turbo petrol are paired to a 10-speed automatic and on-demand all-wheel-drive.

0 to 100km/h (as tested):

Ok, are you sitting down? Before we reveal the 0 to 100km/h time of the VW Amarok Aventura 2.3-litre turbo petrol, as a guide here’s how other utes perform (according to our VBox testing):

  • Ford Ranger Raptor (twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 petrol, 10-speed auto): 6.1 seconds;
  • VW Amarok Core (single-turbo 2.0-litre diesel, six-speed auto): 10.9 seconds;
  • VW Amarok Style (twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel, 10-speed auto): 9.5 seconds;
  • VW Amarok Aventura (single-turbo V6 diesel, 10-speed auto): 8.6 seconds;

And, drumroll please:

VW Amarok Aventura (single-turbo 2.3-litre petrol): 7.5 seconds.

That makes the Volkswagen Amarok Aventura 2.3-litre petrol the second-fastest ute in the segment – behind only the Ford Ranger Raptor.

This will no doubt make for uncomfortable reading for all the bros – and V6 diesel fans – but the VBox doesn’t lie.

In fact, we jagged one 7.4-second time but did three 7.5-second times in a row so we quoted that figure.

It wasn’t long ago, this sort of performance would have been hot-hatch quick.

Emergency braking from 100km/h (as tested): 

Unfortunately, despite the low-profile highway-terrain tyres (275/45/21 Goodyear Wrangler Territory HT) and four-wheel disc brakes, the braking performance of the VW Amarok Aventura was below average.

Most utes in this class pull up from 100km/h in an emergency stop in 42 to 44 metres.

So we were disappointed to discover the Volkswagen Amarok Aventura pulled up between 44.2 metres and 44.6 metres (we went back a second time after the brakes cooled to make sure we had given it our best shot).

The previous generation VW Amarok TDV6 pulled up in less than 40 metres on low-profile Bridgestone highway tyres, so this latest data is definitely a step backwards unfortunately.

Good points:

This is a handsome-looking vehicle and there is significant differentiation between it and the Ford Ranger on which it is based.

(The Ford Ranger sold in Australia is sourced from Thailand and South Africa, the VW Amarok comes from the Ford Ranger factory in South Africa).

The Amarok’s core structure, engines, transmissions, doors, roof and windows are the same as the Ford Ranger, but Volkswagen has sweat the details and changed everything else.

That’s why the dashboard, the seats, the steering wheel and the infotainment systems have a premium look and feel. Pretty much everything you see and touch is unique to Volkswagen.

Volkswagen even changed the fonts on the display screens to match Volkswagen’s design rather than Ford’s.

And, like it or not, VW placed the indicator stalk on the left of the steering wheel (as per other VW models) so Volkswagen owners would feel at home.

The premium Harman Kardon audio system sounds better than the B&O in top-end Ford Ranger models. And the audio doesn’t cut out like it does in the Ford Ranger (perhaps VW insisted on better quality semiconductors).

In another example of the attention to detail, Volkswagen deserves kudos for fitting extendable sun visors with lit vanity mirrors, plus four “one-touch” auto up and auto down power windows (these are details Ford scrimped on, so the Ranger misses out on).

Although the braking performance could be improved, the Aventura otherwise has good road-holding in suburbia – or on a winding country road.

But for me the highlight is the turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder petrol engine.

It’s perky, it’s lighter over the nose (which delivers better balance) and is much more responsive than the V6 diesel.

And it still has a decent payload – and is rated to tow 3.5 tonnes.

I suspect the petrol variant of the Aventura only accounts for a small proportion of sales, but this really is the pick of the two – especially if you’re a city-slicker.

On test we averaged 11.4L/100km (and, by the way, the engine runs on 91 octane regular unleaded petrol).

That’s almost the same economy we got out of a V6 diesel Aventura (10 to 11L/100km on the same 130km test loop which is a mix of urban, inter-urban and freeway driving).

Bad points:

My only frustration with this car: the key air-conditioning controls must be accessed via the touchscreen, which is a hassle when on the move.

Wisely, the Ford Ranger has physical controls for the air-conditioning.

Here’s hoping VW adopts a similar set-up at the first facelift a few years from now.

What the haters say:

Gotta have the V6 diesel mate, that four-cylinder would be gutless.

What the haters don’t understand:

The four-cylinder turbo petrol easily outpaces the V6 diesel, still has the same towing capacity, is nicer to drive in the daily grind, evaporates the need for a diesel particular filter or AdBlue, and is barely any thirstier than the V6 diesel. 

Should you buy one?

Absolutely. It’s the pick of the two if you haven’t guessed already.

This thing is surprisingly quick.

Only blokes who are comfortable in their own skin – or who don’t bow to peer pressure – should apply.

But if you need a diesel for long distance driving – and haul heavy loads all the time – we understand your decision to go for the TDV6.

Also consider:

Volkswagen Amarok Aventura TDV6, Ford Ranger Wildtrak TDV6, Ford Ranger Wildtrak BiTurbo diesel four-cylinder.