2024 Volkswagen Amarok TDI405 Core review

It might be the most affordable Volkswagen Amarok in the brand’s extensive line-up of dual-cab utes, but its entry-level tag does not mean it presents as a base model.


What we love
  • Handsome design that doesn’t look base-spec
  • Engine and transmission combo is punchy enough
  • Limited-time-offer complimentary servicing

What we don’t
  • Missing some key safety tech
  • A touch thirsty on fuel
  • Touchscreen-based climate controls fiddly to use

2024 Volkswagen Amarok TDI405 Core

In the world of Australia’s thriving dual-cab ute culture, it’s the headline-stealing range-topping variants that grab the limelight. Think Ford Ranger Raptor, or Nissan Navara Warrior, or Volkswagen Amarok Panamericana and Aventura. They’re the dual-cab generals, the headline act leading an army of hard-working foot soldiers.

And as in any hierarchy, it’s the foot soldiers that do the heavy lifting. In the world of dual-cab utes that means entry-level workhorses; pick-ups without the fancy sticker packs and the increasingly common add-ons.

Meet the Volkswagen Amarok Core, the German brand’s most affordable dual-cab ute in Australia.

But don’t be deceived by the ‘entry-level’ tag underpinning the Amarok Core. Volkswagen has gone to some lengths to ensure its ‘tradie spec’ utilitarian workhorse can serve double time as a workaday truck during the week, and a comfortable family lugger on weekends.

Plenty has been written about the Amarok’s relationship to the best-selling Ford Ranger, and we’re not going to go over old ground here other than to say that Volkswagen and Ford shared the development of their respective utes to keep costs down.

Instead, the focus is, and should be, on whether this base-spec Amarok Core is the answer for those whose budget doesn’t stretch to the big bucks the headline-grabbing dual-cabs are asking for – and getting – these days.

How much does the Volkswagen Amarok cost in Australia?

Things don’t get much simpler than the Volkswagen Amarok Core we have here. It’s finished in Clear White, the only no-cost shade in the range’s eight-colour palette (the remaining seven metallic hues attract a $990 premium) and it’s fitted with exactly zero options. Because, other than metallic paint, there are none available. What you see is what you get.

The Amarok Core is priced at $52,990 plus on-road costs, and according to Volkswagen Australia’s website that translates to $54,990 drive-away nationally for MY23 stock. That places VW’s most affordable Amarok in a fair fight against some of its key rivals.

It’s worth noting that pricing is for the MY23 Amarok Core, with the imminent arrival of 2024 models coming with a price rise thanks to Volkswagen adding some safety technologies missing from the base model. When new stock arrives later this year, the Volkswagen Amarok Core will be priced from $55,490 plus on-road costs, an increase of $2500 over the MY23 model.

The most obvious rival is the Ford Ranger XL Auto Double Cab – which shares the same engine and transmission as its Amarok Core sibling – and is priced at around $56,000 drive-away in NSW.

At the more affordable end, buyers might also consider a challenger brand from South Korea. The SsangYong Musso in ELX Auto 4×4 specification is priced at a very sharp $40,000 drive-away, undercutting its rivals by some margin – even the most expensive Musso XLV Ultimate, fully optioned still only comes to $48,500 drive-away.

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So that places the Amarok Core at the upper price range of entry-level dual-cab utes, but still more affordable than some of its main rivals. But VW has done enough to justify the Core’s price which presents, largely, as anything but a bare-bones tradie-spec workday utility.

While our test car came finished in basic white, its 17-inch alloy wheels are anything but basic at the end of the dual-cab ute playground, where steel wheels rule the day.

Other exterior features include side steps, tie-down rails along the top of the tub, LED headlights and daytime running lights, as well as a towbar.

Inside, there’s a large 10-inch infotainment portrait-style touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, wireless smartphone charging, digital radio, and an 8.0-inch digital instrument display.

A good range of Volkswagen’s advanced safety technologies is bundled into the Amarok Core, but there are some key omissions in this entry-level model… for now, but with a fix on the way. We’ll detail those later in this review.

Key details 2024 Volkswagen Amarok TDI405 Core
Price $52,990 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Clear White
Options None
Price as tested $52,990 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $54,990 (National)
Rivals Ford Ranger | Nissan Navara | Toyota HiLux

How much space does the Volkswagen Amarok have inside?

The cabin of the Amarok Core is a blend of niceties and some features that lean towards basic. There’s cloth seating and a polyurethane steering wheel, there’s a manual handbrake (against the more modern electronic park brake), while to start the Core is a good old-fashioned key in the barrel affair.

The standard-fit side steps are a welcome addition, and while the vinyl floor mats inside might look low-rent, they’re eminently practical in what is essentially a workhorse.

The front seats are comfortable, eight-way manually adjustable for the driver, although the passenger side only scores four-way adjustment, missing out on height adjustment.

There are plenty of storage nooks up front, including the obligatory cupholders, bottle holsters in the door pockets, a huge glovebox, as well as a handy and useful dash-top storage compartment with lid. The centre console features a storage bin, although the lid is finished in hard plastic; no comfy elbow rests here.

The second row is spacious, as you’d expect in a dual-cab, but it’s a pretty spartan affair back there. Missing in action are niceties like air vents or USB charging points, with just a single 12V outlet doing the heavy lifting of keeping smartphones and devices topped up.

There are cupholders located in a fold-down armrest, while the outboard seats are equipped with ISOFIX child seat mounts. Additionally, two top-tether anchors are located on the outboard seat backs.

Aside from the immediate impact of that impressive tablet-style touchscreen, the cabin remains largely a work zone, with hard plastics in abundance, durable seat trims and easy-to-clean vinyl flooring.

Out back is where the Amarok Core earns its stripes, with a workmanlike (and unlined) tub measuring in at 1544mm long, 1224mm wide between the wheel arches and 529mm deep. It’s capable of accepting an Australian standard pallet. There are six-tie down points in the tub, rated to 400kg each, although noticeable by its absence is a 12V plug available higher up the Amarok range.

Payload is rated at 1042kg, the best of any Amarok in the range. The next model up the range ladder, the Amarok Life, is rated to 988kg, dropping to 872kg in the range-topping Aventura.

The Core’s 1042kg payload is decent for a workhorse, and mid-pack when compared against its main rivals, not quite at the level of the Navara SL Auto and its 1117kg, or the Ranger XL’s 1054kg, but ahead of the HiLux Workmate’s even 1000kg.

The Amarok Core comes standard with a tow bar and 12-pin trailer plug. Towing is rated at 3500kg braked or 750kg unbraked, par for the segment.

2024 Volkswagen Amarok TDI405 Core
Seats Five
Tray size 1544mm (load length)
1224mm (between wheel arches)
529mm (height)
Length 5362mm
Width 2208mm
Height 1884mm
Wheelbase 3270mm

Does the Volkswagen Amarok have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

A 10-inch portrait-style touchscreen hosts the Amarok Core’s infotainment system. It’s pretty basic at this end of the range, fundamentally playing host to your smartphone.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto able to be paired with either a cabled or wireless connection. There’s AM/FM/DAB+ radio, and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming. While a basic four-speaker sound system sounds pretty grim on paper, it proved surprisingly adequate with good sound quality.

There’s no satellite navigation, so you’ll need your smartphone if you need route guidance. That’s no big deal, as we have found time and time again that mapping via Apple or Android is usually superior to native systems.

Using the climate controls is an exercise in frustration. Buried inside the touchscreen, accessed via a ‘Climate’ tab on the screen, it takes several inputs to adjust things like temperature, fan speed or even the direction of airflow. We’re looking forward to the day when car makers realise that some things simply shouldn’t be digitised.

Is the Volkswagen Amarok a safe car?

The entire Volkswagen Amarok range was awarded a five-star ANCAP independent safety rating in 2023.

It scored well in adult occupant protection at 86 per cent, an excellent 93 per cent for child occupant protection, 74 per cent in vulnerable road user protection and 83 per cent for its safety assist systems.

2024 Volkswagen Amarok TDI405 Core
ANCAP rating Five stars (tested 2022)
Safety report ANCAP report

What safety technology does the Volkswagen Amarok have?

The Amarok Core is equipped with autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist monitoring, lane-keeping assist with departure warning, intelligent speed limiter with speed sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, a rear-view camera, tyre pressure monitoring, driver attention alert, and front and rear parking sensors.

The Amarok Core misses out on a couple of key safety items including blind-spot minoring and rear cross-traffic alert, while higher grades of Amarok also get a 360-degree camera. For new vehicles ordered after February 1, 2024 the Core adds the missing blind spot and rear cross-traffic tech which accounts for the price rise on MY24 models.

A suite of nine airbags, including the relatively new front-centre ’bag that mitigates head clashes between occupants in the event of an accident, is standard across the Amarok range.

Crucially, for those who use their dual-cabs as family haulers, the airbag coverage in this all-new Amarok now extends to the second row, which was a glaring omission in the previous-generation model.

How much does the Volkswagen Amarok cost to maintain?

The entire Amarok range is covered by Volkswagen’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 20,000km, whichever comes first.

Volkswagen is currently offering five years’ complimentary servicing for Amarok Cores purchased before 31 March, 2024.

After that, scheduled workshop visits will set you back $1800 over five years or 100,000km under VW’s Five Year Care Plan.

For context, the Amarok’s Ford Ranger cousin asks for $1385 over four years/60,000km of scheduled services.

Comprehensive insurance for the Amarok Core runs to $1739 per annum, based on a comparative quote from a leading insurer for a 35-year-old male driver in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.

That’s a not insignificant $300 or so more than the premium asked for the Amarok Core’s identical twin under the skin, the Ford Ranger XL, which attracts a $1421 fee for comprehensive insurance from the same provider.

At a glance 2024 Volkswagen Amarok TDI405 Core
Warranty Five years, unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months or 20,000km
Servicing costs Complimentary (5 years – vehicles purchased before 31/03/2024)
$1800 (5 years, prepaid – vehicles purchased after 31/03/2024)

Is the Volkswagen Amarok fuel-efficient?

Volkswagen says the Amarok Core and its single-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel will use 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle that includes highway, urban and intra-urban driving. Our real-world week-long test returned an indicated 9.5L/100km, which is a fair bit higher than Volkswagen’s claim.

Compounding the equation, our week with the Amarok didn’t include any towing, nor did we carry a load in the tray, while our driving loops were exclusively on tarmac around town and on the highway, with no off-road testing. Any of those scenarios would see that fuel number climb even more above VW’s claim.

The Amarok Core’s diesel fuel tank measures in at 80L.

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 8.0L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 9.5L/100km
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel tank size 80L

What is the Volkswagen Amarok like to drive?

The Volkswagen Amarok Core is the lone ranger in the line-up when it comes to engine and transmission. It’s powered by a single-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Other Amaroks, depending on the model, are boosted variously by a twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel, a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 or a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder petrol. All are matched with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

But the lack of one turbo and four gear ratios doesn’t take away from the Core’s driving merits. With 125kW and 405Nm, the latter available at a very user-friendly 1750–2500rpm, the Amarok Core feels sprightlier than its numbers suggest on paper.

It’s never going to win the traffic light dash, but neither is it a sluggard when moving away from a standstill. And it’s adequate at speed too, getting up to highway cruising speeds reasonably well, although once there, effecting an overtake will take some circumspection.

The six-speed auto is a good ’un, and arguably more accomplished and user-friendly than the 10-speed auto found in more expensive models, which has a tendency to shuffle through cogs more than it needs to.

Instead, the six-speed in the Core never feels overly intrusive or jerky. Instead, the transmission simply gets on and does the job of being in the right gear. It can be caught out when a brisk downshift is required, the transmission sometimes taking a smidge too long to react after a more urgent step on the throttle demanding a burst of acceleration.

It’s worth noting that while the Amarok Core is indeed an off-road-capable four-wheel-drive when you want it to be, its part-time four-wheel-drive system is only suitable for loose surfaces. That means, around town and on the highway, the Core is rear-wheel-drive only. Drive modes – 2H (rear-wheel drive), 4H (four-wheel drive high) and 4L (low) – are selected via a dial located in the centre console.

V6 Amarok models further up the food chain feature a different 4×4 system with a 4A (automatic) setting that can be used on sealed surfaces for extra grip in slippery conditions and a little bit of peace of mind, as well as off-road. All Amaroks are fitted with a locking rear differential that can be activated by the press of a button in the centre console.

The Amarok Core’s ride comfort is acceptable for the segment, if a little jiggly when unladen. Like just about every dual-cab ute, the Amarok’s suspension tune has been calibrated with a full payload in mind, and that means when unladen, the back can feel a little bouncy. It’s not terrible by any stretch, and we’ve encountered much worse in dual-cabs of all persuasions.

The saving grace here is the Amarok’s excellent Continental highway-terrain tyres that wrap around the standard 17-inch alloys. With a nice fat sidewall, the Contis play their part in absorbing some of the lumps and bumps that blight out roads, flattering the dual-cab ute’s ride comfort.

The steering feels nicely tuned too, responsive to inputs without that laziness we sometimes see in the segment, especially in older utes. It doesn’t feel overly heavy either, making for a surprisingly easy time of navigating urban enclaves and parking.

The brakes, though, do require some adjustment to your thinking behind the wheel. Discs up front but decidedly old-school and low-tech drums at rear, the Core does require a little longer to pull up than if it were fitted with discs all around like those Amaroks higher up the range ladder.

While we did not have the opportunity to take the Core off-road this time around, we have previously tested both its abilities on loose surfaces as well as seeing how it composed itself with 900kg in the tray. You can read more here.

Instead, our largely urban week with the Amarok demonstrated that despite its entry-level standing in the broader range, the Amarok Core is perfectly adept at handling daily driving duties with the family on board.

Key details 2024 Volkswagen Amarok TDI405 Core
Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power 125kW @ 3500rpm
Torque 405Nm @ 1750–2500rpm
Drive type Part-time four-wheel drive
Transmission 6-speed torque converter automatic
Power-to-weight ratio 56.6kW/t
Weight (tare) 2208kg
Spare tyre type Full-size
Tow rating 3500kg braked
750kg unbraked
Turning circle 12.8m

Should I buy a Volkswagen Amarok?

As more and more Australians are buying dual-cab utes as their multifunctional vehicle, it’s not surprising that manufacturers everywhere have upped the ante. Once the domain of tradies and hardcore off-roaders, buyers today are looking for more comfort, more features, and more safety technology than ever before.

The Volkswagen Amarok Core delivers on all fronts, although the omission of some key safety technologies is a bit of a letdown. Still, in terms of where it once was to where it sits now in the segment, the most affordable Amarok can serve three masters – the weekday tradie, the weekend off-road warrior, and the family hauler – all in one handsomely designed package.

Sure, the limelight remains firmly on those more family-focussed variants further up the range, but if your needs run to a dual-cab that can comfortably carry the family while serving capably as a rough-and-tumble work truck, then the Volkswagen Amarok Core is well worth a spot on your shortlist.

How do I buy a Volkswagen Amarok – next steps?

While it would be easy to suggest that Amaroks higher up the food chain – such as the Life or the Style – might represent better value in terms of standard equipment and a more powerful engine and transmission combination, there’s a simple charm to the entry-level Core that’s hard not to like. And we’d argue the six-speed auto is a better bet than the busy 10-speed found in those models.

And if you can live without blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, snaffling a 2023 Amarok Core will save you around $2500 over updated 2024 models that will start arriving in dealerships soon.

For those looking to enter the Amarok fray, Volkswagen Australia says it has “good stock on the ground for immediate delivery, depending on the dealer”. It’s worth checking with your local dealer, which you can do online here.

As always, we’d recommend test-driving the Amarok Core against some of its rivals in the segment such as the Nissan Navara, Toyota HiLux or Ford Ranger.

And if you want to stay updated with everything that’s happened to this car since our review, you’ll find all the latest news here.

Ratings Breakdown

2023 Volkswagen Amarok TDI405 Core Utility Dual Cab

7.4/ 10

Infotainment & Connectivity

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Rob Margeit is an award-winning Australian motoring journalist and editor who has been writing about cars and motorsport for over 25 years. A former editor of Australian Auto Action, Rob’s work has also appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Wheels, Motor Magazine, Street Machine and Top Gear Australia. Rob’s current rides include a 1996 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and a 2000 Honda HR-V Sport.

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