Taking a petrolhead and putting him on Durban’s North Pier to watch surfing is putting him about as far outside of his comfort zone as it gets.
However, there I was at the weekend, watching intently as the contestants in the Volkswagen sponsored SA Open Nationals strutted their stuff – and thoroughly enjoying the spectacle.
Having spent more than 40 years wandering the country covering motor races, rallies and off-road races, I am somewhat familiar with passion, commitment and dedication – all the elements required to be successful in motor sport.
Equally, watching the expressions on the faces of the surfers it was not hard to see the same levels of passion, commitment and dedication as they worked their magic out on the water. It is a tough sport and these surfers are all athletes, body and mind tuned to be able pursue the perfect score.
It was a full weekend of surfing and a full – and probably very profitable – weekend for Durban with the baby Boks taking on (and beating) the French Barbarians at rugby on the Friday, the Springboks thrashing the French on the Saturday and an Iron Man marathon sharing the beachfront with the surfing on the Sunday.
In that latter event, both the cycle and run phases took competitors past the surfing on a couple of occasions and, from my vantage point on the pier, I watched the runners/cyclists – and not one of them ever glanced seaward at the surfing.
It was not as if they could not be aware something significant was happening out on the water – the surfing public address system was blaring out score updates and commentary all the time. It was simply they were not remotely interested.
Then, I started looking more closely and began to spot the rugby fans at restaurant tables at the many beachfront eateries – also not remotely interested in the surfing or the runners/cyclists and just sitting in their supporter jerseys rehashing the game over coffee, beers or whatever.
In one small orbit, three worlds that simply did not collide.
When a motor company excitedly shows off its planned print campaign at a vehicle launch, instead of the adjectively impassioned award chasing television commercial, there is the immediate impression it is serious about the product, and we believe Volkswagen is very serious about the Amarok single cab.
South Africa is the first country in the world to make the single cab available commercially and its reception in the coming months will lay guidelines for other countries around the world still to launch the vehicle that is manufactured in the Volkswagen plant in South America.
As the first 1-ton pickup in the VW stable, the Amarok double cab was launched amid huge fanfare around the world, did two Dakar rallies as the official backup and support vehicle, tied in with German rock band The Scorpions (with guitarist Rudolph Schenker a Dakar competitor) and generally did all it could to make its presence known. . . and felt.
One of the most significant holistic elements of the Amarok was a step sideways from the existing ‘norms’ by opting for an engine range that offered similar power and torque to its – mainly Japanese – competitors but with a far lower carbon footprint through reduced CO2 emissions and lower fuel consumption.
In the South African market, Volkswagen has established itself as top dog in the passenger car market, consistently outselling its main rival, Toyota. However, the Japanese automaker still dominates the 1-ton pickup segment by a long way – and this is the largest single cab market in the world, into which Volkswagen is diving headfirst.
Six single cab models, all powered by turbo-diesel engines, are available immediately to be followed by two direct injection petrol engine derivatives in the last quarter of 2011. All models will be available in either Basic or Trendline trim levels with 4 Motion 4-wheel drive available on three of the six diesel variants.
Sales of 1-ton pick-ups in South Africa peaked in 2006 at 108 905 units and were marginally lower in 2007 at 108 586 units. Of these single cab sales accounted for some 58% of the total. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis sales dipped to 66 591 in 2009 before recovering to 76 182 in 2010. During this time of suppressed business activity, the share of single cab models was 53%.
Year to date figures through May 2011 show a rising trend in sales in concert with the vehicle market as a whole as business confidence and activity increases. Indications are for a market in excess of 80 000 1-ton pick-ups for the whole year with single cab representation increasing in the mix.
Since fleet sales account for more than 85% of all new vehicles sales each year, it is here Volkswagen is concentrating its Amarok efforts and hoping the growing trend, especially by companies with overseas principals or links, to environmental awareness will swing the decision their way.
The Amarok Double Cab saw the implementation of fuel-efficient TDI turbo-charged direct injection engines with the 2.0TDI engine delivering maximum power of 90 kW and peak torque of 340 Nm. The 2.0 BiTDI engine produces 120 kW with peak torque of 400 Nm.
The 2.0TDI models consume just 7,6 l/100 km in the combined cycle and the 2.0 BiTDI just 7,9 l/100 km with CO2 emissions of 199 g/km and 208 g/km respectively.
New to the Amarok for the single cab range is the 2.0TSI petrol engine with maximum power of 118 kW over a broad engine speed range and peak torque of 300 Nm, also over a wide range for flexibility. Fuel consumption for the combined cycle in this instance is 9,5 l/100km.
In all cases, drive is via a 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive top ratio for added cruising economy. An upshift/downshift indicator in the instrument display aids economical driving by displaying optimal gearshift points.
The Amarok Single Cab has load box width of 1 620 mm with a useable width between the wheel arches of 1 222 mm – more than 100 mm up on its nearest competitor. This is the only vehicle in the class that accommodates two Euro pallets in a crosswise configuration ( a Euro pallet measures 1 200 X 800 mm). The Amarok’s load box area is 3,57 m2, an advantage of 10% over the nearest competitor in the class.
Payload capacity is top of the class at between 1 225 kg and 1 354 kg depending on model. This combined with the large load box area improves delivery efficiencies, a key to cost control in commercial operation.
When it comes to towing capacity the Amarok boasts a gross combination mass of 5 500 kg, some 30% more than its nearest rival. This allows for a braked trailer weight of 2 800 kg, almost double that of competitors, on both 4X2 and 4X4 models. This towing performance applies to gradients of up to 12%. Maximum trailer nose weight on the tow hitch is 120 kg.
For the launch Volkswagen chose the beautiful Fish River canyon. En route the launch vehicles were all given a load of between 500 kg and 750 kg to lug up and down the route in and out of the canyon on tracks with gradients around 14 degrees and one wading of the river with the strong flow at wheel height above the causeway. No problem!
A further aid to traction in loose conditions comes in the form of the electronic differential lock system that is standard on all Amarok Single Cab models and inhibits wheel spin on all driven wheels by selective short braking interventions applied to a wheel that has lost traction.
Also standard on all models is Anti Slip Regulation. This driver aid prevents the driven wheels from spinning on slippery surfaces such as snow, mud or loose gravel. It does this by a targeted intervention in the engine management system to reduce engine power and torque as long as the adverse condition is sensed by the management system.
Where the optional ESP system is specified it includes Hydraulic Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control, Trailer stabilisation, Load sensing and roll over protection.
Driver comfort and interior space have not been overlooked. Legroom is substantial, even for the tallest of drivers, as is the space afforded to the upper body area – still leaving enough space behind the seats to take toolboxes and the like.
Included in the safety specification across the range are anti-lock braking, EBD and TCS traction control system. A driver side air bag is provided in the Basic specification with the option to upgrade to a passenger side air bag with de-activation switch. Driver and passenger air bags are included in the Trendline specification. Daytime running lights are a feature across the range.
Volkswagen’s Amarok follows proven 1-ton pick-up convention with the cab and load-box mounted on a sturdy and durable ladder frame chassis with crash impact absorbing structures incorporated into the chassis structure in the cab area for occupant protection in the event of a side impact collision.
In addition to the impact adsorbing structures the ladder frame features five cross members, including the front suspension sub-frame, for a rigid construction.
The rear leaf springs are mounted alongside the ladder frame rather than directly under the frame members. This facilitates a lower load bay floor, a lower loading sill height and a deeper load box with higher sides and tailgate relative to the load box floor. A further spinoff is a lower centre of gravity for the vehicle.
The Amarok front suspension is an independent McPherson strut system with upper and lower transverse links. The anti-roll bar is coupled to the McPherson strut via a coupling rod for improved directional stability.
A solid rear axle is used at the rear with heavy-duty leaf springs with drum brakes at the back. Up front are 16-inch dual piston calliper discs.
Warranty cover is 3-year/100 000 kilometres and service intervals are 15 000 kilometres. Anti-corrosion warranty cover is for six years. A 5-year/90 000 kilometre service plan is included in the price.
The name ‘Amarok’ was developed and researched by branding agency Interbrand on request from Volkswagen. Revealed to the public on June 4, 2009, ‘Amarok’ means ‘Wolf’ in the Inuit language, and Interbrand also claims it is associated with ‘he loves stones’ in Romanic languages. It also resembles ‘tomorrow’ in Irish. It is also the title of a 1990 record album by musician Mike Oldfield, a 2000 album from the German black metal group Nargaroth and the name of an open-source music player (version 1.0 in 2004).
Both Volkswagen and Ford used the NAMPO Harvest Day Show in Bothaville to launch their new entrants to the bakkie market, the choice of the agricultural show a clear indication both are seriously seeking fleet approval.
The launch of the Single Cab completes the Amarok model range following the launch of the Double Cab in September 2010.
South Africa has the largest single cab bakkie market in the world convincing the Volkswagen Group to make South Africa as the first market globally to launch the Amarok Single Cab.
At launch, the Amarok Single Cab will be available with a chaoice of two common rail diesel engines, the 2,0-litre 90 kW and 2,0-litre 120 kW BiTurbo. The four cylinder 90 kW engine generates 340 Nm of torque between 1 750 r/min and 2 000 r/min whilst the two-stage control bi-turbo charging 120 kW engine has maximum of torque of 400 Nm available at a low 1 500 r/min. Both engines are mated to a 6-speed manual transmission.
Similar to the Double Cab,the Single Cab is available with an option of selectable 4Motion all wheel drive as well as 4×2 rear wheel drive.
The Amarok Single Cab’s ladder frame chassis is supported by heavy duty springs that allow it to carry a payload up to 1 279 kg.
Ford put its all-new Ranger on display for the first time – the actual vehicle launch only scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year.
“The all new Ranger delivers outstanding on and off-road performance, combined with the hauling and towing capability many of our customers need, especially in the agriculture sector,” says Jeffery Nemeth, president and CEO of FMCSA. “The producers and the agriculture community are very important to us, so we built a vehicle especially to show at NAMPO.”
FMCSA’s Silverton Assembly Plant is ramping up production of the all new Ranger, which will be available by the end of the year.
“The launch is on schedule, and we are verifying all our processes and working closely with our supplier partners to make sure we exceed the expectations of our customers by delivering a high quality, fuel-efficient, extremely capable pickup truck,” added Nemeth.
FMCSA is investing R3-billion to transform its Struandale Engine Plant and the Silverton Assembly plant, adding capacity and upgrading technology.
The Silverton Assembly plant will increase its annual capacity to 110 000 vehicles for the production of the all new Ranger. At the Struandale engine plant, the global production hub for the Puma engine, capacity will grow to 220 000 engines to produce Ford’s new diesel engine.
This investment will increase local content from 35% to 65% and will drive a host of additional supplier investment and new jobs in the component supply base for South Africa.