Old Volkswagen Amarok to live on in South America with facelift, safety upgrade

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The original VW Amarok ute will be given a new lease of life in South America – where the new Ford-based model is not sold – with a fresh look and long-awaited safety upgrades.

Leaked image of the updated Amarok.

The original Volkswagen Amarok is due to receive a significant facelift in South America next year, where it remains on sale in place of the new Ford-based model introduced in Australia and Europe earlier this year.

Among the upgrades will be key features conspicuously absent from the original Amarok sold in Australia, including a widescreen digital instrument cluster, more modern infotainment software, a suite of advanced safety technology, and more airbags.

There is no chance of the upgraded model returning to Australia, as the new generation is on sale here – and the original does not meet new side-impact crash safety regulations that came into force for utes from November 2022.

While Australia and Europe switched to the second-generation Amarok in 2023 – twinned with the Ford Ranger – the original model remains in production in Pacheco, Argentina for sale in Central America, the Caribbean and South America.

Updated Amarok spy photo.

It is reportedly designed to keep the 2010-vintage ute fresh for another 10 years, by which time – 2034 – it will be 24 years old, and likely one of the oldest new vehicles on sale anywhere in the world.

Volkswagen executives in South America say it would not be feasible to build the new Amarok in one of its factories – and producing it in a Ford factory would threaten the future of the German car giant’s Argentina plant, given it only manufactures one other model.

The Ford Ranger is produced for South America in Argentina – while the new Ford-related Amarok is produced for global markets in a Ford factory in South Africa.

“Our Pacheco plant would be affected, which today produces two models – Amarok and Taos [a small SUV] – and would lose one if Ford manufactured the new Amarok for South America,” VW Argentina product and sales planning manager Francesco Pecchia told Motor1 Argentina.

The current Amarok when it was in production in Germany.

“This would have greatly complicated the operation of our plant, with idle capacities and greatly complicating the viability of the business. It didn’t seem like a good alternative to us.”

To fill the gap, Volkswagen will treat the original Amarok to a significant upgrade with technology and safety features absent from the current model – and fitted to the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, new Ford-based Amarok, and other top-selling utes.

However, it will not be an all-new vehicle, and will retain the core body shell and dimensions of the vehicle introduced in 2010.

A leaked image published by Motor1 Argentina and other South American media outlets shows the updated ute will adopt styling broadly inspired by its Ford-based successor – as well as VW passenger cars and SUVs, including the T-Roc and overseas-market Taos small SUVs.

Updated Amarok spy photo.

The restyled front fascia includes new headlights, grille and bumper, while spy photos show there will also be changes to the tail-lights, and it will adopt Volkswagen’s newest logo design.

Even more significant changes are due inside, where reports claim it will adopt a 10-inch widescreen digital instrument cluster, a larger infotainment touchscreen with new software, and a restyled steering wheel, all from the Taos SUV (pictured below) built in the same Pacheco factory.

It is a considerable upgrade over the existing model, which has a small 6.3-inch touchscreen, and analogue instruments with a small digital screen between the dials.

Motor1 Argentina reports Volkswagen is preparing to add “more airbags”.

Volkswagen Taos interior.

It does not state where these will be added – and how many – but it could finally introduce curtain-airbag protection for rear passengers, which has been absent since the original Amarok was introduced 13 years ago.

A suite of advanced safety technology is due to be added, including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and adaptive cruise control – which were never available on the first-generation vehicle during its run in Australia, and didn’t come to local showrooms until the new Ford-based model.

The Amarok was the second-last ute in the class in Australia to add AEB, ahead of the LDV T60 – which still lacks the technology – but behind the 38-year-old Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series workhorse, which gained the feature in November 2022, months ahead of the arrival of the new Amarok.

It remains to be seen if there are any structural upgrades planned to coincide with the advanced safety features and additional airbags.

South America’s independent safety testing body – known as Latin NCAP – has less stringent protocols than those of Australia’s ANCAP and Europe’s Euro NCAP.

No changes to the engine range are expected, with a choice of 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesels – both VW-designed engines – with two- or four-wheel drive, and six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmissions, depending on the engine.

Volkswagen says 40 per cent of sales in Argentina are V6 versions – and the larger engine is now the only one sold in Brazil, as the 2.0-litre four-cylinder no longer meets emissions regulations in that market.

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Australia’s new Amarok, with Ford DNA.

In Australia, the V6 accounted for up to 90 per cent of original Volkswagen Amarok sales late in its life.

The updated 2024 Volkswagen Amarok for South America is due to be unveiled early next year, ahead of showroom arrivals close to the middle of the year.

Despite its age, the current model is the second-best selling pick-up in Argentina, fighting for the top spot with the Toyota HiLux.

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines at a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

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