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  • Diesel Duel: Chevrolet Colorado vs. Volkswagen Amarok

Diesel Duel: Chevrolet Colorado vs. Volkswagen Amarok

Is the U.S. Really Missing Out?

Nov 25, 2014
Ever since it was introduced in 2009, we’ve heard from legions of truck enthusiasts how much they’d like to see the Volkswagen Amarok sold in the U.S. Likewise, we’re intrigued by its refinement, thrifty TDI power, and urban-friendly size. Volkswagen has said the current global Amarok is too small for the U.S. market and that if the company ever fields a pickup model in the U.S., it will likely be either exclusive to the North American market, or a larger, next-generation Amarok.
But with the introduction and announcement of optional diesel power for the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, even if the Amarok or a similar model came stateside, it would have some automatic competition, not to mention the expected optional Cummins I-4 in the next-generation Nissan Frontier.
We decided to take a look at exactly how closely the Amarok and the Colorado stack up to each other, and if we’re really missing out by not getting VW’s pickup.
Size
The Amarok’s wheelbase is 121.9 inches. The shortbed crew cab Colorado’s is 128.3 inches. Width-wise, the Amarok is actually slightly wider than the Colorado, at 76.9 inches vs. 74.3 inches. In overall length, the Colorado is once again slightly longer at 212.7 inches compared to the Amarok’s 206.9-inch overall length. The Amarok is offered in some markets with an extended bed, but the extra length looks tacked on, and the side of the bed has an unsightly vertical cut-line showing where the extra length was added. The Colorado is also offered with a longer bed, bringing the total wheelbase to 140.5 inches and overall length to 224.9 inches.
Photo 5/9   |   2015 Chevrolet Colorado Interior
Weight
Despite its larger overall dimensions, the Colorado is slightly lighter than the Amarok, which starts at 4,537 pounds and tops out at a chunky 4,658 pounds. The Colorado starts out at 3,960 in two-wheel-drive extended-cab form and tops out at 4,450 for a crew cab longbed four-wheel drive. The 2.8L Duramax diesel, including its associated emissions after-treatment equipment, will likely add an additional 100 to 150 pounds, ultimately making it about the same weight or even slightly heavier than the Amarok. But despite its larger size, the Colorado has a minimal weight penalty over the Amarok.
Power
The Colorado has a choice of three powerplants: a 2.5L, 200hp, 191-lb-ft I-4; a 3.6L, 305hp, 269-lb-ft V-6; and a 2.8L, 181hp, 369-lb-ft (est.) I-4 diesel. All except the base I-4 are mated exclusively to a six-speed automatic. In some markets, the Amarok is offered with a 2.0L gas turbo I-4, but the vast majority of them are equipped with VW’s 2.0L TDI I-4, in several states of tune. The base engine produces 140 hp and 251 lb-ft. The higher-output TDI makes 180 hp and 295 or 310 lb-ft, depending on if it’s equipped with a manual or automatic transmission. Speaking of automatic transmissions, the newest Amaroks have an eight-speed, compared to the Colorado’s six-speed. The Colorado may eventually get an eight-speed, but all indications are that for the time being, six will be it. The other big unknown is fuel economy. Some extrapolations could be made using European fuel economy standards, but an apples-to-apples comparison to U.S. equivalents is hard. EPA figures for the diesel Colorado have not yet been announced, but many are hoping for or expecting a 30-mpg highway figure for the two-wheel-drive model.
Photo 9/9   |   2013 Volkswagen Amarok Canyon Dash
Capability
The Amarok has a maximum towing capacity of between 6,613 and 7,055 pounds. The current maximum rating for the Colorado is 7,000 pounds, although the global diesel model is rated at 7,700 pounds, suggesting a bump in towing capacity is possible for the U.S. model, possibly as high as the global model. However, the Amarok has a significant advantage in payload, with a 2,451-pound maximum capacity rating, compared to the Colorado’s 1,590-pound rating. However, it’s important to note that in many of the Amarok’s markets, there are no equivalents of fullsize ½-tons as there are in the U.S. with the F-150, Silverado, and Ram 1500, meaning the Amarok is often called upon for heavier-duty hauling than most midsizers would be asked to do in the states.
Styling and Features
As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we think the Amarok, the Colorado, and its sibling GMC Canyon are all handsome, rugged-looking little haulers. GM has also definitely brought its A game with the Colorado and Canyon’s equipment level, with a touchscreen center stack with navigation, available 4G LTE built-in hotspot capability, and tastefully trimmed interiors. Volkswagens are renowned for their interior styling and refinement, and not having seen the Amarok’s interior up close, we can’t vouch for its comparative richness. If VW ever does bring a pickup to the U.S. market, you can bet it’ll be aiming for best-in-class interior appointments, but as it stands, the Colorado and Canyon put the current Tacoma and Frontier interiors to shame.
Pricing
Any discussion of comparative pricing between these two models is strictly academic, due to the continued existence of the “Chicken Tax,” which effectively prohibits the importation of the Amarok until VW decides to make it in Mexico or the U.S.A. In the U.K., the Amarok starts at $32,886 before the addition of VAT. Fully equipped, the Amarok easily tops $40,000. A loaded GMC Canyon goes for a little more than $40k, and that’s before the addition of the diesel, which we expect to add between $2,500 and $4,000 to the price. Whichever way you slice it, the days of the “cheap” new truck are over.

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