Our cars: VW Amarok - 'Rok this town
The new XCAR long-termer continues to do its duty, but how does it stack up against its predecessors?
The mark of a good long-term car is how fond of it the XCAR staff are, and a nickname goes a long way. The Hilux was by no means perfect, but due to its imposing stature and zombie apocalypse-surviving, pimped-up mods, the name Canyonero stuck. As did the theme tune whenever you were doing anything remotely Canyonero-ey, like powering through narrow country lanes with the LED bar blinding the rural wildlife in pseudo-daylight, spraying a 20-foot radius of mud off-roading, bouncing up and down like a low-rider on leaf springs. It had character.
Now the Amarok doesn't have the history nor the heritage of the Hilux name and therefore arguably less soul as a vehicle, but it got its nickname within days: "The Rok". Some might say this is just because it's the last syllable of the car, lazily uttered, but this immovable, brown object is a beast. I feel like if I abandoned it by the side of the road and returned 10,000 years later it would be there, unscratched, in the shadow of the convoy of VW Golf Mark XXXV's flying overhead. It is a rock.
Also this means the playlist for the car is no longer one (very catchy) tune from The Simpsons played endlessly, but a myriad of hits -- the only rule is it has to have 'rock' in the title. Jailhouse Rock. I Wanna Rock. Rockin' All Over the World. Rock me Amadeus. We Will Rock You. Rock the Casbah. Once you think about it, there's a seriously long list of songs with rock in the title.
But this is all pretty far from the point. I'm building up an image of The Rok so I can tear it down. Unfortunately, even pure unhewn stone has an Achilles heel. And for our VW, that happened to be a tyre. After shooting the Ford Escort and Sierra Cosworths (wonderful machines) at Ford's (very bumpy) testing facility near Dagenham, on the way home our tall and proud 3-tonne vessel started to slowly sink on one side. Pulling over, we found a giant metal stud sticking out of one of the tyres.
A small inconvenience -- we figured we'd be back up and running in no time. It turned out it took us half an hour to find the toolkit, and another half to work the spare under the car loose (note the word loose, not free). Fortunately, before we'd managed to inflict any permanent damage, the cavalry arrived in the form of VW roadside assistance. So three "car guys" had not managed to free the spare until one actual car guy managed to get us on our way in 5 minutes flat.
The moral of the story? Something is only as strong as its weakest link. In case you're wondering, that was us. Our reward? A couple of hours at a petrol station in Barking. Although silver lining: I did encounter another brown Amarok and the owner not only waved but approached me to congratulate me on my choice of vehicle. I would have thought this level of enthusiasm for co-ownership is something usually reserved for MX-5 owners. Maybe this thing has more of a soul than I thought...