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Our cars: VW Amarok - A new challenger appears

The XCAR crew have a new car to help them on their travels. Welcome to the "Rok".


So the day has come: a new crew car. The Leon is no jilted ex-lover hanging around embarrassingly after the love has long gone -- I'm actually having trouble letting go of it. After all the complaints when the Hilux departed, the "It's too small" and "It won't work", the Leon found its way into my shrivelled heart... via my wallet.

Although I adore our mental modded Toyota and now smile whenever I see a Hilux, I still have recurring nightmares about its mpg (it seemed to average about 20). On trips to Wales shooting supercars I often shelled out more on the Hilux's diesel addiction than Alex did on an Audi R8 V10.

Now the days of giant pickups are back, with the VW Amarok. But how could it live up to the Hilux, our beloved behemoth complete with a badass custom XCAR wrap, courtesy of the talented Ian Cook? I entered the car park with trepidation, and saw the old and the new standing side by side.

I'd forgotten quite how enormous these pickups could be, and our Volkswagen Amarok was simply enormous. It comically dwarfed the Leon, and climbing into the monstrous double cab I had to peer childlike over the windows to even see it again. So many feelings flooded back: the joy of riding through London's streets high up, being able to see that gridlocked traffic for miles in every direction, and thinking if you wanted to, you could simply drive over it. I also made a mental note to wear more plaid: American wannabe Nick was back.

Our first real drive, funnily enough, ended up being a trip to North Wales, in the company of an Aston Martin V12 Vantage S. The challenge was on, yet from the key turning it felt like the Amarok was somehow cheating. Starting it, I didn't feel the earthly judder and tractoral (spell-check me all you like, that's now a word) roar, the small-on-the-Richter-scale shake as a mighty diesel grumpily unfurls itself.

This feels (don't cringe) refined. I hate that word being applied to cars, but all through town and onto the motorway the same word bounced around my head. No wheel judder at speed, and it doesn't sound like a convertible at 70mph. It's calm, collected, and as I hawk-eyed the fuel counter every 8 seconds, could it be economical? For a several-ton beast it seemed that way, and complete with start-stop, this Bluemotion model felt like it might just have the best of both worlds.

I can fit everything in here (three large camera bags, two tripods, jib, slider, lights, overnight bags for crew and crew themselves... along with empty drink/food containers/pizza boxes) comfortably, but it won't leave me penniless.

Over the shoot I rediscovered the Achilles heel on this type of vehicle. Shooting car-to-car footage isn't spectacular due to the ride -- the rear pickup bay is bang over those enormous rear wheels and those leaf springs aren't designed for smooth video motion. But that's just the thing, this isn't designed for that, and it does so much else with ease it seems to be the one thing I will have to sacrifice. To add to the refined cliché, it is the Volkswagen of pickup trucks, literally and figuratively.

Final fuel bill: Aston Martin £180; Volkswagen Amarok £107. Not bad.