How Volkswagen is benefiting from HSV go-fast know-how

The new Volkswagen Amarok W580 has been designed as ‘GT-spec’ ute

What do Volkswagen and Holden have in common? They have both turned to the same team to create go-fast utes.

The same team behind the genre-creating HSV Maloo is now responsible for creating the all-new ‘GT-spec’ Volkswagen Amarok W580.

Ryan Walkinshaw is best-known locally for leading the Supercars team he co-owns with Michael Andretti and Zak Brown; Walkinshaw Andretti United.

But he’s also establishing himself as a significant player in the local automotive market, having successfully transitioned the company his father Tom started, Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) into a post-Holden future.

Walkinshaw Automotive Group (WAG) is synonymous with General Motors products, having begun the right-hand drive conversion business for Chevrolet Silverado trucks that will soon morph into GM Specialty Vehicles (GMSV).

The new Volkswagen Amarok W580 will go on sale in December

But he has expanded WAG beyond the GM brands, striking a deal with Volkswagen Australia to develop the Amarok W580, a ‘GT-spec’ ute that has been developed to cater to the booming performance ute market.

However, unlike the existing Ford Ranger Raptor, Toyota HiLux Rogue and Nissan Navara N-Trek Warrior that are all built for superior off-road performance, Volkswagen tapped WAG for its expertise in making fast, track-capable cars like the HSV GTS and Maloo ute.

Nick Reid, Volkswagen Australia’s commercial vehicles marketing and product manager, told that VW approached WAG in September 2019 to look for ways to capitalise on the local hunger for premium pick-ups.

While WAG produced an off-road concept as well, Reid said there was little discussion internally about which way the company would go, choosing to play to the Amarok’s on-road strengths.

“It not only plays to the unique selling points [of the Amarok] which are its engine and dynamics,” explained Reid. “But it also played to Walkinshaw’s strengths.”

He added: “We pride ourselves in that when everybody zigs, we zag.”

The Amarok W580 will be built at WAG’s Clayton facility, not far from where Volkswagen used to assemble Beetles in the 1950s, on the same production line previously used by the Holden Colorado SportsCat.

The new Volkswagen Amarok W580 features several unique styling elements

Volkswagen has chosen to leave the drivetrain unchanged, believing the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel that makes 200kW of power and 580Nm of torque is more than enough to satisfy customer demand. The eight-speed automatic transmission is also unchanged.

Instead WAG’s engineers and designers worked on improving the handling and looks of the Amarok. The suspension has been overhauled with the front axle line raised 40mm along with an overall ride height lift thanks to the new Pirelli Scorpion tyres.

There’s also a new custom exhaust system that includes side pipes that exit behind the rear wheels.

Long-time HSV designer, Julian Quincey, who’s creations include the final HSV GTSR W1, oversaw the visual changes. These include a new front grille and bumper design as well as a moulded sports bar that’s body coloured. There’s also unique ‘Clayton’ black alloy wheels designed by WAG.

The Amarok W580 will go on sale from December 1 via Volkswagen Australia’s website, with the first deliveries scheduled for April next year. The first 30 customers who buy the new GT ute will receive an all-expenses paid trip to WAG headquarters in Clayton to see where the Amarok is built as well as an invite to a WAU track day.

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