VW Amarok gets eight-speed automatic for 2012

Volkswagen's pickup also gets a more powerful and more efficient engine.

In the not too distant past, eight-speed automatic transmissions were almost exclusively fitted to big luxury sedans with a six-digit price tag prominently displayed on the window sticker. In Europe BMW democratized the eight-speed in smaller cars by offering one in the 1-Series and now, Volkswagen is applying the concept to pickup trucks.

For the 2012 model year, the Volkswagen Amarok will get an eight-speed automatic borrowed from the Touareg SUV. This is the first time since the Amarok's launch in late 2009 that it is offered with an automatic transmission, a feature that buyers have often demanded.

The other noteworthy change that will take place under the Amarok's hood is that the eight-speed will be mated to a 180 horsepower, 310 lb-ft version of the existing 2.0 twin-turbo TDI taken from the California van's parts bin. The 163 horsepower version of it will also be available with the eight-speed, while the entry-level TDI that packs a scant 122 ponies will be dropped altogether.

"Thanks to this greater spread the TDI engine works even more effectively in every rev range, and it is more fuel-efficient and agile. Moreover, 8th gear was configured as a fuel-saving overdrive gear that operates at reduced engine speed. The first gear is configured for pulling away in off-road use or when towing", Volkswagen explained.

They added that "like the manual version, the Amarok with automatic transmission and permanent 4-wheel drive is thus also highly capable in all-terrain use without any need for additional reduction gearing"

In an effort to further reduce emissions and raise fuel economy, the 180 horsepower engine will use Volkswagen's Bluemotion technology which includes a Start and Stop system and low-rolling resistance tires.

According to the German automaker the revised Amarok now boasts 31 miles per gallon in a mixed European cycle, making it more efficient than a comparable model equipped with a manual transmission.

Another benefit of the new drivetrain is increased towing capacity, which gets bumped up to 7000 pounds, almost a thousand pounds more than before.

The refreshed Amarok will be available in January of 2012 in three trim levels: Startline, Trendline and Highline. Volkswagen has not released the pricing yet.