Across Australia‘s Simpson Desert – 1100 sand dunes, more than 500km – in a showroom-standard Amarok. On one tank of diesel…
Ostensibly, Volkswagen‘s Think Blue Amarok Desert Crossing was all about fuel consumption.
Day one started in a South Australian cave (more precisely, at the Desert Cave Hotel), then I saw a grown man use an imaginary paddle in an attempt to propel his canoe forward outside of The Pink Roadhouse and Volkswagen staffers continued to stroll around like dusty peacocks. Just another day in the Aussie outback, really.
Later, after we‘d gorged ourselves on glorious steak sandwiches and topped up our Amaroks with diesel at Mt Dare Hotel – and zeroed trip meters – our Simpson crossing was in full swing … for about 70km and then we stopped for the night to camp at Dalhousie Springs. Some of us took a refreshing dip in the natural warm artesian springs, an oasis in a sun-baked sandscape. Water temperatures here range between 38°C and 43°C. An early rise and a hearty breakfast on day two fuelled us for our assault on the French Line, the desert‘s fastest and most tourer-friendly route. Some have dubbed this ‚Simpson Lite‘ but they‘re off the mark. It‘s still a decent test of man and machine. If you suffer mechanical woes here you‘re in real strife.
From the get-go it was obvious that the track was in awful shape, heavily corrugated, especially on every approach to every dune. It was the worst I‘d even seen it. And the culprits were desert tourers. David was fuming because, he reckoned, drivers had failed, more than ever this touring season, to correctly drop their tyre pressures to best suit tackling the desert sand. People riding on too-firm tyres and using a heavy right foot to take on the dunes had chewed up the tracks. He said it took some travellers more than 60km to realise they should drop their pressures even more. Too late. By then, the damage had been done.
We‘d aired down to about 15psi and the going was easy – – over steep dunes, across interdunal valleys, and, here and there, on side tracks for photographic purposes. The Amarok was never troubled, ticking over in a composed fashion; 420Nm at 1750rpm helps see to that. This Volkswagen steadily climbed up and over each dune, without fuss. Sure, we may have given the accelerator a workout on a few occasions in trickier and deeper sandy sections but that was more about thrill-seeking over-enthusiasm rather than necessity. Any concerns about the Amarok‘s lack of low-range gearing having an impact on its off-road efficacy have long been dispelled. With its low first gear and tall overdrive, as well as its raft of electronic aids (HDC, hill-hold et al), it can easily tackle most off-road obstacles.
On day three we were busy filming a 1980s action movie.
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