2023 Best Ute Under $60K: Volkswagen Amarok Life

Not everyone has the budget for the fancier dual-cab utes in town, but do you opt for a Ford or VW badge if you have less than $60,000 to spend?

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While it would be nice to have one of the flashiest, highest-spec new utes in the garage, they're not always within a buyer's budget.

We've covered the cheapest end of the dual-cab segment with our Best Ute Under $50K category, but what are the leading options in the midway $50K-$60K bracket?

Fully laden flagship models from challenger brands such as GWM, LDV and SsangYong have yet to climb above the $50,000 RRP mark (so we don't include here GWM's XSR that is $52,990 drive-away with on-road charges added).

4 X 4 Australia Ford Ranger XLS 0922 003

Fortunately, there's no shortage of good offerings from the more established brands in the segment. There are both LS-M and LS-U variants of the Isuzu D-Max in the mix, the closely related Mazda BT-50 has the XTR mid-range model, and Nissan has the Pro-4X Navara.

You'll also find SR versions of the Toyota HiLux in this bracket, though Toyota's perennially popular dual-cab doesn't get serious with a good list of standard features until the SR5 which just creeps over $60,000.

While the models above can be worth checking out, it's the two newest models on the market that reign supreme: the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok.

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The two models were co-developed and share a lot of their core engineering. They're also closely matched when it comes to price.

The Amarok Life starts at $56,990 plus ORCs while the Ranger XLS starts at $54,730 plus ORCs.

Both models are 4x4 dual-cabs powered by the same 154kW/500Nm bi-turbo 2.0-litre diesel engine.

An Amarok Core costs $52,990 but comes with a single-turbo diesel with lower outputs – 125kW and 405Nm – and fewer features.

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You can also option the bi-turbo engine in the cheaper Ranger XL but the XLS gets you lighter alloy wheels for a more premium look and the interior has better finishes including carpeted floors.

They both deliver unrivalled levels of safety, refinement and performance at this price point.

Both utes have a 5-star ANCAP safety rating and standard safety equipment includes:

2023 Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok standard features
Nine airbags, including rear curtain bagsLane assist, lane keeping and lane departure warning
AEB with pedestrian & cyclist detectionSwerve steer assist
Dynamic stability controlRear cross traffic alert
Electronic traction controlSpeed sign recognition
ABS with emergeny brake assistHill descent control
Rollover mitigationFront and rear parking sensors
Trailer sway control

The key point to both of these utes is that although they're lower-specification models, they don’t feel like it when you slip inside and drive or ride in them.

They also share contemporary cabins that include 10-inch infotainment touchscreens and standard air-conditioning.

The Amarok Life, however, more than justifies its slightly higher price tag when standard-gear lists are compared.

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4 X 4 Australia Ford Ranger XLS 0922 086

Exterior advantages for the Volkswagen include 17-inch alloy wheels vs the Ranger's 16s, LED headlights and fog lights where the Ford uses halogens, and only the Amarok has rear privacy glass. One plus for the Ford is that it has front parking sensors not just rear sensors.

Inside, the Ranger XLS can't match the Amarok Life's leather-covered steering wheel and gear lever, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and wireless phone charging. Tyre-pressure monitoring is also only available on the German (South African-built) ute.

4 X 4 Australia Ford Ranger XLS 0922 043

LED headlights offer a huge improvement to driveability and safety at night, and having them in a ute at this level is a credit to Volkswagen. In fact, they are standard fit right across the new Amarok range.

As for tyre pressures, unless you are one of those rare folk who check at least weekly, we say a TPMS system is essential equipment. As the name suggests, they alert the driver to a drop in tyre pressure or sudden deflation, which could save your life by ensuring the optimal operation of the vehicle's driver assistance safety systems.

Best Utes: Read the full series

Wheels Best Utes 2023 is your ultimate guide to the top picks in this vast and varied segment.


In XLS trim, the Ranger struggles against the Amarok Life for equipment.

The new Ranger and Amarok siblings are very similar vehicles, as you would expect, and they each represent the latest generation of mid-size utes in Australia.

It's no shock that they're not easy to separate.

The Ranger is at its best above $60,000, from XLT spec upwards, and (narrowly) wins most battles against the equivalent Amarok at higher trim levels. In XLS trim, however, it struggles against the Amarok Life for equipment.

This is no better illustrated by the fact that, to match all the Life's features in the Ranger, you'd even need to bypass the XLT model for the Sport that's priced from $64,990.

When those features include genuinely useful driver aids like LED headlights and tyre-pressure monitoring, and modern conveniences such as wireless phone charging, that makes the Volkswagen Amarok Life the clear winner of our Best Ute Under $60K category

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VW Amarok LifeFord Ranger XLS
Safety, value and features87
Comfort and space8.58
Engine and gearbox8.58.5
Ride and handling88
Ford Ranger XLSVolkswagen Amarok Life
Price$59,653 (estimated driveaway price)$56,990 + ORC and options
Engine2.0L four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel2.0L 4-cylinder bi-turbo diesel
Max power154kW @ 3750rpm154kW
Max torque500Nm between 1750-2000rpm500Nm
Transmission10-Speed automatic10-speed automatic
4X4 systemPart time 4x4part-time, dual range 4x4 + rear diff lock
Constructionfour-door ute on ladder frame4-door ute cab with tub on ladder chassis
Front suspensionIndependent via wishbones and coil springsdouble wishbone IFS with coils
Rear suspensionSolid axle with leaf springslive axle on leaf springs
Tyres255x70R16255/70-17 on alloys
Kerb weight2216kg2242kg tare
Towing capacity3500kg3500kg (braked)
Fuel tank80L80L
ADR fuel claim7.6L/100km7.2L/100km

Visit our Best Utes page to find the right ute for you.

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