THE hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet, 56.7°C, was on July 10 1913 in Death Valley in the United States, according to a Google search. Last week, while on a motoring launch in Namibia, we recorded a staggering 55.5°C. (see picture)
Volkswagen were launching their new 132kW Amarok eight-speed automatic 4Motion Highline and a fleet of the double cab bakkies was nearing the end of a long day with a stopover at Norotshama River Resort near Aussenkehr.
The convoy was led by legendary motorsport veteran Sarel van der Merwe and we had been driving since the morning from Oranjemund alongside the Orange River in temperatures of 40°C plus and it was late afternoon when we recorded the blistering 55.5°C.
The window glass in the Amarok was hot to the touch and the chrome work on the outside was hot enough to cause blisters on those foolish enough to touch the metal.
What was amazing was that the water temperature gauge in the vehicle did not go above the normal operating mark.
I remember the days when travelling through the hot Karoo brought the sight of many cars parked at the side of the road, bonnets up, and steam pouring out from a "cooked" engine.
Those days are long gone with most modern cars handling the heat with ease – but 55.5°C is an extreme condition and one would have thought was on the limits for any vehicle.
Getting back to the main purpose of the trip, the launch of the eight-speed automatic Amarok, the two-day adventure was conducted in some very tough conditions, from soft desert sand to tyre- shredding rocky mountain conditions and of course the unbearable heat.
This new transmission system, which has a permanent four-wheel drive, makes it highly capable in all-terrain use and combines a high degree of ride comfort and good off-road abilities with an excellent level of fuel consumption.
The combined fuel consumption of just 8.3 litres per 100km and CO2emissions of 219g/km set this derivative apart in the 1-ton bakkie market. The vehicle is the first bakkie in its class to have a transmission system of this kind. The eight-speed automatic transmission was specially developed for it.
The development emphasis was on efficiency, smooth gear shifting, weight reduction and reliability. The gearshift speed is at the level of the sportier DSG transmission.
The eight-speed automatic transmission uses a torque converter. This allows for better response at low speeds and less resistance to slip than a DSG transmission. These are key factors during off-road driving and towing, as we experienced in the hostile Namibian conditions, which included driving through the high security "Sperregebiet" area, where stopping on the side of the road is forbidden.
Weeks before the trip, VW had to supply a list of the media and copies of their identity documents to the Namdeb Diamond Corporation's security.
The convoy was warned that it was being monitored by "satellite" but I doubt that – even De Beers' security does not extend to space! However, we saw constant military and security vehicles patrolling the roads.
The Amarok's new automatic transmission is combined with a 132kW 2.0-litre Bi-turbo TDI engine. It has maximum torque of 420nm Newton that is available at 1750rpm.The top speed of 179 km/h is reached in seventh gear. It only takes 10.9 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h. The Amarok 4Motion Auto Highline is priced at R461100.