Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 review

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There's nothing quite like the Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35. Jonathan Crouch looks at the latest version.

Ten Second Review

What's the ultimate kind of pick-up? Virtually every manufacturer in the segment thinks it's a vehicle specced up with lashings of leather and hi-tech luxury kit. Only Isuzu sees things differently. They reckon the ultimate pick-up is one with ultimate go-anyway ability: and this is it, the company's D-Max model in its most specialist 'Arctic Trucks AT35' trim.

Background

You might understandably struggle with the thought of paying over £50,000 for an Isuzu D-Max pick-up - more if you include the VAT. But stay with us because this AT35 version is a rather special one. It's been tailored by Icelandic extreme terrain specialists Arctic Trucks to meet the demanding needs of the worst Scandinavian terrain and was first launched back in 2016, then updated a couple of years later, before the new generation model we're trying here was launched in 2022, then updated with a light facelift in Autumn 2023 to create the model we're going to look at here.

If this pick-up can't get you where you want to go, then no other one will. And it's a rather refreshing antidote to the bling that otherwise afflicts the upper end of this market segment.

Driving Experience

As before, the package of changes that has created this Arctic Trucks AT35 model doesn't include any alterations beneath the bonnet. The Nordic engineers couldn't really see any need to change the 164PS turbo diesel engine, despite its relatively diminutive 1.9-litre size. Possibly that's because this powerplant puts out a willing 360Nm of torque via manual or automatic transmission. Quite enough for the extreme snowy terrain that this AT35's vast 35-inch tyres will allow it to cross. The tyres are so chunky that Arctic Trucks claims the D-Max can actually float over snow slush, rather than sink into it. This variant's special Bilstein suspension also helps, designed to withstand the harshest off road impacts. This includes revised springs and dampers and gives this truck 50mm of extra ground clearance - a total of 266mm at the front and 290mm at the rear. Approach and departure angles are improved to 35 and 29-degrees respectively and there's an impressive breakover angle of up to 34-degrees.

As in any D-Max, the engine's grunt makes low speed urban work easy and tough muddy inclines straightforward. It's also a major reason why this vehicle can tow a braked trailer of up to 3.5-tonnes. Trailer Sway Control is of course standard and an omission from the previous generation model, Hill Descent Control, now comes fitted, along with adaptive cruise control on the auto. For wet or icy tarmac or light off piste work, you can take the opportunity, at up to 60mph, to twist the centre console dial and select high range all-wheel drive. This 4WD system is now quicker-shifting and once it engages, the D-Max feels notably more sure-footed on the slippery stuff. Of course, once in a while, you'll need to do more, occasions on which you'll be further twisting this dial to engage the full low-range four wheel drive mode, something that can only happen when the vehicle's stopped.

Design and Build

This updated model gets the revised front grille recently added to lesser D-Max models. Otherwise, things are as before. To begin with, you'll probably notice first this specialist D-Max model's huge 35-inch All-Terrain tyres which combine with this derivative's 50mm ride height increase to make this AT35 variant 120mm taller than any standard D-Max. The specialist rubber is fitted to 17-inch x 10-inch black alloy wheels that sit within flared wheel arch extensions separated by extended profile side steps. There are roof rails and Arctic Trucks-branded mud flaps too. Towers are looked after with an Arctic Trucks Rear Bar incorporating a 2-inch multifunction receiver hitch.

Inside, the main change to this revised model is more expensive-looking stitched leather upholstery. As before, you get special floor mats. Plus a 9-inch Multifunction colour touchscreen centre-dash infotainment display, complete with 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring.

Move to the back seat and, as in any D-Max, one nice touch is the way that 60/40 split-folding bench enables you to more flexibly use this rear passenger space for packages, should you so wish. Additional storage compartments in the floor under the rear-seat base are also useful for keeping things out of harm's way.

Market and Model

As we said at the beginning, the price of this Arctic Trucks AT35 variant may cause a sharp intake of breath; it's now £51,000 excluding VAT for a manual or £52,500 exc VAT for an automatic. In both cases, that seems a lot, not only because it is a lot but also because it's around £13,000 more than Isuzu was charging for this top derivative when tested the previous generation version back in 2018. Still, a top 'Platinum'-spec version of Ford's Ranger pick-up isn't that far off these figures and a Ranger Raptor would cost you over £7,000 more. Neither would offer you anything like this Isuzu's 'off piste' ability.

We've already mentioned some of the key features that attempt to justify this top variant's price - the special 35-inch tyres, the unique 17-inch x 10-inch wheels in their flared arches, the side steps, the roof rails and the raised Bilstein suspension. The AT35 is based on the top 'V-Cross' trim level in the standard range, which means you get loads of standard kit - things like Bi-LED headlights, LED front fog lights, keyless entry, full-leather branded upholstery, a powered driver's seat with lumbar support, heated front seats, a reversing camera, a wireless phone charger, dual-zone climate control and an auto-dimming rear view mirror. Infotainment's taken care of by a 9-inch Multifunction infotainment screen with an eight-speaker DAB audio system, a CD player and 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-monitoring. There's also an Arctic Trucks Chrome Badge and Decal Set and you can order this exclusive pick-up in a choice of eight exterior colours this time round.

As in any D-Max, the usual safety features are all present and correct, with a Multi-Collision Brake system, a Blind Spot Monitor, Emergency Lane Keeping, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Traffic Sign Recognition, an Intelligent Speed Limiter and Trailer Sway Control. The auto gets Lane Keep Assist and Accelerator Pedal Misapplication Mitigation too. Plus, as you'd expect, both variants get stability and traction control, a four-channel anti-lock braking system and seven airbags (including a driver's knee 'bag) mated to an e-call system that'll alert the emergency services if they inflate.

Practicalities and Costs

The changes made to create this Arctic Trucks AT35 model thankfully haven't affected D-Max carrying practicality in any way - aside perhaps from the higher ride height making it slightly more awkward to lump heavier loads up into the cargo bay. At around 5.3m long, this is certainly a pretty large vehicle, so you won't be surprised to flip down the sturdy drop-down tailgate (which can only retract to horizontal level because of the chunky bumper) and find a pretty substantial cargo area on offer. You'll find a space 1,495mm long, 1,530mm wide and 465mm in depth easily big enough for a euro pallet which can slide in the 1,110mm-wide space between the wheel arches. As with the standard model, the payload is 1,070kgs and the vehicle can tow up to 3.5-tonnes.

You get a five-year / 125,000-mile transferable warranty which reinforces the reputation for durability and ruggedness for which Isuzu pick-ups have become renowned. What else? Servicing is every 12,000 miles or 24 months. Running costs should see you averaging around 25mpg (the manual's official WLTP combined figure is actually 33.6mpg) but the CO2 showing is up at 220g/km for the manual and 241g/km for the auto.

Summary

If you're someone who plans to really use your pick-up off road, rather than merely cruise around with it on tarmac, and you've a healthy budget for purchase, then why not? After all, no other rival can go where a D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 can - and if you buy one, you owe it to yourself to fully explore that ability.

If you're rarely going to be able to do that, then Isuzu will offer you plenty of more affordable D-Max derivatives better suited to your needs. This one though, is something special. For a few intrepid adventurous buyers who'll recognise that, there'll be nothing else that's quite the same.

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