Driven: Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35

Don’t think a pickup truck is quite rugged enough? Isuzu can help with that…

I’m in the middle of a boggy field somewhere in Derbyshire. It’s the middle of the day, yet the swirling grey cloud makes it feel like dusk. The temperature is well below freezing and there’s snow flying past horizontally. This would, under normal circumstances, be an entirely miserable place to be.

I’m not entirely certain how I ended up here, and even less certain on how I might find my way out. Under normal circumstances, I would be in a particularly miserable position, but today I’m behind the wheel of an Isuzu D-Max that’s been tinkered with by the guys from Arctic Trucks, an Icelandic firm that makes tough cars tougher. That means I am simply invincible.

It’s all based around the standard D-Max Utah, but this is the best part of £14,000 more expensive. For that you get arguably the most capable off-road vehicle on sale in the UK this side of something with John Deere in the name.

Already a big truck, the D-Max has been raised by more than six inches, through a combination of longer suspension with Fox Performance dampers and mammoth 35-inch Nokian Rotiiva all-terrain tyres. These are slotted under dramatically widened wheel arches that, with the extra height and that bold chrome grille, give the AT35 a street presence like nothing else. It makes the recently departed Land Rover Defender look a little soft by comparison.

Drive through the city (and you could probably literally drive through it) and the bulk of the car makes it feels a tad unwieldy, but the sheer stance of the thing ensures that everything moves out of your way. Really, everything; white vans, cyclists, even proper HGVs, have all pulled out of the way of the Isuzu. I’m unsure if it’s fear or respect, but either way it makes life easier.

It’s a shame that special suspension and huge tyres don’t translate to good on-road behaviour though, as every bump thuds through the cabin like a hammer drill. Turn into a corner and the body leans dramatically while the rear wheels start slipping alarmingly early. It’s no better on a motorway, where it never settles down and those tyres generate so much roar that it’s quite frustrating. And don’t even ask about economy.

But this thing isn’t designed to live in the city. It’s designed to go up against Eyjafjallajökull and win. It would treat the Colorado Plateau as if it was Cambridge Park and Ride. Mother Nature can throw whatever she wants at the D-Max and it will simply shrug it all off.

Now that the Land Rover Defender has ceased production, there’s nothing out there that can compete with the D-Max, either in terms of abilities or charisma. The Peak district might not be the toughest test that this truck will ever face, but the very fact that I was confident enough to go axle-deep into the muddy backwaters of Derbyshire without any kind of backup demonstrates how driving the AT35 really does make you feel unstoppable.

I had no idea where I was, but I knew where I was going. Slotting the D-Max into four-wheel drive, I pointed at the horizon and created my own road, my own adventure. I might have been in control, but it was the Isuzu, with a bit of help from those crazy Icelandic boys, doing all the hard work.

Model Tested: Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Double Cab
Price: £40,141
Engine: 2.5-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 100 mph (est)
0-62 mph: 15.0 seconds (est)
Power: 163 PS (161 bhp)
Torque: 400 Nm (295 ft lb)
Official fuel economy: 38.7 mpg
Road Test economy: 29.6 mpg
CO2 Emissions: 192 g/km
VED Band: LGV / £230
Car insurance group: 22E
Kerb weight: 1,987 kg
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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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1 Comment

  1. Trucks are quite comfortable in certain levels of perceptions. I liked the concept of article.

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