Isuzu / Arctic Trucks D-Max AT35

What is it?

For the 12 days during which the AT35 was parked outside Muddy Towers, this was my daily explanation: 

“Did you ever watch the episode of Top Gear in which they drove a Toyota Hilux to the North Pole?  Well, the same company who modified the Hilux, Arctic Trucks, have also sprinkled their magic on the Isuzu’s D-Max.”  I would continue.  “See, it’s got huge 315/70R17 tyres, front and rear Fox dampers, a 30mm body lift and a 20mm suspension lift, amongst other things.”  

At this point they would usually glaze over and utter something like, "Yeah, it's big, isn't it?"

On road

As I wrote back in September when I drove it at an SMMT Day in York, from the driving seat, you don’t really get the sense that you’re driving something huge, the only visual reminder you have is when you glance in the door mirrors, then you see its extended rear arches.

The AT35 is a great truck to drive, no matter what the road.  There are no tweaks to the 2.5 diesel, nor to the gearbox for the extra large tyres, it doesn’t need any as the AT35 hurtles along quite easily.  From motorways to country lanes it never felt laboured, and there was only a hint of extra road noise coming from the Nokian All-Terrains.

For a pick-up of its size, there wasn't much roll during fast corners either, though the Fox dampers made sure of that, as did the Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS) and ABS with Electronic Brake Assist (EBA), all making sure that it's always pointing in the right direction.

Covering just over 600 miles in 12 days on a variety of different roads, I’d say that my only negative comment would be that it can be a bit pitchy on certain surfaces, but some weight in the back would cure that easily enough. 

Off road

What can I say?  I drove a couple of lanes in Cumbria during heavy rain and it coped with axle crossing muddy ruts and huge puddles.  I took it up to Hawes just after it had snowed, and it coped with snow and ice.  I took it along a local rocky green-lane and it (mostly) coped with that too, it just needed a little extra weight in the back, and me giving it a bit more welly and it would have climbed the metre high almost vertical rock wall.

Although there aren’t any fancy Hill Decent controls, it does have Traction Control, which helps on-road as well as off as the AT35 is only part time 4WD.  This is partly what makes it such a great truck in my eyes, you, the driver are in control, not some 'do-gooder' computer that thinks it knows best.

Overall, the AT35 was brilliant off road, it went pretty much where I pointed it and it was a pleasant change not having to worry about approach and departure angles!

Interior

Before you see the interior, you’ve got to get in, and that’s the first challenge.  It wasn’t too bad for me at just over 6ft tall, I stepped in with my left leg and launched myself into the drivers seat.  Others would utilise the side step and grab handles.

Now, as you’ve probably gathered by now, I really like the AT35, but I have to be honest here and declare that the interior lets it down a little.  There’s nothing really wrong with it, it’s just too plasticy and dull.  I know what you’re going to say, “But it’s a truck, a working vehicle, what do you want, walnut trim?”  No, I don’t want walnut trim, and of course you’re right, I just think that a little bit of titivation wouldn’t have gone amiss to liven things up a little.

Still on the subject of annoyances, I was surprised that the AT35 didn’t come with a proper sized USB slot, so when my phone died during a long journey and I couldn’t re-charge it 'cos I only had a normal sized USB cable. 

Getting back to the positives, both the front and rear seats are a good size and great for a long drives, and up front you have 6 cup holders and a handy cubby hole in centre of the dash to store your gubbins.

Engines ’n’ transmissions

As I mentioned, no tweaks here I’m afraid, just the standard 2.5 diesel mated to a 6-speed manual (an automatic is available), which is no bad thing.

Figures are:
161bhp - 31.7mpg combined - 112mph top speed - C02 = 192 g/km

Conclusion

I like big trucks, and I cannot lie.

I would like to think that I’m preaching to the converted here, those of us who have experienced driving, and living with daft 4x4’s, either Series Land Rovers, little Suzukis, even 90’s or other pick-ups on oversized tyres.  With that in mind, the extra height of the tyres won’t bother you, neither will the extra attention.  If you’re new to the 4x4 scene, the above will be a pleasant surprise, I’m sure!

Thankfully, the AT35 hasn't lost any of its workhorse identity, it's still a great vehicle and retains its one-tonne payload and 3.5-tonne towing (braked) capacities, and therefore remains one of the most popular pick-ups for those of us who are seeking a reliable workhorse with low running costs. The AT35 comes in 2 flavours, either the extended cab that’s based on the D-Max Yukon, or the double cab that’s based on the Utah.

Despite its width (2040mm), it’s a very easy truck to live with, parking wasn’t a problem, neither was stop/start traffic, you just need to remember that it's wider that normal, especially when driving along narrow lanes.

Of all the vehicles I drove in 2016, I’m putting the AT35 in joint second place with the Suzuki Vitara-S.  Granted, they’re at opposite ends of the 4x4 spectrum, but they’re both equally competent and excel within their fields, but mainly because they gave me the biggest smiles.  

First place?  That title goes to the Jaguar F-Type, for many different reasons.

Total cost of featured vehicle: £33,999
For more details, visit - isuzu.co.uk/isuzu-dmax-at35