What is it?
One of the most extreme pick-ups we’ve ever tested. Based on the best-selling Isuzu D-Max, the AT35 is the result of a technical collaboration between off-road specialists Arctic Trucks and Isuzu UK.
If the former enterprise sounds familiar, it’s perhaps because you’ve seen the company’s work. Responsible for preparing the Toyota Hilux pick-up truck in which Jeremy Clarkson and James May drove to the North Pole, Arctic Trucks is known the world over for producing some of the toughest off-road vehicles in existence.
As part of the first official collaboration between Arctic Trucks and a mainstream manufacturer, the Icelandic specialists set about transforming the basic D-Max from utilitarian workhorse to continent-crushing off-roader. This was done through making a raft of significant chassis changes to the standard truck. These include, but are not limited to, specialist 35in Nokian Rotiiva AT off-road tyres, 17x10inch alloy wheels, Fox Performance Series dampers and flared wheel arches.
Arctic Trucks has its own supply of D-Max stock it can convert, or you can bring your own Isuzu (or Toyota, Jeep etc) in for conversion - although the latter at considerably more cost. On the subject of cost, well, we're not really sure what it is. We're told every AT truck is different, and it'd be impossible to give a firm price. Mysterious…
The AT35 certainly looks like a well-developed package, though, and with the Land Rover Defender recently going out of production, demand for capable off-roaders is potentially set to soar. But you have to ask: does a vehicle with such off-road-focused enhancements have the all-round usability to appeal to buyers in the fast-growing lifestyle pick-up truck market?
What's it like?
In a word? Unstoppable. In the majority of cases, when a 4x4 manufacturer invites us to test one of their vehicles at Millbrook, we’re restricted to a number of carefully selected off-road routes in order to ensure that their vehicles come back in one piece. Not so with the AT35. From bone-rattling ditch runs to sump-cracking boulder fields, Isuzu encouraged us to tackle it all.
For two hours we pushed the AT35 far beyond the limits of a conventional SUV. With a 125mm increase in ride height over the standard truck, the AT35 had no trouble clearing ruts and hilltop crests that would have left anything this side of a Defender stranded. The all-terrain tyres also gave impressive levels of grip. Thanks to their wide footprint, instead of sinking into the deep mud like conventional all-terrain rubber, they simply floated across. Not once did we lose traction or trigger the ABS. Truly remarkable.
On the road the AT35 is surprisingly well-mannered for a vehicle with such extensive off-road alterations. Body roll is well contained, the steering is predictable and, thanks to a wider stance, there’s a decent amount of grip.
But don’t mistake this for a car in which you’d want to do long distances. At low speeds the off-road biased Fox dampers struggle to smooth out small imperfections, while on the motorway the wider rubber generates more road noise than the standard truck. It’s far from unacceptable, but we predict that it would become grating after extended periods behind the wheel.
Like the standard D-Max, the AT35 is only available with the standard Isuzu 2.5-litre twin-turbo diesel engine. The motor is known to be bulletproof – hence the five-year/125,000 mile warranty - but it sounds rough and agricultural under load. And with only 161bhp and 400lb ft, straight-line performance is rather sedate.