ISUZU D-Max Arctic AT35

D-Max Arctic AT35. Image: ISUZU Motors South Africa

Ice Ice baby: ISUZU D-Max Arctic AT35

ISUZU has found some ice-white space in the macho truck sector, then punched a D-Max Arctic AT35-sized hole straight through it!

ISUZU D-Max Arctic AT35

D-Max Arctic AT35. Image: ISUZU Motors South Africa

Wow, would you just get an eyeful of the ISUZU D-Max Arctic AT35? Big, bold, and bad to the bone, this truck comes standard with a more barrel-chested attitude than a WWE Smackdown. Interestingly, however, beneath the oversized bonnet and behind those enormous wheel arches, you’ll find the same 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine from your common or garden variety D-Max. This begs the question: if an R1.12-million D-Max Arctic AT35 drives into the woods and doesn’t make a sound – is it a worthy halo truck?

ISUZU D-MAX ARCTIC AT35

D-Max Arctic AT35
Looks the part and has genuine go-anywhere capability. Image: ISUZU Motors South Africa

You know what, the Isuzu D-Max Arctic AT35 is actually all the better for having a standard drivetrain beneath its anabolic body parts. And I’ll explain why. Having thrashed, bashed and dashed in one for a week, I can tell you it is an absolutely fantastic, tough-as-nails machine. One of those where the spec sheets and skinner around the braai don’t paint the full picture.

Also, I’ll be the first to admit that over the years, I haven’t been the biggest ISUZU sympathiser. Older KB bakkies were pretty utilitarian in my eyes. And even previous D-Max models suffered from scratchy plastics and occasionally wonky shut lines. The D-Max X-Rider we reviewed not too long ago loved a good adventure, but the 1.9-litre diesel motor didn’t like to be rushed. Then, when the D-Max Arctic AT35 entered the chat, I’ll concede, I was a little sceptical …

NOT AN AFTERMARKET JOB

D-Max Arctic AT35
865 mm wading depth is off the charts thanks to its substantial lift kit. Image: ISUZU Motors South Africa

My cynicism was instantly slayed when I hopped aboard the D-Max AT35 and took it for a spin. Nothing quite prepares people for the first time they see a D-Max Arctic AT35 out in the wild. With those flared wheel arches housing 35-inch-wide tyres and a lift kit adding healthy ground clearance, it is enormous and supremely intimidating. On a practical front, finding a suitably wide parking bay may be a problem for future owners.

All Arctic Truck modification work is done in-house at ISUZU’s Eastern Cape factory. The result is ground clearance increases from 232 mm on a regular D-Max to 266 mm. Overall vehicle height stretches from 1 810 mm to 1 875 mm, so you can absolutely laud over all the traffic. And I do mean all of it. Trucks, busses, you name it, they all cower away when the D-Max Arctic AT35 rolls into town. These mods make a world of difference visually when parked next to a regular D-Max, I assure you.

WHAT DO YOU GET FOR R1.12 MILLION?

D-Max Arctic AT35
Say hello to clever and tough-as-nails Bilstein dampers. Image: ISUZU Motors South Africa

Heavy-duty Bilstein dampers have been deployed to keep the D-Max Arctic AT35 connected to the Earth at all times. ISUZU says it delivers the ideal balance between on-road composure and sure-footed off-road performance. The standard vehicle’s wading depth of 800 mm climbs to 865 mm on the D-MAX Arctic AT35, while 4×4 obstacles can be negotiated with ease thanks to the steeper approach angle of 33 degrees (up from 30 degrees), an improved departure angle of 23 degrees (up from 18 degrees), and the greater break-over angle of 34 degrees (up from 22.5 degrees).

The ride on-road is sublimely comfortable, with no big crash-through from the standard-fit all-terrain BF Goodrich tyres (with supercool white lettering). Quite how ISUZU and Arctic Trucks has gone and achieved this double act with a vehicle that promises to be so mega off road is mighty impressive. It is genuinely comfy and composed on road, but will vault straight over the nearest mountain given half a chance.

AND THE FOUR BANGER?

D-Max Arctic AT35
D-Max Arctic AT35 is one impressive halo truck for ISUZU. Image: ISUZU Motors South Africa

Now, to the elephant in the room. With only a four-cylinder, does the ISUZU D-Max Arctic AT35 suffer an inferiority complex under the bonnet? At first glance, yes. 140 kW and 450 Nm doesn’t sound lusty enough, does it!? It imbues the Arctic AT35 with near-identical acceleration to any other D-Max varietal. And it’s certainly no match for some of the six-cylinder halo trucks out there.

However, I’m happy to report that out on the open road it’s certainly no shire horse. It’s more like a young filly trying to get up to speed. Thankfully, that means the fuel economy is reasonable (we saw less than 10 l/100 km on our test). This is good news for overlanders who don’t want to be filling up at every fuel stop. From the helm, while the engine may not be revelatory, the latest six-speed automatic does a fine job to maximise response. With nicely spaced gear ratios, that hesitancy and clutch-slip sensation from other turbodiesel autos is gone.

WHAT ABOUT THE CABIN?

D-Max Arctic AT35
Not exactly lavish. But nicely specced, easy to use and comfortable. Image: ISUZU Motors South Africa

The ISUZU D-Max Arctic AT35 doesn’t exactly move the game on leaps and bounds. But because it’s based on the V-Cross model, it is so abundantly specced to begin with. Comfortable leather sports seats, active lane-keeping assist, adaptative cruise control, driver modes, auto lights and wipers are very laa-dee-dah for an ISUZU. Better still, perceived build quality is high. Nothing rattles or squeaks and everything falls easily to hand, like it should in a good truck.

THE VERDICT

D-Max Arctic AT35
Engineered in Scandinavia. Built-in Mzansi. Image: ISUZU Motors South Africa

So, does it matter that the AT35’s engine is standard fare? In the pub, probably yes. But not once you’ve driven one flat out across the highways and byways of the Western Cape, getting up to all sorts of off-road mischief. The D-Max Arctic AT35 looks insanely badass. And for many, that’s the only thing that matters. And it won’t cost you an arm and a leg (relatively) to purchase at R1 120 620, compared with some macho halo trucks out there. The D-Max Arctic AT35 is a winner at a time when the brand knows it must flex some muscle to bring a volatile market to heel.

THE FIGURES

  • Best for: Macho big-truck looks insanely capable off-road and tough as nails  
  • Not so sure: There isn’t one in the firm’s repetoire, but a six-cylinder powerplant would’ve been amazing in this package.
  • ISUZU D-Max Arctic AT35
  • Price: R1 120 620
  • Engine: 3.0-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel
  • Transmission: 6-speed auto
  • Power: 140 kW
  • Torque: 450 Nm
  • Consumption (claimed/combined):  9.8 l/100 km

HAVE YOUR SAY

What do you think of the ISUZU D-Max Arctic AT35? Be sure to share your thoughts with our audience in the comments section below. And don’t forget to follow us @TheSANews on X and The South African on Facebook for the latest updates.