► Isuzu D-Max given Arctic Trucks makeover
► Off-road enhancements include 35-in tyres
► We find out if it’s as impressive as it looks
For the last 25 years, if you’ve worked on the side of a volcano, up a steep rocky slope – or just wanted to escape to the Scandinavian wilderness for the weekend – then you’d struggle to go further than in a machine fabricated by Icelandic firm Arctic Trucks.
You’d be unlikely to encounter any examples of the company’s modified, uprated pick-ups in less testing regions, however – until now. For the first time, an Arctic Trucks-fettled pick-up – the Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 – is available in the UK from main dealers (36 of them).
Looks pretty rugged. Has much changed?
Arctic Trucks has 25 years of building bespoke conversions for all kinds of off-road vehicles, be it for recreation, exploration or work. With this in mind, the D-Max has been treated to a raft of upgrades to ensure you never get stuck.
It’s got 35-in all-terrain tyres, an on-board inflation system, flared wheelarches to accommodate them, a receiver hitch at the rear and upgraded suspension with Fox Performance Series dampers. It’s also been raised, riding 125mm higher than the standard version, and axle articulation is much improved.
There’s a raft of optional extras to keep you going if you do get stuck, too, including preparation for a winch, extra underbody protection and a blinding 27-LED light for twilight expeditions.
So how good is it in the rough?
Our off-road drive, across some fairly challenging terrain, barely scratched the surface of the D-Max AT35’s capabilities. There’s no electronic trickery like hill-descent control – everything’s taken care of using the low-range gearbox and appropriate footwork.
The D-Max’s huge tyres easily dispatch deep ruts and uneven surfaces, however, providing masses of traction. Pulling power isn’t a problem, with the torquey 2.5-litre twin-turbo diesel punching the D-Max up steep rubble slopes, and through deep water, without breaking a sweat. We didn’t need to make use of it, but the on-board tyre inflation kit will let you adjust the tyre pressures to suit the terrain and keep you on the move, too.
Is it a complete mess on the road?
Predictably, the off-road upgrades have led to a decrease in on-road performance. While similar to any other pick-up in terms of performance – it uses the same engine and gearbox as regular D-Max variants – those humongous tyres and extra width in the body are noticeable on tight lanes, mainly because oncoming cars scramble to get out of the way.
The steering is pretty vague and heavy, too, and you can’t spend all your journeys jumping up onto the verges to get out of other drivers’ way – even if it’ll do it with ease. Given that this is likely to just be a recreational toy in this country – Isuzu is expecting the majority of sales to come from people using the D-Max purely for leisure – you’d have to be ready and willing to deal with the AT35’s flaws.
Its size, noisy engine and tyre roar will become tiresome if you’re looking at this as an alternative to a rugged family SUV – and that’s before you consider the £30k+ price tag. Sure, it has presence – but living with it, particularly around town, will be a pain.
On the other hand, as a toy for mucking about at the weekend – and provided you can deal with its footprint – it’s fantastic fun. Off-road enthusiasts in particular will appreciate its go-anywhere ability and that they can customise it to their specification. Plus, who wouldn’t love something that looks like a road-going monster truck?
Read more reviews here