WHILE local car companies serve up dress-up pack for Aussie 4x4 utes, Isuzu in the UK got serious when it teamed up with Arctic Trucks, a company with 25 years’ experience developing 4x4s for the chilly climes of Iceland and Scandinavia.
Unfortunately, the resulting Isuzu D-MAX AT35 is only sold in the United Kingdom and there are no plans to introduce it here.
What makes it so extreme? The AT35 retains much of the D-MAX’s original drivetrain, including the 2499cc 2.5-litre in-line four-cylinder engine capable of extracting 120kW and 400Nm.
But where Arctic Trucks enforces its influence is underneath, with re-engineered suspension courtesy of Fox Performance Series dampers, front and rear. This, in addition to 35-inch Nokian Rotiiva AT tyres (fitted to 17-inch x 10-inch wheels), means the AT35 rides 55mm higher than a standard double-cab D-MAX.
It also has six degrees more approach angle and 10 degrees more rampover angle, placing ground clearance at 290mm, approach angle at 36 degrees, rampover angle at 32 degrees and departure angle at 23 degrees. The AT35 measures up at 5295mm (length), 1930mm (height) and 2000mm (width).
The tough and durable chassis features the high tensile strength steel and cross-member braces of the D-MAX it’s based on, but comes with additional braces to aid stability and spread payload weight evenly.
Just like its D-MAX siblings, the AT35 can haul more than 1000kg of on-board gear and tow up to 3500kg.
Shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive selection (two, four and low-ratio) can be applied via a dial located on the centre console, which, when used correctly, can theoretically mean the AT35 can crawl over “almost anything”.
We took a double-cab AT35 (it’s also available in extended-cab configuration) with all the bells and whistles mentioned – including the massive tyres and motorsport inspired dampers – to a disused quarry in Rutland, UK, for a thorough initiation.
The older five-speed auto (new Australian D-MAX has a six-speed gearbox along with a torquier revised engine) test mule had the high and low-ratio four-wheel drive options, but no locking diffs, none of that fancy terrain mode nonsense, and no adjustable ride height.
For the test process, we took a three-prong approach to evaluate the D-MAX – a hill climb, a rock crawl and a timed obstacle course.
The first challenge was a hill climb from a standing start – one short, scrabbly testing hill, a right turn and a left turn, followed by a second (and more upright) ascent. The D-MAX scrabbled and its live rear axle – it’s an unloaded ute, remember – bounced to provoke some axle tramp, before cresting the climb.
A rock crawl test was next on the card. The idea was simple enough, navigate the D-MAX from one end of a series of large rocks to another, testing ground clearance, traction and axle articulation.
The accessories gave it such tremendous clearance that it hopped over the obstacles, with barely a whimper.
The final test wasn’t out of the 4x4 purist’s handbook. We picked a start point, an end point and a series of obstacles between the two, and then drove as quickly as we could from one end to the other, across all obstacles, without damaging the Isuzu.
The course went: Risk-of-grounding-out jump, turning-circle test, steep descent, water wade, abrupt climb, gentle mogul, steep descent, open plain, narrow climb, muddy mogul, slippery corner, turning-circle test, and back to the start.
The D-MAX felt like it wanted the abuse and it finished the course at 1min 50sec – for comparison’s sake, a Land Cruiser finished the route in 2min 7sec.
In addition to the AT35’s standard kit – fender flares (front and rear), extended profile AT side steps, an integrated fuel filler cap, daytime running lights, chrome front grille and rear bumper, LED rear lights, roof bars (double-cab only), body-colour front bumper, rear parking distance sensor (double-cab only), projector headlamps, a receiver hitch, and folding heated chrome door mirrors with side-indicator repeaters – a host of optional off-road extras are available for the AT35.
This includes 27 LED square work lights with Arctic Trucks logo, a skid-plate underneath the radiator/engine, a skid-plate underneath the engine/gearbox, an ARB inflator with gauge, and a pump-up emergency inflation kit.
Unfortunately, the Isuzu D-MAX Arctic Trucks AT35 is only available in the UK, meaning you can’t get one here. Still, it comes with a full factory-backed five-year/200,000km warranty package, with three years recovery and assistance cover.