By Mike Torpey on 2023-08-06 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Isuzu D-Max Arctic
Trucks AT35 Auto
DRIVING across a jagged lava field at the foot of an active volcano, making light of a glacial ice flow, pounding up a boulder-strewn mountain and blitzing almost effortlessly over giant sand dunes.
Sounds like the stuff of dreams, but very much a reality provided you're behind the wheel of the right vehicle.
And when that vehicle looks like the movie star version of an off-road behemoth you can be in no better place - or driving seat.
Enter the Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35, named due to the 35-inch tyres fitted as standard, and based on the top-selling Isuzu V-Cross model.
There are several very capable and extensively kitted out pick-ups currently on the market but for some time the Isuzu D-Max has been our favourite due to its combination of versatility, toughness, refinement and value for money. The AT35 is simply next level.
First a bit about Arctic Trucks. Founded in Iceland 33 years ago, the company has become the world's leading polar vehicle operator, achieving multiple records and firsts in the process.
They include providing the first vehicles to reach the Magnetic North Pole, the fastest overland journey to the South Pole, the first Antarctic crossing by passenger vehicle and the first expedition to drive through all seven continents.
No surprise then that the D-Max AT35 is designed to conquer the harshest of extremes and has full commercial vehicle status with zero compromise on payload, towing capacity, performance and capability.
That payload is more than one tonne along with a towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes, backed up by a five-year/125,000-mile warranty.
As the halo model of the D-Max line-up the AT35 doesn't come cheap at Â£49,499, but there's considerably more going on than just that imposing presence and those super-large tyres.
For instance there are significant enhancements to the truck's body, frame, drivetrain, suspension and 17-inch matt black alloy wheels.
And its performance suspension set-up with extra front and rear body lift gives the truck an extra 50mm of elevation over the standard D-Max while ground clearance is boosted to 266mm at the front and 290mm at the rear.
As for design, there are extra wide colour-coded wheel arch extensions to amplify that raised stance and the vehicle also gets Arctic Trucks extended profile side steps, strengthened mud flaps and a hitch for the likes of tow balls and winches.
Like all D-Max models, the AT35 features a 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine developing 164ps and capable of 0-62 in 13 seconds and 30 miles per gallon when driven considerately.
It's on the noisy side, especially when travelling sedately in urban areas, but feels comfortable and smooth to drive in spite of those massive wheels.
In fact the enlarged tyres plus performance springs and dampers results in an altogether softer ride over rough terrain but without compromising on-road manners.
The upshot is a vehicle you can really enjoy driving - even shoe-horning into parking specs is made less stressful courtesy of a pin-sharp reversing camera along with front and rear sensors.
Our routes, covering 250 miles of city, rural and motorway driving, took in a trip to Snowdonia and a mix of steep, loose lanes and badly potholed tracks, and everywhere we ventured the AT35 - in its striking Valencia Orange paint job - turned heads.
And every task from fording a river to ascending a shale road to a slate quarry and squelching through a waterlogged field was completed with the minimum of fuss.
There's also an SUV-like level of kit with gunmetal grey exterior style elements, black interior headlining, a nine-inch multimedia set-up with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility plus an eight-speaker sound system.
Seating is in soft black leather with Arctic Trucks branding and the load bay can deal with the contents of a medium-size skip, while there are lots of stowage spots, cubbies plus 10 cup holders around the cabin and a mobile phone charge point.
Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Auto
Mechanical:164ps, 1,898cc, 4-cyl diesel engine driving four wheels via six-speed auto transmission
0-62mph: 13.0 seconds
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