Home Estate Planning Isuzu D-Max AT35 review: Extreme truck is ready for off-grid adventures

Isuzu D-Max AT35 review: Extreme truck is ready for off-grid adventures

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Last week, HMRC pulled the rug out from underneath the UK pick-up market, closing a loophole that classed double-cab trucks as commercial vehicles. This week, that decision was reversed, meaning business users can still save thousands in VAT and benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax by choosing a pick-up as a family car. 

Whatever the government decides to do next week, spending £50,999 plus VAT on the Isuzu D-Max AT35 is hard to justify in cold financial terms. Frankly, this fully-loaded expedition vehicle seems a tad overqualified for the school run.

The ‘AT’ here stands for Arctic Trucks, the Icelandic company best known for building the Toyota Hilux that Jeremy Clarkson and James May drove to the North Pole on Top Gear. And the ‘35’? That’s the diameter in inches of its enormous all-terrain tyres. Combined with a 50mm chassis lift, they give this previously unassuming pick-up the altitude (and attitude) of a monster truck. 

A home from home

The Isuzu D-Max Basecamp edition

Arctic Trucks also fits beefed-up Bilstein springs and dampers, flared wheelarch extensions, larger side steps and branded mud flaps. The end result is 266mm of ground clearance and a supersized helping of off-road ability. Apparently, its balloon-like tyres are so buoyant the AT35 can float over slushy snow, rather than sinking into it. Note: don’t try this on the Thames.

On top of the Arctic Trucks modifications, the ‘Basecamp’ edition of the D-Max seen here – built for the Commercial Vehicle Show in 2022 – has a host of aftermarket upgrades, intended to show off its potential. Most obvious of these is an iKamper roof tent, accessed via a lightweight step ladder, which allows you to park up and bed down almost anywhere. The load bed is also fitted with bespoke ARB roller drawers that extend to reveal a three-burner gas hob and collapsible kitchen sink. There’s even a fridge freezer for storing your beers. Sorry, vital food supplies. 

Expedition-ready ‘Basecamp’ version of the Isuzu D-Max AT35 was built for the CV Show in 2022.

ARB roller drawer system in the load bed includes a three-burner gas stove and collapsible sink, plus a fridge/freezer on top.

There’s also a two-person iKamper tent on the roof rack. pic.twitter.com/605bbKRyGj

— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) January 14, 2024

Although the Basecamp is a one-off, Isuzu says all the accessories are available through its dealers. Elsewhere, the AT35’s specification matches the high-spec D-Max V-Cross (£35,499 + VAT), with leather upholstery, two-zone climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, heated seats, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera, wireless phone charging and a nine-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. It certainly feels more ‘car’ than ‘commercial’.

Rattle and roll

The Isuzu D-Max Basecamp edition

Well, until you press the start button that is. Arctic Trucks has left the D-Max’s 1.9-litre four-cylinder diesel engine untouched and it clatters like a tool chest toppling down a flight of stairs. With 164hp and the aerodynamics of, well, a toppling tool chest, zero to 62mph takes a laborious 12.7 seconds. On the flip side, 266lb ft of brawny torque from 2,000rpm pays dividends on rough ground, or when towing a braked trailer weighing up to 3,500kg. 

My truck had the six-speed manual transmission, with a rubbery shift action and a super-short first gear that demands you snatch second almost immediately. It’s worth finding an extra £1,800 for the automatic AT35 if you can. There’s also a rotary button in front of the gear lever for switching between rear-wheel drive, four-wheel-drive and low-range 4×4 – the latter essential for when the going gets tough. 

Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition on test.

Vital stats: 164hp, 266lb ft, 0-62mph in 12.7 seconds, 112mph, 33.6mpg and 220g/km.

Price before options (standard AT35): £61,199 (or £50,999 excl. VAT). pic.twitter.com/dsTVLuHVvQ

— Tim Pitt (@timpitt100) January 16, 2024

It might be noisy and slow, but you can’t fail to enjoy driving the D-Max. It towers over other traffic – even large SUVs – feeling like a life-sized Tonka toy. Potholes are smothered, speed humps are shrugged off and the tall tyres mean you’ll never kerb an alloy wheel again. You need to be very conscious of its width and height in car parks, though.

Ready for adventure

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to venture off-road, but I’m confident it’s more-or-less unstoppable. If the similarly priced Ford Ranger Raptor is a plaything, a truck trying to be a sports car, the D-Max AT35 is more a means to an end, a vehicle to explore remote places and get off the grid – even if only for the weekend. For the price of a premium SUV, it could be your ticket to adventure.

Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research

PRICE: £50,999 + VAT

POWER: 164hp

0-62MPH: 12.7sec 

TOP SPEED: 112mph


CO2 EMISSIONS: 220g/km

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