Taking The Scenic Route – Isuzu D-Max AT35 (MY19)

*Image courtesy of Sprite Photography

It feels like forever since I actually got my hands on a new car to test, but last month – after a rather long break – a shiny new press truck was delivered to my house for me to explore. You may recognise it a bit as I’ve reviewed several Isuzu D-Max trucks in the last few years and I’ve even reviewed that last Arctic Trucks edition “AT35” but one thing I never got to do was really put it through its paces. So with this in mind, the very first thing I did when I knew this was coming was jump on the phone to Well Driven’s go-to photo-wizard, Rick at Sprite Photography and organise a grand day out…

As I stated before, I have actually tested the previous Isuzu D-Max AT35 but since that review back in 2018, the clever people over at Arctic Trucks and Isuzu have made some very important changes both inside and out the truck. The most obvious change comes from all the new badges and shiny bits that the exterior is adorned with, and inside you now have a larger 9″ multifunction touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto along with both front and rear cameras, DAB radio, and all the other usual goodies that come with these things these days including a rather snazzy wireless phone charger in the glove box. There’s also a bespoke leather stitched interior with Arctic Truck logos stitched into the headrests, which are nice…if you like that kind of thing. The biggest change, however, is one you cannot see. What they have done is ditch the old Fox Suspension setup and go straight to the experts with a whole new Bilstein setup. There are also some enormous 35″ Nokian Rotiiva All-Terrain tyres that provided more than enough grip on our little adventure.

The new 9″ screen sits front and centre on the AT35 dash *Pictures courtesy of Sprite Photography

When I tested the previous AT35, I managed to get a fair few miles on the tarmac under its belt and to be honest, it really isn’t where this kind of vehicle shines. Like the previous truck, the back felt a bit skitty at times and I even had a bit of a “brown trouser” moment on a busy roundabout after a heavy rain shower but all-in-all, the new suspension was definitely an improvement on the road compared to the Fox setup. The real test was not only going to be the truck’s ability off-road, but also mine. I’ve been doing a lot of green laning recently in my P38, but it would definitely be considered “soft-roading” compared to what we have planned. With that in mind, on a beautifully clear and dry mid-August evening, I set off to meet Rick and the two Chris’ (obviously, two chaps called Chris). Rick was going to lead the way in his L322 Vogue running nothing special other than Land Rover’s reputation and some All-Terrain tyres. I was in the AT35, and the Chris’ were in a very nicely modified Land Rover 90 Defender – roof tent and all!

I would go into great detail about where we started off and where we headed to, but to be completely honest, I just followed Rick’s Range Rover and as always, did what I was told when he wanted to get a good shot. And by God, did he get some good shots! We probably spent about 25 minutes driving in convoy through some of Bedfordshire’s most beautiful quiet villages before we turned off the beaten path and switched to Low Range. For the next two hours, that is all we would be needing.

“The start of an amazing adventure…” *Pictures courtesy of Sprite Photography

Under the bonnet, everything is the same as before on the D-Max AT35 – a 1.9 in-line diesel pushing out 164PS and 360 Nm of torque with a 6-speed auto box and even though thee engine is quite possibly the most agricultural-sounding lump available in a modern truck, I cannot fault both its performance on the road and also its ability to push through the mud off-road. On the main roads, the truck sits calmly and steadily at motorway speeds and will return an average of 30mpg if you know how to manage it. Although, I did find that the cruise control sometimes got a bit “iffy” with me on inclines. Off-road, it pulled like a champ and was a worthy competitor to Rick’s big TDV8 and the Chris’ TD5. No matter where we went, or what we threw at it, the D-Max lead the way and pushed through. I was expecting it to be strong, but not as easy as it was!

There is a very good reason why the D-Max has won pick-up of the year in previous years, and that is because it does exactly what it says on the tin. The standard D-Max range is a relatively inexpensive option compared to the plush Amarok and trendy HiLux, but to be completely honest, I prefer the D-Max styling and “back to basics” approach with the interior. And as for the AT35, like the XTR I drove at the end of 2019 – I just love everything about it. Yes, it’s a bit “in your face” and yes, it’s a real pain in the backside to park in the supermarket carpark, but just look at it. It is MEGA.

Big wheels, big flaps, and big bars. What’s not to love?!? *Pictures courtesy of Sprite Photography

Now, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the big bruiser – the truck itself is far from perfect – something which becomes even more apparent when you find out how much it costs! To start with, as they’ve widened the body with the stick-on arches to house the enormous wheels and tyres, they’ve also had to extend the wing mirrors. But, instead of wasting money fabricating new, wider mirrors, instead, they have opted for what can only be described as two 1-inch thick plastic blocks that are bolted between the front pillar of the door and the existing mirrors. It is also a bit too basic inside.

For a £20k workhorse, it’s fine, in fact, it’s not bad at all – the problem with the AT35 is that it costs £50,000. No, that’s not a typo, it actually costs £50,000. You can go into a lot of places and buy a lot of car for £50,000 and you REALLY have to want one of these to part with that much money for what is essentially a farm truck with a bodykit and some modded suspension. For £50,000 I want a soft-touch dash, I want animated dials, probably at least an extra 2-cylinders and some kind of fancy “off-road terrain” settings like in the Land Rovers. To be fair to the AT35, it does have a lot of safety tech and Hill Descent Control but you still have to really want one to justify the cost. Fortunately, I’m the kind of idiot that would really want one…

*Pictures courtesy of Sprite Photography

As always, a huge thank you for IsuzuUK for the time I had with the D-Max AT35 – all information on the truck can be found HERE Also, a massive thank you to Rick for some more incredible photos – more of which are below:

You can follow Rick and Well Drive on Instagram on the below links:

Rick’s Sprite Photography Instagram: www.instagram.com/sprite_photography/
James’ WellDriven Instagram: www.instagram.com/welldriven/