By Amanda Mfuphi
We recently joined Isuzu Motors South Africa in the Eastern Cape for the launch of the Isuzu D-Max Arctic AT35 bakkie. The launch involved us going into Isuzu’s plant in Struandale to witness how the Isuzu Arctic AT35 is manufactured as well having some fun on sand dunes to test the capabilities of the Isuzu Arctic AT35 and other normal Isuzu D-Max bakkies.
Isuzu has partnered with Arctic Trucks International in the making of the Isuzu Arctic AT35 with knowledge transfer being share by the manufacturers to bring out the solid Isuzu Arctic AT35 product. The Isuzu Arctic AT35 is based on the D-MAX 3.0 Double Cab 4×4 LX Automatic and it is built from the ground up on the same production line as regular Isuzu D-MAX bakkies in the Isuzu Struandale plant. At the plant, Isuzu has designated a select group of Isuzu artisans and technicians that are responsible for transforming a D-MAX into an Isuzu Arctic AT35.
The conversion of the normal D-MAX 3.0 4×4 LX Automatic is converted through cutting the body panels of the D-Max by creating bigger wheel wells and arches to accommodate the larger tyres and beefed up suspension. The Isuzu Arctic AT35 comes with 35-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain Tyres and Fox Performance suspension which are fitted into the converted wheelarch moldings. Johan Vermeulen, Isuzu Executive Manufacturing and Supply Chain, says that “the conversion process allows Isuzu to ensure that strict quality control measures are in place at an early stage to ensure that the structural integrity or rust proofing of the Isuzu Arctic is not compromised”.
The Isuzu Arctic looks and feels the part on approach and in terms of capability. The Isuzu Arctic has an increase in vehicle height from 1860 mm to 1980 mm with a 268 mm of ground clearance (up from 220 mm) with a wading depth of 718 mm (up from 600 mm), when compared to the normal Isuzu D-MAX 3.0 4×4 LX Automatic. These dimensions are immediately visible when the Isuzu Arctic is parked next to the normal D-MAX 3.0 4×4 LX as well as on the road when next to most passenger vehicles. Acknowledging the sheer size of the 35-inch tyres of the Isuzu Arctic AT35, Isuzu includes a 245/70R16 spare wheel and an emergency ResQ Puncture Repair kit as a standard offering.
Isuzu recognizes that the Isuzu Arctic AT35 is a lifestyle bakkie and has indicated that it is pitching this offering at avid off-roaders, professionals who need to travel to inaccessible places, and city dwellers looking to make a bold statement. The Isuzu Arctic AT35 bakkie will also not be a high-volume vehicle as Isuzu projects to build 50 units annually at its Struandale plant in Eastern Cape. The Isuzu Arctic is already available through Isuzu dealers on an exclusive order only basis.
We also enjoyed driving the Isuzu Arctic AT35 on both the open tar road and off-road. Given that it is based on the D-MAX, the interior of the Isuzu Arctic AT35 is not as intimidating as its exterior posture and it feels like you are driving a normal sized vehicle.
One only recognizes when next to another vehicle that you are inside a big vehicle. During the launch, we did sand dune driving at Jeffrey’s Bay with both the normal D-MAX 3.0 LX and the Isuzu Arctic AT35 with both vehicles being equally up to the task but the AT35 having a natural advantage with its raised suspension and the 35-inch tyres. We were also pleasantly surprised by the ride quality of the Isuzu Arctic AT35 on the open road where we found that it handled well and was quite stable on the straight road. This is despite its ride height and the massive tyres. We did pick up some wind noise at higher speeds on the open road, but it did not make us worry or uncomfortable.
The Isuzu Arctic AT35 is available in one derivative being the 3.0 litre engine with 130kW of power and 380Nm of torque. The Isuzu Arctic AT35 is a 4×4 double cab bakkie whose engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission gearbox. Isuzu claims a fuel consumption of 8.6L/100km on the 3.0 litre engine.
The recommended retail price of the Isuzu Arctic AT35 is R78,5000 including VAT and a 5 year/Unlimited km Anti-Corrosion Warranty and 90,000km service plan.
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