By Khulekani Dumisa
The bakkie business is big in South Africa. It’s not surprising that the big players have introduced ultra-capable and niche offerings at the top of their bakkie offerings. These bakkies also command a substantial premium. Ford offers the Ranger Raptor and Toyota has answered with the Hilux GR Sport. Isuzu’s answer is the Isuzu Arctic AT35 which is based on the D-Max LX Double Cab and was developed in close collaboration with Arctic Trucks, the Icelandic company that makes high-riding and all-conquering bakkies.
In terms of dimensions, the flared wheel arches add a substantial 180mm to the overall width while ride height is 48mm up. There is also 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 that the car is based on. 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. This makes for a bakkie with some presence and that gets noticed everywhere you go.
Inside, the AT35 offers soft-touch panels for the instrument cluster binnacle. The utility box lid is embellished with the ‘Isuzu D-MAX logo’. A high-quality grain material is also used on the dashboard and door trims. To ensure a theme of quality is maintained, there is a piano black finish on the air vent grilles and window switches. In contrast, the door handles, locking knob, and air vent knobs are finished in chrome. From an entertainment point of view, the bakkie is offered with an Alpine infotainment system which has a high-mounted nine-inch screen that is Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) ready, and additionally provides access to built-in navigation, as well as USB, Aux and HDMI video inputs. This infotainment system also links Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This allows phone functions and apps to be accessed on the display, or via a paired smartphone’s voice recognition software. The overall look is upmarket but slightly on the industrial side of things. This is to be corrected with the new iteration that is due to arrive in South Africa in 2021. The official pictures suggest a much more premium and leisure focused interior. Finally, the size of the cabin takes a bit away from the AT35. It offers the same dimensions as the D-Max LX that it is based on. It’s spacious but a bigger environment would suit the external image of the bakkie even more.
Engine and drive
The Isuzu Arctic AT35 is available in one derivative being the 3.0 litre engine with 130kW of power and 380Nm of torque (same as 4×4 LX Auto Double Cab). The engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Isuzu claims a fuel consumption of 8.6L/100km on the 3.0 litre engine. We managed a great 8,9l/100km with the AT35. The 3,0 turbodiesel motor with 130 kW and 380 Nm was able to propel the huge monster with relative ease. The trick is to not rush the beast so we even saw fuel consumption figures as low as 8,9l/100km. The elevated ride position gave us an advantage in provincial roads and we were able to safely overtake at spots we wouldn’t have attempted to do so without the high riding position. The large wheels are not for bumpy small and uneven roads with potholes. They catch everything and that result in compromised driving quality with occupants feeling the harsh road conditions. Take the beast off-road, you are able to climb over things you wouldn’t imagine attempting in your ‘normal’ 4×4 thanks to the 35-inch BF Goodrich All-Terrain Tyres and Fox Performance suspension which are fitted into the converted wheel arch moldings. Highway driving is also a breeze as those surfaces are smooth.
The Isuzu Arctic AT 35 is available in one derivative, the 3 litre double cab 4×4 6 speed automatic at a recommended retail price of R 785,000.00 including VAT.
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