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Driven: Isuzu D-Max AT35 2020MY. Image by Isuzu UK.

Driven: Isuzu D-Max AT35 2020MY
An apolcalyptic-looking truck that, while brilliant, sadly doesn’t have an apocalyptic engine to go with its appearance.


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Isuzu D-Max AT35 2020MY

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Good points: it looks bloody amazing and feels like it could go absolutely anywhere...

Not so good: long as you don't want to go 'anywhere' quickly, what with that piffling 1.9-litre engine pressed into service once more

Key Facts

Model tested: Isuzu D-Max AT35
Price: D-Max range from £17,414 (exc. VAT); AT35 automatic from £40,995 (exc. VAT) or £49,194 (inc. VAT)
Engine: 1.9-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: six-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: four-door one-tonne pick-up
CO2 emissions: 205g/km (VED Band 191-225: £1,305 in year one, then £475 years two-six of ownership, then £150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 36.2mpg
Top speed: 112mph
0-62mph: N/A - in excess of 12.7 seconds (XTR model's time)
Power: 164hp at 3,600rpm
Torque: 360Nm at 2,000-2,500rpm
Load-bed max payload: 1,099kg

Our view:

There's an all-new Isuzu D-Max on the way in a few months and we're down on the books to drive it, which we're very much looking forward to. So that gives us one last chance to run the rule over the outgoing model for the final time, here tested in the king-of-the-hill AT35 2020MY format. We won't go into huge detail in this review, mainly because we've already driven the previous Arctic Trucks D-Max and all that's gone on here is some modest fettling, while we took delivery of the latest AT35 back-to-back with a Blade, which was a most... illuminating road test. Read about that if you want a fuller rundown on a more affordable D-Max truck.

So what's new for the latest AT35? Well, it retains features like its 17-inch black alloy wheels with 35-inch Nokian Rotiiva all-terrain tyres and flared wheel-arch extensions to attempt to house these glorious monsters, while the previously Fox performance-series suspension has been replaced with Bilstein componentry. On the outside, wider side-steps in black have a textured tread pattern to make them more useful in even the slipperiest of conditions, while all the Arctic Trucks branding has been revised with a classy new logo - the 'A' of the 'AT35' is a little volcanic peak graphic, complete with lava-coloured paint. You'll spot this motif on both front wings, all of the wheel centres, at the leading edge of the new side-steps and underneath the D-Max badge on the tailgate.

Six body colours amount to Obsidian Grey Mica, Splash White, Titanium Silver Met, Sapphire Blue Mica, Spinel Red Mica and then the one you see here, Cosmic Black Mica, but on the outside that's it for the updates; so, moving into the Isuzu's cabin, a bespoke, quilted-leather trim with a geometric pattern and centre-spine detail to the seats makes the interior feel more upmarket than other models in the one-tonne pick-up's range, while deeper bolsters on the chairs aim to hold occupants better in place when the big truck is in its natural element (i.e., the hostile wilderness). 'Arctic Trucks' logos, this time the off-road-specialising company's white-text emblem, can be seen on the front seats' head restraints, on a plaque ahead of the gearlever and on the floor mats (and on the mudflaps on the outside of the D-Max, come to think of it), while the new nine-inch multifunction touchscreen infotainment has an 'Arctic Trucks' start-up screen. It also supports Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is blessed with satnav, DAB radio and a nine-speaker stereo system incorporating a subwoofer, and there's a wireless smartphone charging pad hidden in the top glovebox.

Aside from this, you might espy 'D-Max' embossed into the centre-rear head restraint, so that the driver can always see it when driving to remind them, in case they've forgotten, precisely what they're in command of, and to go with the rear parking sensors and a reversing camera then there's another lens on the front bumper which monitors the area directly in front of the AT35 when it is low-speed manoeuvring, relaying the images it captures to the touchscreen. Useful for parking and tricky off-roading, that. The price for all this lot? Commercial figures are £39,995 for the manual and £40,995 for this automatic we're testing, so you need to slap VAT onto that as a private buyer - meaning the D-Max AT35 automatic 2020MY will set you back at least £49,194. Oof.

Can it be possibly worth such money? Well, just maybe it can, especially when you look at it. Seriously, there are few finer-looking 4x4s, SUVs, trucks, crossovers... whatever you want to call them, take all of the high-riding vehicles out there and cluster them altogether, and this is one of the first we'd pick on aesthetic appeal alone. The stance of it is terrific, it looks positively evil in the murdered-out spec of black wheels, black roof rails, black under-run bar and black mudflaps with a few chrome details (bumpers, roof rails, door mirrors, grille), and it takes us right back to our childhood when we lusted after Marty McFly's Toyota Hilux that he gets at the end of the first Back To The Future film. Magnificent stuff from Isuzu.

OK, the interior's not quite as good but it's very solidly made, easy to operate and equipped with some nice toys, like heated seats and cruise control. Even the infotainment system, while hardly at the cutting edge of in-car graphics, passes muster and if Isuzu can just sort out some of the ropier plastics, like the one surrounding the base of the gearlever on the automatic model, and put in some more attractive climate controls that can still be operated in thick gloves, then the incoming new model might well have one of the best cabins in this class. Also, climbing right the way up into the AT35's lofty cab and then sitting there, lording it over pretty much everything this side of a 44-tonne Volvo HGV, is a wonderful experience.

The AT35 even drives well. Plenty of our peers report those Nokian tyres increasing the noise levels in the cabin, but to be fair across 107 miles in our care we actually felt like the Arctic Trucks model rode and conducted itself better than the bizarre-looking XTR we had last year. Granted, the AT35 is not the sort of truck you hurl into bends, as the steering is slow and heavy and provides precious little in the way of feel on the roads, but to travel around in the ultimate D-Max was a pleasure. It also feels like it would still be going after the nuclear apocalypse has been and gone; we pushed it through a deep water splash and took it on some modest green-laning while we had it, but frankly it felt like asking a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner to triumph in a race against some beach donkeys - you're not really taxing a thoroughbred like this by picking your way slowly down a slightly muddy lane in 4L. Anyway, suffice it to say that the AT35 should trek further away from civilisation than almost any other vehicle you can buy from public showrooms. The clue's in the 'Arctic' bit of its name, after all.

What a pity, then, that we revert to our age-old lament about the outgoing D-Max - that weedy 1.9-litre turbodiesel engine. For all its brilliantly bonkers looks and tough, dependable underpinnings with the sort of hardware that feels like it could traverse the Darién Gap, the AT35 has exactly the same 164hp/360Nm boat-anchor that you'd find in any other D-Max. Factor in the enormous rolling and aerodynamic drag factors of the Rotiiva rubber and the AT35's 290mm of ground clearance, and what you get is a very slow, very noisy level of performance from the engine and old-fashioned six-speed gearbox. Plus mediocre economy; on, say, the D-Max Blade, we saw 26.5mpg from it during our Christmas and New Year testing period, with a best of around 30mpg. Hardly stellar stuff, but the same data on the Arctic Trucks model is reduced even further: we saw 24.7mpg from the 2020MY AT35, with a best of about 27mpg if we treated it really gently. Good lord.

In truth, it is a truck crying out for a more potent engine, something it richly deserves. As this latest AT35, the D-Max has never looked better in our eyes and if it had a 200-220hp motor to go with its bristling form, we'd be rating the Isuzu even higher than we already do. As it is, we look forward to seeing what Arctic Trucks does with the incoming D-Max - and we hope that either AT or Isuzu itself deems it worthwhile giving the AT35 some additional firepower next time around. For now, we'd buy one of these brutes and then either: a) leave it on our driveway and just stare at it longingly through the window; or b) subject it to an engine swap involving a petrol V8 of some form. Now that sounds like fun.


Ford Ranger Raptor: a totally different approach to extreme off-roading, this thing instead cajoling you to drive through the scenery at frankly obnoxious speeds. So much of the Raptor is wrong, but the overall product is just so, so right. Brilliant.

Mitsubishi L200: has some wild-looking models in its portfolio and a nicer turbodiesel than the D-Max. So it's with enormous sadness that we have to say avoid the L200, because Mitsubishi will soon no longer sell vehicles in the UK. Pity.

Toyota Hilux: Although Arctic Trucks will work on the Hilux for you, this is here because of its engine, to which Isuzu must take serious note; Toyota realised a 150hp 2.4 wasn't enough and the new 204hp 2.8 vastly improves its pick-up.

Matt Robinson - 18 Jan 2021    - Isuzu road tests
- D-Max images

2021 Isuzu D-Max AT35 UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max AT35 UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max AT35 UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max AT35 UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max AT35 UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.

2021 Isuzu D-Max AT35 UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max AT35 UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max AT35 UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max AT35 UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.2021 Isuzu D-Max AT35 UK test. Image by Isuzu UK.


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