Want a slice of Icelandic motoring but live in Ipswich?
Well, we’ve got just the thing for you. It’s the Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35. A one-tonne pickup that’s gone to the gym, thanks to Icelandic off-road specialists Arctic Trucks.
Offered in two flavours – an extended cab (from £30,999), or a four-door double cab (from £33,499) – it’s around £7k more expensive than standard. But for your money you get one of the most off-road-centric, utilitarian consumer production vehicles this side of a Unimog.
There’s still the same 2.5-litre, 161bhp, 295lb ft twin-TD engine under the bonnet. But the ride height has been upped by 55mm, and huge 35in Nokian all-terrain tyres added. This makes the AT35 stand 125mm taller – giving it the ability to straddle bigger boulders, attack steeper slopes and go over thicker logs. And the upgraded Fox Performance dampers are for when you want to attack Banbury like Baja.
Inside it’s designed for people who slop mud everywhere and spend most of their lives in thick gloves. So if you’re thinking of chopping in a family SUV for it, don’t.
On the road, it’s big and cumbrous. The unrefined diesel engine clatters into the cabin but provides enough shove that you don’t feel slow. But even with upgraded suspension, the basic steel chassis struggles to be gracious. You jiggle around with a constantly choppy ride, while the steering is vague and heavy. And heaving its centre of gravity up 125mm has added a drunken, sloppy sway of body roll through corners, while the chunky tyres roar above 40mph.
Off-road, it goes about the whole thing in an old-school way. There are no electronic fripperies or winches to help you out. Just switchable 4WD, a low-range ’box, fat, floaty tyres and your own two feet.
But now the Defender is dead, there’s a lack of super-rugged, bog-proof off-roaders on sale. It may lack the charisma and interior solidity of a Defender, but the AT35 has the magic of people who really know what they’re doing. So if you’re serious about getting axle-deep in icky things, it’s worth hunting out.
Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35
An obnoxious-looking but very capable off-roader. Not easy to live with, but perfect for when Essex turns into Eyjafjallajokull.