News: To the Max, is Isuzu’s Arctic AT 35

For roughly two months Ford’s Ranger Raptor carved out a new bakkie niche in South Africa all to itself. But so competitive is the motor industry that this unrivalled market capture was always going to catch the eye of watchful marketers. First to capitalise is Isuzu, leveraging the established Arctic Truck fanbase with the eponymous Arctic AT 35.

That name seems a paradox for the South African climate and indeed these modified Isuzu D-Max double cabs aren’t leaving the Port Elizabeth bodyshop replete with snow chains – although we suggest if you’re planning a trip up to Lesotho this month it might be a good idea to pack some. That aside, each of the fifty models produced annually remarkably faithful to the Arctic Truck formula.

Isuzu proudly claim that the D-Max Arctic AT 35 involves ‘more than a suspension and body lift’ but let’s be honest with each other, you’re not going to buy it for the thicker mudflaps or the (uncharacteristically) subtle badging on the tailgate.

Isuzu Arctic AT 35

The metamorphosis is thorough enough to copy a few choice specifications from Ford’s Ranger Raptor. Fox suspension raises ground clearance by 220m, pushing the wading depth up by a useful 118mm – we assume for when the snow has melted by global warming. The extra daylight cast between chassis and earth has a positive effect on approach and departure angles without having to take a grinder to the bumpers.

Tyres are from BF Goodrich, and since most of the photos were taken in the sandy dunes, we’d say these 35-inches are adept to South African conditions.

Eloquently combining the mainstream with the aftermarket is Isuzu’s bulletproof 3.0-litre turbo diesel with six-speed manual gearbox. Far from being the most modern or cleanest engine out there, with 130kW and 380Nm it’s also easily outmuscled by smaller engines. The Arctic AT 35 isn’t beating its chest about being a performance bakkie.

Should you want driving modes beyond low range and diff lock, the Isuzu disappoints – no Sport or baja mode to unleash.

The Isuzu D-Max Arctic AT 35 and Ranger Raptor sit cheek to jowl in pricing. Isuzu wants R785 000 for their Arctic Truck. Ford asks R786 400 for the Ranger Raptor, and as of 24hrs ago, Toyota wants R710 000 for the Hilux GR Sport. Pricing parity is the problem for Isuzu because the Ranger Raptor packs Ford’s ultra-modern 10-speed gearbox, car-like bi-turbo engine plus those motorsport-inspired driving modes. Andrew Leopold

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