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Isuzu Arctic AT 35: Will ‘toughest D-Max’ score a sales A+?

  • More than a suspension and body lift
  • Only 50 a year to be assembled in SA
  • Hard-core off-roader oozes oomph
2019 ISUZU ARCTIC: Image: Isuzu SA

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa – Isuzu South Africa has expanded its bakkie offering with a new flagship intended for keen – and perhaps expert  off-roaders, professionals to reach hard-to-reach places, and even city folk who like to make a bold statement.

It’s the Arctic AT35 bakkie that can be ordered through a dealer – but if you’re interested don’t waste time – Isuzu says only 50 a year will be assembled at the plant in Port Elizabeth.

Dominic Rimmer, Isuzu SA’s technical services boss, told The Corner in a media release: “Arctic Trucks are for people who need to do tough jobs in tough environments while combining what Isuzu calls ”a heritage of engineering tough, reliable, bakkies guaranteed to surprise and delight our buyers.”

2019 ISUZU ARCTIC: Image: Isuzu SA

Isuzu SA is the only plant, globally, to be assembling the Arctics thanks to accreditation from Iceland’s Arctic Trucks International.


Patrik von Sydow, Arctic Trucks International’s CEO, said in the same release: “The Isuzu D-MAX is a very capable platform. We’re proud to be part of this partnership. It’s very important for the brand to be seen not as an ‘aftermarket’ operation – everything we do will be integrated with the manufacturer.”

Here’s how it works…

”The high-riding bakkies,” Isuzu explained, ”begin life at the Struandale (Port Elizabeth) body shop where each is welded together by a combination of robots and hand-held tools alongside regular D-MAX units.

”When the cabin and loadbed are complete the body-in-white (unpainted) will be moved to a special Arctic Trucks conversion area within the body shop.”

READ  MORE Isuzu features on Carman’s Corner

Which is where the real work of transforming a D-MAX into an Isuzu Arctic AT35 begins in the hands of a special group of artisans and technicians.

Johan Vermeulen, manufacturing and supply chain boss, added: “The Arctic AT35 is built from the ground up on the same production line as regular Isuzu D-MAX bakkies to ensure strict quality control – there’s no compromise on the structural integrity or rust-proofing.”

The conversion, Isuzu adds, is carried out by experienced manufacturing tool-makers who create bigger wheel wells and arches to accommodate the larger tyres and beefed up on/off-road suspension.

Close by is an engineer whose job is to ensure compliance to IMS standards and processes.

2019 ISUZU ARCTIC: Image: Isuzu SA

“The three artisans responsible for work in the body shop have more than 60 years’ experience between them. Their core responsibilities before joining this project included ensuring dimensional conformance of work done in the body shop as well as carrying out maintenance on manufacturing related tools and equipment.

“All the cutting and welding happens before the vehicle is transferred back to the regular production line for its journey through the paint shop for e-coating and painting – the bakkies will be covered by the same fieyear/ unlimited distance anti-corrosion warranty every D-MAX.”

2019 ISUZU ARCTIC: Image: Isuzu SA

As a gauge of the perfection required, each Arctic spends two days in the body shop; a regular D-MAX for only a few hours.

The  journey, Isuzu explained, continues through the general assembly area until each AT35 again leaves the line for the final stage of the conversion: this time the bakkies get wheel-arch mouldings to accommodate the 35” BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres.

Two specialist technicians carry out the final work by hand over three days before the bakkie is ready for the final quality checks/inspection before being shipped to the dealer.


The Arctic is based on the D-MAX 3.0 double-cab 4×4 LX auto to which are added Fox Performance suspension and shock-absorbers to – Isuzu claims, ”giving the vehicle unsurpassed off-road capability”.

The Arctic Trucks package includes:

An increase in vehicle height from 1.86m to 1.98m with over 268mm of ground clearance (up from 220) and a wading depth of more than 70cm (up from 60cm.

Breakover angle is increased from 22.4 degrees to 31.4 degrees.

2019 ISUZU ARCTIC: Image: Isuzu SA

Isuzu says the extra height delivers huge improvements to the standard D-MAX’s approach and departure angles with 36 degrees and 28 degrees respectively.

The changes to the wheel arches accommodate 17” alloy wheel rims and 35” tyres for which an emergency ResQ puncture repair kit as standard.

”The end result,” Isuzu says, ”is firmer damping at high speed, enhanced suppleness at low speed, great on- and off-road performance, and the ability to traverse technical and soft terrain with minimal ground or vehicle impact.”


The cabin furnishings are shared with the standard D-MAX along with Isuzu’s familiar three-litre, intercooled, turbodiesel, engine and six-speed auto transmission.

The specs list a possible fuel consumption of 8.6 l/100 km.

Gear ratios remain the same with only the odometer requiring calibration to compensate for the larger tyres.

The Isuzu Arctic AT 35 is available in only one derivative at a  retail price of R785 000, including VAT.

  • Isuzu Arctic AT35 VS 3.0 D-MAX 4×4 LX Double Cab

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