Over the past few months, I’ve driven two distinct flavours of Isuzu’s popular D-Max pickup truck – the blue-collar commercial work truck, the D-Max Utility trim, as well as its more luxurious and adventurous sibling, the D-Max V-Cross. However, if you feel that neither is extreme enough for your needs, or if you’re say, an arctic explorer or seasoned off-roader, then maybe the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition might suit your needs.
This is by far and away Isuzu’s most hardcore vehicle on sale, and it’s a mouthful to say, too. But, with the same ingenuity, survival skills, and aided by real-world learnings and experience in engineering the actual vehicles used by polar explorers and arctic science expeditionary teams, Isuzu and Arctic Trucks have built something that could go places, where even the toughest and most rugged 4×4 off-roaders out there can fail or get stuck. But, is a truck this extreme really necessary, and crucially, is it worth the price?
What Is The D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition About?
I think it’s probably fair to say that I – and surely many of you, as well – really like the look of this thing. It’s super tough, rugged, chunky, and hardcore-looking in every possible angle. The folks at Arctic Trucks, with the blessings of Isuzu, have taken the innocent looks of the original D-Max, and made it appear like a truck that could very well feasibly conquer the Arctic Circle! Although, this overly muscular D-Max wasn’t altered just for the sake of appearance alone, as everything you see here has a good, functional reason to be there.
The swollen fender flares and arches, once you peek past the thick rubber mud flaps, exist to accommodate those fat BFGoodrich all-terrain tyres. As its ‘AT35’ nomenclature and name may suggest, the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition was made to drive on 35-inch rubber. Specifically, a set of 315/70 R17 tyres, which wrap around a set of bespoke 17-inch black alloy wheels. This tyre and wheel combo is awesome for off-roading.
And, if you’re ever curious and wary about what the ideal tyre pressures are once you hop back onto paved asphalt roads, each of the fender flares and widened arches contain a tiny little plaque to remind you. As it was made for the cold arctic winter – whether or not you actually intend on driving your D-Max to the South Pole – the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition features a small wind deflector on the bonnet. This is more than enough to keep all that snow and frost from clogging up your windshield. In the real world, it’s still pretty effective at deflecting road salts, snow, and other grime, as well as bugs.
Further in the rear, a rear canopy cover was added to the Isuzu D-Max’s truck bed. It’s undoubtedly a must to keep all your cargo from freezing out in the winter cold or being left exposed to the elements. In addition, a select few goodies, courtesy of this being the ultra-special Basecamp Edition, are hidden under there – more on that later. Hint: while they’re great to have if you’re going overlanding or adventuring into the unknown, even for basic recreational activities, they’re still pretty neat!
Another noteworthy cosmetic and functional addition is this D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition’s roof rack and rails. It enables you to mount additional cargo boxes, which is nice if you intend on ferrying a lot of extra cargo. Look more closely, and you’ll also notice that there are specific holders for you to drop in and secure a gas bottle, some jerry cans, in conjunction to plenty of tie-downs for loose items and such.
Or, if you’re a big fan of overlanding, a rooftop tent should fit on there rather snugly. The specific unit here is an iKamper SkyCamp Mini 3.0, which is said to be really cosy to sleep in when it’s cold out, all thanks to the quilted insulation. Aside from that, to make sure that you could still see properly out in the frosty darkness, a giant lightbar has been mounted onto the roof, with extra spotlights on the bottom, mounted behind the Isuzu D-Max’s front grille.
Speaking of, that LED lightbar on the roof is crazy bright! They’ll turn on once you turn on your high beams, and it’s a wide-angle lightbar, too. Essentially, this means that it illuminates a wide area in front of you; it’s a godsend if you’re doing off-roading in the middle of the night. They’re then coupled with the hidden lamps behind the front grille. The latter is made to point downward, illuminating directly what’s ahead of the D-Max. As such, if you’re off-roading, these basically light up directly where you are, making sure that the bit of trail that you’re concentrating on trekking over next could be illuminated and seen appropriately.
Even when you’re not off-roading, these auxiliary lights work wonders if you drive around a lot at night on rural roads here in the UK. These are parts of the country where there are sparse street lights along those smaller B-roads, and you’ll only occasionally see some scant light sources from small towns and villages in the distance, as well as nearby cottages. Wildlife is particularly a hazard for many rural drivers, and these auxiliary lights here are bright enough that you can easily spot when a wild deer is about to jump out onto the road. These are oftentimes hard to spot with regular headlights in most cars.
One crucial thing to bear in mind, though, especially for us here in the UK, is that the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition is ginormous! Both height-wise and length-wise, it can be challenging to drive this around a narrow town and manoeuvre about in city streets. So, you do need to be wary when you’re parking this. For the majority of smaller UK-sized parking spaces, a single space might not always be enough.
On your typical British B-road, it’s still a fairly tight fit for the most part, though this is entirely manageable if you’re diligent about your surroundings. The fact that I’m 6 foot 4 inches and even when standing tall, there’s still so much vertical presence left in the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition to tower over me. It’s telling of how high up it is, when a Range Rover or any normal SUV pulls up beside me, and I would pretty much peek through the sunroof! Those side steps then are absolutely necessary, as the ground clearance is high enough that you can’t simply jump into the cabin.
How Does It Drive?
Once you get behind the wheel of the Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition, among the more surprising things about driving it, is how tame it actually is to move around in. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s still a gigantic, Godzilla-sized truck, and it does feel like a huge pickup truck. However, it’s certainly not as challenging to drive as might seem from the get-go, and it’s far easier than you might think.
The steering is sharp-ish and is weighted well. Consequently, I haven’t found that it feels at all odd, or as if you’re driving some clumsy off-roader that’s only good for off-road trails. In the real world, this here Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition feels shockingly nimble and agile, perfectly at home on paved asphalt roads, as well as it does off-roading. Therefore, if you’re wondering about using your jacked-up D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition for day-to-day driving and commuting, it’ll handle it just well.
On top of that, when you do take it off-roading, there are some much-appreciated carryovers (as well as a lot of special upgrades) from the regular D-Max that are most welcome. For instance, there’s a hill descent assist system, as well as rear diff locks, and a tried-and-tested four-wheel drive system. The latter of which also comes with Isuzu’s Shift-On-The-Fly mechanism, so you can switch between 2 High (2H), 4 Low (4L), and 4 High (4H) really quickly and easily.
As you might be able to spot by now, the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition is much taller than a regular D-Max. It’s since added 50+mm of ground clearance, with the total now standing at 266mm at the front, and 290mm at the rear. Between this and the inclusion of those confidence-inspiring all-terrain tyres, even a hardy and challenging off-road trail hasn’t yet put it off, nor has this really pushed it to the limit.
Now, to cope with both off-roading and arctic adventuring, the Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition has received a wide array of major upgrades elsewhere. In particular, there’s a lot of reinforcement to the regular D-Max bodywork, frame, and drivetrain. Keeping those all-terrain tyres on the ground is a set of top-of-the-line Bilstein off-road suspension. All these modifications and changes have also upped the base Isuzu D-Max’s approach, breakover, and departure angles to 35 degrees, 34 degrees, and 29 degrees, respectively.
What Is It Like Inside?
Despite how rugged or transformative the exterior of the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition may appear, once you step inside, it’s actually no different than the regular Isuzu D-Max. There are a lot of similarities to those earlier D-Maxes that I’ve driven prior, and especially, the interior is identical to the flagship D-Max V-Cross trim.
Consequently, this gets you leather upholstery and heated seats – the latter must be quite nice when you’re out in the actual Arctic. The D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition also shares the same infotainment system that I’ve become accustomed to in the V-Cross trim. With its generous 9-inch display, it also features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Earlier on, I alluded to the fact that there are some special goodies hidden underneath that rear canopy, and there are quite a few handy-dandy upgrades here over a regular D-Max. Or even, compared to most other trucks on the road today.
The entire cargo floor of the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition – or, truck bed, in this instance – is taken up by a large storage solution. And, as soon as you fold out that ARB drawer unit, it then transforms into a mobile kitchen. This – another superb ARB piece of kit – slide-out kitchen comes with three entire gas burners and a 12-litre collapsible sink. These kitchen units fold out to the side of the drawer unit, so you do get a large, makeshift kitchen counter at the top with which you can use to prepare your meals on.
Oh, and that large black box you see sitting on the top of the drawer unit? That’s an onboard fridge. Behind that fridge, you’ll also notice a couple of traction boards for the tyres, just in case you really get stuck. Next to the aforementioned module drawer units, there are a couple more hidden compartments and organised cubbies for extra storage. They’re large enough that you could theoretically custom-make special fittings or holders to further compartmentalise them, or even to hold specific items that you might want to bring with you.
As a whole, sitting inside the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition is a joy. Even if you don’t drive or live in wintery or arctic climates, in the all-year-round dampness of the UK weather, it’s a pleasure to spend time in. Once you turn on those heated seats, and you set the heater just about right, it’ll keep you far away from the chilly, crystalline frost in the air outside. There’s a lot to like with how it ploughs through the road, too.
Compared to the regular D-Max, the added ride height here gives you this secure and commanding view of the road ahead. All the while, the lightbar and spotlights illuminate everything in your peripheral view, with its grippy all-terrain tyres keeping maximum traction on the road, even with the pouring rain and extremely wet conditions, filled with standing water and loose, fallen leaves. It gives you this satisfying feeling that no matter the weather, you’re prepared for anything.
Naturally, there is a slight compromise, as expected, when you’re driving it on the motorway. Those chunky tyres do contribute to a bit of tyre roar and road noise. Still, I feel like this is within tolerable levels. Despite how big they are though, these tyres don’t pull or drift on the camber or when it encounters undulations or imperfections on the road. Nor, does it make the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition hard to drive.
On top of that, another compromise that you’ll have to make is with your MPGs. Fuel economy does suffer a bit, given all that extra weight that you’re tacking onto the D-Max. Your engine now has to work harder, just as those big tyres add a bit more rolling resistance. Moreover, with the roof rack installed, and all that extra cargo up there, plus the rooftop tent, it’s not nearly as aerodynamic as the standard Isuzu D-Max. In my testing, I still managed to get around 31mpg, so that MPG impact isn’t too significant.
Best of all, despite all the modifications and added weight, the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition hasn’t compromised on its original towing and payload capacity that the regular D-Max affords. As such, if you need to tow and haul any cargo, expect that same, respectable 3.5-tonne towing capacity and over 1 tonne of payload capacity. Therefore, it’ll work just as fantastically as a work truck or commercial vehicle, just like the regular D-Max.
D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition Cost
Priced from £47,999, this is what you’ll have to pay for the manual transmission variant, just like the one I have here. Although, if you want to opt for the automatic transmission, it’s a slight premium, at £49,499. Comparatively, it’s a tad bit more expensive than the regular D-Max that I’ve driven before, like the Utility trim, as well as the mainline flagship model, the V-Cross. However, with just how many modifications that were made to this absolute beast of a truck, its character alone – not to mention how immensely capable it is for off-roading, overlanding, or even an arctic expedition, it’s well worth the price, I think.
To make that high price tag a bit easier to swallow, Isuzu and Arctic Trucks offer a cool 5-year (or 125,000, whichever comes first) warranty. If that’s not enough, the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition still has all the niceties and quality-of-life features that you get in the regular D-Max. This includes a massively comprehensive ADAS suite, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, trailer sway control, a hill start assist, and even a wireless charging pad for your phone.
One of the noteworthy selling points of this D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition is just how special it is to get in and drive. You don’t see trucks like this all too often, so it feels like you’re driving a rare vehicle that not only looks cool, but could also get the job done when you need to, with effortless ease. The D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition feels robust, solid, and planted on the road, off or on it. It drives great off-road and on the road too, with a lot of refinement and off-road-tailored features that complete the whole experience.
While it might be deemed far overkill for most people, if you enjoy off-roading and overlanding, the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition is a superb choice. Compared to most other off-roaders that you could shop around elsewhere, the Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition has all the modifications that you’ll ever need, out of the box! There’s no need to fiddle about with aftermarket mods or custom solutions, and everything you’ll ever need is included. So, even if you’re not an Arctic explorer, the D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition will feel right at home, no matter where you are.
Isuzu D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Basecamp Edition Specs
- Price: £47,999
- Engine: 1.9-litre turbo-diesel inline-4
- Power: 162bhp
- Torque: 360Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph: 12.7 seconds
- Top speed: 112mph
- Weight: 2,175kg
- Economy combined: 33.6 mpg
- CO2: 220g/km