Max-ed out for work and play - Simon Hacker reviews the Isuzu new D-Max Arctic
Tipping the scales at just over £40,000, Isuzu’s striking 2020 D-Max Arctic is the icing on this Japanese maker’s pick-up cake.
Doublecab pickups might not sit at the most affordable end of transport choices but they’ve become hugely popular as an alternative to crew cab vans and such utilitarian staples as Land Rover’s Defender.
That’s largely because they can comfortably straddle the demands of trade and family needs, so if you’re addicted to cars that are in reality giant toys, the budgetary arguments can perhaps be encouraged into the back seat.
But how does that elevated profile and rugged stance translate into viable motoring in the rocky heights of the Cotswolds? Isuzu fettled this variation of the AT35 early this year.
The latter features 35-inch Nokian Rotiiva Tyres, 17-inch AT black alloy wheels and flared wheel arch extensions, but the Arctic version takes styling a little further, including a new Bilstein suspension for tougher resilience over rough ground.
Cosmetically, there’s a lot going on here, not least newly designed extended profile black side steps that incorporate a chunky tread pattern and a new AT logo with lava colour coding. This fresh logo is applied to the wheel centre cap and features on the upgraded exterior badging on the wing and tailgate.
Inside, it’s all very plush, with quilted leather featuring a geometric pattern. Space is great for four, with a slim seat for any fifth passenger.
Contouring has been added to the seats with side bolsters and the front headrests retain the Arctic Trucks logo and, as a soundtrack to your adventures, you get a new 9-inch multifunction colour touchscreen with sat nav, Bluetooth, DAB, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto functionality, as well as nine speakers, including a subwoofer. There’s even a wireless phone charger hidden in the top glovebox.
For ease of use, rear parking sensors and reversing camera are included, the front camera positioned on the front bumper to monitors the driver’s blind spot. These images are sent to the touchscreen when parking.
That’s a nice touch because, as you might guess, the Arctic is a beast, looming in the rear mirror of that Fiesta in front like a sumo wrestler on a toddler. This is a vehicle to be driven with grace and finesse (both being possible) but in the wrong hands it would be a prime tool the kind of intimidation you might be forgiven for associating with, bless them, ambassadors of the Range Rover brand.
Drive it like Zen, and the rewards are tangible: despite those hulking tyres and the ability to conquer the craziest of OS contour lines, the ride is smooth (if stiff over potholes) and the engine, working well with Isuzu’s auto option, muted.
On the balance sheet, driving a pick-up truck brings tax benefits which your Isuzu dealer will readily map out, but as well as extremely favourable Benefit-in-Kind rates for drivers, VAT-registered purchasers can reclaim substantial amounts of VAT.
Companies can often write off the full purchase cost against tax. As an end user company car driver, the bottom line is that opting for one of these spells less benefit-in-kind taxation – a fixed rate of £634 a year if you pay 20 per cent tax and £1,268 if you’re on the 40 per cent rate.
If you need such a vehicle for your working week, the Arctic also comes with the reassurance of a five-year or 125,000-mile warranty. So despite the intimidating aura, it may be a more friendly real-world proposition than that cartoon outline initially suggests.
Isuzu D-Max Arctic Doublecab Auto
Price: £40,995 with auto option; £39,995 in manual.
Options fitted: matt black roller cover, black sports bar
Raikes Journal rating: 8/10 A beast – but not beastly