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Gqeberha plant produces brawny new double cab to tackle off-road adventures

Home Manufacturing & Processing Automotive Gqeberha plant produces brawny new double cab to tackle off-road adventures

ISUZU launched the second iteration of its specially developed double cab bakkie, the D-Max Arctic AT35, as big, bold and built to take on the toughest off-road adventures.

Designed in collaboration with Arctic Trucks, which is renowned for producing capable overlanding vehicles, the D-Max Arctic AT35 is proudly locally assembled at the Isuzu Motors South Africa plant in Struandale, Gqeberha. It is available on special order through Isuzu’s local dealer network, with limited production numbers guaranteeing exclusivity.

“We launched the first-generation D-Max Arctic AT35 in 2019, and it quickly earned an enviable reputation as one of the boldest, toughest and most capable 4×4 bakkies on the market,” says department executive: product planning and programme management at Isuzu Motors South Africa, Kevin Fouche.

“The new D-Max Arctic AT35 carries this legacy into the seventh-generation D-Max range that we launched last year,” Fouche says. “The latest model asserts its unique positioning in the local bakkie segment with even bolder, more muscular styling that unashamedly points to the vehicle’s ability to tackle and conquer the toughest terrain.

“As the range-topping model in the D-Max line-up, the AT35 appeals to buyers who want to stand out from the crowd, as well as those aiming to exploit the vehicle’s adventurous nature and its remarkable off-road capabilities,” Fouche says.

Locally built in Gqeberha

The Struandale plant is the only Isuzu facility in the world accredited by Arctic Trucks to produce the D-Max AT35. Based on the range-topping D-Max V-Cross 4×4, the AT35 is produced on the same production line as the standard D-Max models to Isuzu’s highest quality standards.

However, the muscular bodywork enhancements are added in a dedicated Arctic Trucks conversion area in the body shop, where Isuzu’s most skilled artisans and technicians craft the bigger wheel wells and arches to accommodate the large 35-inch tyres and beefed-up suspension.

After the e-coating and painting is completed, the vehicle follows the normal D-Max assembly line where all the components are fitted, including the specially developed suspension lift kit and Bilstein dampers that give this vehicle its impressive off-road attributes. The final step in the transformation is the off-line fitment of the larger wheel-arch mouldings that signal the AT35’s serious off-road intent. As with the standard production models, the AT35 goes through Isuzu’s rigorous inspection and quality checks before being signed off in preparation for shipment to customers. For ultimate peace of mind, the AT35 is covered by the same comprehensive warranty, roadside assistance and service plan as the standard D-Max.

Tough and capable

The design of the new model matches its tough underpinnings, and there’s no mistaking it for a standard bakkie thanks to the aggressively flared wheel-arch extensions along with the increased ride height and wider track.

Numerous other elements signal this model’s exclusive status, including AT35 chrome badges on the front fenders and rear tailgate, wider profile side steps for easier access to the cabin and Arctic Trucks mudflaps. This is matched by brawny 35-inch BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres mounted on distinctive 17×10-inch AT black alloy wheels. A standard 18-inch spare wheel is fitted beneath the loadbox, and a ResQ Puncture Repair Kit is provided to get drivers mobile again.

Under the skin, the AT35 is equipped with a specially developed suspension that gives this unique model its imposing stance and supreme off-road characteristics. A purpose-designed lift kit raises the ground clearance from 232 mm to 266 mm and increases the vehicle height from 1 810 mm to 1 875 mm. This is complemented by heavy-duty Bilstein dampers that provide the ideal balance between on-road composure and off-road performance.

The standard vehicle’s wading depth of 800 mm climbs to 865 mm on the D-Max Arctic AT35, while 4×4 obstacles can be negotiated with ease thanks to the steeper approach angle of 33 degrees (up from 30 degrees), an improved departure angle of 23 degrees (up from 18 degrees), and the greater break-over angle of 34 degrees (up from 22.5 degrees).

The D-Max’s proven part-time four-wheel drive system is retained, offering the choice of two-wheel drive for on-road use, as well as four-wheel drive high and low-range when venturing off-road. The electronically controlled system incorporates a new actuator design on the current D-Max that offers one of the fastest engagement times of 0.61 seconds to ensure a seamless transition to the preferred drive mode. For the toughest terrain, the driver can engage the electronic rear differential lock.

The AT35 is powered by Isuzu’s 3.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that is used in the range-topping D-Max models. The high-pressure common-rail diesel engine is both more powerful and more efficient than the previous-generation unit, delivering a peak power output of 140 kW at 3 600 r/min and 450 Nm of torque from 1 800-2 800 r/min. It comes with a six-speed automatic transmission which delivers faster shifts and improved fuel economy.

Based on top-spec D-Max V-Cross 4×4

The D-Max Arctic AT35 is based on the range-topping V-Cross model, delivering the highest levels of safety, luxury, refinement and technology for customers. To reinforce the unique status of this model, the leather-trimmed seats are embroidered with the AT35 logo, which is also featured on the gearshift shroud and floor mats.

The luxury appointments mirror that of the standard D-Max V-Cross, including piano black interior finishes and leather trim throughout, eight-way electric driver’s seat adjustment with lumbar support, a multi-display digital instrument cluster, the large 9-inch infotainment system with eight speakers,  Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay, as well as wireless charging for compatible smartphones.

Befitting its top-spec status, the range of advanced driver assistance features is exceptional, incorporating a cutting-edge stereo camera, sonar and radar technologies. This enables an extensive range of active driving aids including Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Attention Assist, Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Lane Departure Prevention (LDP), Lane Keep Assist System (LKAS), and Emergency Lane Keeping (ELK).

Additional safety features include front and rear parking sensors, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, rear radar, and the Multi Collision Brake (MCB) function that will automatically apply the brakes when the airbags are deployed. Along with the usual complement of airbags (dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee), the V-Cross also features the innovative far side airbag that prevents the front seat occupants’ heads from contacting each other.

The D-Max Arctic AT35 is sold with Isuzu’s standard five-year/90 000 km service plan, 5-year/120 000 km warranty and roadside assistance, and 5 year/unlimited distance anti-corrosion warranty. Service intervals are every 15 000 km or 12 months.

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