What makes something fun to drive? Ignoring the one percent of the time where you really get to stretch a car’s legs I’d argue it was sense of occasion; something that makes ordinary journeys feel that little bit less … ordinary.
Perched up in the cabin of this Arctic Trucks modified Isuzu D-Max you certainly have a different perspective on life. Other traffic scurries out the way (although that’s perhaps due to my driving) and you look down upon the hoi polloi in their crossovers. It’s the sort of vehicle that brings out your inner kid – a giant Tonka toy.
It’s also surprisingly good, in a slightly agricultural kind of way. The 2.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine is a touch clattery at idle and it makes its presence known under acceleration, but on a cruise the cabin noise is better than some budget SUVs. There is a touch of shake and rattle, but a notable absence of roll, thanks to suspension designed to carry a one tonne payload on top of the surprisingly lithe 2,030 kg kerb weight.
Even on its mildly comedic 35-inch balloon tyres the Arctic Trucks AT35 handles neatly. Coming from a normal car the steering requires a mildly alarming number of turns to go from lock-to-lock, but the £30,999 AT35 is no different to the standard D-Max in that regard. It’s still a world ahead of the old Land Rover Defender in terms of both refinement and dynamics.
That’s not to say it’s a limousine. Opt for the manual version and it comes with a proper truck gearbox – long on throw and not inclined to be hurried – but that to me adds to the appeal. Once you’d got used to parking something well over five metres long you could potentially use this every day and yet I don’t think it would ever feel routine.
If that sounds ridiculous – and I guess it is unless you live on a building site or some far flung patch of the Yorkshire Moors – consider the number of people cruising round Chelsea in pimped up Defenders. Now the hipsters have sunk their bearded ethically-sourced teeth into Land Rover, perhaps this is a way to really stand out?