Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Car Spotting in Iceland

Iceland isn't jut full of unimaginably serene landscapes like tall mountains dusted in snow, black and gold beaches, expansive fields of moss-covered lava rocks, towering waterfalls, surreal glaciers and raging volcanoes- the roads and towns are also home to some pretty cool rides.

When I was over there driving around the country for two-weeks, I kept my eyes peeled for anything unique with an engine. Geeking out over cars doesn't stop as soon as I set foot in a new country. Being the gearhead that I am, I've always been fascinated by what people drive in different parts of the world. Cultures revolve around the automobile. We depend on them for getting us to jobs, family and use them as an outlet for fun. Here's a batch of photos I took of some of the rides that roam the island. Loads of old-school Land Rovers, Defenders and Range Rovers. Swarms of sleek station wagons like the Skoda Octavia (droooooool I want one) and the new Mazda 6 wagon with...all-wheel-drive, a manual and the SkyActiv-D turbodiesel engine! (Unicorn, gosh I wish I could buy one, come on Mazda USA, don't be lame and bring that model over here). I saw virtually no dorky, stupid 'crossovers', thankfully rather real, tough, large and durable SUVs like the Toyota Fortuner, Land Cruiser Prado and regular Land Cruiser, Mitsubishi Monteros and Pajero along with the almighty Nissan Patrol (one of my favorites). I piloted a little, spartan SUV from Suzuki called the Jimny almost three-thousand miles throughout Iceland. It had a proper 4x4 set-up with high ground clearance, a heated cloth passenger seat and a five-speed gearbox matted to a tiny 85-horsepower four-cylinder engine. It was an adorable, rugged vehicle that got me up mountain F-Roads, forded a few streams and kept me safe when driving through a snowstorm in the northern region of the country. Good gosh it was slow, and loud and polka danced on the highway in any noticeable wind but it was bullet-proof. I contemplated the possibilities of how I could take the Jimny all apart, fit it in my suitcase and bring it back to the US where it's not sold. In today's age of cars filled with all sorts of autonomous-this and automatic-sensing-that gizmos, I truly appreciated the Jimny's bare-bones feel. Just give me a solid vehicle I can drive without having to be distracted by an absurd amount of other technology. There's my Tuesday morning car rambling.

Like I've mentioned in other blog posts about Iceland, it's a very pro-green and sustainable country... even when it comes to cars. There were electric vehicles everywhere and many public charging stations. I saw a handful of Chevrolet Volts and tons of both Nissan Leafs and Tesla Model S. In those two-weeks in Iceland I'm convinced I spotted more EVs (electric vehicles) than I've seen for years back in the United States. Diesel-engine cars aplenty but very few if none at all, hybrids. Two other neat commonalities on vehicles I noticed were spiked tires (why on earth are we so afraid of these in the USA? They help tremendously in wintery road conditions) and over-inflated, huge off-roading tires on just about all large SUVs or pickup trucks (as you can tell in some of the shots below). There were also a surprising amount of laughably-bad Korean knock-offs  lapping 'The Ring Road' and cowering in town parking lots. Vehicles from SsangYong like the Rodius and Musso or the Hyundai Galloper (which seen below looks like a direct copy of an older Toyota Land Cruiser or Range Rover). And of the French, gosh your cars are clever and strange looking. As weird as it is, the Citro├źn C4 Cactus looks awesome. Can I have one? Finally to wrap-up this post, I have to extend a big thank you or 'takk fyrir' in Icelandic to the humans of Iceland for restoring faith in the manual-transmission, as nearly every vehicle I saw had three-pedals. Enjoy the pictures!