How do you capture the essence of a city? What makes a particular place hum and sing and buzz? Is it the people? The culture? The architecture? Food? It is, of course, all of these things. And more. For us at CarAdvice, it is, unsurprisingly, also the cars.
We are privileged to travel around the world for our job, visiting cities, countries and far-flung corners we might otherwise never see in our lives. And apart from experiencing so many different cultures, one of the things that stands out for us is the sheer diversity of automotive culture around the world. In essence, the cars people buy.
In Australia, of course, SUVs and utes rule the roost. In Europe, station wagons and micro cars are more prevalent than they are here. The US has its love affair with huge pick-up trucks. And despite Australia being one of the most diverse automotive markets in the world, travelling affords us the opportunity to see, first-hand, car brands that have never been available Down Under.
This ongoing series aims to celebrate that diversity of automotive culture, capturing the essence of a city through the cars on its roads.
First up, is Düsseldorf, a city on the western edge of Germany. A financial, industrial and cultural hub, Düsseldorf is a prosperous city of around a million people, who are, if these things are to be believed, very happy. In 2012, a Mercer Quality of Living survey ranked the German metropolis as the sixth most liveable city in the world.
It’s a long bow to draw between the happiness of a city and its cars, but judging by the diversity of automotive engineering on display during our short 48-hour sojourn in the German city, the denizens of Düsseldorf love their cars.
This immaculate 1970s Jaguar XJ6, in traditional British Racing Green, cast a fine figure on the Königsallee in downtown Düsseldorf. With a 4.2-litre inline six under that long, long bonnet, the XJ6 pumped out 182kW, a pretty hefty number back in the mid-1970s.
The Series II, produced from 1973-79, saw a raised front bumper over its Series I predecessor. This was done in order to meet strict US crash safety regulations. The result was a smaller front grille but, to ensure adequate air cooling to that hefty inline six, an additional air intake was added directly below the bumper.
In all, over 90,000 XJ6 Series IIs were built, the bulk of them six-cylinder variants (Jaguar also produced a stonking 5.3-litre V12) and while many have survived, they are becoming increasingly rare, especially in this well-preserved original condition.
At face value, the SUV bug hasn’t bitten Düsseldorf in the same way it has in other markets like our own, for instance. However, the citizens of that prosperous city have taken a liking to rugged high-riders at the premium end of the SUV spectrum.
Mercedes-AMG G63s can be seen on every corner, while this long wheelbase Land Rover Defender looked the business. Finished in an understated grey and sitting on massive matte-black alloys, the Defender looked ready to roll over anything in its way.
When work needs doing around the streets of Düsseldorf, Mercedes’ tougher-than-tough Unimog springs into action. The tough-as-nails multi-purpose vehicle has a multitude of uses; from emergency services, to military applications as well as civic duties such as this Unimog U1200 with backhoe and serious-looking winch out front. Fun fact: Unimog is an acronym for “UNIversal-MOtor-Gerät”, where “Gerät” means ‘device’.
Remarkably versatile, the all-wheel-drive U1200 features a 5.7-litre, six-cylinder diesel engine putting out a minuscule 92kW. There was a choice of transmission available, too, with anywhere from eight to 24 gears, depending on the application needed. Top speed was rated at around 70km/h. Sure, it might not be the spriteliest off-roader going, but they look so damn cool, we’d have one anyway, just for fun.
Porsches, Porsches everywhere. Okay, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that the streets of Düsseldorf are jammed with Porsches, all kinds of Porsches. From Macans to every variant of 911 imaginable, Stuttgart’s finest have made themselves at home in this little corner of Germany. On a side note, if you’re wondering where all the Panameras are, look no further than Düsseldorf. Porsche’s four-door luxo barge has found many, many homes in this city, judging by the sheer number I spotted during my short stay here.
But, no matter how many Porsches you see on any given day, no matter how desensitised you’ve become to the sight of yet another 911, a menacing black example of the Turbo S variant is still something to behold. Even the pair of elderly ladies behind the subject of this photo seem impressed.
And it’s not just Porsches that have a healthy following in Düsseldorf. Supercars are plentiful. In one short 45-minute walk I counted a Lamborghini Huracan, another Huracan Performante, more than one Ferrari 488, a fearsome-in-white Lambo Aventador S and more Mercedes-AMG GTs than you can poke a stick at. Clearly, times are good in Düsseldorf.
This one stood out for its sheer rarity. Forget Australia’s penchant for 4×4 dual-cab utes. Spend any amount of time in Europe and you’ll sense something amiss on the roads of that vast continent. And if, like me, you walk around with your head in the clouds, you may not notice anything at all until you’re actually staring it in the face.
That’s what happened when I stumbled across this Ford Ranger Wildtrak, a space-cab variant no less. Spying it suddenly made me realise: there are no utes in Europe. Well, almost none. Ironically, minutes after snapping this Wildtrak in the err, wild, a Nissan Navara dual-cab sauntered past. Still, dual-cab utes in Europe? You can count ’em on one hand.
And kudos to this example, which, while not exactly muddied, was certainly sporting a decent dose of dirt. Don’t see that too often Down Under.