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How one car (almost) beat the frozen wilds of Yakutia

19 February 2015

Journalists test Chinese Geely on epic 10,000km journey from Belarus and find it performs well in the harsh climate - even if they did have to wear ski clothes.

Driving the Chinese crossover Geely Emgrand X7, motoring magazine editor Dmitry Novitsky and photographer Anton Shelkovich took went on an epic 10,000km research journey. Picture: TUT.by

When journalists took a new car to Yakutia to test its reliability, not only did it provide interesting results but gave a fascinating insight into people of the frozen Russian Far East.

Driving the Chinese crossover Geely Emgrand X7, motoring magazine editor Dmitry Novitsky and photographer Anton Shelkovich took went on an epic 10,000km research journey.

Leaving Minsk, where Geely have recently opened a plant, they spent weeks travelling through southern Russia before making their way north into the icy Sakha Republic. Their aim was to test-drive the five-speed SUV in snowy conditions and frozen roads and, crucially, to see how it reacted to the harsh -50C temperatures of the north-east.

And while there were a few difficult moments – including the pair having to wear ski clothes to combat the lack of heating – it performed well in the cold and difficult terrain.

'At -25 degrees it is warm and the car and you can go,' recalls Novitsky, chief editor of the Belarussian magazine Bolshoy. 'But at about -30C it is cool and the situation is on the brink. At -40C or below only ski clothes will save you. We had thermal underwear, pants, jackets, hats, and gloves, and were just sitting with chattering teeth.

'When it was -50 with no wind I felt just cold, but with a wind at -35 there was one time I jumped out of the car without a ski mask, and my eyes immediately filled with tears, before the tears instantly froze.'

Geely test in Yakutia


Geely test in Yakutia

'We had thermal underwear, pants, jackets, hats, and gloves, and were just sitting with chattering teeth.' Pictures: TUT.by

The expedition between Minsk and Oymyakon, and then back again, is a joint project between Bolshoy and the website Tut.by. It took a month to travel the 10,000km from Belarussian capital, before they continued along the Kolyma ice road to Magadan.

Their return trip will depart shortly and take them just two weeks, without stops, arriving back in Minsk in the first few days of March.

Videos, photos and reviews from the journey have been posted online as the journalists review not only the car itself, but the people and places they have encountered.

Made by Geely, one of China’s biggest automotive companies, the Emgrand X7 first appeared in 2007 and is the firm's only SUV offering. With a number of innovative safety features it is popular in China, with plans to break into the lucrative US market.

Throughout the journey across Russia, the car performed well in the cold apart from the rear shock absorbers freezing and the rubber suspension cracking from the frost.

And, as would be expected, the heating inside the SUV all but stopped functioning.

Geely test in Yakutia


Geely test in Yakutia


Geely test in Yakutia

Their aim was to test-drive the five-speed SUV in snowy conditions and frozen roads and, crucially, to see how it reacted to the harsh -50C temperatures of the north-east. Pictures: TUT.by

Along the way, the journalists adapted to their environment, with felt put on top of the engine and a special tarpaulin on the bottom to shield it from the frost, while cardboard was placed in front of the radiator.

'As a test we decided to check how the car would take to the -50C conditions,' says Dmitry. 'We wondered whether the ventilation system would freeze, or if the pipe cooling system would burst?

'Would the muffler collect condensation, would the engine stall and would we have to drag the Geely into a warm garage? Plus I'm a southern man and I was scared to leave a new car on the street with the engine running.

Geely test in Yakutsk

'In the morning we found that an icicle had grown from the ground to the muffler.' Picture: TUT.by

'In the morning we found that an icicle had grown from the ground to the muffler, and the engine wheezed and gurgled, punching the ice with exhaust gases. But, still, the engine worked, thank God.'

In their review the journalists say the Emgrand X7 would need its rear suspension modified to cope in the Sakha Republic, with the large number of pot holes and bumps in the road.

Geely test in Yakutia


Geely test in Yakutia

'The life of Yakutsk drivers is greatly complicated by the fog. So drivers in Yakutsk are extremely attentive, polite and careful.' Pictures: TUT.by

Despite the car's success Dmitry admits he still had trouble dealing with certain aspects of driving in the Yakutia winter.

'The life of Yakutsk drivers is greatly complicated by the fog,' he says. 'Locals are used to it but we travellers felt uncomfortable and it was necessary to drive using our instincts.

'For example we stopped behind a bus but when it started moving we could not see anything, because of the cloud of exhaust gases. We knew that somewhere in the cloud of mist was a car to the left, and we knew that somewhere in front of us was the bus, but we could not see anything.

'So drivers in Yakutsk are extremely attentive, polite and careful. In a world championships of smooth driving they would take first place - life forces them to drive very carefully.'

He adds: 'In winter in Yakutsk drivers don't stop their engines since, at -50C, it is almost impossible to start the vehicle again.'

Geely test in Yakutia


Geely test in Yakutia


Geely test in Yakutia

Along the way, the journalists adapted to their environment, with felt put on top of the engine and a special tarpaulin on the bottom to shield it from the frost. Pictures: TUT.by

In his online blogs the journalist does not hide his newfound affection for the people of the Russian Far East, stating: 'The further you go to the north, the better the people are'.

He adds: 'With every kilometre to the north a person grows. It’s hard to explain, but the peak of this is in Irkutsk. The evolution of petty human into real human goes from Moscow to the north and ends in Irkutsk.

'I am very comfortable in Siberia. There are great people here. They are great because they can be strong and remain kind. Strong, quiet and kind. Siberians -- my respect to them.'

Comments (5)

COOL AND AWESOME
COOL, R
06/07/2019 04:47
0
0
I heard many car owners in Yakutsk without an garage let their cars run non-stop during the cold time, since no cold start at -45 to -50°C so easy... but now I see, gasoline is not really cheap?!




Oil and Natural Gas, Coal, Nuclear Power, Hydro- and other renewable Energy Data for Yakutsk would be cool. The Russian average vs. Yakutsk average!
Filip S., Berlin, Germany
27/12/2016 02:40
0
0
Ksusha, but that is why Lada should be an specialist to keep a market share in the rest of the World. Investment should be directed to make Lada cars the best in the World for under 0º temperatures, with the best batteries, glass and wheels. It takes a lot of time and R&D, but that should be a target. Kamaz trucks have won the Dakar rally for years, and it is the hardest rally in the World, under the worst conditions. So, if Kamaz can do it, Lada also could if they make the necessary investment.
Enrique, Spain
24/02/2015 18:14
0
0
Dear Enrique, Russians call Lada 'a bucket of bolts', it would be great if Lada works good at normal temperature, not to speak about under 0C...
Ksusha, Omsk
21/02/2015 23:47
0
0
Autovaz is the company which should make The best cars, batteries, glass and wheels for under 0° temperatures. Given the fact of Kamaz success in Dakar, perhaps Lada should learn from Kamaz patents.
Enrique, Spain
20/02/2015 08:57
0
0
1

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