This Week On Car Clinic: Suzuki Escudo, The Landcruiser Brothers & How To Upgrade From a Wingroad to a BMW 320

Hi Baraza,

hello thanks for good work u are doing i want to buy my first car a Toyota Prado but i see my variety in our road so what the different BTW Prado with the wheel at back and the one without if there is any other model available please free to discuss.

Strange way of describing the various Landcruiser tailgate/hatch design options.

There isn’t a mechanical difference between the two. The disparate rear hatch design come about because of spec and market. Some markets get both types of rear doors; some get only one type…. like here in Kenya we get the sideways door with the spare wheel hanging off it, we do not get the one without unless imported.

The tireless doors are also the type used in the Lexus equivalents for these cars: the GX470 (and LX470/570 for the 100/ 200 Series)


Hi Baraza

I have a Toyota premio 1998 model with a 7afe engine ,the problem i have is fuel consumption it gives like a litre for 8km is this fine or there is a problem

There is a problem, and it could be your right foot.



I recently upgraded to BMW 320i from a Nissan Wingroad and the differences between the two are just amazing but that’s a story for another day. I need your guidance on how i can enhance the ground clearance of the Bimmer by 2 to 3 inches.  I have received conflicting advice including adding spacers or using stronger shocks & springs.

Regards, Sospeter

Yours is a funny email. Of course there will be a world of difference between a 320i and a Wingroad: one is a compact best-seller by a premium automaker from the land of perfectionists, the other is a cheap, Probox-rivaling wagon derived from a panel van built by a company that had stared death in the face before Renault stepped in to resuscitate the ailing Oriental by creating the R35 GTR and giving The Company Formerly Known As Prince a new lease of life. These two can never be on the same level.

The BMW, as stated above, is a compact saloon car in the premium segment, and is engineered to the point where the Chinese are yet to copy one (or have they?). It therefore follows that a 2-3 inch lift is an insane and ill-advised maneuver worthy of the ruthless calumny that you will get from the internet forums once the fan club learns of your heretic intentions. You will ruin a good car; don’t do it. Just don’t.


Dear Baraza

I follow your column zealously and the more I do, the more I get convinced about how little I know about cars. I want to buy a car but can’t quite decide which one. I am lost between AUDI A8, 4.2 FSI Quattro, BENZ S550, S350 and E350. Please advice which in your perspective would be the best buy based on comfort, power, reliability and fuel economy.

You need to be a bit more specific about which model years we are discussing, but in terms of reliability, the S350 and the E350 are the safest bets owing to their relatively simpler constructions. The Audi and the S550… not so much; these are German V8s, not the last word in trouble-free motoring.

Comfort: get the S550, which should also be your choice for power. Fuel economy will show best returns in the E350.

Now that you didn’t specify the model years, here are two very interesting factoids you probably should know:

  1. Ever heard of a recall? The 2017 E Class is on the brink of one because apparently the vehicle might stall if you have a back seat passenger. What was that, you ask? The midsize executive saloon will cut its engine if you place a passenger exactly where one would want to ride a Mercedes from? Yes, exactly that. The TSB or recall notice doesn’t specify what the problem is, but that can’t stop a mind like mine from making an intelligent guess: the fuel pump is most likely located in that area and the pressure exerted by a human derriere could either cause a disconnection or an electrical arc (what you call a “short circuit”) thus temporarily sending the fuel pump offline and starving the engine of fuel. Since the recall notice doesn’t mention the possibility death by flashy explosion, the electrical arc is not a likely suspect, since the arc itself is a spark.
  1. Whatever you do, steer clear of the 2007 S550 saloon. The electronic issues and complications with air suspension are well known and quite easily cured, to be honest, but the real problem lies in the M273: the 5.5 liter V8 petrol engine that lives under the bonnet.

An accountant was let loose in the engineering department when this engine was designed and the result is there are telltale signs of cheapskate interference in the timing equipment. One of the timing gears is made of low quality metal, and like someone who has chewed khat long after they should have smartened up and divested themselves of the habit, the teeth start rotting and falling out, with catastrophic results.

The early omens of the coming apocalypse are typified by a Check Engine Light with error codes pointing towards the camshaft timing. Ignore this and soon after the engine will get increasingly out of balance. “Shake What The Used Car Salesman Gave You”, right? Ignore this too and the next lyric in this dirge will be “Throw Your Valves In The Air, Like You Just Don’t Care” as the timing chain slips, the piston crown meets the valve heads and the M273 grenades itself and coughs up its insides like an Ebola patient in the final stages of malady.  A replacement engine goes for something in the region of 5000 USD.

If you fancy yourself a grease monkey, this is how to replace the offending timing gear:

  1. Remove the M273 from your W221
  2. Remove front cam covers, secondary air pump, guide pulley, thermostat housing, belt tensioner, oil filter case, vibration dampers, water pump, coils, valve covers, timing chain adjuster and timing cover.
  3. Take out the toothless wheel and install a better one
  4. Look at the pile of parts on your garage floor and try to figure out how it all goes back together.
  5. Call a specialist to help you.

My advice is to skip steps 1 to 4 and go straight to 5.

*The M272 engine which is the V6 version of the M273 and appears in cars like the E350 and S350 also has this premature wear issue with the gears in their balance shafts. The only way to stay safe is to buy cars from 2008 onwards and eschewing those cars with VINs in the list of the affected. This list can be found on the internet, I don’t know where.


Hi baraza,

Am planning buy a used land rover discovery 4 year 2012 or a prado Tx same year. Kindly advice on their reliability, prestige and off road capability as i do a lot of off roading on ranches and game parks.


Reliability: here is a marketing slogan for you: “The car in front is always a Toyota”

Prestige: here is another marketing slogan for you: “Land Rover: the best 4 x 4 x Far” (geddit?)

Off-road capability: Toyota will claim their car is better; an allegation which will be summarily rubbished by Land Rover. Both will wander far off the beaten path to extremes that may lie outside the reach of your talents, so for this you may as well toss a coin.  Many are the vocal protesters who will insist the Prado will dominate the Discovery off road. Ignore them, they either pay too much attention to Facebook posts or they have never driven a Discovery as it should. And before anybody squawks about the air suspension, I believe this part of the question is on ability and not reliability. Just because the Disco is notorious for eating its own leggings does not mean it won’t tackle the rough stuff: it will, and it will look good while at it, right up to the moment when you call a tow truck to tote your pricey steed to the specialist for physical therapy.

Just buy the Landcruiser, to be honest.


Being a great fan of your work, I could state that its the aesthetics besides the motoring world that attracts me. All your attempts (n success )at humour, metaphors, hyperbole and good English are not in vain. It’s in them i’ve come to learn a lot about vehicles.

To date, I still remember the joke that attracted me to this table….about marrying Halle Berry and expecting her to make traditional food.i.e. asking too much for a vehicle that can’t give the same. After that good times came. Remember the informed lady; Sally birch who wrote the range rover mail full of masculinity, to your ordeal with a hyena, all the great runs, the troubled father who had to lock, remove the battery and hide his car from his annoying son(jehova mwathani!!) to the j-lads (what happened to them really? ?)

And today, a person owning that peugot having to end buying a stool and a rope. Oh, and the chronicles of your own Peugeot to shifting from ‘mazdalago’ to a subbie.

Keep adding the icing. Even if I don’t understand hard motoring terminologies(though am not badly off like the guy who thought Toyota’s are the most expensive cars ) at least a good laugh will keep me glued.

Now, it is emails like these that make me overlook the “off” button on my laptop and keep churning out the good stuff. Quite a recollection you have there, I had almost forgotten some of these exchanges from years past.

The Halle Berry analogy worked, I believe. I remember Sally Birch and miss her input. If she is reading this, put your hand up. A simple hello will go a long way in making my end of year a happy one. The hyena ordeal was a brutal reminder that camping is for those with a strain of masochism in their psyches: that is not a hobby, it is purgatory dressed in canvas and grounded with pegs. The Great Runs have been an inspiration and continue to be. We had our tenth one (tenth!) this past weekend where Great Runners headed to Maasai Mara to try out their off-roading skills. To Nyaga from the email above: Landcruisers were legion. Land Rover Discovery: not so many. In fact, none.

The troubled father with his pesky progeny holds the key to peace of mind in his own hands, both literally and figuratively. The J-Turn boys must have skidded off the road and are still trying to get their vehicle right side up, given the deafening silence emanating from their corner. If they too are reading this, they should tell us what their next project is. Drifting is big in the underground car culture that spawns maneuvers like j-turns; perhaps they should give it a try.

The Peugeot advice drew an emotional tirade from the fawning Frenchist fans of the ex-bicycle maker who got offended when I advised the inquisitor to sell his problematic car and get something more reliable. Listen here, French Fries, the man had suffered long enough. I was not about to ask him to respect brand loyalty at the expense of peace of mind. The make and model did not really matter -though, again, the fact that it was a Peugeot was already a black mark against the car – if repeated repairs and parts replacements do not solve a particular problem, the solution is fairly obvious: dispose of the offender and get something else. This applies across the board: Peugeot, Subaru, BMW, whatever…  but especially Peugeot. Blind faith has never cured anything beyond a psychosomatic syndrome; and badge loyalty will not magically transfigure a rubbish vehicle into the paragon of reliability overnight. I speak from experience and to Hades with lifetime membership of owner’s clubs.

The chap who thought Toyotas are the most expensive cars revealed the true depth (or lack thereof) of his exposure. The again he may be close to right, after all Lexus IS Toyota and a Lexus LFA costs ₤350,000 new, if you can find one. Apparently Toyota doesn’t make them anymore, so expect the prices of vehicles in collectors’ barns to skyrocket.

Hi Baraza,

Thanks for the great informative articles every Wednesday which I read avidly.

I own a manual gear first generation 1998 Rav4 (XA10) station wagon with full time 4WD/Diff Lock, that has served me remarkably well and quite reliably for the past 4 years. I need to upgrade on it though since age is catching up with it fast.

I’ve been thinking of a relatively newer but used unit with a YOM of 2004 to 2008 with a budget of around 1M.

My options being:
– A 2nd Gen.Rav4 (XA20) 4WD
– Mitsubishi Outlander (which you trashed the other day with abundant disdain)
– Subaru Forester
– Suzuki Escudo

Of key importance is three main things i.e. Off road performance (not too much heavy stuff but it must handle some regular up country journeys to the hilly Meru countryside and some light mudding / offroading + a random Great Run here & there), Reliability and Ease of maintenance i.e. affordable and easy to get spares.

Fuel economy is a non issue since all the vehicles fall in the 2000cc category.

I shall appreciate your valued and trusted opinion.

The Escudo seems to be the car for you, since not only does it trounce the rest off road, it is also simple, robust and well behaved. It is also cheaper than the rest.



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