This Week On Car Clinic: The “Final Word” on The Range Rover Sport

Hi Baraza, 

Thanks for your advice over the years.

Quick one: what’s your final word on the Range Rover Sport? 

I have heard many tales about its unreliability – air suspension and transmission system. However, in a bid to get the truth and a more balanced picture, I have talked to several owners and they invariably trash these “stories”, leaving me confused.

I gathered that the dust sensors, too, pack up after some time. Is it a case of owners defending their cars (we need to delve into the psychology of this one day; remember  the Prius bloke?) or are they right?

I love the car and its aesthetics, but not with such killjoys, and would rather settle for a Prado for its proven reliability.

I seek your word so I can know how to proceed from this crossroad.

Nick

 

Hey Nick!

What do you mean by “final word”? I have not issued conflicting reports about the Range Rover Sport, have I? In fact, I have never reviewed the car fully; only a snippet here and a tidbit there and that is what we will do again today.

For both generations of the Range Rover Sport, my summary (and thus final word) is this: it is something you want, it is not something you need.

Just like all sorts of things that are unnecessary, the Range Rover Sport ranks high on the desirability scale while scoring unsatisfactorily against the “real world” checklist. The car looks good — very good, in fact — and it has otherworldly performance as a bonus but it is horrendously expensive to buy and run. The vehicle is quite heavy, especially in Mk. I form, so it eats tyres, it eats brakes and it drinks fuel in huge gulps.

The biggest problem lies in the apparent unreliability of Jaguar Land Rover products. I say “apparent” because unlike you, I haven’t heard of any complaints about the air suspension or the transmission (its stablemates the Vogue and the Discovery fall prey to this gremlin more often). I also don’t know what “dust sensors” are. However, I have driven two Range Rover Sport SUVs, one from each generation, and true to form each had its own unique foible.

The newer car had its Hill Descent Control (HDC) system go offline at the very moment that I needed it most, which almost led to the need for a diaper change right there at Jamhuri Park. As a result, I’m in no hurry to re-enter a new Range Rover Sport.

I drove the older version during my first ever TV appearance, broadcast by a rival media house and hosted by one of its more comely newsreaders who happens to be an acquaintance. For her film, we took the Sport to the (in)famous Kiamburing; after all, the car has “sport” in its name so what better test for it than to gauge the degree of sportiness within its bones?

Two observations:

  1. I could almost feel the car eating its tyres, eating the brakes and drinking fuel in huge gulps right up to the moment when the now-uncomfortable owner said to ease off the throttle, that I was going too hard.
  2. The electronic handbrake went offline, forcing us to park the car with the transmission in “park” lest it wander off expensively into the tea as my newsreading acquaintance tried reciting her lines on camera.

Typical Range Rover Sport.

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I want to thank you first for your good advice to Kenyans.

I have had a Subaru Leone saloon 4WD 1988 manual model with a naturally aspirited caburettor engine (non-turbo) for the last six years.I have not made any modifications at all to the car. Fuel consumption is not an issue as it does 13-15 k/pl on the highway and 8 to 10 k/pl in town, which I am comfortable with and I don’t listen to the Toyota agents.My baby performs very well and has served me  so well that  I am not thinking of replacing her in the near future. My baby takes me to Makueni and back to Nairobi every weekend and I use her daily to commute.  

Kindly elaborate why manual cars are better to drive in muddy areas than automatic ones. Is it due to the driver’s lack of experience, or is it because the Subaru Leone was perfectly made?

Lastly, why are older models more reliable than the newer versions?

I change oil at 4,000 km. Kindly advise me on the best oil as well as grease to use when I change all dustboots and for the moving parts as well to increase its life.

Michael

 

Greetings, Leone Driver,

Make no bones about it, proficiency in mud-plugging begins with the driver, closely followed by powertrain option. The fact that your car has 4WD is the more likely explanation for your success traversing the clag, rather than the fact that it has a manual transmission. If anything, automatic transmissions are more useful for off-road vehicles, a topic I discussed convincingly but to much disagreement from people who couldn’t raise any solid counterpoints besides growling menacingly that: “A manual transmission is a Maaan’s transmission…. Man-ual transmission, get it?”

Older cars are more reliable than newer ones for two reasons:

  1. They are less complicated, therefore, there are fewer things to go wrong. Sticking with the evidence, this past weekend my neighbour’s admittedly fetching and lovely BP5 Subaru Outback decided not to react to accelerator proddings at all, confounding the man and frustrating him to no end. It was only after starting and restarting a few times, followed by repeated jabbings of the SI Drive controller to re-engage the traction control system that the car finally played ball and agree to move. The suspect? An alarm system had just been installed a short while earlier.
  2. Planned obsolescence. This strange expression means manufacturing products that are deliberately flimsy so as to guarantee oneself a few repeat customers. The company that discovered this the hard way was Porsche, whose cars were so good it reached a point nobody was buying new ones because all the people who were interested in Porsches already had Porsches in their driveways that worked perfectly, and therefore, didn’t need to buy new ones. The cure? Build cars that fail on purpose. That way, once the car starts acting up, it will be sold off to someone living much closer to the breadline and replaced with a brand new unit. Every car maker does that nowadays.

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Hello Baraza,

I would like to thank you for your very informative articles. 

I graduated from the university last year and I am excited about buying my first car. However, I know very little about cars. I am confused when it comes to choosing between the Mazda Demio, the VW Polo, the VW Golf and the BMW 116I.

I would prefer one that is lady-friendly and relatively cheaper to maintain. My budget is Sh700,000 to Sh1.1 million.

Kindly let me hear what you think about the above four for a first timer.

Miss Ann

 

I will skip all other criteria and focus on the “cheaper to maintain” aspect, but first I will put to rest the “lady-friendly” bit. All these cars are lady-friendly: cute, manageable in size, easy to drive but most importantly, easy to get in and out of in heels and skirts.

The cheapest car to maintain is the Demio. I know this because I had one.

In that (slightly wide) price range, the best vehicle you can get for the outlay is the Demio. The German equivalents will most likely be high mileage examples, more so the Golf and the BMW.

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Hi Baraza,

Thank you very much for your weekly column, very informative. I try not to be a “blonde’ when it comes to cars but I am not there yet. I bought a 2009 Honda Stream last year and I have not had any major issues (apart from having the plugs serviced).  That has changed two issues:

1.When I  accelerate, it gets  to 60km and starts to shake (I am not sure how else to  describe what it does) but stops when I get to 80km and above.

  1. When I’m stuck in traffic and it’s on neutral, it vibrates/shakes (still not sure about the description).

I’ve been to different mechanics, who have all come up with  different diagnoses for the problem but no solution.

Please help.

Nyokabi

 

Hello Nyokabi,

  1. This sounds more like a wheel balance problem than anything else. Have the wheels balanced (and aligned too, for good measure). It’s not very expensive to do and it doesn’t take long.
  2. This sounds more like an idling problem than anything else. Have a competent mechanic check the idle air control (IAC) valve, as well as the fuel filter, fuel pressure regulator and fuel pump. Sometimes hiccups in fuel delivery can cause a slightly rough idle, manifest as a tremble.

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Thank you for the good work you are doing.

Mine is rather a special enquiry since I am not too familiar with cars and car parts in terms of maintenance and fuel consumption and all. So please explain to me like a kid who just enrolled in a Baby Class.

I am a marketer and I’ve decided to freelance and in order to do that I need a car. It will be my first car, (not to drive but to own) and I can’t afford to make a mistake on this. Pease advise me on a cheap to buy and cheap to maintain car. I know you are used to heavy terms and German machines but I’ll get there one day but in the meantime, kindly advise me.

 

Hello Freelancer,

Your enquiry is not special, it is vague. Also, I rarely explain things to kids who just enrolled in Baby Class; I once tried explaining the role of a seat belt to my son and he ran off to play with his doggie friend instead, not having understood a single word I said. He is in Baby Class.

This might sound rude but my answer will be as vague as your question: go Japanese. They are cheap to buy, cheap to run, cheap to maintain and generally reliable with it.

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Hi Baraza.

I am a big fan of your column and for once I have some questions.

1) Can one get a good SUV second-hand car and if yes, which models?

2) I have heard about a Sh1 million new showroom car called the Renault Kwid. Could you please comment on it.

PS: The reason I am leaning toward SUVs is because of their ground clearance level, unless there are other types of cars with excellent ground clearance without having to install spacers.

Lewis

Hello Lewis,

  1. Yes, one can get a good SUV type second hand, and in any make or model, except maybe for those that came out last week and have, therefore, not reached “used” status.
  2. I have also heard about the Kwid but I haven’t driven it yet.

There is one very interesting thing I read about the Kwid last week, but I am yet to ascertain the veracity of this newsbyte. The car costs Sh1,234, 567. Catchy number, but I’d wager my front headlights it has no scientific or pecuniary basis.

Slightly less interesting but of more concern is that the Kwid scored nought in crash testing recently. Zero. That means that of you crash one, your chances of survival are just about similar in magnitude to those of winning both the lottery sweepstakes and the sports betting jackpot on the same day.

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