Why attend motor vehicle launches if you don’t even get to drive the car?

Everybody by now must have heard about the new Land Rover Discovery Sport.

If you haven’t, you need to leave your cave immediately and step into the sunlight just a little bit. It is the latest release from the makers of the best four by fours by far.

The local launch was done last Thursday by the local franchise; at least I think it was — I saw an ad in the paper and everything, you know.

I dislike motor vehicle launch parties. They are mostly attended by people who have more money than you, dress better than you and are more likely to buy the vehicle being launched.

The result is media hacks like us relegate ourselves to a dead zone out of the way of the money men/trophy wives pairings, hiding in a dark corner; a corner strategically chosen to be equidistant from the trays of meat-based finger foods on the east and malt-based prime liqueur on the west. We then proceed to plough into the catering like there is no tomorrow.

VETERAN LISTENER

While the other “media guys” attend in search of a (boring) story, I typically attend out of respect. Fail to honour an invite one time and your name is sure to be conveniently forgotten the next time round, which is when the fun stuff might happen.

I therefore take no chances: once DT Dobie threw an otherworldly event that had middle-aged adults engaging in spray painting antics, the likes of which I’d expect from my son five years down the line. I can’t afford to miss such an occurrence.

These events tend to get under my skin because, apart from coming eyeball-to-headlamp with the vehicle in question, I mostly gain nothing from them. Instead I lose… I lose my patience.

The speeches are loaded with platitudinous catchphrases describing the vehicle with as much vacuous terminology as the PR department can get away with (without actually saying anything).

Marketing department stiffs, once they discover Car Clinic is in their midst, all approach the dark corner that is equidistant from the snacks and the beer with the same question on their lips: DO YOU THINK THE CAR WILL SELL?

The correct answer is: I DON’T KNOW, I CAN’T SEE THE FUTURE, but being a veteran listener of speeches laden with platitudinous catchphrases and vacuous terminology, I have learned how to hold my own: I give as evasive an answer as I possibly can before skilfully twisting the conversation to the time I drove a Nissan GTR on a racetrack in the cloying heat of western California; the one subject I can ramble endlessly about.

Invariably, they walk away by the time I’m redlining the 3.8 litre twin-turbo V6 in third gear going into the first corner…

These salespeople are then replaced by random strangers who recognise Car Clinic and all approach with the same question on their lips: My car has thrown the Check Engine Light.

What could be wrong with it? Again, the correct answer is I DON’T KNOW; which is what I usually declare.

This is unsurprisingly followed by THE CAR IS OUTSIDE, LET US GO AND LOOK AT IT YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK IS WRONG, and in my head my thought is “What is wrong is you not going to the garage and instead approaching me with the assumption that I walk around with an OBD II Scanner in my pocket, ready to decipher the Check Engine Lights in the cars of random strangers I meet at parties where I’m trying to eat as many free sausages as I can and down as many free tots of vodka as I can before the hosts realise the last time they invited me I didn’t really write anything about them and I’m therefore a waste of space and catering…”

WATCH THIS SPACE

I dislike motor vehicle launch parties. We don’t even get to drive the cars.

That is why it came as a relief to Discover (pun intended) that I was conveniently omitted for the recent launch of the all-new Discovery Sport. I couldn’t bear another evening of verbal assaults by PR-types, marketing stiffs and people with warning lights on their dashboards; which is just as well, because as you are reading this, I am in the exotic locale of Mauritius actually DRIVING the new Discovery Sport instead of listening to self-aggrandising vapour spewed by a middle-level manager as penned by a recent Mass Communications graduate or PR agent. A thorough report will be coming to a newspaper near you soon.

At least around here they don’t know me well enough to ask me “Hey Baraza! What’s the red circle with an exclamation mark in it mean?”… it means your parking brake is on, genius.

And now, the questions:

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Hi Baraza,

Thanks for the informative auto-related articles. I noticed that you drive a Mazda Demio and was wondering if you have ever changed the ATF oil.

I drive a Mazda 2001 Familia which is supposed to use the automatic transmission fluid known as ATF M-V. Since this oil seems to not be available locally, would you know of an equivalent one?

Mark

Hello,

First off, my Mazda is not automatic; it is a 5-speed manual DY-frame Demio Sport (perky little thing). Secondly, it is still running on that experimental goo called XADO that was fed into the gearbox some time last year and everything seems A-OK (so far). It just so happens that XADO has the ATF equivalent of their wonder-drug. Care to try?

Disclaimer: you, like me, will be experimenting too, so should things go belly up, feel free to communicate your findings.

Normally, the owner’s manual for that specific vehicle should indicate what kind of transmission fluid goes into the gearbox. Some cars will take anything provided the desired characteristics are met; characteristics like heat capacities and viscosity indices.

Other cars’ manual insist that only the manufacturer’s own product should be used and none other — with the danger of voiding your warranty if you choose to ignore that particular treatise.

So these are your options: read the manual, find out what Mazda says about automatic Demios (mine is a manual, so I can’t help) then either 1. get on the internet and buy the ATF M-V from a website that has it, or 2. If allowed, find ATF of similar body to the M-V (whatever M-V means) and use it. 3. Use XADO and get back to me after 1000km of driving.

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Hello Mr Baraza,

First off, let me just say how much I love your column. I never miss it, ever! Keep up with the tremendous work, just shows you have real passion.

Down to business, I have a friend in the States who wants to sell me his 2014 Audi Allroad at $10,000 (Sh944,025).

Could you tell me about this car from an expert’s point of view? I am unable to make a decision solely based on online reviews. I have seen and driven it once before and the experience was magical. Its mileage is around 45,000 miles and it has beendriven for about a year now. I also need to know about its performance, maintenance cost and safety measures.

I currently drive a 2009 Toyota Harrier and have been saving for a new car for a while now. My wife and I are expecting our first born son in three months time and I would like to have a car that will be just for me and my son. I see the Audi Allroad being that car but I am not so sure.

Help me out..I need an upgrade.

JK

A brave choice, the Audi Allroad.

I may have said some days ago that reliability and costs of spares are moot points nowadays, but that applies to the cheap, bottom-rung, poverty-spec used Japanese white-good photocopy machines/household appliances we call cars; the myriad compact saloons, hatchbacks and small-sized estates from Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi… the Passos and Notes and Ractises and Raums and Wingroads and Sunnys and Lancers and whatnot. Cheap things: cheap to buy, cheap to run, easy to let go of.

There are other cars that you really need to watch out for when the matter of garage visits comes up, and one of them is Range Rover.

The other is Audi, specifically the Allroad. The earlier cars had niggling issues with electricals, particularly the sensors. Then there was the nightmare of having the air suspension compressor fail… You do say that the car in question is a 2014 model though.

That is still a new car, and being German and occupying a lofty rung in Audi’s estate car hierarchy, then I daresay the car is a bit far from having its first problem. $10,000 is a steal for a premium German estate car, more so given the numerous features and high specification the car boasts over the regular A6 Avant on which it is based.

GO FOR IT

Two questions though: first, was the car being used by the United States Postal Service? You see, that is the only known organisation to use right-hand drive estate cars (they once used base model RHD Subaru Legacy estate cars) in the US of A.

Audis are sold in large numbers in LHD markets, of which the US is one. It is highly likely, then, that the car is left-hand drive. So how to bring it here? The local taxman will not let you import it.

Second question: where are you contacting me from? My assumption is you are right here in Kenya with me, but then again you might be in the US, where the car is too.

In which case I’d say a 2014 Audi Allroad at $10,000 is mighty suspicious: that is an alarming rate of depreciation.

Have the car vetted both mechanically and legally to avoid any nasty surprises. 45,000 miles (72,000km in Roman Catholic) is also a bit on the higher side for what is essentially one year’s driving. The annual average lies around the 10-15,000 mile mark (16,000-24,000km).

The Allroad is a better car than the Harrier: bigger, roomier, more practical, and with a wider range of capabilities; and of course street cred… German cars almost always inspire awe and admiration as compared to the Japanese.

The performance is awesome, especially if you opt for forced induction and/or cubic inches in your engine. Maintenance costs will be low for such a new car, and who knows, it may still be under warranty. Safety measures are top-notch.

It really is a superb piece of kit, especially for a family man.

So $10,000 for a 2014 Allroad? Go for it…

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Dear Baraza,

Thank you for your good work. I have learnt a lot by reading your weekly column.

I have a family of four and intend to upgrade my car (Toyota L Touring 2000) to double cab. I need a car that is comfortable, easy to maintain and efficient. I don’t intend to use it to carry a lot of stuff to and from up country. I am thinking of a Nissan Navara Aventura but I have heard that it has some engine issues.

I trust your advise on this one, is it a good car to buy or if not, what would be the near alternative with same features and not highly priced.

Stephen

Yes, the Navara has an engine issue, particularly with the ECU. It is also a little fragile in that it will age quite fast, more so given the kind of abuse it is likely to be subjected to in its life as an SUV. However, as a car it is sublime and blows all known competition out of the water: it is quite the performer, outrunning the rest of the pack with similar engines, it is comfortable, the interior is lovely, it is well specced and it will handle itself offroad.

Efficiency might suffer of you decide to chase other people on the road trying to show them how fast a vehicle you bought. In normal driving it won’t pinch, especially with a 2.5 litre turbocharged and intercooled diesel engine.

AMBITIOUSLY PRICED

Install a turbo timer after purchase just to be safe (it will save your turbo from premature failure), and stay on top of maintenance schedules.

Pay keen attention to the oil you use. Avoid driving too much in water, once moisture gets into the CAN bus system, it will play havoc with the sensors and possibly fry the ECU which is where the Navara’s biggest problem lies.

Near alternatives are ambitiously priced, the nearest being the Hilux which comes surfing in on a dirigible of reliability while riding on a giant tidal wave of reputation.

It is not as well specced as the Nissan, and the Navara’s interior is way better (roomier and better to look at, having been made out of nicer materials), plus it is less comfortable. The ride is harder and jounces a lot on rough roads.

The Mitsubishi L200 is better off not spoken of, it is what we can summarize as a “crap car”. The Ford Ranger lies somewhere between the Toyota and the Nissan.

It takes some of the Nissan’s nicer qualities and combines them with some of the Toyota’s nicer qualities to yield a car that is exactly average.

The thinking man’s choice is what I’d call it. From here, other double-cabs are Chinese, which is the point at which I say goodbye.

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