A Subaru Legacy that is faster than a Mercedes E350? Really?

Dear Baraza,

I have this Subaru Legacy S/W BPE model that’s just too wild for my imagination. It picks speed like a jet and cannot even be compared to the Outback in terms of power.

I have a friend in the US who drives it whenever he comes over to Kenya. He has a Mercedes Benz E350 which still, according to him, does not come close to my Legacy. I have tried searching online for more specs about this Subaru without success as the manual I have is written in Japanese.

How do you rate this car compared to the WRC STi? I am told this was a limited edition and only 500 units were produced worldwide.



Dear Isaac, some Leggy that must be. Quicker than an E350, you say? Was the E350 running on only five cylinders or is the BPE highly tuned aftermarket-wise?

I am sure that much as the manual is in Japanese, there must be some non-hieroglyphic writings in it. Figures such as power, torque, fuel economy, vehicle mass and other number-based parameters must surely be expressed in Arabic numerals — what we think of as ordinary numbers and not the flowing cursive in which Strange Tales From The Arabian Nights was possibly first written. RTFM and try decipher at least part of it.

I am not sure whether you actually mean “WRC” STi or it was a typo intended to be “WRX” STi, because, fast as that Legacy may be, I don’t see it holding a candle to a works rally car. WRC means World Rally Championship and WRC cars form the entry lineup.

Those things pull like nobody’s business and are capable of doing 200km/h down a goat track. Can your Leggy do that?

In terms of “rating” I’d slot it one or two notches below the WRC. As for the WRX STi, well, it’s a tough call. The WRX STi is easily Subaru’s fastest vehicle; so again unless the Legacy is heavily modified, it will not be besting any STis. There are and have been 280hp Legacy cars (such as the B4 RSK); same output as the WRX STi but sheer size and weight act against them; leaving the STi as top dog in the Subaru hierarchy.

If the Legacy is as fast as you think it is, then perhaps it would be better pitted against a V8 Benz, say an E500 or even an AMG; rather than a V6? I’m not calling the E350 slow — which again brings in another aspect: driver fortitude — but a car that is being compared to WRC equipment needs to pick a fight from within its own ranks.

This is what I know about the BPE: it is also known as the 3.0R, and it shares the same flat-six engine as the Outback, which is good for 241hp and tops out at 237km/h. It does 0-100km/h in 8 seconds. So, no, it will not be challenging any WRC STi (300hp, 100 in less than 4 seconds) or even a WRX STi (280hp, give or take, 100 in less than 5 seconds depending on market tune).

I doubt if it is also faster than an E350, which is rated at 302hp for the 2014 model year and is limited (LIMITED!) to 260km/h. Your friend may have been overstating things a little. Either that or your car has received some post-sales under-bonnet massage that has pushed its outputs north of 300hp.


Dear Baraza,

This is a follow up to the article you wrote on July 1 advising a reader (Kefa) not to import or buy a diesel Volkswagen Golf due to the poor quality of diesel sold in Kenya.

This issue has puzzled me for sometime since a close relative acquired a diesel propelled Volkswagen Tijuan some time ago. The vehicle is perpetually in the workshop due to issues with the fuel system caused by poor quality diesel.

Now, since all fuel is imported in its refined state these days (as a result of our only oil refinery being closed), why do the oil companies continue to supply us with poor quality diesel? I could perhaps understand the situation that existed before the closure of the Mombasa refinery, when all companies had to put up with poor quality diesel from Mombasa.

What is the reason for this situation? Can’t the oil companies import good quality diesel?

David C Gitau, Limuru


Bwana Gitau, it really is hard to explain why we still have poor quality diesel in the country while the rest of the world is moving on swiftly. Perhaps if we cornered one of the pertinent policy makers (read government person) they would be in a position to explain it. My guess is the “dirty” diesel is cheaper; though again it is hard to tell.

Sulphur removal from petroleum products may be a segmented process, but I do not know the cost implications of moving from 500ppm down to 50ppm. It can’t be THAT expensive, can it? And if it can, then what the hell is the government doing with all the money it pockets as the “fuel levy fund”?

Installing cameras on the roads, most likely. Or maybe growing grass by the roadside; or even buying Mercedes-Benz E300 saloon cars for local authority policemen to use.

Things start to look a wee bit Orwellian if you think too hard about them. Careful now, lest it turns you into a bitter cynic or a disillusioned radical.


Hi JM,

I believe taking your car for an engine wash leads to problems. Nowhere in any car, or even owner’s manual, do manufacturers indicate that a car should have an engine wash. Could you please give your opinion on this matter?

Eric Kayanda


Mr Kayanda, it is not only advisable, but it is also important to have an engine CLEANED. Dirty engines develop problems with cooling, contamination when adding/replacing fluids and the dirt may form acids or other corrosive deposits that eat away at wires and seals, causing failures, leaks and short circuits. Plus a clean engine looks good, does it not?

That being said: there is a difference between CLEANING an engine and WASHING an engine. A proper engine cleaning will involve a wet rag, correct cleaning agents and a bit of water. It also calls for a meticulous approach; a task that takes time and patience to do right.

Our local car wash maestros are not patient; especially not when there is a queue of cars whose owners/drivers have dived into the nearest watering hole/abattoir to dabble in the typical Kenyan gout-summoning orgy of meat-eating and beer-drinking. A few drinks and a tummy full of meat later, they get impatient and want to leave. They then push the car wash personnel to work faster.

This is where things start to go wrong. The same pressurised water jet that is used to dislodge mud from the wheel wells is used in the engine bay; aimed directly at seams, junctions, terminals and (Lord have mercy!) the fuse box.

The engine gets clean faster, yes, but at what cost? Water gets into everything, including the electricals. For some cars, such as the Madzalago, the OBD II port is under the bonnet, right next to the top suspension mount and the fuse box. A good blast of water in this general area will destroy the car’s nervous system and render the vehicle useless: sometimes the pressure is high enough to displace fuses and disconnect vacuum pipes, deform soft rubbers or even break plastic covers.

The bonnet is summarily shut, you pay then drive home with a Check Engine light glowing on your chin and a car that won’t go uphill or won’t rev beyond 2500rpm. Time to send that Baraza guy an email…

There is a way to clean an engine; and it is similar to the way one cleans a laptop. Use a wet rag, and only on dirty surfaces that can stand wetness. Nobody dunks their laptop in a tub of soapy water; and modern engines are as chock full of electronics as any laptop, so why do that with them?


Greetings Baraza,

I am planning to buy a 1994 Nissan Sunny B12, 1300cc in a few days. However, a close friend has advised me that it would be a big mistake because buying a vehicle with a carburettor (as most of them have such anyway) as opposed to EFI or any other more advanced mode of fuel injection in this day and age is not advisable.

He explained that these engines are marred by starting problems, uneconomical  fuel consumption, carburettor failure and power loss. I replied that I would have to confirm his allegations (I was kind enough not to say ‘baseless allegations and innuendo’) with my expert, one Sir JM.

Now, to my queries

1: In terms of fuel economy, do vehicles which use carburettors come anywhere close to those which use EFI? Just last weekend I drove with a friend to Nakuru in his Mazda Demio, YOM 2008, 1300cc, and it consumed less than 20 litres to and from Nairobi. In terms of the aforesaid, Would you be kind enough to draw a comparison between the two vehicles?

2: Is it true that the Nissan Sunny would be a serious pain to me due to start-up problems, carburettor failure and power loss?

  1. If I were to go against my friend’s advice and purchase the vehicle, what would you advise me to watch out for in the B12 in order to keep it running for a few more years?
  2. Initially, I thought of buying a Toyota Starlet, one with a turbo, but I was afraid of turbo failure, were my fears valid?
  3. I am pretty enthusiastic about motoring, so much so that in my CV I have been filling  the space under ‘Hobbies and Interests’ as a motoring enthusiast (in bold). However, I am yet to receive any positive reply to the jobs I applied for. Methinks my prospective employers weren’t psyched by my unequivocal enthusiasm for motoring. But I know you are a motoring enthusiast, so do people think that motoring enthusiasts are not a serious species when it comes to the workplace?


PS: I don’t mean to still be talking with the whole “Obama’s comin’ back home” thing but I am also curious about the beast’s tyre rating. My best (drunken) approximation is a 215/95R18 95Y (Don’t be too harsh in your reply!).


RM, interesting that you should bring up carburettors. It has crossed my mind more than once to acquire an absurdly cheap second car (100k or less) just for purposes of wantonly abusing it in the name of experimentation, and a Sunny B12 may have topped the list of potential candidates. That aside:

  1. Fuel consumption is a bit of a grey area. Though it may seem fairly obvious that a car fitted with a carburettor will never see the kind of economy figures EFI engines enjoy, there are ways of tuning a carburettor to make the engine run as lean as possible. The economy will improve even beyond EFI levels but you may burn the valves, the engine will misfire and the car may likely overheat. The plugs may fail too.

Then there was a time I discussed some technology developed by Honda in the late 1970s, whereby they conjured a unique cylinder head design that they called CVCC heads.

It involved a dual-feed lean-burning fuel system with a pre-ignition chamber to prevent misfires, plug damage and valve burning, and was used to great effect in the tiny Civic hatchback of the time. Figures better than 20km/l were attained using normal driving techniques, which is absurdly impressive for a carburettor engine of 1500cc. It seems like the fuel crisis at the time inspired a lot of innovation, but as soon as the panic was over, the technology was forgotten.

The B12 will never see the economy figures of a Demio unless a) the Demio is driven by a sociopath with nerve problems in his right foot or b) the B12 is modified. New engine or carburettor tuning, along with hypermiling.

  1. These issues can be resolved by simply cleaning the carburettor and keeping the air cleaner free of gunk. What exactly is carburettor failure? The carburettor is essentially a metallic air vent; what could possibly go wrong with it besides blockage? If these problems persist, then the issue lies with either the electrical system or restricted air flow into the engine. Other causes would be a blockage in the fuel lines or fuel pump failure: essentially the same problems one can face with an EFI engine.
  2. Just make sure the car is in one piece. Check all the systems: a car of that vintage may be on its last legs if it was run on a budget. Suspension is a key area, as is structural integrity.
  3. Yes, they were valid. Perhaps the former owner knew nothing about turbo engines and may be passing on incipient problems to you. Then again, a well-kept Starlet GT is a gem of a car; don’t simply walk away from it without confirming whether it is or isn’t in good shape.
  4. I will admit, some people are “haters”. They see “motoring enthusiast” and take it as a euphemism for “drives too fast, is reckless and won’t stop talking about Lamborghinis, of which he hasn’t seen even a single one”.

They tend to think we all drive gaudily-coloured, heavily-decaled, unnecessarily loud Fast & Furious-type cars “stanced” to within a few millimeters of the road surface, do handbrake turns in supermarket parking lots and organise late-night meets where skimpily-clad ladies flock around the flashiest cars and spend the entire evening sitting on bonnets while we prattle away discussing why my 2005 N10-spec Subaru Impreza WRX STi GDB is marginally faster than your 2005 N10-spec Subaru Impreza WRX STi GDB simply because the angle of attack on my adjustable rear spoiler is three degrees lower than the angle of attack on your bone-stock factory non-adjustable rear spoiler thus affecting the coefficient of drag by a negative factor of 0.0034 and… WILL YOU PLEASE SHUT UP ALREADY! NOBODY CARES!!

They don’t like us much.

The “skimpily-clad ladies” part may be true, though… I’m just saying. Blame those Fast and Furious movies for creating these stereotypes (and for giving us ideas on how to create a few of our own).



All set for Total Motorshow

What are you planning to be doing this weekend? Does it involve going to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre? No? Shelve it. Yes, shelve it. If you are a motoring hack, a car dealer, a mechanic, a petrolhead, or just someone who is shopping around for a car to buy, you cannot afford to miss the largest car exhibition in the region, the Total Motorshow, which runs between September 18 and 20 this year.

Some 400 different vehicles will be on display at the event, which has attracted exhibitors to the more than 120 stands – fully booked – to showcase everything motoring, from motorbikes to saloon cars to SUVs to trucks. Other exhibitors who have already confirmed participation include financial institutions, insurance companies and various dealers of auto-related components, accessories and spare parts.

The show is organised through the long-term partnership between the Kenya Motor Industry Association (KMI) and Total Kenya. The event is also being marketed as a family fun day, with kiddie centres and refreshment zones augmenting the main offers.

Attendance of up to 30,000 people is expected over the three-day event.

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