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Land Rover: The end of an era… or is it?

The Land Rover Defender is dead. Long live the Land Rover Defender; as it should anyway, because it is not actually dead.

It is just that after 68 years of production, the vehicle model is receiving its first full bumper-to-bumper update.

The Indian-owned British manufacturer last week announced the production of the two-millionth Land Rover Defender as the end of the line for this vehicle, and the entire motoring industry was thrown into an uproar.

Are they serious right now? How does one kill an icon? It’s like the Coca-Cola Company announcing that Coke sodas are no more.

Land Rover built their entire existence around the utility that later came to be known as the Defender.

Is there even a point calling the company Land Rover anymore?

So, why did it have to die? Sixty eight years is a very long time, and a lot can happen in that time span.

A plethora of factors came into play as the harbingers of doom for this venerable vehicle, and this is how things panned out.

There was a population explosion — this can trace its origins back to the baby boom occasioned by the wayward tendencies of Generation X — which in turn necessitated an increase in levels of industrialisation.

That meant more people had to have more products, one of these products being the motor vehicle.

An upsurge in the number of cars brought about a huge drain in oil reserves, leading to a general panic and an oil crisis.

The crisis was dealt with, but then along came a man called Al Gore talking about a phenomenon called “global warming”. He took one look at the number of cars on the road and said:“There’s your culprit. All those exhaust pipes can’t be good for the atmosphere.”

Following several years of back and forth concerning the veracity of his claims, there were meetings in various parts of the world such as Kyoto and Copenhagen, and in the wake of each meeting came a new set of rules and regulations about what exactly is allowed to come out of the exhaust pipe of a motor vehicle.

These rules get increasingly stringent with each successive environmental pow-wow to the point where a sports car like the Porsche 911 Turbo has an engine so advanced that the air coming out of the tail-pipe is safer to breathe than the one going into the engine.

LAWSUITS
It did not end there. More people and more cars on the roads can only lead to one thing: more accidents.

In the US, “justice” is a seven-letter word, just like “lawsuit”.

Massive court-mandated settlements led to even more legislations targeting the motor car; mostly along the lines of how much hurt is allowed for participants of traffic accidents before the manufacturer is held culpable for building an unsafe motor vehicle.

Passenger safety, pedestrian safety, rollover resistance, crash-absorption… all these found their way into motor vehicle design, meaning that the cars of the Baby Boomer period and the cars of 2016 barely resemble each other.

Gone is the style, flamboyance, diversity and low weight of the heady rock-and-roll marijuana-smoking days of the ’60s, and now we have safe, heavy, boring, technology-laden briefcases in which to safely have accidents while maintaining the breathability of the air around the scenes of those accidents.

Of what import is this tale to the Defender? Throughout these changes to the tenets of motor vehicle manufacture, Solihull’s most famous and ubiquitous utility remained untainted by the brush of legislation.

The vehicle as is in 2016 is not very different from what it was when it first left the production line in 1948: a bare-knuckle, no-frills attack device for any kind of terrain at any given time.
The overall design changed very little (if at all) throughout its 68 years of existence: the only modifications it received mostly involved new engines; and in the last decade, introduction of HVAC and ABS.

And that is where the knell of doom was sounded for the Defender.

We industry pundits have seen this coming for the longest time. Now the inevitable has arrived. It has to go.

We all know what a Defender looks like.

Designed using the “ruler-and-compass-only” instruction manual that heralded our pre-KCPE primary school geometry classes, the overall silhouette is as boxy as can be, and while it makes for a handsome, brutish, rugged outline, it falls flat as far as the rapidly changing regulations go.

The design in inherently inefficient: the aerodynamic profile is very poor.

Even with a massive 3.9 litre V8 engine, the Defender struggles to go past 140km/h; such is the wind resistance created by that wall of a grille-and-windscreen combination.

This is also hurts the fuel economy of the car; which in turn causes the level of emissions to soar.

In the world of today, high-emissions vehicles face punitive measures in the form of heavy financial penalties for both owner and manufacturer.

The simplistic flat panels that constituted the body work were perfect for the Defender’s intended use: hardcore off-road applications in locales remote and distant.

They are cheap and easy to repair or replace, and they make for an externally compact vehicle (smaller than a Land Cruiser) with massive interior space (can accommodate up to 15 people).

WEAKNESSES
On the open highway, these panels are also the bane of drivers once cross-winds make themselves felt.

Strong breezes could easily cause the vehicle to stray from its lane, which is undesirable if not intended by the driver.

The box design also created hard edges that proved lethal to pedestrians unfortunate enough to get run over by a Defender.

These factors made the Defender a) environmentally unfriendly b) inefficient and c) unsafe; in other words, it fails where it matters. Production stoically soldiered on, nonetheless.
It couldn’t go on forever. As stated earlier, harsh rules and regulations played against this type of vehicle to the point it has become senseless to keep making it. The company has to let go. The Mini evolved, the Volkswagen Beetle evolved and now one of the last bastions of the classic era is finally taking a bow (tick-tock, Mercedes-Benz G Class).
It too is moving on, and its replacement is… in a word, likely to divide views. Once I drive it we will bounce opinions off of each other, but until then, let’s keep talking about the outgoing vehicle.
So why is it such big news that the Defender is bowing out when other cars have come and gone without much ado? The Defender over its history built quite a reputation over the years.

Land Rover’s slogan — The Best 4X4XFar — is not an overstatement; there is very little that can match a Defender’s abilities, and none that can beat it with the right driver at the wheel.

It will go anywhere, and it will do anything. It will be a family car, a pickup, an ambulance, a fire truck or an anti-aircraft missile carrier (among thousands of other applications).
As such, it has been the favourite of many owners: be it private, corporate, military or civilian.

The car is steeped in history: the Royal Families of various kingdoms have fleets of them, they have been used to save lives and have been part of expeditions that changed the world in one way or the other.

LOVE AFFAIR WITH SECURITY AGENCIES
Locally, they are best known for two things: they serve as breakdown vehicles and in the disciplined forces.

The Land Rover Defender became synonymous with police presence to the point where spotting a white, unmodified Land Rover Defender station wagon or pickup is enough to send a pack of unruly youths running for safety irrespective of who is in the vehicle.

Majority of the world’s militaries will swear by them, as they have served faithfully in almost every single war since 1950.

The Defender is so good, in fact, that the military versions are usually obsolete out-of-production models no longer available to civilians, such is the ruggedness built into them.

The off-roading community may poke fun at the Defender’s reliability (which is not as bad as they make it sound) but they will admit: nothing, but nothing, beats a Defender when it is working properly.

But is the Defender really dead? No, and for two reasons, the first being there is an official replacement on the way.

It looks nothing like the vehicle it is superseding and it is built with current emissions and safety regulations in mind, so in the eyes of many, it will not be a true Defender. That remains to be seen.

The second reason is: legislation may have hurt the Defender’s raison-d’etre , but these legislations are in effect only in distant lands. Some parts of the world have no problem at all with the Defender’s aerodynamically-defiant shape, its cross-wind-prone flat sides, its skull-cracking bonnet leading edge, its blatant disregard of c-of-g and rollover safety, its lack of creature comforts, or its thirst.

That means production may officially be over, but not actually over.

We have seen this happen before with the Volkswagen Type 1 (Beetle), the Volkswagen Type 2 (Kombi), the Mitsubishi Pajero V46, the Peugeot 504, the Peugeot 405, the Fiat 124 and the Hummer, among others.
When the parent company ceases production, another company or even a foreign government obtains the rights to keep producing the vehicle under license.

Given the iconic status of the Defender, I strongly suspect this may be the case here: the two-millionth vehicle assembled last week may be the last Defender out of Solihull, but I don’t think it’s the last old-school Defender ever.

Expect to see a Chinese version any time before Easter.

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Although it looks like a shoe, the HRV is a stable car that is great fun to drive

Dear JM,

First: As far as vehicle or motoring matters are concerned, you are magnificently stupendous, to say the least.

Second: Tell me something about the Honda HR-V (sport) cars, now out of production. For years I have had a 3-door model with a huge spoiler, sunroof and all, but an amazing thing happened recently when I was driving on a muddy, slippery stretch.

When I got there, I found a long line of cars struggling to negotiate and manoeuvre their way through. In fact, what looked like a Mistubishi, which had ventured off the road, had got stuck. I couldn’t easily identify the makes of the struggling vehicles since

I was concentrating on the road ahead, but noticed minibuses, what could be a Prado, double-cabins 4Ws, Suzukis and RAV4s. However, I was able to easily and smoothly pass them, with just one hand on the wheel. So what could be the secret or trick about the Honda HR-V?

Third: I also own a Land Rover Range Rover and am planning to buy a Honda Pilot 2015 or 2016 model. Could you kindly tell me something about the Pilot?

CM

 

Dear CM,

First: Thank you! Nobody has ever called me “magnificently stupendous”, ever. Perhaps I need to have a word with my girlfriend about the importance of showing support through flamboyant accolades involving the use of words like “magnificently stupendous” as an introduction during text messaging.

Second: The HRV is an interesting car. I don’t like the way it looks — I think it looks like a shoe, a moccasin/loafer to be exact — but I love the way it drives. For what is essentially a cross between a hatchback and a crossover, it sure feels like neither, but the handling is both safe and sublime.

The view out is commanding while the lightness and stability make for a good on-road experience, corners be damned. To fully enjoy this car, one  should opt for the 1.6L VTEC version with 130hp and rev

the living daylights out of that engine. That successful sojourn into the clag that you participated in in the face of disastrous failure by other drivers could have been instigated by a variety of reasons, chief

among them being that probably those other cars were driven

by … ahem… incompetent oafs. Mud-plugging not only calls for the right equipment (the Prados, double-cab 4WDs and RAV4s), but also demands the proper use of that equipment and choosing the right path. One doesn’t just dive right in and hope to

appear unscathed on the other side (though in some instances this is the actual approach to take), one first needs to assess the road ahead. Find the path of least resistance and of most grip, and then slowly (or quickly) thread your 4WD camel through the

eye of the muddy needle. The minibus drivers ought to be fired: minibuses are not meant for mud crossing. “If the quagmire before thee seems like more than thine chariot or thy own driving abilities can handle, and it so follows that you shall leave it alone” –

Chapter 3, verse two from The Book Of Petrol. Just save yourself a lot of trouble and leave it.

That said, I guess you are asking what kind of drivetrain the HRV uses in comparison to those other unfortunate stuck-in-the-mud drivers. TheHRV (Hi-Rider Revolutionary Vehicle) uses what Honda calls a Real Time 4WD system that involves a dual

hydraulic pump setup in the rear differential. The effect of this intimidating-sounding thingamajig is that power is sent to the rear wheels when grip is lost at the front — what I’d call “4WD on demand” — which is not very different from the workings of

Stability Control in terms of torque vectoring in the face of traction loss. Stability Control (sometimes working in cahoots with traction control) is what keeps cars from crashing when drivers overcook it and slip beyond the car’s (tyres) capabilities and start

to slide. Most motoring hacks refer to it colloquially as an “electronic nanny”. To this “elec-trick” 4WD system adds what Honda mysteriously calls “enhanced driveshafts and suspension” and what you have is a car that will do half your driving for you

when the going gets gooey. This might also be why you defeated the other vehicles in that mud.

Third: I don’t know much about the Honda Pilot, except that it has a car-like suspension (front struts with coils springs and multilink at the back) and it can seat very many people (eight at a pinch). Therefore, it must ride and handle really well and is very

practical. Let me get my hands on one, after which you can expect a full report.

 

Let’s be frank, the Wednesday paper is bought solely for this crazy column and I can assure you I will stop buying it if you ever dare go underground.

  1. How come the repair manuals normally leave out very vital information that could easily save a situation.I own a Camry SXV11R, made for the South African/US markets, making spares a headache. A few days ago, while preparing to overtake (I normally go down to gear 2 to keep the high rev/power for shoot-off), I lost gear 2.

The same evening, reverse followed. The manual doesn’t mention much (check cables). I discovered one gear selector cable had its sheath exposed and the steel wires cut. I nearly had the tranx unmounted. Incidentally, you can do near-crazy things with this car but it will remain on its four wheels – J-turns at 60kmph, 90degree turns, burn rubber, Kajiado to Shell Kitengela  in 15 minutes.  There was a guy with a Subaru turbo in the vicinity and he didn’t like my speed and registration.  I was doing 140-190, the road was clear, the radar detector on. The limiter kicks in at 195. I wonder how the new Camrys handle.

  1. Could you facilitate a forum where we can share experiences? Of course not for me but for guys who need to know what torque is or who get excited when they overtake a Porsche at 160kmph.

3Please tell Subaru guys that all normal Japanese cars, turbo or not, are limited to  180km/h.

Maj.

 

Hi Maj,

What a narrative! I thought (and you stated) that mine is a crazy column, but after reading your write-up, I can say with certainty that you are the crazy one! I’m not sure whether to be impressed, appalled or concerned about the things you say you do with

your SXV11R —the J turns and elevenses — but I’ll definitely say this: whatever stunts take your fancy on a particular day, please pull them in a controlled environment. You might know your way around a Camry, but other road users might not be privy to

your intentions and, therefore, react contrary to your expectations. A case in point is “pulling away” when someone tries to overtake you. If you are being overtaken, live and let live and allow the other vehicle to pass; you can always pass them again later.

Don’t initiate a game of tag with people you don’t know. The ending might be unpleasant in several ways: the other driver might  be inept and cause an accident that might involve you; the other driver might be having anger management issues and might

follow you home to “show” you exactly who you thought you were playing around with. Road rage is real. Just be careful, for your own sake, if not for others’.

1It appears you solved the issue, though you failed to specify what transmission type you have. From your description, it must be manual. You say the repair handbook lacks vital information that can save a situation, but your tale goes on to say that the little that was mentioned was exactly what was needed to solve the issue (check cables). So where is the problem?

I guess the cut cables came from the hard life your transmission must live, seeing how some of those manoeuvres you engage in call for snap-shifting. Perhaps it’s time to spring for a stronger unit?

Some of these Toyota models confuse me. I have driven a brand new Camry, but that was four years ago. That model was released just about that time, but I keep seeing “other” models popping up in other world markets such as Japan, Australia, Europe

and the US. We share most Toyota models with South Africa (they are actually sourced from there), so I guess “our” Camry is the same as theirs. The two things I noticed were: a) the car was grossly overpriced locally. It cost the equivalent of Sh9 million

back then (it could be  more than Sh11 million today). The second thing was: b) that car understeers like nobody’s business. The nose washes wide very easily, meaning those 90-degree turns you so enjoy could quickly turn into acts of deforestation if you

perform them in an arboreal environment. Blame the soft bushes, soft front suspension, skinny front tyres, prominent front overhang, long wheelbase and long overall length for that, plus the fact that the engine is transversely mounted right in front of the

front axle, which wreaks havoc on weight distribution and grip when turning hard. The car looks sharp but the handling isn’t. It’s not meant for your kind of driving.

2.There exists such a forum somewhere; it is my group (www.facebook.com/groups/barazajm). Perhaps you could join us and regale us with war stories involving your Camry…

  1. “Hey, Subaru guys, Maj says that all normal Japanese cars —turbo or not — are limited to 180km/h!”

There, I said it. Happy New Year and have a good week.

 

Hello Baraza JM,Mine is an observation in the trends of the motoring world and I am speak specifically about the Citroëns of old, those from the ’70s and ’80s. As a young boy I was awed by their self-levelling hydraulic suspension that would enable them

to “sit” when parked and climb to riding height when the ignition was turned on. The suspension ride was so smooth and the car rode on any lunar surface like it was gliding. Fast forward 30 years, why did other auto makers not adopt this technology and

why did Citroën let it ‘die’? Michael GN

 

Happy New Year, Michael,

The car you refer to is the Citroën D Special (better known as the DS) and the correct description of its self-levelling suspension is “hydropneumatic”; not hydraulic. To be exact, it is actually oleopneumatic (of oil and air), but let’s leave that aside for now.

It’s not that other automakers did not adopt this tech. They actually did,with Mercedes-Benz being the latest to take it up, preceded by the likes of Peugeot, Rolls-Royce and Maserati. Citroën themselves used it in the DS for its entire 20-year production life. The reasons why it is not as popular as one might expect are:

1Citroën took out a patent on it, meaning no one else could use it unless under licence from Citroën. Sometimes these licences are costly, which led to other automakers to develop their own, simpler air-based systems. These systems are the forebears of today’s air suspension, as seen on all kinds of cars, from Jaguars to Landcruisers to Scania buses.

2The system is very complex, incorporating actuators, pumps, nitrogen canisters, links, valves and goodness knows what else. This increases overall development and production costs, which in turn maight impact the vehicle’s cost, which might lead some manufacturers to probably price themselves out of the market.

3This inherent complexity highlights yet another issue: only garages equipped with special tools could work on them. That made ownership a bit of a pain: it is like owning a McLaren 650S in today’s world.

4The hydropneumatic system might improve both ride quality and handling for a vehicle, but it has no natural roll stiffness. This necessitates the inclusion of anti-roll technology such as sway bars and active body roll control, which again increases the

vehicle’s costs. Combine these with the complexity of the hydrolastic system and yet another issue comes to the fore: weight. A heavy car is a thirsty car, and one whose handling is compromised. Installing the hydropneumatic setup to improve ride and

handling only to make it worse by making the car heavy smacks of a Chinese fire drill to me.

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Do you need a fire extinguisher with the 2015 Ford Everest SUV?

Let’s talk about Ford. We all know Ford, makers of the F150, the Figo, Fiesta, Focus and the Fusion (alliterative labels, huh?), which are probably cars you’ve never heard of if you don’t visit motoring sites on the internet.

More familiar to most Kenyans would be the Ranger pickup and the Everest SUV; two cars that have on numerous occasions been compared to Toyotas by Car Clinic inquisitors: the Hilux and the Prado respectively.

Note: the Everest is a more suitable rival for the Fortuner than the Prado, just in case you are wondering.

For some reason, Ford will not give me their cars to drive, even after filling my email inbox with promises of selling the Mustang locally. Where is that V8 Mustang, Ford?

Now let’s talk about Australia, geographically famous for being far away from any other point on the planet, existing in isolation in the southern hemisphere; but also famous geographically for having The Great Barrier Reef and the Outback, from which

Subaru borrowed a name for one of its models. The terrain in Australia as defined by the Outback is…challenging, to put it in one word.

Cars here have to be built tough, with performance variants of saloon cars sporting beefed up suspensions and being easily capable of topping half a million kilometers before needing engine rebuilds.

It therefore follows that there are not many car manufacturers who have set up shop in The Land Down Under; there are only two to be exact. One of them is Ford. The other is General Motors, who, incidentally, also do not seem to want me in any of their cars. I wonder why.

Now, let’s talk about a man called Peter Barnwell. He is probably one of the first people I would befriend if I moved to Australia. Like me, he reviews cars for a living in a leading news agency, but unlike me, Ford actually gives him some of those cars.

One of the cars in question was the 2015 Ford Everest SUV; a handsome little brute of an off-roader with a nose grafted straight off the latest 200 Series Toyota Landcruiser. Who copied who?

So now this is the setup: there is a car whose manufacturer’s slogan is “Built Tough”; being driven by a motoring hack who is built tough (as we will shortly find out) in a country that demands its cars to actually be built tough. What do you think happened?

THERE WAS A FIRE, THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED.

Three days into Barnwell’s test drive, a warning light about low levels of AdBlue (an anti-pollution additive for modern diesel engines) came up, threatening to shut down the engine in 750km and counting.

The following day, the car phone went on the fritz and kept rebooting itself; then there was a battery warning. Barnwell parked the car, only to discover he could not unlock it. He eventually gained access via the driver’s door, but the rest remained as

clammed up as a politician’s fists outside of an election year. It took two tries to turn over the engine, and once on the road, the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree, proclaiming the unavailability of cruise control and “other functions” that went unspecified.

The screen then went blank, the engine cut out and our Aussie hack found himself powered by his own momentum over a distance of about 300 metres, where sheer happenstance and good fortune had placed a bus stop into which he “drove”. Then all hell broke loose.

Flames shot out from under the bonnet, forcing our hero to bolt like a rabbit. The flames became explosions and “flaming shrapnel” rained everywhere, sending Barnwell into a safe zone called “behind a tree”.

The resultant photos from that caper call for a strong stomach if you are a Ford employee, I kid you not. In the spirit of alliteration, can I now say “Ford Fallujah” or is it too soon for that?

Apparently, this wasn’t an isolated incident in Australia. There are two similar instances that may or may not be related: a 2012 Ranger XLT caught fire while parked a few weeks ago, while yet another Ranger XLT contracted a poltergeist and accelerated by itself to about 145km/h from a gentle cruise, before stopping after the transmission was forced into neutral. It too was on fire by the time the owner made his escape.

This is not just snarky shade from a disgruntled writer carping about the recent lack of borrowed demonstrators in his driveway. There might be an actual cause for concern. Statistics quote around 100,000 vehicles in Australia with that same drivetrain which dates back to 2011, though thus far, there are only 1000 of the 2015 Ford Falluj…sorry, Ford Everests, running on Aussie roads. It may be too soon to shout out “Recall!” but Ford Australia was investigating the incident, and they seemed to have a ready answer at the time of writing this:

“The issue arose due to the incorrect installation of a replacement battery post-production and our investigations to date have not found any other vehicles to have been subject to the same issue,” quoth Ford.

“The new design on the battery fuse link for Everest and higher spec Ranger models means it is not common with the prior model Ranger and Everest. All of the data collected during the exhaustive investigation to date indicates this is a situation which is not systemic to Everest and Ranger.”

Fair enough. Care to tell us what they did wrong changing the battery so that other Ranger/Everest owners don’t braai themselves in their own cars? My thesis is that there was probably a short circuit across the battery terminals, though reading more on the

subject reveals that internal battery damage or poor battery quality could produce the same result. We wouldn’t want another Ford-Firestone folly or flame-up (the alliterations literally write themselves today), would we? As for the other two Ranger XLT fire events, Ford asked the owners to follow things up with their insurance companies. Blegh!

This would have been just another story from a land far, far away; but it isn’t. The power unit in the 2015 Falluj…sorry, Everest, is Ford’s global market Ranger mill since 2011 when the T6 came out: the 3.2 litre 5-cylinder Duratorq turbocharged and

intercooled diesel engine, good for around 198hp and 470Nm of torque. That is the same engine some of you are being pulled around by at the moment, and very soon we will be getting the new car here, with the same mill; if it hasn’t already landed.

Don’t jump out and stare suspiciously at your car just yet, fire extinguisher in hand, Ranger drivers. Ford are right, there is no discernible pattern to be seen here.

These are only three occurrences out of the tens of thousands of Duratorq powerplants chugging their way across the admittedly kiln-like Outback. The 2015 Fallujah is still very new in the market, so it could be a design flaw with the new car in particular

and not the 5-cylinder engine schematic in general; or it could even be that Barnwell’s battery was installed by an incompetent oaf who almost killed him. We have nothing to worry about yet; unless the oaf moves here after I move to Australia.

Keep driving those Rangers and Everests, people. The Ranger currently ranks highest in the double-cab pickup hierarchy in Australia, and if there is anything Australians know how to do well, it is to wring the necks of 4WD cars to within an inch of their

lives.

Take that, Toyota. I wonder why we don’t import more Australian cars. Those things would last forever on these shores. Ford, I have a fire extinguisher primed and ready for action in case of anything. Feel free to invite me for a road test.

THE CHINESE WANT YOU TO BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING

Readers of self-help books must have come across several exhortations about the power of positive thinking, and the Chinese, bless them, have proved that there actually exists such a thing. Whether or not it improves your outlook of life is still a matter of conjecture and a pot of gold for writers of self-help books; but what is beyond debate is that this power could possibly drive your car in the foreseeable future.

The Chinese have invented a vehicle that is driven purely by your own mental effort.

To keep things simple, because the details are mind-boggling, this is how the system works: the driver’s brain signals from an electroencephalogram (EEG machine: those in the medical industry should be familiar with this equipment) are read via a set of 16

sensors by a car-control device which then translates those signals into input; making the car accelerate, brake, turn and other basic functions necessary to keep things moving.

It’s not just hypothetical. The Chinese have successfully demonstrated this technology at its current stage whereby a driver was able to drive forward, stop, reverse and lock/unlock the doors simply by thinking about it.

Some obviously elaborate computer software is responsible for the translation of those EEG signals.

They say this technology opens new horizons for the physically challenged. I say fantastic. They also say this psychological connection “deepens” one’s bond with one’s car. I say yeah…no.

There is nothing to bond one with one’s car as much as rowing a 5-speed manual transmission in a lonely bypass at 5am on a Sunday morning, or exploring the outer limits of whatever performance envelope comes with a 1500cc 4-cylinder, watching the

rev needle dance, feeling the engine thrum through the accelerator pedal and the brakes grabbing via the brake pedal, or the biting point making the clutch pedal quiver ever so slightly as you downshift at high revs while trying to heel-and-toe.

Listen here Chinese people, if I want to connect with my car on an emotional level, I will drive the hell out of it with the radio off.

I will not allow it to access my brain; I have trust issues with artificial intelligence.

While the Chinese efforts still wallow in the admittedly fruitful developmental stage, Hyundai will do you one better. They will sell you an actual car that damn near drives itself.

The latest Genesis G90 is “all but autonomous”, so they claim. This is accessible by ticking the checkbox marked “Smart Sense Package” on your options list when speccing your G90.

The package combines active cruise control and Lane-Keep Assist (which prevents your car from straying outside its lane on a motorway), plus “Highway Driving Assistance”, which looks like just another form of active cruise control.

A plethora of other forms of tech means the car will also adjust the headlamp beams, brake for pedestrians as well as accelerate, stop and steer for you from the cruise control and lane assist systems…basically drive itself.

Or you could just get a driver.

*Note 1: This option is limited to the Korean market for now, so local lazy drivers may have to wait a while before succumbing to the sin of sloth behind the wheel.

*Note 2: Genesis is apparently an upmarket Hyundai offshoot, just like Lexus is to Toyota and Infiniti is to Nissan.

SPEAKING OF NISSAN…

If you are not enamored by the very complex Y62 Nissan Patrol that I reviewed a couple of weeks back, fear no evil; for thou art in a world where the Republic of South Africa continues the assembly of the boxy (and quite handsome) Y61 model.

The only engine option quoted is the 3.0 turbodiesel, alongside (or in line with, to be more accurate) a 5-speed manual transmission; a drivetrain setup I found inappropriate for this car.

Big and heavy, the 3.0 does struggle a bit lugging that mastodon around, but pundits of the old school who believe the automation of vehicle systems (as discussed above) is the work of Satan, can now breathe easy.

Now, to convince Nissan to let me have a Y61 Patrol for a weekend..

Posted on 1 Comment

The NZE can be made to go fast, but it brakes poorly so take care

Hi,

I have a Toyota NZE which I use for my everyday runs, and I’ve managed to max the speed gauge a couple of times.

  1. I am aware that JDMs are limited to 180kph, but I’ve also been told that the limiter can be overrun. Is this possible and if yes, can you refer me to a garage where it can be done and indicate how much it will cost.

Also, is it safe to delimit a car (I have a friend who delimited his Subaru and achieves speeds of 240kph)?

  1. Can I also fit a dump valve in it, considering it is automatic?
  2. Will mounting 16” rims affect its stability?
  3. Can I fit another engine in it or will I have to do performance modifications?

Now off to my true love, the Golf: A friend advised me when buying one to get a TSI or GT. Could you elaborate on this  since he told me they often fail, considering I seriously  outran a TSI (or so I believe since I could hear the turbo struggling to keep up) with the NZE recently.

Then, regarding the GTI, is it also factory limited to 260kph or can you achieve greater speeds in it?

Can you explain what “torque” is and as well as its significance? 

 

Hello Speeding Suspect,

  1. Yes the limiter can be overrun. All you need to do is access the ECU, which can be done using appropriate cables and a laptop with the necessary ECU-reading software in it.

As for particular garages that can do it, there are quite a number, but more importantly, there are a few individuals who can do it too, so you won’t need a garage for that.

It can be done even at your location; after all, how hard is it to carry a laptop and a cable around? Unfortunately, I cannot name them here, so to find these people, join the pertinent forums online and call them.

The cost will depend on how smooth a talker you are when it comes to haggling. Safety? Not so much. In the early days of this column, I reviewed the NZE and unequivocally declared it treacherous at high speed, more so if you are running on skinny tyres.

I have also noticed (after driving more than 22 different NZEs over the years) that the car doesn’t brake so well. I’m not sure you want to do 200+ in one of these.

  1. You can install a dump valve but on one condition: first install a turbocharger. What do you want the dump valve for? Is it for the “pssshh” sound it makes? If so, forget the turbo; there are fake electric dump valves on sale on the Internet.

What they do is simply emit that dumping noise and nothing else. And they can be extremely annoying, especially when installed in a car with an automatic transmission.

It hisses every time you come off the throttle, irrespective of the preceding throttle opening.

The day you try parking such a car or driving it in closed quarters is the day either you, or a nearby bystander, will fling open the bonnet and yank the offending device out before tossing it into the deepest pool of water you can reach immediately.

Just let it go.

  1. It depends on what tyres cover those 16” rims. Fitting bigger rims is typically accompanied by lower profile tyres so if you go for high-profile tyres, what you end up having are bigger wheels overall.

They compromise the gearing, the speedometer, the ABS and the steering geometry, so the already questionable stability inherent in the NZE will be further aggravated by the larger running gear.

4You could swap engines or you could do some “modding”, the choice is yours.

You need to ask your friend which part of the Golf fails. The transmission is the known culprit, but only for automatic versions. The manual car is just fine.

Sure, the engine is more complex with its forced induction, fancy injectors and myriad sensors, but well… live with it. If you defeated a GT/TSI/GTI in your NZE, then good for you, but don’t expect to repeat that result with similar cars.

Perhaps you were competing with a weak or uninterested driver. I don’t encourage that kind of behaviour on the road anyway, especially if you are driving a car that handles funny and won’t stop properly (the NZE).

Torque: torque is twist or turning force. Torque is the outright ability of an engine to move a load as opposed to power, which is how fast you can move that load. People who do not properly understand torque will tell you “torque is what gets you going,

power is what keeps you going”. Sounds catchy… for a TV advertisement that is; but it’s not very helpful, is it?

To properly visualise torque (and power), think of it this way: An average man can lift a 100kg gunny bag of sugar/maize/whatever one metre off the ground, no further.

If you increase the mass, say to 101kg, he will not be able to reach 1 metre; he will get as far as maybe 95cm. So the maximum torque he is developing is 100kg.m (torque = force x distance).

Torque is his ability to do the work equivalent to lifting a 100kg bag exactly one metre – lighter loads will be lifted higher, heavier loads not so high. Power, on the other hand, is how fast he can run with that 100kg bag, having already lifted it 1 metre off the

ground.

There is the maximum speed at which he can run with that bag. For him to run any faster than that, he will have to lose some of that “torque”,  that is, reduce his load – this is where power and torque curves come in but that is a topic for another day. Are we together?

 

Hi JM,

I occasionally get a whiff of fuel when driving with the windows open. What could be the cause?

Murano

 

Hello Murano (are you really called “Murano”, like the car?),

Smelling petrol while driving can only mean one of two things:

a) Leakage: there is a leakage somewhere, could be along the fuel line, or at the fuel pump, or at the fuel filter or just somewhere in the fuel system.

Try to isolate the origin of the smell when the car is stationary.

b) Poor combustion: your car might be overfuelling/running rich, meaning some fuel is going unburnt and this is coming out of the exhaust, though this would be a little hard to detect by smell when  you are moving. I’d check for a leak if I were you.

 

Hallo Baraza JM,

I am glad you started motoring in a power mechanics class just like I did and was wondering whether we were in the same school that straddles the equator along the Kisumu Busia Road. I hope one day many schools will take up the subject.

  1. Why is it that army trucks have a wheel missing on the rear axle and what is the reason for this configuration? 
  2. What technique is used to raise the wheelbase of these trucks to give them the clearance they have? 
  3. You might be able explain a feeling I usually get when the big trucks rev, making the earth tremble and my windows to vibrate, giving me an adrenaline rush. I want to hug the monster but dare not risk it,

so I open my windows to inhale the foul breath of the animal to bond. A feeling close to a smitten adolescent overwhelms me, especially when it is a Steyr truck, which produces an earthshaking sound. I wonder what their capabilities are.

Mwangi 

 

Hello,

I’m glad to meet a fellow power mechanics alumnus, but the school I went to does not straddle the Equator, nor is it in Western/Nyanza. So no, we weren’t in the same school.

  1. These trucks do not need that extra wheel on the rear axle. They have a single wheel for the sake of manoeuvrability and cost management. Most civilian trucks have double tyres (or what is called the “super single”) on the rear axle because they need it,

given the loads they tote (the rear axle is load-bearing). The army trucks you see with single tyres are personnel carriers. How heavy are those soldiers anyway?

Munitions trucks, missile carriers and supply vehicles will have the double rear tyres because they carry heavier loads (volumetrically speaking, guns and grenades are heavier than people per cubic foot) to the war theatre.

  1. They use what is called a “lift kit”, which is in essence taller suspension. And it is the ride height that is raised, not the wheelbase.
  2. That feeling, my friend, is a symptom of acute motor-philia, or “being a petrolhead”. Don’t go hugging any trucks if they are in motion; you could hurt yourself. Don’t go hugging military trucks at all, whether they are moving or not; we live in unsafe and paranoid times, so the military will take a dim view of your antics and might not understand your motives, so they will hurt you.

Stop inhaling the exhaust fumes too, addictive as it  might  be; the gases will damage your lungs and brain and probably give you cancer.

I am still unsure of the capabilities of a Steyr truck. There are two ways of countering this conundrum: either a) ask the military if I can drive one of their trucks, in which case there is no telling how they will react (perhaps I should hug it too, hey?),

or b) wait for military surplus hardware to go on auction after outliving its usefulness then go bidding for a Steyr truck (if available) but the problem with this approach is:

  1. i) I can’t tell whether or not the Steyrs will be sold at all, or even when; and ii) the only time I hear of these auctions is when people are returning from them (“Hey Baraza, check out this Land Rover Defender I got from the army!

It has no floor and the seats are metal but I like the colour!”)

It might be a while before I test drive a Steyr truck…

Hi Barasa,

Thank you for your entertaining and very educative column.

Now, allow me to ask you two questions.

  1. I recently took my car to a reputable garage for a mechanical check-up but I was not happy with their service. They took the liberty of writing their name on the rear windscreen of my vehicle without my permission.

When I called them the following day to complain, they seemed unapologetic. Can I sue them for infringing on my privacy and can I succeed in court?

  1. I bought a Mazda Demio 2007, 1500 cc on the strength of the many praises you have heaped on it in your column and so far it has not disappointed. It is a good car to drive – comfortable, stable, economical on fuel and very fast.

I was thinking of challenging my Subaru Impreza brothers in a speed competition.

The problem is that the ABS light on the dashboard goes on and off, sometimes remaining on for several days. What causes this and how can it be sorted out. I also drove a friend’s Honda Mobilia and noted that the ABS light was on throughout.

John Nthiga-Embu

Greetings,

  1. I find it extremely irksome too that these garages plaster their stickers all over their customers’ cars at will. I am a stickler for a clean, fuss-free vehicle; you won’t find any stickers on my car except for what the government requires (insurance)

and my I’m-in-trouble-please-help-me benefits-imparting AA sticker. Suing them might not lead anywhere; the judge might simply ask you to peel those stickers off and be on your way.

  1. These are the likely reasons for the warning light: there is a fault in the ABS (anti-lock brakes) system, there is a fault in the normal brake system or the brake fluid level is low in either the master cylinder or the reservoir.

The safest thing to do is to have it checked out at a garage.

Hi,

I am a big fan of your weekly column and value your expertise on all things mechanical in our crowded, used-car market.

I am interested in buying a 2010 Mark X but a similarly priced 2009 Subaru Legacy GT caught my attention. Which one should I go for, taking into consideration the long-term running costs and availability and cost of spare parts?

I must admit they both look dashing, with the Mark X perhaps having a more refined interior. My heart wants the 203bhp Mark X but my head wants the 265bhp LGT.

Emmanuel Kimutai

Between your head and your heart, which one sways you most? Follow your head (rational thought) and get the Mark X

Posted on

What is the difference between Nissan Urvan and Isuzu Como?

Hi Baraza,  

Recently I noticed a similarity between a Nissan Urvan and an Isuzu I couldn’t clearly find much information about.

To make the matter even more confusing, there is one van plying the town route in Kisumu which has both Isuzu and Nissan logos at the front and back respectively. I have tried the internet for clarrification in vain.Could this be a franchise, a prank or something new?

Also, is such similarity a negligible? Please enlighten me.

Stephen

 

That Isuzu is called the Isuzu Como and is the exact same vehicle as the Nissan van, save for the badge. It is a collaboration that dates back to the late E24 era (when the slim-eyed QD32 model was on sale) whereby the Isuzu version was called the Isuzu Fargo. There used to be a standalone Isuzu Fargo model way back in the early ‘90s, but the DE24 Nissan van got an alter-ego with the same label.

It is not a prank or a franchise, sometimes manufacturers either collaborate on a project and split the sales between the two badges (Mazda and Ford are fond of this, especially with their pickups) or one manufacturer builds the vehicle under license from the other with the tacit agreement to use their own badge on a certain percentage of assembled vehicles. I think this might be the case with the Urvan/Como.

******

Dear Baraza,

I would really appreciate your help.  I have a Toyota Alphard 2.5 l.  The problem is that i have to always recheck my coolant and add more every two days. 

Kindly help me out because my mechanic does not seem to know how to solve the problem.

Florence

 

One word: leakage. Your mechanic is either being lazy or evasive. He needs to stick his head back under the bonnet and check for a leak in the cooling system; hoses, tanks, caps, pumps and possibly the head gasket, though this last entry is an unlikely suspect and the checkup process for it is too involved.

*******

Hi Baraza

I’m a big fan of yours and I find your articles very educative. i need your advice

I recently bought a Toyota Allex 2002 model, it is a 1500cc automatic 4-wheel drive. it runs well but I feel like it has a bit of lag when picking. I had it serviced and changed the gear box oil and noticed a bit of improvement. However, i noticed the rear bit of the propeller shaft is missing and this make the car more of a two wheel drive.

I have heard people mention that the propeller consumes more fuel and wears tyres off faster, but I beg to differ. My question is, does the removal of the propeller shaft make the car under-perform? And will replacing the missing propeller shaft play any significant role apart from not getting stuck in mud?

I believe its a four-wheel drive for a reason. Should i replace the missing propeller?

Edu

 

The propeller shaft does not “consume more fuel” per se, what it does is connect the rear axle to the gearbox and thus the engine, thereby increasing driveline resistance due to:

  1. The extra weight afforded by powering an extra axle and,
  2. The extra rolling resistance caused by the need to power an extra set of wheels. This difference in fuel consumption between 2WD and 4WD versions of the same car is negligible and is something that can be easily palliated by a slightly lighter right foot.

It may wear out the rear tyres faster though, now that they are also tasked with putting torque on the ground as compared to them simply holding the back end of the car up and off the ground.

Removal of the propeller shaft will not adversely affect the car in normal ay-to-day driving. The use of 4WD in small cars such as the Allex is not mud-plugging as you mistakenly assume: it is for better traction when the road surface gets slippery. You may or may not choose to replace the missing propeller shaft; it really won’t make that big a difference. However, if you choose not to, take extra care when driving on wet roads this rainy season.

*******

Good Afternoon Sir,

I have a desire to buy an SUV with the following:-General Specs Luxury Four Wheel or All wheel drive Traction Control Can carry at least five people comfortably and has a casual but formal look. Can be used as a family car Can fit 18-20 Inch and WIDE SPORTS wheels 3600 CC  – 4000CC Front driver and Passenger Airbags Curtain Airbags Panoramic moon SunroofIn this regard kindly help me to choose between diesel and petrol CI have heard that there is a problem with the diesel fuel herein Kenya. That most cars from Europe and developing engine issues when you use local diesel fuel.

This has made me partial for the petrol engine option. Please tell me the best car to work with among the following.Range Rover Sport:  I hear it has issues with the Air suspension and that it is costly to replace. Is there a permanent solution to theair suspension issues?Audi Q7, Toyota V8, and Porsche Cayenne. I will appreciate to hear from you.

Samuel Kinuthia

 

Hello Samuel,

Let’s dive right in.

Range Rover Sport: ticks all the boxes except the one labeled “Engine Capacity”. Oddly enough, the Sport’s various engine sizes straddle the class you specify without actually sitting in it. There is a 2.7 litre V6 diesel for the old L320 model (you don’t want this, trust me), then from there one conveniently skips to the 4.2 liter supercharged, 4.4 and 5.0 litre; all of them V8s. There was a 3.6 diesel but again… you really don’t want a diesel Sport. The new one comes with two engine sizes: 3.0 V6 and 5.0 V8. The cross-linked air suspension oddly enough is not as troublesome as it was in the L322 Range Rover Vogue and the Discovery 3, so you could gamble with it and hope you hadn’t bet on black when it comes up red…

Audi Q7: this one too ticks all the boxes, but “casual and formal look” may or may not be one of them, depending on your taste. It certainly doesn’t qualify in my book. The car looks odd from all angles. It is heavy, underpowered with the economical engine and thirsty with the capable engine, interior space is wanting – which may compromise on the “luxury” and passenger capacity aspects – and… no. Just no.

Toyota V8: this has to be the Landcruiser. Handsome brute, extremely talented, it is mostly bought by those who drive from their shaded-and-gated million-square-foot homes to the nearest parliament building… or den of iniquity. You won’t see too many of these in the environments they were designed for: the clag; instead you will find them with gaudy body kits, lowered suspension (in some cases) and tasteless aftermarket rims bullying Passo drivers in traffic and filling up the car parks of trendy night spots. The smallest engine you can hope for here is the 4.5 turbo V8 diesel: the petrol engine was a 4.7, now 4.6. If you get the 4.0, it will be a V6, not a V8; and will be slung into the bonnet of a less luxurious GX, not a daddy VX. Get one if you don’t mind the association to a politician.

Porsche Cayenne: a compact Panzer tank built to carve corners like a Golf while travelling at one third the speed of sound. This is a wild baby in V8 guise, which is the ideal engine option, turbo or not. Smaller V6es may struggle a bit with the weight. Buying one may not be immediately expensive (relatively) but start maintaining it then you will weep. But then again, your entire list is made up of very heavy money pits; so that shouldn’t be a problem.

One thing: all these cars tick almost all the boxes, except for one or two which may lie out of range as far as engine capacity goes. I say almost all the boxes because none of them has a panoramic sun/moon-roof, except for the new Range Rover Sport, which starts at about Sh15 million. My own choice, given the wherewithal, would be a Cayenne GTS. It is not as insane as the Cayenne Turbo, nor will it be as expensive; but with a 4.8 litre V8 engine, it can still dance with the stars.

******

Dear Baraza,

I’m profusely jubilant about the heights you scale in informing people about motoring.

I’m a die-hard vehicle enthusiast and a petrol head too!

Your column has been one of my favourites especially that it has all the right ingredients of literature, humour and the mastery of the English language coming together to create a pleasant aroma

There’s a particular species of the Isuzu model that has for long traumatised its owners, the mechanics and even reputable car company dealers.

This is the Isuzu Bighorn and its twin the Isuzu Wizard. Both have a 4JX1 engine, both come in diesel 3.0 four inline with DOHC turbocharged powerplants beneath their bonnets.

They both get a thumbs up on  reliability, offer good fuel consumption, nice offroading capabilities and comfort too. But after oil change and oil filter replacement they tend to hence develop a knocking sound. A sound i promptly established emanates from the fuel nozzles. Eventualy, one, two or all nozzles go kaput!

The car then develops a misfiring sequence,loses power and finally the check-engine light illuminates on the dash followed by the transcheck(transmission check as i thought) blinking light. Lots of efforts have been incurred to curb the problem including an engine overhaul but the same recurs.

Replacement of the nozzles cost a fortune (about Sh80,000) plus garage costs. This introduces  economic strife to one’s otherwise prudent and carefully drafted logistical plan. Maybe you could  have a probable concept on how to solve this and hence please share and advise accordingly.

Kibet

 

That model of Isuzu, moonlighting as a Vauxhall Monterey in UK, came with a diesel mill that caused sleepless nights for owners. The build quality of the engine was sub-par, and one particular case brought about one of the most interesting cases I have ever read about: a phenomenon that was hitherto nameless until engineers snappily called it “hydraulicking”.

Hydraulicking was a not-entirely-strange situation whereby a diesel engine would feed on itself. The sequence of events went thus: the throttle would jam itself open, causing the engine to rev right up to the limiter.

A few seconds of this and the valve seals would fail completely, causing engine oil to get drawn into the combustion chamber, and this is the point at which disaster would strike.

Diesel engines can actually run on engine oil — an urban legend has a hapless truck driver running out of fuel in the Sahara; a driver who then drained some of the engine oil from the sump and ran the engine on that oil to salvation — so when the valve seals shatter and oil finds its way into the cylinders, you cannot shut the engine off.

Removing the key may deactivate the fuel pump but the engine is now feeding off its own blood, it doesn’t need pukka diesel anymore. Worse yet, you cannot stall the vehicle (if it has a manual transmission) by engaging gear and declutching: diesel engines have massive torque and when revving at the limit, getting into gear will simply transform your over-revving SUV into a two-ton, out-of-control battering ram. The only option? Stand back and wait for the engine to seize violently, which it will in short order.

One of the pre-emptive measures is to get another engine before the current one explodes. The petrol Bighorn is not a bad option either, have you considered it? While it is not a guarantee that your diesel engine will “hydraulic”, anecdotal evidence as presented by you suggests that this diesel engine is not the last word in premium engineering and is prone to one failure or another

Posted on

The Y62 Nissan Patrol: Smooth, elegant fuel-guzzling in style

I want to stand with the Y62 Nissan Patrol on a mountain; I want to bathe with the Y62 Nissan Patrol in the sea… but I am not sure if I want to take it home with me.

There is plenty to enamour one with the massive off-road wagon — and never has the word “wagon” been more befitting of a motor vehicle than with the Y62 — but on inspection, there is plenty to introduce more than a modicum of doubt to the patently ponderous among us.

Why would I want a torrid tryst with the Patrol but bolt like a rabbit at the first demand of commitment?

Well, first there is:

The costs: The vehicle is sold for $155,000 here; which means it will cost anything between Sh13 million and Sh16 million, depending on what time of the year it is and whatever is happening in the US at the time. Dollar pricing is pretty finicky at best and very easy to take advantage of, which is why all the dealers are doing it.

One could literally make millions overnight if a well-timed national incident — either here or there — was to make it to CNN. Sheer happenstance; not entirely dissimilar to playing the stock market.

I am not saying the Patrol is too expensive; not at all. It is priced just like its biggest rival: the Toyota Landcruiser VX. That makes them both very expensive.

However, when you fork out sixteen of your millions for the VX, you know you are getting Toyota’s renowned reliability, the Landcruiser’s relatively good looks and a car that might outlive your grandson.

MASSIVE BEAST

With the Patrol, it seems, well… different. It is more like you will pay the Sh16 million, yes, but on condition that you will pay it in small currency: Sh20 coins probably; and this money will then be weighed and you will be given a vehicle equal in mass to your pile of copper guineas and silver doubloons… and the vehicle will be the Y62 Nissan Patrol. This is one heavy automobile.

The weight brings another issue to the fore: fuel consumption. A vehicle that comes within a hair of three tonnes is not going anywhere fast unless a powerful engine acts as palliator to the sheer heft. Grand Heft Auto, it should be called.

Nissan thought to introduce their very clever — and shamelessly Amero-centric — 5.6 litre petrol V8 engine here; an engine that delivers 560Nm of torque, a figure which means nothing to those of you who don’t understand torque, and more importantly, 298kW; or what is commonly referred to as 400 horsepower. You will need all 400 of these horsepowers, just you wait…

A 400hp engine pulling an aerodynamically fiendish, three-tonne breeze-block body has demands, chief among them being its drink. You will burn through fuel faster than the Exxon Valdez if you choose to fully exploit the underbonnet drays like I did scampering up an escarpment in third gear at 5000rpm — an insane but deeply satisfying exercise, if you ask me; more so if someone else is paying for the fuel.

Remember Heracles and Dionysus? He of Greek mythology who was challenged to a drinking contest and ended up swilling half a lake — literally half a lake — because the water levels dipped noticeably? But this is Greek mythology where women have snakes as weaves, so let’s not focus too much on the plausibility of it.

But the Nissan Patrol is Heracles. Its ability beggars belief, just like the size of Heracles’ ego in challenging a god to a drinking contest; but just like Heracles, even more impressive is the amount of liquid it can put away when pressed. The fuel gauge carved a neat discernible little arc over a distance of just 15 kilometers…. uphill.

There are those who will say “if you can afford a Patrol then money is no issue”. Of course it isn’t; anybody can see that. And the absence of a diesel option clearly shows that this car is not targeted at the more frugal driver.

This car is clearly meant for dune-bashing oligarchs of oil and highway-cruisin’ patrons of McDonalds: the Middle East and the US; where petrol is cheap, cars are huge and high-speed road accidents mean you will fare better if your transport module is one step removed from a battle tank in size and constitution.

The problem here is not the fuel consumption (which is obviously terrible); it is more a matter of convenience. How many times will you have to pull in at a petrol station to refill the tank?

CHROME EVERYWHERE 

The looks: The Patrol splits opinion in terms of appearance. This is a diplomatic way of saying that there are those who think it is an underwear model in military fatigues holding an RPG, while there are those who believe it is an effluent and overgrown hippo with an engine in its mouth (the eco-mentalist’s view of a three-ton SUV). Extreme views on both ends, these, and nobody seems to hold any middle ground… until I come along.

From some angles (the front) the Patrol looks the part. From some angles (rear three-quarters) it may come off a little ungainly. The expansive metalwork on the sides also makes it look undershod; and it seems a bit saggy around the rear axle. However, wash it clean, park it in front of an upmarket hotel’s lobby and it just might dazzle.

No, really, it might dazzle, especially if the sun is out; because of the amount of brightwork that the designers plopped onto it. There is chrome everywhere, in varying amounts. Witness it, for it is shiny.

As a critic of auto design, among other things, one of the rules is beware of too much chrome. It may be hiding something.

Evidence that the designer was not all there can be summed up thus: the corporate grille seems fine, unmistakable. The overall outline is proper SUV-ish, if just a little bit Toyota. The rear fascia seems rushed: the back panel looks a bit ghost-faced due to a striking lack of detail in it.

Ah, you say; but you see, simplicity is key to classiness.

True that, and it would be if the rest of the car had not been festooned with too many and oversized “details” such as the fake chrome vents on the front fenders (what are they for, Nissan?), chrome door handles, chrome window surrounds, chrome nose and grill (witness me!), the sculpted body work around the rear fenders, the pentagonal quarter windows aft of the C pillar… only for them to go for a plain back end dotted with small tail lamps. If you are going for the Korean theme of highly convoluted design language, then stick with it. The back end could have come off a panel van, for all we know.

SENATOR’S CONVOY

So why the infatuation?: The Nissan Patrol is easy to criticise, but that is right up to the moment you get in it, in the real world. The first time I drove one was two years ago, at a place called El Toro on the West Coast of the US; in a predetermined off-road course that just made me uncomfortable because

  1. a) it was left-hand drive,
  2. b) the course was laid out in such a way that you were actually forced to use some of the car’s features, such as the 360-degree camera — it is unnerving driving while staring at the centre console instead of through the windscreen, and c) the instructor had this belief that power-assisted steering does not exist outside of The Matrix, and therefore a thin waif-like auto-journo like me had no business grappling with the massive steering wheel of the Y62 and he would therefore intervene at the most inopportune of moments by grabbing the wheel and this almost resulted in “us” damaging the front offside tyre on a well-placed and dangerously jagged log of wood on a steep incline over which we were trying to manoeuvre.

I was painfully close to calling it a day, parking the vehicle on the muddy slope and sliding downhill on my skinny posterior to the 4.0 litre Navara that seemed more user-friendly and had a more accommodating, smiling (female) instructor. I didn’t like the Y62 much at that point.

But that was two years ago. This is now: in the real world, where I live. And I was liking the Patrol very much. From the back seat it is very spacious and quite comfortable even when packed seven-up, the AC works like a charm, whatever controls lie within reach are intuitive and easy to use — though the TV screens mounted on the front headrests can only be operated by 12-year-olds who have spent their lives around electronics and have probably never seen sunlight.

This could really work in a senator’s convoy. NVH is not totally contained, but it is not intrusive either; and with the radio off, one can hear the distant thunder that is the V8 rumble under power. I prefer the engine sound to the radio, because the radio is not so good, especially if you have experienced the 29-speaker setup in the Range Rover that costs twice as much as the Nissan.

OFF-ROAD TALENT 

Behind the wheel: Driving the Y62 is the fun part of it. For starters, you sit high up, but not so high as to feel like you are helming a semi truck. The vehicle is still tractable, you think. One cannot resist the urge to compare it to the Landcruiser VX, so I will.

The instrument cluster in the Nissan Patrol is large, clearly laid out and easy to read, while the VX “cluster-pack” (geddit?) seems a little squeezed. Score one for the Patrol. The steering wheel is huge and thin-rimmed, whereas the Landcruiser’s tiller is a trifle smaller and thick-rimmed. One point to the Toyota.

The Nissan has a larger greenhouse. Coupled to the elephant-ear side mirrors and the rear view camera, visibility is damn near excellent; not just for an SUV but for any car. The Landcruiser has smaller mirrors, less glasshouse and the model I drove from Toyota Kenya not only lacked a rear view camera, it had no screen in the centre console at all. Three points to the Patrol for this.

Driving the Y62 is the fun part of it. For starters, you sit high up, but not so high as to feel like you are helming a semi truck. PHOTO | COURTESY

The interior cockpit layout favours the Landcruiser though: the placement of some buttons in the Patrol seems like an afterthought, the presence of an LCD screen in the centre console does not mean it is a good one — this one needs time to be understood and the GUI (graphic user interface) could do with quite some improvement — the off-road setup buttons are a little strange and also require training for first-time drivers, and the gear lever seems borrowed from a car with a manual transmission. In fact, it is very similar to the stick used in the Nissan 370Z coupé that I also drove in California. The Patrol loses two points here.

Driving it is another matter though. Let us first look at the off-road talent. For some reason, and unlike the Landcruiser, the Patrol is NOT full-time 4WD. That means you have three settings to go through rather than just two, and that is before you start locking the diffs. In light of that, you can only lock the rear diff: the front one stays open while the centre one is a viscous coupling.

These do not detract too much from its off-road abilities though: clearance is good, grip is present but wheel spin may nab you unawares if you don’t know what you are doing, in which case good luck keeping those three tons from slithering downslope. In the US, the hill-descent control worked excellently, almost as well as the one in the Range Rover. In Naivasha… err…. things were a little different.

This is how HDC works (in almost all cars so equipped). Once engaged, the driver is only supposed to steer: feet off all pedals. The vehicle uses gyroscopes, traction control and EBD to determine where and how hard to apply the brakes. The steeper the slope, the harder the vehicle brakes itself, but it still maintains forward motion.  If you happen to touch either the accelerator or the brakes, the HDC is overridden and… I’d rather not think about it.

CODE BROWN!!

In California, the HDC worked like a charm. The slope I went down was so steep that even the short front overhang of the Y62 still did not prevent the front valance from scraping the ground at the bottom.

Having already done it, during the recent test drive in Naivasha’s Eburu Forest, I let my fellow test drivers have their turns in it and that’s when it almost went code brown (the soiling of pants). I sat at the back to watch proceedings. HDC on, brakes off, inch forward slowly, yes… yes… OK that’s a little too fast… that is REALLY TOO FAST… Hey…HEY! Oh sweet Lord, that is WAY too fast; are we even slowing down?… small beads of sweat started forming, glutius muscles were clenched, visions of three tonnes of bent metal swam before my eyes then there was a sudden surge and my shoulder strained against the seat belt and…. we were braking.

A little hard at first but we slowed down enough to a crawl as the driver carefully threaded his way down the slope. “The HDC works well” he said. I thought otherwise. I have used HDC many times before and this was the second time it almost brought bile to my mouth. Thank goodness I wasn’t driving.

(*Note: it turns out that Nissan’s HDC is actually quite excellent. The hair-raising moment was from our approach speed being a little on the higher side, but even then the HDC still managed to come in and faultlessly see the vehicle down the hill). Look out for the next instalment where we  exercise the 5.6 litre V8 on tarmac.

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Mazda offers a bit of sportiness with the CX-5 crossover

Mazda is somewhat of the everyman’s BMW. The small Japanese company’s trophy case is stuffed with awards, its design language is passionate, and there is a dollop of the magical Miata in every car’s driving dynamic. And that is true even in the five-passenger CX-5 crossover.

Just one letter away from the MX-5 (Miata is a United States-only name), the CX-5 makes running errands fun as long as the children don’t get motion sickness. Drive it blindfolded — something I do not encourage — and you would swear you were piloting a crossover with a premium German badge.

The 2016 models have been refreshed with the obligatory grille and taillamp updates. A new interior has trim that would not look out of place in an Audi.

The Grand Touring has the larger of two available engines — a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder delivering 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. The gearbox has six speeds, a sport mode, but surprisingly no paddle shifters.

New suspension refinements help to quiet the cabin, better to enjoy the Bose sound system. The chuckable nature of CX-5 means the ride quality is set to the firm end of comfortable. Like most modern automatic transmissions, the CX-5 eagerly upshifts for optimal fuel economy.

Eliminate that by dropping into Sport mode, but understand that it holds lower gears much longer — it’s a little too sporty for a crossover. Goldilocks would be looking for another “just right” mode. The all-wheel-drive system adapts to a number of elemental cues, including temperature, and will tackle light wilderness duty. Few owners will tax it.

The interior is appealing, but there are a few nitpicks. The gauge cluster graphics could use a modern colour display. The wiper-control stalk blocks the engine start button when the wheel is adjusted fully forward. Faux stitching is a faux pas because it is close to the driver’s eye in the LCD screen surround.

An intuitive user interface allows the choice of control knob or touch screen, though the radio presets are buried too deep in the menu. And although the seats are well sculpted, big drivers may find them snug.

Vented front seats, heated rear seats and a panoramic glass roof are not available. Back seats don’t slide fore and aft to max out cargo room, but friends and family will appreciate the leg and foot room. The cargo hold is about the same as the Subaru Forester’s. Demand maximum trunk space? The Honda CR-V’s is freakishly large.

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The Jaguar XE clings to the road and va-va-vooms past bends

Clingy” is not a word that one would readily associate with any kind of car review, unless one brought along an insecure girlfriend for the drive; but “clingy” is the word that springs to mind as the Jaguar XE I sit in spears through tight turns in a picturesque mountain pass in Western Cape, South Africa.

To say that we are cooking would be to underquote things somewhat; we are not cooking, we are boiling. The Jag is having its little neck wrung, and it is responding with barely a squeal.

The clinginess comes from the 245-section wheels and their endless grip, not the overbearing antics of a lover suffering from low self-esteem; though, to be honest, low self-esteem is what I will most probably contract before I get back home as I try to calculate how many more columns I will have to write before I can afford this car.

WHAT IS IT?

This is Jaguar’s newest; though they do have an SUV that is more or less ready for the showrooms; but still, this is Jaguar’s newest. It is also Jaguar’s smallest, and Jaguar’s cheapest.

From a hoon’s perspective, it is Jaguar’s best as well.

It is not the replacement for the old, defunct X Type, which was a Ford Mondeo in a fancy frock. This is a whole other car. However, it does occupy the slot previously darkened by the X Type. Motoring hacks have long memories and we do remember the wrong-wheel-drive X Type that seemed such a sellout for a company like Jaguar.

There is the company blurb that attempts to describe every line-up with  words like “dynamic”, “class-leading”, “segment”, “exciting” and God-knows-what-other-silly-adjectives. Somewhere in the pre-drive talk I heard the word “cosmopolitan” and I almost lost my mind. What was that again?

That word reminds me of yuppies: young, good-looking, overeducated and overpaid city-dwellers whose idea of a great night out is to swallow two glasses of some creatively named mildly alcoholic drink that glows in the dark; before dancing themselves into a sweaty headache and heading off to sleep at 3am to wake up two hours later in the daily grind that justifies their unfair capitalist salaries and… and… and this is not the Jaguar we know.

It just isn’t. I’d expect “cosmopolitan” to feature in a BMW ad. Or even a Lexus one. But Jaguar? No. Jags have since forever been the charming English ruffian to Audi’s focused contract killer, Mercedes’ domineering corporate mogul and BMWs egomaniacal Wall Street banker.

Jags were for cool people, slick cats who could talk their way out of trouble. A BMW buyer would swallow two glow-in-the-dark drinks and dance it off. A Jag owner would inhale several shots of whisky before leaving the premises with the Mercedes’ owner’s wife and then smile disarmingly when confronted about it. After all, he drives a Jaaaag… Where do you think Clarkson got that whole “Jaaaaaag” malarkey from?

The Jaguar XE is a four-door, 5-seater saloon car with rear wheel drive, which makes it a pukka Jaguar through and through (again, that X Type was not really a Jag), but about the five seats… this could be a problem. Read on…

THE INTERIOR

Unmistakable. Once you get inside, it is immediately obvious what car you are in. The design cues are heavy off the bigger and pricier XJ saloon and F Type thundercat, what with the circular steering wheel boss, the thick-rimmed wheel, the rotary gear knob, the infotainment screen, the lovely detailing, the stitching on the leather…. wait a minute, what leather? Is that leather or is it not? It sure does look like leather.

Turns out it isn’t. Strike one for the XE. Jaguar’s focus on “premium luxury” whatever-ness (again, PR press talk jargon) does not allow them to skimp out on the fancy stuff. It behoves them to be less frugal in the apportionment of costlies. What they use instead is something that almost looks and feels like leather but isn’t leather. Good news for the cows, I guess.

There is further evidence of cost control in the use of plastics around the dashboard. Some of it is scratchy. While the overall appearance is actually quite good; more so if you spec your car up with the dark interior; the cheapskate build materials are a bit of a disappointment, much as they are not immediately obvious.

You will have to be looking really hard before you spot them. Eschew the lightly hued interior too, which could easily show stains and also be a bit misleading.

Misleading? Yes, misleading, which is where the XE’s strike two comes about: the rear seat space. A  brightly coloured interior may give an illusion of space where there isn’t any.

The car may be a five-seater, but it will not seat five, at least not without considerable discomfort. Four up is also a bit if a pinch: the rear armrest is intrusive into the elbow room (and rib cage areas) of the flanking seats, which makes it less than ideal for use.

This is not looking good for the car.

To further exacerbate the absence of upper body wiggle room is the rear legroom, which is, for lack of a better word, terrible. Even with the front seats shoved as far fore as they could possibly slide on their motorised rails, knees in the back seat will squash into the backs of the front seats. This may force the rear seat occupants to sit a bit more upright than they would prefer to, but that too highlights yet another problem: there is no headroom.

There is an inexplicable dip in the rear roof lining that seriously robs the space in which to toss your heads during hard cornering manoeuvres… or during animated conversations that will surely crop up about claustrophobia, knee pain and armrests digging into ribs. The front is cosseting without being claustrophobic, and it is where you would want to be, as driver or passenger. The back seat is for kids.

The lack of rear space is not all that surprising, though, because before you get into the car you will have seen…

 

… THE EXTERIOR…

… and you may have noticed a few things. The face is as unmistakably Jaaaag as the dashboard design was. The bonnet has three strakes on it that resemble the claw marks of, well, a jaguar. This makes the car look aggressive from the front, but aggressive in an attractive way, not unlike a female superhero from a comic book. The side profile reveals the compact dimensions and high window line that solidly place this car right in the firing line of the Mercedes  Benz C Class and BMW 3 Series. The boot is short and stubby. All this makes the XE, for all intents and purposes, a small car; which then explains what was going on in the back seat in the preceding paragraphs.

The rear fascia is… an Audi A4. It very clearly is; we had a chance to drive behind another XE on the dual carriageway and an Audi A4 pulled up alongside it and, truth be told, at one point we were hard pressed to tell which car was which (both were silver in colour).

What gives? The XE’s design flowed so nicely from the bonnet leading edge, through the fancily high shoulder lines and sculpted metalwork, through the angular rakes of the A and C pillars, to the boot and then what? A plagiarised rear end? This is not to say it looks bad; it does look good, but then again it also does look unoriginal.

The distinguishing feature is the twin tail pipes which, in my view, seemed too close together (in the metal… in the pictures they seemed fine) and too close to the centre line of the car. Jaguar would do well to push them further out towards the ends, and add chrome tips for the plebeian 2.0 litre turbo four which has to make do without and the result is a cheapish appearance. At least the 3.0 V6 gets the chrome tips.

 

ACTIVE ENGINES

This may read like the absent-minded observations from a scatter-brained cynic; having started off by declaring the Jaguar XE as a good car that we like only to present it as a small car with a plastic dashboard, unusable rear seats and a stolen rump; but there is compensation for all these — admittedly minor — shortcomings from under the bonnet.

First up is the 2.0 litre petrol-powered DOHC 4-cylinder boosted by a single mono-scroll turbo.

This is the same engine we find in the Evoque, good for 240hp and 340Nm. You don’t need insane revs to reach these figures: peak power is available at “only” 5500rpm. It will propel the car to 100km/h from a dead stop in 6.8 seconds; and on to a top speed of 250km/h. Consumption figures are quoted as 7.5l/100km, which in Car Clinic-speak translates to 13.3km/l. Not bad at all, for a Jaguar.

The exciting unit is the 3.0 V6. Four valves per cylinder and DOHC work together with a twin vortex supercharger to yield 340hp and 450Nm, numbers that would cause a small tremble of excitement to shiver its way down a petrolhead’s spine, more so given that this urge is fed through a rear-drive platform.

The power is on a slightly higher shelf: 6500rpm, but is it ever lower whenever such numbers come up on a spec sheet? 100km/h comes up in a hair over five seconds and you will top out at 250km/h too, but this terminal velocity reeks of limitation to me. One might be able to pay Jaguar to dismiss the electronic nanny, in which case I’d say 290km/h would not be impossible. There was no confirmation of this, though: it is just clever speculation.

The economy may be comparatively worse at 12.3km/l (8.1l/100km in real world terms) but I seriously doubt if many will get these figures.

The supercharged car begs to be spanked, and spank you it will, meaning sub-10km/l outcomes are to be expected. None of it will be regrettable.

Both of these cars come with eight-speed ZF automatic transmissions that allow for pootling around at only 1500rpm (which then makes the consumption figures both possible and plausible). Both also have manual overrides via paddle-shifts mounted on the steering wheel. The suspension is multilink.

 

SWEETENING THE DEAL

Hands up if you think running a Jaguar will introduce economic strife to your otherwise carefully planned fiscal behaviour. Put those hands down and listen here very carefully, because this to you might seem as hard to believe as it was for me.

Buying a brand new Jag earns you a five-year/150,000km warranty. Yes, you read that right: for half a decade or the equivalent of three and a half trips around the Earth, your new baby will be under the protection of Jaguar Land Rover, well covered by a comprehensive warranty that stretches to the suspension gubbins as well.

This is particularly handy: multilink suspension tends to have many joints and knuckles, which in turn indicate a higher incidence of breakages; and given how much griping goes on about “African roads”, one can see why the running gear would be a especially sore spot in motor vehicle maintenance. Fear no more.

While all the details of the warranty are still unbeknownst to me, there were hints that some consumables might be covered as well. That means routine service might be either dirt cheap or damn near free of charge. Five freaking years; or three round-the-world excursions. Dang!

Speaking of service intervals: these come up at 32,000km, or three-quarter way around the Earth (nothing puts distances into perspective as much as referencing the Earth’s 40,000km circumference). That means some of the hand-me-down Toyotas people relentlessly pursue will have been serviced six times before the Jag goes in once.

The pricing is also unclear, and Jaguar will not commit to any numbers at this moment, but in the next few days they should have answers. This is because the company wants to consolidate the pricing in various markets to make it similar across the board irrespective of the prevailing tax regimes in a given country; and this is no simple task. While all countries levy taxes, some levy more taxes than others.

Tentative figures are about Sh5.5 million for the cheaper 2.0 litre vehicle and about Sh7 million for the pricier 3.0 litre alternative; which leads us finally to the big question:

WOULD I BUY ONE?

Yes. Hell yes! The XE really is a thing of beauty. The engineering in it is top-drawer, and the after-sales support is impressive to the point of being unbelievable.

Five years/150,000km is a long period of cost-free ownership, and the asking price is not even reflective of the give-with-one-hand-take-away-with-the-other type of mind-numbing contract detailing that certain dodgy manufacturers use to recoup some coins from such a sweetly outlandish offer.

The niggles I mentioned are not as bad as they sound (OK, the rear space is really not that good, but the plastics and non-leather can be easily tolerated).

You would be insane to walk away from such a deal, and I may have to write a few more columns to raise money for this car because this is one Jaguar that I really, REALLY want.

The biggest reason I want one is not even the warranty. Find out what it is next week as we slide into the driver’s seat and stretch the little cat’s limbs on a scenic mountain pass.

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The New Toyota Hilux, Ford Figo, and missed chances

ALL-NEW TOYOTA HILUX

Anyone remember Arnold Schwarzenegger snarling “I’ll pee pack!” in the early Terminator movies?

No?

Oh, well… anyway, the Toyota Hilux might as well be the T-800 CSM Model 101, because it is back for the eighth generation; meaner, slicker and even more Invincible (pun intended) than before.

The world’s favourite commercial vehicle now has an all-new iteration; and this news is thanks to an afternoon spent trawling the Internet for interesting stuff to read rather than the result of an inbox message from Toyota Kenya’s PR department.

The facade on the new car looks nothing like the outgoing one. Gone are the swoopy eyes and raked bonnet; replaced with an oddly (for contemporary safety standards) flat bonnet and a countenance that is more Arnold Schwarzenegger than Akira Kurosawa; what with the steely gaze (I need your clothes…), the jutting jaw (…your boots…) and prominent leading edge (…and your motorcycle) — furrowed brow is more like it.

The vehicle looks menacing. It looks like it wants to masticate a Ford Ranger; trafficator by trunnion, wheel-cap by wing-nut; con-rod and camshaft. Be afraid, be very afraid.

SHOUTING FROM ROOFTOPS

And there’s good reason to be. Toyota, gushing euphoric about the new car, say that they’ve been paying close attention to client demands in Australia by actually listening to these people; and they’ve addressed the outgoing vehicle’s major failings: structural rigidity (called it!) and comfort (called it too!).

The result, they say, is a frame that is a lot stronger — no more bendy centrelines — while at the same time more flexible — no more crashy, jarring rides and no more cabin noise. Australians take their Toyotas very seriously, which is why they get certain models that the rest of the world doesn’t.

The new Hilux doesn’t look very new from the B pillar rearward, though. The lines are all familiar, as are the tail-lamps, rear bumpers (where available) and the vehicle stance.

However, the interior is something else altogether. The designers certainly took their time… looking at the new Corolla dashboard and cobbling together a convincing knock-off that imbues what is, for all intents and purposes, a rugged warhorse (insurgents of the Middle East, rejoice!) with the accoutrements of a semi-plush Tokyo cab (taxi drivers of the Far East, rejoice!). The outcome is not only very becoming, but is high up the ambience thermometer enough to cause worries in the ranks of the competition.

There are engines too; two of which I don’t care much for: a 2.4-litre turbodiesel good for 160hp and a 2.7-litre 4-cylinder petrol worth 164hp. Then there is the slightly juicier 2.8 litre 177hp diesel (where are you, Navara?) and the cream of the crop, a 280hp 4.0-litre straight six petrol (hasta la vista, baby).

This is where I remind you, dear reader, that 280hp is the exact same figure that the Subaru Impreza WRX STi and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution develop from their engines. The Hilux will not beat these two, naturally; but I’d like to see someone, anyone, step up to me in a double-cab of their own choosing when I’m behind the wheel of this 4.0 litre terrorist’s transport.

More information will be made available as soon as the PR people at Toyota Kenya realise such momentous events as the launch of an all-new Hilux are meant to be broadcast from the rooftops, even if the car is not here yet.

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FORD FIGO

The new ‘Ford Kidney’ (that is what ‘Figo’ means in Kiswahili, isn’t it?) is “destined to be a compact car champion”, according to FoMoCo.

They don’t specify what competition it will be a champion of, but they do say that it will have style, technology, safety, efficiency and value “at unprecedented levels”, which I think means it will be a Volkswagen Polo… or a Volkswagen Up.

From the pictures they gave, it looks like a more rounded version of the sharp-looking Fiesta, which I think is a very good car. The rest of the information is not very helpful.

Engines will run on diesel or petrol. Transmissions will be automatic or manual. Body styles are hatchback or sedan. It will have airbags and traction control. Tell us something we don’t know.

About the value: that much I can agree with them, but only if they price the new car like the old one.

The previous ‘Kidney’ sold for a million shillings, which is less than some used seven-year old hatchbacks with 70,000km on the clock are going for here (Volkswagen Golf, to be exact); but then with the Ford you get zero mileage and a warranty; plus the gearbox will not be an expensive failure long before your next service date.

Nothing was said about the pricing of the new one, so this is simply syllogism on my part.

 

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SPORTS NEWS

This is more of gossip than news, but trust me, you want to read this.

Lewis Hamilton, an Englishman known for wearing large, expensive watches that always indicate ten minutes past ten in every single photo and video he appears in, has either already signed or is about to sign the kind of contract that one can only assume came from the devil (too good to be true).

Mercedes-Benz have apparently offered him the princely sum of $155 million (Sh15 billion) over a three-year period as a retainer.

Wait, what? I forgot to mention: Lewis Hamilton is a Formula 1 driver for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team.

The money he is about to see does not include a basic salary of about $32 million (Sh3 billion) which after bonuses could shoot up to $45 million (Sh4 billion). Then of course there are the endorsement deals that always follow such a driver.

Anyone who remembers Michael Schumacher as the world’s highest paid sportsman can tell you such deals in F1 carry a lot of zeroes with them. The contract figure sans the perks amounts to $140,000 per day, every day, for the next three years.

That is the equivalent of almost Sh13 million paid to him every 24 hours between now and May 27 2018, outside of his “stipend”. I think I will stop now, my head hurts…

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READER FEEDBACK

It so happens that quite a number of you followed keenly my investigation into the matter concerning double-cab pick-ups and the Traffic Act. These are two of the more outstanding responses I got:

“Hi, concerning the double-cabins, kindly inform your readers that they need to change the insurance stickers from commercial to private ones at fee of Sh400 from the insurer as soon as possible, or else one will be prosecuted.

Thanks a lot for the good work.

John Munge”

 

Thank you for the heads up, John. The next one is even more enlightening:

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“Hi Friend. Monday and Tuesday (a few weeks ago) found me hopping from KRA to insurance companies to a motor vehicle inspection centre to find out the legal status of double-cab pick-ups’ inspection. KRA and insurance companies were not very sure and so none committed to a position one can back on if stopped by a traffic police.

“At the inspection centre, however, an officer informed me that “one has to pay advance tax and book inspection then present the vehicle for inspection after which we will do a memo in a fortnight to the registrar of motor vehicles to change class from commercial to private in the registry. Until that is done, have the vehicle inspected and an inspection sticker issued.

“I knew there was a directive that the pick-ups be classified as private vehicles, but just like you, I didn’t have the document. And so, as if telepathic, I saw your piece today, walked to the Government Printer and got, for Sh30, a copy of the legal notice number 180 of December 31, 2014. It has found abode in my glove box, to be fished out at the inevitable next stop by a traffic cop.

“The best bet for double-cab pick-up owners would be to follow the inspection officer’s advice since even insurance companies will issue a cover based on particulars of the log book; which are entered by the motor vehicle registrar who follows advice from the inspector, who must be physically presented with the vehicle to ascertain that it is indeed a double-cab.”

 

Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say? There is a wealth of information out there; and it warms the cockles of my heart knowing some of you are willing to share your experiences for the edification of others. So I will share mine too:

KRA is a hell-hole, particularly the Times Tower headquarters. Most of the people there are the most unhelpful, uninformed (or unwilling to inform) and lazy lot of civil servants one can come across. From misleading directions to convoluted instructions to lack of information to lengthy queues to extended three-hour lunch breaks by clerks who man busy stalls… my latest visits there have not been gratifying on any level.

Interestingly enough, I did meet several people in the queue who were pursuing this exact same matter: the conversion of a double-cab pick-up’s status from commercial to private car. There was debate about whether or not the vehicle has to be physically presented for verification; but one of my fellow victims of the taxman’s inhospitality said no, not really; he was told a photo or two of the vehicle in question will suffice.

I think it would be smart to present the vehicle itself, just to be sure.