This Week On Car Clinic: A Navara, A Gaia; A Mark X, A Skyline

Hi Baraza,
Which among Hardbody, Isuzu DMAX and Navara is better? What specific problems should I expect from each and which is the lesser evil in terms of maintenance, parts, durability? – Bob

Hello Bob,
It’s not an easy call making a choice from a selection of mainstream double-cab pickups. That said, it is not impossible to make that choice either. Let’s see how it goes:

1 Hardbody: sturdy little thing, but it hails from another century. The vehicle is officially out of production but the strange ways in which the auto industry works means you can still get one with zero mileage from the local peddler. In comparison to its Navara descendant, it is slow, unrefined, poorly spaced, cramped and is best used as the workhorse that it was designed to be. If you want trouble-free motoring from a Nissan, this is the Nissan to buy.
2 DMAX: Did I say the Nissan is unrefined? The DMAX is downright agricultural. General Motors knows how to build a tool and the best qualities of a tool are not necessarily quality of finish or smoothness of operation. A tool is meant to work its entire life without having to worry about such mundane details as panel gap consistency or grain quality of plastic surfaces. You can stage a bullfight inside a DMAX without damaging the upholstery; that is how solid it is. Turbo power means it is quicker than the Hardbody (this applies to the turbo version of the Nissan also) but rudimentary underpinnings mean handling is sketchy on a good day and treacherous when the driver is caught unawares. I know this because a DMAX once spat me into the undergrowth on a murram road at part throttle. 4WD High Range is your friend when traction is not.
3. Navara: Ideally the chiselled underwear model to the other two’s construction worker and unwashed farmer. The Navara is a fancy dress party masquerading as an honest day’s work, just like those models who wear yellow helmets and high visibility vests in glossy magazines pretending to be part of a road building crew but cannot for the life of them differentiate a jackpin from a jackhammer. The Navara, like the underfed clothes horse, is a double cab pickup but give it pickup duties and watch it collapse under the weight of its responsibilities. However, use it lightly and you will enjoy it, however briefly. Yes, ECUs fail with disconcerting regularity and that delectable body does not hold up well to extended use. There is more than enough evidence on the internet pointing to bent frames; which is a black mark against what is for all intents and purposes the son of the Hardbody.
That aside, the Navara is quite the performer and is comfortable. It really is VERY comfortable: you could spend hours in it with nary a cramp nor an ache; which is more than can be said for the Hardbody. Another laurel in its wreath is the immediacy of its responses and the certainty of its handling. This is a good car to drive…. briefly.

So now:
1. Maintenance: these are all large vehicles and will attract large bills. However, the uncomplicated nature of the first two means a: there is little to go wrong b: the little that can go wrong is quite easily fixed and c: whatever needs fixing will probably be cheap. The Navara is another story, expect nothing less than five figure bills (or even more) once it turns into a garage queen.
2. Durability: the Hardbody lives up to its name: it is quite hardy; but not as hardy as the DMAX. To be honest, it is a tough call between these two, so robust are their frames that it really boils down to how careless the driver is when discussing durability. As mentioned earlier, the Navara harbours no such ambitions: it is a pretty little flower and like a flower it will wilt in short order when the heat is turned up.
3. Parts: two Nissans and a truck from General Motors. What spares?


Hi Baraza,
There is this Toyota Gaia I have been salivating at; a KAX. Thought it might help me do some business like carrying goods. However, a mechanic tells me it has an issue with spare parts. Kindly advise. – Morris

Hello Morris,
Two things:
1. Why do you want to use what we call a “people carrier” to ferry goods? Why not use a commercial vehicle or at least something akin to a commercial vehicle as the gods of automotive engineering intended?
2. What does the mechanic mean by “an issue with spare parts”? Are they rare or hard to find? This is a Toyota that shares parts with countless other – doubtless more ubiquitous- Toyotas. Are they of low substandard or counterfeit? Shop around for genuine articles. You are sure to find them at some point. Are they expensive? Perhaps he is looking in the wrong places. Or maybe the two of you should concede the fact that motor vehicle ownership and operation is only “cheap” when speaking relatively.


Dear Baraza,
Please tell me:
1. For the Lexus RX series (I have specific interest in those made after 2009), what is the difference between the GGL15W and GGL16W? I am not sure what these codes denote and if whatever they stand for determines power output.- Kevin

Hi Kevin
These codes do not determine the power output, they are simply model codes in terms of spec. From what I have been able to determine, the GGL15W is the middling AWD Lexus RX350 (or Toyota Harrier), falling between the 2WD GGL10W and the top of-the-line AWD Version L, the GGL16W. The difference between the 15W and the 16W seems to be about 40kg (the Version L is porkier) and the presence of air suspension (again on the Version L). They all use the same 3.5 liter 2GR-FE engine in the same level of tune: 276-odd horsepower at 6200 rpm.
2. How good is the RX450h compared to the RX350? The hybrid is said to develop north of 290HP to the RX’s 275HP. Are there any known issues to Lexus’ hybrid system? All I could glean out of the internet are seemingly embellished feel-good tales of Americans in praise of the hybrid system and PR from Lexus websites. I am inclined towards the conventional engine but I don’t want to pinch myself later and say ‘I wish I had asked’

It depends on your definition of “good”. The RX450h may be supposedly “greener”, which should please the environmentalists; and it develops more power, which should please millennial new age enthusiasts, but I am yet to be sold on hybrid systems. Nothing quite comes close to the purist stance -to which I subscribe- of knowing that none of your horsepowers, however few, come from electricity.
Trust the Americans to shell out feel-good tales about the hybrid system. These are probably vegetarians who gave up on the Prius following the vitriol it attracted after it was discovered that it is an ugly, hateful little destroyer of the environment, unlike what it claims on the sticker. At least the Lexus is better to look at, more practical and far more powerful
3. Why is it that vehicles with big engines to be found in the Lexus RX350, Landcruiser VX V8 among others have got single exhaust pipes, compared to smaller-specced vehicles with dual exit pipes – even those without turbos (ignoring the likes of Subarus with single outlet pipes that branch near the back)?
It all comes down to engine design and the results of balancing financial spreadsheets. The bigger vehicles may have bigger engines, but these engines tend to develop lazy power at lower revs compared to their high-strung punitive juniors, so scavenging of exhaust gases is not a matter of urgency like in the lesser mills. To save production costs and because it is also unnecessary to have more, some of these engines have single exhaust outlets.
4. I know the manufacturers know best and there are things like emissions and consumption to be considered in the design of some of these vehicles, but would modifying, say a VX V8 or RX350 from single to dual exhaust systems improve performance or has the lack of dual exhaust systems been catered for by the size of the exhaust pipe (in diameter)?
A little of both actually. However, simply adding another exhaust outlet is not going to give you the power increase you desire; with most modern engines, you will have to “tell” the engine (through a mild reprogram of the ECU) that it is disposing waste at a higher rate, otherwise you will drive everywhere with the Check Engine light glowing out your cluster and onto your chin.


Hello Baraza,
I am considering getting my first car. I am torn between Mark X and Skyline. Mostly to use it for long distance drives. What’s your advice? – Elizabeth

Hi Elizabeth
If the primary directive here is long distance driving, then the difference is the same. Both cars are roomy, comfortable and have powerful V6 engines coupled to automatic transmissions: the four key things to consider in a vehicle when contemplating long drives. Toss a coin or something.


Hi Baraza
Are consumers protected from shenanigans who adulterate fuel and lead to damage? – John

Hi John,
In a way, yes; because sale of adulterated fuel is illegal. Once in a while there are random inspections and crackdowns on peddlers of impure material. However, these inspections and crackdowns don’t seem to prevent follow-ups of the sin; and that is where social media comes in. It has been instrumental in blowing the whistle on errant outlets to either set the feds on them or to otherwise admonish would-be victims of this subterfuge.


Hi Baraza.
Recently, I came across a BMW 523i manual 2400cc and on testing it, I loved it. The car is a 1995 make. Kindly advise on the consumption per litre and if it is a worthy bet for a family car bearing in mind that my wife is wary about the capacity as she will be the one using it most of the time to work. – Charles

Hello Charles,
Prepare to be disappointed because I have no definite answer to your question. The consumption figure of a 21-year old German saloon equipped with a manual transmission is indefinite because of the number of variables involved.
How is it mechanically? A well-kept car will behave almost like a new one. A jalopy one major service away from being junked will not. How does your wife drive? The fact that it is a manual means changing gears can be done at almost any rpm between idle and the red line, which in turn means the consumption will vary equally widely.
Where will the car be driven and what will it be used for? The environment determines engine and road speeds, as well as the gears predominantly used; while the use of the car may or may not involve ferrying loads of indeterminate mass.
All these tend to have an effect on fuel economy, making it hard to arrive at a solid figure.



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