I’m a 25-year-old racing enthusiast and I own an old Subaru Legacy. The mileage on the machine is 390,000kms; could this pose any reliability problems? How soon should I start preparing for the car’s demise?
I’m a 25-year-old racing enthusiast and I own an old Subaru Legacy. The mileage on the machine is 390,000kms; could this pose any reliability problems? How soon should I start preparing for the car’s demise?
Kindly look into these two matters:
I have noticed quite a number of the dual-exhaust Legacies having their right exhaust broken/missing. Does this imply these models have an inherent body flaw or have the exhaust pieces become hot cakes like Toyota rear-view mirrors?
I currently own a Subaru Impreza and am looking to upgrade to a 2008 model of either a Forester or Legacy.
I am indifferent to turbo or non-turbo models. If price, running and maintenance costs are not a concern to you, which of these two models (turbo vs turbo and/or non-turbo vs non-turbo variants) would you advise me to go for, and why?
I do about 200km weekly and an additional 600km round trip every two months going upcountry.
I have never really understood what is going on with these Legacy cars because I, too, have noticed the gaping hole in both estate and saloon versions. I don’t think it is the exhaust pipe that is missing, otherwise you’d notice the absence immediately through the sound coming from the car.
These are my theories: 1. These vehicles might be fitted with single-exit exhaust pipes but the rear bumpers are swapped from vehicles that had dual-exit exhausts. 2. You might be right that the dual-exit exhaust pipes are highly desirable, so maybe the cars were factory-fitted with dual-exit exhausts (and the bumpers to accommodate them) but these pipes were later removed and replaced with single-exit units, leaving the gaping hole on the right. My money is on the second theory.
Forester vs Legacy: It is a smarter choice to go for the Forester due to increased versatility and practicality compared to the Leggy.
Since you don’t mind turbo engines, how about going the whole hog and bagging yourself an STi version? The car looks good, it will still clear small obstacles without scratching the undercarriage, and it will go like stink should a pressing need to go like stink arise.
You could also go for the more discreet Cross Sport turbo version, which, while not as quick as the STi, is still pretty fast. The naturally-aspirated versions are a bit humdrum, but they, too, will not lead to any major regrets. Take your pick; taste takes preference here rather than all-out mechanical advice.
The same cannot be said for the Legacy. It is a bit low, it is not the most comfortable car in its class and it might be the black sheep in Subaru’s performance stable. The naturally aspirated Legacy has felt underpowered for the last two generations, more so with the 2.0 litre engine.
The twin-turbo GT has a knack for knocking when pushed hard and/or suffering turbo failure when owned by people who shouldn’t really own turbocharged Subarus (turbo Subies are meant for one class of people only: performance enthusiasts who should probably know better).
The B-Sport seems to make a case for itself — it’s not a bad car at all — but if there is a Forester STi on the menu, then please, for the love of this column, walk past the B-Sport.
I envy your knowledge of cars; your column is truly informative.
I have an obsession for vintage cars, particularly VW beetles. I plan to get one this year, and to use it as my everyday car. The problem is that I am afraid I might not get one that will not embarrass me by breaking down in the middle of a highway on a busy morning/evening. What would you advise me to look out for?
Which place would you recommend for well-maintained oldies?
Beetles are not known for breaking down in the middle of highways. That said, once you buy one, it is not advisable to start driving it immediately; first have a complete systems check to ensure it actually works.
A good place to get well-maintained oldies would be the Internet. Nowadays there are plenty of forums and some of them specialise in particular brands.
Join one, wait patiently for something you like to pop up, then open a line of communication immediately.
My comments below got published on Wednesday, February 18, 2015.
I did not know that speed stickers were meant for the driver behind. Thank you for the information.
But I still do not understand why we have to have them only on commercial and public service vehicles; I mean, private vehicles also have speed limits, and if they provide information to a clueless driver following you (foreigner or otherwise) as you said, then they should be on all vehicles.
As for the chevrons, we should do away with them and instead have high visibility decals (reflective strips), not just at the rear, but also running along the length, height and width of trucks and matatus.
Pick-ups from the UK do not come with these nondescript sheets riveted to their tailgates. Since it snows there and visibility becomes worse than our worst here, how do they achieve visibility? Do we have to, in this time and age, rivet mabatis to our vehicles?
We are so stuck on colonial and pre-colonial vehicular systems that we have near-zero improvements on what we inherited from the British.
Still on this subject of commercial vehicles and PSVs, they are still subjected to annual inspection, ostensibly to ensure their roadworthiness. Yet some of the contraptions we see on our roads with inspection stickers belong to scrap yards. This is a testament to the failure of this exercise, which only serves as a means for the government to collect taxes.
The recent proposal to have all classes of vehicles inspected attracted lots of protests from motorists, but I think it is the way to go.
Let’s establish inspection centres akin to the MoT test in Britain to keep unroadworthy vehicles off our roads.
Ideally, any country’s roads are supposed to be well built, well maintained and, most importantly, well marked. Besides, anyone intending to drive in a foreign country should have rudimentary knowledge of its traffic laws.
The road markings and basic education mostly affect what Kenyans call “personal” cars, that is, non-commercial vehicles, the road markings in question being speed limits. More often than not, most roads will have the situational speed limit indicated on signposts by the road.
Road access laws governing tonnage, height, width and speed tend to target commercial vehicles in almost every country, which is why they have the stickers. While driving, you might notice that the speed allowance on a particular stretch is 120km/h, but this does not apply to lorries and buses; they are supposed to stick to 80.
Suggesting that we do away with chevrons and replace them with high visibility stickers is redundant: a chevron is supposed to be a high-visibility sticker. I think what you mean is that we need better quality chevrons, unlike what we see on some vehicles.
From your description, commercial vehicles would not have paint jobs; they would just be moving reflective signboards.
When it snows, drivers are required to switch their lights on. Visibility difficulties solved.
You are right, though: we are stuck in colonial times as far as traffic laws are concerned. The 50km/h town driving speed limit came from the colonial era when cars had drum brakes all round and ABS was non-existent.
The same applies to the 110km/h highway speed limit. The laws might have an effect on speed-related accidents, but they have had no effect on road usage, which I think is our country’s primary problem as far as road carnage goes.
A popular Mombasa bus recently had its face torn off and the vehicle run off the road by a truck whose driver claimed he was asleep. Two other buses suffered a similar fate in the same 72-hour period, and this begged the question: what exactly is the role of the NTSA besides collecting revenue?
They will spend tremendous amounts of energy nabbing drivers doing 55km/h in a 50km zone and imposing spot fines, but let incompetent — and ultimately lethal — truck drivers by without batting an eyelid.
They will clamp down on PSVs, create an uproar about night travel, seat-belt installation and speed-governor usage; they even go as far as raising hell about paint jobs which, in my opinion, have nothing to do with road accidents, but the real cause of road deaths rumble by unchecked.
How about clamping down on truck drivers with the same zeal and vigor they’ve been pointing their speed guns at the rest of us? We might have stopped killing ourselves due to their stringent laws, but now truck drivers are killing us.
An MoT-style annual inspection would be a good idea, but how good? Do you still believe in this day and age that unroadworthy vehicles are the cause of accidents? Or will this be yet another avenue for fleecing drivers?
I insist yet again: our biggest problem is driver indiscipline. A large number of vehicles involved in accidents are actually newish and in top shape… at least before they crashed. Having a vehicle inspected does not remove the lethal variable in the equation: a driver with issues.
Bullies, speed freaks, drunkards and show-offs abound on the roads, and these are far more dangerous than someone driving with a broken tail light.
Many thanks for your highly informative column. I own an old model, locally assembled Toyota Corolla NZE, year 2006. Its performance is so good that I want to keep it instead of buying a new one. However, its engine rating is low (1299cc) and it uses manual transmission.
Its maximum speed is 220kph according to the speedometer, which makes me believe it is a high-performance car despite its low engine rating. Once in a while I travel from Mombasa to western Kenya but I have never used it . Kindly enlighten me on the difference between this 1299cc NZE and others that are 1500cc. Keep up the good work.
The biggest difference is, of course, in the engine size: one is 1300cc and the other is 1500cc.
Obviously, the car with the bigger engine is faster and more powerful; however, it might not necessarily be thirstier.
Apart from that, given the traditions of most manufacturers, the car with the bigger engine might more likely be better specced: it might have a better radio, more optional extras such as powered accessories, a better body kit or colour coding, and fancier rims/wheel caps in comparison to its lowlier version.
My query concerns the legal requirements for operating a private nine-seater van. I have had several encounters with our esteemed law enforcers and the issues raised have been as varied as the number of encounters.
In some cases, the officer will check the “usual” items: insurance, licence, tyres, etc, as he would in the case of a private saloon vehicle.
However, there have been instances when I have been asked for inspection stickers, “commercial” vehicle insurance and even a speed governor.
I have enquired from senior traffic officers (when I end up at the station), but have not been given uniform answers. And queries to the NTSA through their website have not elicited any response.
Kindly enlighten me on whether the following are mandatory for a private, nine-seater van:
A speed governor
Vehicle inspection sticker
Insurance as a commercial vehicle.
Also, kindly advise if the above requirements would change if I modified it to a seven-seater, like many SUVs, which do not have any special restrictions.
Please note that the van is a standard Toyota Hiace, customised to seat nine, including the driver.
The proliferation of various sub-models, new body types and shapes and the sharing of platforms across model ranges has turned motor vehicle classification into a grey area.
That is why a 4WD double-cab is considered a pick-up (with all its attendant legal requirements such as chevrons), while that exact same vehicle with a canopy over the luggage bay is considered an SUV and is exempt from the commercial vehicle sticker regimen.
As for your vehicle, there is such a thing as guilt by association. That model is widely used as public transport, and/or as a delivery vehicle, so it is a commercial vehicle whether you like it or not. It, therefore, has to go for inspection and requires a commercial vehicle licence.
As for the speed governor, if that vehicle has a PSV sticker anywhere on its body, you need to have a limiter installed. This applies even to vans owned by tour companies and taxi services.
However, yours being a privately owned and operated vehicle, it is exempt from this regulation. Oh, and reducing the number of seats will not help. At all!
I want to know more about the Nissan GTR 2012 model. I don’t know the right questions to ask but I’d just like to know whether it is suitable for everyday use?
Is it efficient in terms of performance — power, speed and handling?
I have seen it on racetracks as well as locally on the streets. I would really appreciate some detailed information about it.
My name is not Jim; never was and has never been.
About that GTR: I once believed it to be Jack versus Porsche’s fee-fie-fo-fum, beanstalk-climbing 911 Turbo troll giant but lately the odds have started stacking up against it.
If BBC ‘Top Gear’’s recent showings are anything to go by, its earth-shattering performance doesn’t look so earth-shattering anymore.
That said, you will still be hard pressed to find a car that turns as hard as an Nissan R35.
The 2012 car is good for around 542bhp, which is the kind of power you will likely never fully explore.
Couple this to a clever trick-trick 4WD drive-train, a twin-clutch gearbox and huge nitrogen-filled tyres and the end result is… epic.
This is a car that will show just how physically unfit you really are without having to run a mile.
I experienced its violent character at a military airbase in California on the west coast of the United States of Americaland.
It is a violent track car that may break your neck if you fail to sit properly while in it, but that is when ‘Race’ mode is engaged.
Disengage the psychopath setting and it turns into an amiable daily driver that even geriatrics can take for a quick nip down to the mall and back.
Disclaimer: said geriatric is advised not to go beyond 20 per cent throttle opening on such a shopping trip, because even with Race mode off, stomping the hot pedal will still release the demons of performance hell and the car will shoot forward, possibly at a faster speed than a senile mind can wrap itself around.
Expect 0-100km/h in 2.8 seconds. Two. Point. Eight. By the time you read this sentence, the GTR will have launched itself from rest and gone beyond 120km/h. Say hello to Godzilla.
For you to ask whether it is efficient in power, speed, handling and general performance is akin to you asking whether this column is written in English. The answer is “what do you think?” Those four parameters are EXACTLY why the GTR exists, and down the River Styx with humdrum plebeian concerns like economy and maintenance. Those are for losers in 900cc, three-cylinder hatchbacks. This is a twin-turbo, twin-clutch 3.8 litre V6 ground-hugging missile. Only those with substantial testicular fortitude need apply.
Detailed information about this car can be found on almost every motoring website on the internet and some non-motoring ones too. This, however, I will tell you for free: the GTR drives like nothing I have driven before, or since. It may be an adherent to the turbo 4WD formula of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions and Subaru Impreza STis, but while the GTR’s forebears battled these two small saloons, the Nissan R35 grew out of it and went hunting Porsches and Lamborghinis. It is now an accomplished assassin. This is the John Wick of Japanese sports cars.
It has an interior that belies its badge. Nissans typically boast of naff, monochromatic — usually 50 Shades of Grey, beige or black — interiors festooned with ugly buttons, scratchy plastics, exposed seams, panel gap inconsistency and grainy surfaces with just a touch of faux-aluminium, but one can tell the GTR was made by people who took their time with it.
The leather is exquisitely stitched (and is real), the buttons are thoughtfully laid out, the thick-rimmed steering is good to the grip — which, in inexperienced hands, is less a tool for controlling the vehicle than a lifeline for hanging on to as the car threatens to toss you through the windows in hard corners.
Just to be sure of its everyday usability, there is even a woofer/sub-woofer embedded somewhere inside the back seat. And it has an automatic transmission. The car is quite a dandy daily driver.
Until someone drops the gauntlet and challenges you to a showdown.
You had best be awake when you mash the firewall. The transformation from “automatic Datsun coupé” to “Porsche-Slaying Maniac” is instantaneous. The downshifts become harder.
The upshifts become brutal. The acceleration is relentless. The braking is merciless. Cornering in this car actually hurts, it DOES hurt; more so if you had a heavy lunch involving numerous tacos and several cans of chilled soft drink in the baking California heat like yours truly.
While the car goes like it was launched by a giant rubber band and stops like it has hit a tree, it is through the turns that its ability beggars belief.
SHARP AND RESPONSIVE
One can actually feel how heavy this car is (it weighs in at around 1800kg, which is quite lardy), but then again one can also feel the electronic witchcraft and fastidiously built hardware working in tandem to overthrow the reign of heft; and one can feel these electronics and hardware winning the minor skirmish taking place underneath your seat.
The wide nitrogen-filled rubbers and mind-boggling 4WD boffinry really do transfigure what is essentially (weight-wise) an expectant rhino into a heavily caffeinated flea.
The GTR changes direction with the alacrity of a jumped-up insect- for lack of a better analogy- that is how sharp and responsive it is. It is, however, not twitchy with it; it carries this turning capability with grace and aplomb. It is a meister among minstrels.
Go into a moderate sweeping left at 140km/h, which is just about the point where an STi would typically start disobeying instructions, and the car turns with no drama.
It even feels underused. Go in at 160, right about where an Evo would be at its limit and same thing happens.
Try 180. Still works. Try 200… Then realise that you may need fighter pilot training to fully harness this car’s potential, because while Godzilla will handle the speed with which you are straightening corners, your brain may not. The car goes faster than you can think, quite literally.
We did hot laps on a track laid out on a military airbase at a place called El Toro. Once you learn the track layout and know what the car can do, you then revert to your primeval petrolhead mindset, get the red mist over your eyes and start stringing corners together like the expert you clearly aren’t. The experience is sublime.
Foot down. Exit the pit area and barrel down the short opening straight. Feel the surge of acceleration. Do NOT look at the speedometer; which should read 210km/h or thereabouts by the time you reach the first right which is a short distance away.
No need to brake, in fact you only need to lift ever so slightly to trim down your pace somewhat.
The corner leads into a short series of switchbacks. Still no brakes. Chuck the car apex-to-apex, throwing it left and right with something that may be mistaken as willful abandon. Feel the massive weight try to pull the car out of line.
Feel the tyres holding the car in place. Feel the 4WD system reeling the car back in. Also feel the numerous tacos and gallons of Pepsi slosh around uncomfortably in the pit of your stomach; and your brain bouncing off the sides of your skull. Feel your eyeballs slowly losing shape due to the unbelievable grip.
Feel your arms ache. Feel your neck strain. Feel your palms sweat. Try not to vomit. Exit the switchbacks faster than you thought possible in a car, front tyres screaming, steering on half-lock to the right. Let the steering wheel self-center in a controlled slip through your fingers as the car straightens itself out.
As the steering wheel steadily centers itself, simultaneously feed the power in, in such a way that by the time the car is pointing dead straight, you are at wide open throttle. All this is happening so fast your conscious mind can barely keep up and is not even present. In primeval petrol-head mode, you are not quite yourself; you are the Stig’s favorite Facebook follower.
Thunder down the main straight like a fighter aircraft on takeoff. “Lord have mercy, this car is bloody FAST!” you think, in something closely resembling pure panic. Hit 255km/h. See the huge BRAKE sign at the side of the track indicating the upcoming chicanes. Stand on the brakes.
UP FOR SECONDS
Hold your breath tightly because now it feels like your brains will pour copiously through your nostrils and splash all over the dashboard like projectile vomiting; that is how HARD a GTR sheds speed on the stoppers.
Realise you may have braked a bit too hard and washed off more speed than you needed to — after all, this is a GTR — so lift off the anchors and get back on the power. Maintain this power through the tight chicanes, throttling on and off as the track demands.
This is nothing to a GTR; it eats away at the apexes and leaves them wondering what just clipped them. The chicanes lead back into the pit area. Roll to a halt. Remove helmet. Wipe the thin film of sweat now coating your forehead— a byproduct of the combination of frazzling heat and nervous excitement. The hot lap is over and you did not put a foot wrong. Feel proud of yourself. Grin stupidly at your hostess, who you now think of as a goddess at whose feet you will worship henceforth since she let you drive a GTR in anger.
“That was some driving,” she says. “How was it?” she asks with a patronising smile.
“CAN I DO IT AGAIN?”
I have a Honda CRV which comes with tyres with the following specs 235/60 R18. I want to buy new tyres from a particular brand but the only specs they have are 235/65 R18 (bigger profile tyres). Will this affect the performance of the car in any way?
Yes, but the effect will be so minimal you will not notice it. I believe the word we scientists use to describe such an effect is “negligible”
I have been advised by at least three mechanics that coasting damages engine components, especially the clutch due to what they called “shock” when engaging ‘D’ from ‘N’ especially on high speed, downhill…..what’s your take?
This only applies to manual transmissions if declutching is not done properly.
With automatic transmissions, the engagement of the clutch mechanism is computerised, as is the gear selection; so the “shock” of re-engagement is not any harder or any softer than it is during normal upshifts and downshifts.
However, there is the risk of engaging ‘two’ or even ‘one’ instead of D, in which case… well, shock on you and your gearbox/clutch.
I am an ardent reader of your motoring column on DN2 every Wednesday.
I intend to get my first car — a used car — and your expert advise will help inform my decision.
I’m considering either a Toyota Wish, 1800cc, Year 2004 or Nissan X-trail. 2000cc, Year 2003.
The reason am looking at Toyota Wish is it’s sitting capacity for seven passengers and therefore ideal for family outings while the X-Trail offers me off-road capabilities whenever needed.
The car will be 80 per cent town drives and 20 per cent off-road adventures. Other than differences in off-road handling capabilities, please advise on differences in:
(a) Fuel efficiency and consumption Km/l.
(b) Maintenance costs — I have very lean maintenance budget especially on parts.
(d) Ease in handling, stability, comfort and speed.
Looking forward to your kind response.
a) The Wish is generally more economical than the X-Trail but the absolute figures will depend on how and where you drive, and how often you carry seven people in the car. Expect anything between 7km/l and 15km/l for both.
b) A “lean maintenance budget” is not going to do you any favours in light of the fact that you are buying a used car that has already seen thousands of kilometers of service in another person’s hands. Breakdowns WILL happen, and a lean maintenance budget might not be sufficient to keep the car in good working condition.
A particular sore point is the X-Trail’s automatic transmission that fails with alarming certainty; replacing it will be an exercise in six-figure expenditure.
c) Reliability: see b) above. You are buying a used car. Its reliability will depend on how well the previous owners maintained it. Again, that being said, the X-Trail is more of a garage queen compared to the Wish.
d) Handling, stability, comfort and speed: don’t expect anything like an Evo in terms of handling, stability and speed. Both cars will reach 180km/h before the electronic nanny interferes, and both cars will crash spectacularly if you try cornering in them at that speed.
Comfort: the X-Trail has more room inside and a bigger glass-house, so it is generally a better place to be in. A Wish seven-deep with humanity is like a school bus.
There is something you didn’t address comprehensively on January 3.
It had to do with fuel gauge (level) light going on before and after refuelling. I noted the same anomaly recently where the light came on and I refilled with 4.55 litres of fuel two kilometres on.
However, I noted the light came on again after driving for about 15km.
Could the vehicle have spent the 4.55 litres to do 17 kilometres whereas it does 10km/l-11km/l?
The road gradient was not significantly different so as to affect the fuel ‘positioning’ inside the tank.
There is one thing you need to understand here, and that is the internal design of a fuel tank. It is not just an empty can with a hole at one end for filling it and another at the other end for emptying it.
There are baffles inside it.
These baffles are like small walls; ramparts if you will, and their main function is to still the fluid and prevent it from splashing about in the tank.
The splashing about may cause bubbles which, when fed into the fuel lines, will cause vapour lock which in turn cause stalling and sometimes may lead to injector damage.
The splashing about may also cause fuel starvation: this is a common problem in sports cars with high performance capabilities, such as an Impreza STi or a Nissan GTR: the lateral G when cornering, or longitudinal G when accelerating hard/braking forces the fuel to one side/wall of the tank and if it so happens that the fuel is forced away from the outlet/fuel pump, then fuel starvation occurs and the car goes off.
Much as they are prevalent in performance cars, you do not need a high-strung race car to experience these problems. They can also be faced in lesser vehicles, hence the baffled tank design being universal. These baffles have another effect, though:
They form little “pockets” of fuel when running low and this is where gauge accuracy is slightly lost.
The sensor is a rheostat attached to float device which is in turn attached to the tank wall.
When refilling, small amounts of fuel such as four and a half litres may not be spread out evenly through those “pockets”. Depending on the splash patter when refilling, shape of the fuel tank and size/severity of the tank baffles, the fuel gauge may lose accuracy by quite a margin.
It may show a considerable jump in fuel level, or it may show none at all. It is not 100 per cent accurate, and this is why you will never come across a highly calibrated fuel gauge indicating exactly how many litres of fuel there are in the tank.
Some cars may have the fancy gadgetry telling you how many kilometers of driving you have left with the fuel at hand but none of them is ever dead right, it is always pessimistic so that when it finally reads zero, you are still in motion and your hopes get lifted.
So, no, your car does not do 4km/l. To get an accurate reading, fill the tank up to the brim (automatic cut-off point for the fuel hose), take note of your odometer reading then drive around a little. It doesn’t matter how far you go, but the further you drive, the more accurate the outcome.
Preferably, keep going until when almost empty, then fuel up; again brimming the tank. Take note of the number of litres that will go into the tank before cut-off.
Take note of the new odometer reading. Your very accurate fuel economy figure will be (Odo’ reading 2 – odo’ reading 1) divide by the number of litres taken it at the second fuel stop.
I was happy to bump into you at Kiamburing TT. Do tell, where and when is the next one? I drive a 2.0 D4 ZT Caldina, full time 4 wheel drive.
It has excellent leg room and a spacious boot and it’s performance on slippery/muddy areas is quite good.
However, I am a speed maniac and the car regularly disappoints me in this area. When driving against the VW Passat, ‘government model’ (for lack of better term) and the sleek Mark X, I noticed they pick up much faster than my car.
Now, I am thinking of trading my Caldina later in the year with either of the above but please compare and contrast the two (Mark X and VW Passat) in terms of comfort and performance both on highway and off-road. Reliability and durability as well as ability to drive in a semi-muddy area.
Do they have front wheel drive version or even 4-wheel version and if so, which models? What of the ability to pick up/accelerate to speeds of 180km/h?
And finally, Does any of them have a semi-automatic (tiptronic) gearbox.
I’m glad I made your day. The next Kiamburing is still in the pipeline and dates are tentative but we are looking at end of April. This is owing to a busy motorsports calendar this year and seeing how a large number of the people involved have overlapping duties across discrete events, we thought it best if each race had its own date.
This also allows for fans to maximise on their indulgence and not have to be forced to choose between one event and another should they happen to fall on the same date.
Onto your question, The Mark X is a beast. I have been running around in one in the recent past and the way it pulls on a wide open throttle beggars belief for a car that heavy and that laid back.
Perhaps it should have been born as some form of semi-F Sport Lexus than a run-of-the-mill Toyota.
You may have to specify which particular model of VW Passat you had in mind, because there are quite a number of iterations with drivetrain variations and engine variations.
I’m guessing you got monstered by a 2.0 litre turbo.
The two cars are broadly similar in comfort and performance (though performance will be heavily dependent on what engine the Passat has) but the bias is towards the Mark X.
That car really goes like a bat out of hell, relatively. Comfort may favour the Passat a little: I found the Mark X’s driver area feeling cramped — it’s not actually cramped, it just feels like it, and the electric seat adjustment takes a while to shuttle back and forth on its rails.
Reliability: Toyota. ‘Nuff said
Spec Levels: Passat. It can be had in a myriad of flavours with choices of engines, transmissions, drivetrains, colors, body styles (Passat CC, anyone? Estate, maybe?) and sub-models.
For more details on these, please visit the internet.
Tiptronic transmission: both are available with Tiptronic-style manual overrides on automatic transmissions. In the Passat, it is an option, in the Mark X it is standard.
I imported a Range Rover Sport 2007, with a diesel engine from the UK some six months ago and it experienced total engine failure within four months.
I have since heard of a few other cases with the same make of car.
I was informed that it has something to do with the diesel fuel available in Kenya. How true is this?
At the risk of drawing the ire of the British/Indians, I will say this is more of a Range Rover problem than a Kenyan problem.
That being said, whenever you buy a second hand car, especially one as expensive as a Range Rover Sport, details like FSH are very important. FSH is Full Service History.
Range Rovers are not the most reliable cars out there, but their unreliability can be partially circumvented.
One can delay the inevitable through good care and proper maintenance.
Diesel-powered Range Rovers are not any worse than their petrol-swilling stable-mates, if anything; a diesel Range Rover is the thinking man’s option.
The right engine will still run with the petrol version and return economy and environmental friendliness.
There are many diesel-powered Range Rovers still running on our roads. The word here is “maintenance”.
This is a clarification and a disclaimer. I do not know any female bloggers, much less any who have underlying and/or unresolved issues with drivers of blue Subarus.
I did not train, nor did I request any Internet superhero to pick fights with yuppie-grade Six-Star specialists.
I did not ask for any help in disparaging the Boxer Boys. My relation with Subaru (drivers) transcends colour and creed: an Impreza doesn’t have to be blue to get beaten by a Lancer Evolution.
My on-off disagreement with the Subaru fan club is not a judgmental and jaundiced look at their lifestyles, or their romantic capabilities, life choices or financial health; it is a simple debate that is quite easily solved through an orgy of octane overdose, twin turbos, advanced timing, burning rubber, wild understeer, missed gearshifts, shattered valves and bent con-rods. In other words, this is banter between petrolheads, not social commentary.
It is high time prejudiced “keyboard activists” left Subaru drivers alone.
Only I am allowed to poke fun at them. I don’t write about age-disparate, inappropriate, financially-fuelled social pairings involving sugar-parents (daddies or mommies) in my weekly column, seeing how little I know about them.
It is only fair NOT to include motor vehicles in a questionable write-up involving the devious machinations of scheming trollops; obnoxious opportunists seeking pots of gold where they aren’t supposed to, more so if the author of the said piece thinks a Range Rover Sport is the beginning and the end all things motoring.
Leave the Subaru-bashing to me. I got this.
Please enlighten me on the 1500cc and 1800cc capacity of a car. I want to choose between a Toyota Wish, a Fielder, a Premio and an Allion. My question is, what does the cc of a car translate to?
I have been told an 1800cc car consumes more fuel than a 1500cc. But is there a benefit I would derive from the 1800cc? Does the car “perform” better? Is it “stronger/more powerful”?
I live in Kikuyu and currently drive a 1500cc NZE. On a rainy day, a 200m stretch of a dirt road takes a lot of prayers as I skid through the mud. A 4 x 4 is not within my budget at the moment.
The “cc” of a car is called the engine displacement, which in layman’s terms means the engine size. In a nutshell, an engine works like this: air goes into the engine, this air is mixed with fuel in a particular ratio then this air-fuel mixture (called the intake charge) is fed into the engine cylinders where it is set on fire by spark plugs through electrical arcing.
Petrol is explosive, so when mixed with air and set on fire, it explodes.
This is the basic set-up of a cylinder: at the top are two sets of valves, one set called the inlet valves which allow the intake charge to enter the cylinder, and another set called the exhaust valves that allow the burnt gases (exhaust) to leave the cylinder. The cylinder is basically a tube with a tight-fitting but movable piston within it.
When the intake charge enters the cylinder, it is set on fire and explodes. This explosion forces the piston downwards, in what we call the power stroke.
The effect of this explosion pushing the piston downwards is equivalent to that of your leg pushing downwards when pedalling a bicycle. It provides the torque that gives rotating motion and movement.
This is where we pause for a moment. The piston goes down, but how does it come back up? Just like a bicycle, when the pedal goes down, it is brought back up by the downward push of the opposite pedal.
The main sprocket (the big-toothed wheel to which the chain and pedals are attached on a bicycle) has its equivalent as the crankshaft in a vehicle engine. It translates reciprocating motion (up and down or back and forth movement) into rotating motion (circular movement).
Therefore, the piston in an engine is brought upwards by the downward motion of other pistons (a typical engine has several pistons: 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12 or even 16, but the commonest number is four).
For single-cylinder engines like motorcycles and chainsaws, the momentum gained by the downward push is what brings the piston up.
So, back to the cylinder: Primary school mathematics taught us that cylinders have volume, got by the base area (pi multiplied by the square of the radius) multiplied by the length/height of the cylinder.
The length of the cylinder is determined by the limits of piston travel, that is, from the topmost limit that the piston reaches before starting to head back downwards, to the lowest limit it reaches before going back up.
This cylinder volume, multiplied by the number of cylinders, is what gives us the engine capacity, commonly expressed in cc (actually cubic centimeters) such as 1500cc or 1800cc; and in litres as 3,0-litre engine or 4.7-litre engine.
More cc means more swept volume by the cylinders, right? More swept volume means more intake charge going into the engine, right? More intake charge means more air and more petrol, and therefore, bigger explosions which create more downward force on the piston crowns.
So yes: a bigger engine develops more power. An 1800cc car is “stronger/more powerful” than a 1500cc one and it performs better.
I also live in Kikuyu, but I will not specify where exactly for obvious reasons. It can get quite unbecoming in the rainy season, I know, and now that you cannot buy an SUV, your options are a little limited.
You could buy a 4WD version of the listed vehicles (they do come with 4WD as an option, these cars) which will offer increased directional stability and better traction, and/or (especially and) buy deeply treaded tyres which have better grip in the mud.
You will be surprised at how well they hold the muddy ground. The payoff is that they are not very good on tarmac, but then again, they are not disastrous either.
I don’t think you spend your time cornering at the limit or hunting STI Subarus, so the reduced tarmac-gripping ability will go unnoticed. Just buy the treaded tyres.
Good work you’re doing.
I bought a non-turbo Imprezza in February last year. Towards the end of the year, it developed a clunky noise at the front right wheel, which I suspect to be a worn out bush.
As I organise my finances, please tell me what risk(s) I run if I delay replacement of the same.
Lastly, which exhaust configuration would you recommend for a non-turbo to gain slightly more pick up speed?
A late replacement of the bush means you first have to put up with the clunky noise a bit longer.
The steering might also feel a little unusual with time and the bush gets eaten away some more, losing part of the geometry in the process. And the ride will become a little thumpy and rattly over bumps and ruts.
You need to get what is called a through-pipe (straight exhaust, no cat) if you want better engine response.
Without the restrictions caused by the kinks, catalytic converter and silencer, exhaust gases flow faster out of the engine and offer reduced back pressure, leading to what I’d call a “zingy” response: a slightly increased “revviness” of the engine.
I am an ardent reader of your column. I recently bought an automatic Toyota Fielder 1500cc, new model.
Note that I have never had an automatic car before, and that during my driving classes in 2003, I did not use an automatic car. If I was taught anything about automatic cars, I must have forgotten it all. So, kindly explain:
1. Why is it that when I am driving slowly, the ECO light appears on the screen/dash board but disappears as I increase speed?
2. The gear has the letters N, P, R and D-S (not arranged according to how they appear in the vehicle) marked at different points, except D and S, which are side by side.
What does S stand for and when is it supposed to be used. Also, explain fuel consumption when driving on S in comparison to driving on D.
3. If you don’t mind, explain the meanings of those D, P, R, S, D1, D2 in automatic vehicles and when one is supposed to engage them. This is what I know so far: D-Drive, P-Parking, R-Reverse and S-Speed/Screed, not sure which.
(Last but not the least, I don’t want my questions to appear in the newspaper).
Too bad for you, it looks like you made it into the paper anyway! We will not divulge your identity though, so don’t worry.
1. The ECO light comes on when the vehicle is in economy mode, meaning it is burning very little fuel, if any.
Common in most Japanese saloons, especially those equipped with automatic transmissions, the mode is activated by a driving style that epitomises hypermiling; in the instances that I witnessed this light glowing (while driving the Toyotas Vista and Premio, but of course not both at the same time), the accelerator pedal was either depressed very lightly or not at all.
Invariably, I was rolling downhill in both, at moderate speeds, meaning the engine was doing no work and probably the injectors were shut off in turn, meaning the vehicles were consuming little or no fuel, hence economy mode, ergo the ECO light.
2. Those are a lot of things you have listed: are you sure they are all in the same car? Anyway, here goes. P is for Park, a selector position that locks the transmission in both forward and reverse, acting as a static brake.
The vehicle cannot move in either direction as both directions are engaged. R is for Reverse, and is used if you want to go backwards. N is for Neutral, the exact opposite of Park.
Whereas in Park both forward and reverse gears are selected, in Neutral no gear is selected, so the vehicle is in freewheel mode.
This is mostly used when towing, but as I have come to learn, certain people take the things I say rigidly so I will issue a disclaimer: A vehicle can only be towed when it is in Neutral, however, Neutral is not only for towing.
I hope I’m clear on that. D is for Drive, which is the opposite of Reverse. Select it if you want to go forward.
S is Sport mode, a selection in which the transmission holds onto gears for longer, changing up and down at higher revs than in Drive (Normal mode). The positions 1 (or L), 2 and 3 — where available — lock the transmission in those gears, disallowing upshifts beyond the respective selector position but allowing downshifts.
Lastly, what, in the name of burnt clutches, is Screed?
Thanks for the very informative Car Clinic story on October 29, 2014.
I have a similar situation. My car has four options; N, 4H, 4L, 2L. Whenever I select N, the car makes the same noise on the dash board.
When I drive the car on 4H, the consumption is quite high; recently I monitored the consumption with this selection and noted that 18 litres took me 136km, which translated to 7.5km local running.
The other two selections are quite heavy for the car, with even worse consumption. My car’s consumption is currently very high. I expected it to be relatively low, considering that it is a VVT. I have reached out to local dealer CMC, to no avail.\
What car is this? By mentioning CMC and VVT (not VVTi), I’ll hazard a guess and say it is a Suzuki of some sort, possibly a Grand Vitara.
For starters, what engine does it have? You might say 7.5km/l is quite high, but if you have the 2.7 litre V6 engine, that is not high. After all, it is an SUV, isn’t it?
The other two selections give worse economy figures, and they should. This is because they constitute the low-range section of the transfer case, meaning extra low gearing for the sake of torque multiplication, which in turn means the engine revs a lot but the corresponding motion is snail-like, just like a tractor. It is very hard on fuel, so again, the high consumption is to be expected.
Yes, you need help; help in the form of advice. Drive in High range only, unless you are doing some pretty hardcore off-road stuff that would warrant the use of Low range. Just one quick question: what dashboard noise does the car make in N (Neutral)?
I have been wondering why you answer questions only from people who drive big and expensive cars? This is the third mail I am sending, although I can already tell you won’t respond – if at all you care to read it.
Now to my question: Which small SUV would you go for between a Toyota Cami and Suzuki Jimny, both year 2006, 1.3litre, in terms of off-road ability in muddy conditions, engineering, and availability of spare parts. I want one for commuting to work and visiting the farm in a remote shags on weekends.
Yes, I only answer questions from people who drive big and expensive cars, cars like the Nissan Note, Mazda Demio and Subaru Impreza. They don’t come any bigger or more expensive than these.
Perhaps I should start charging a consultation fee; that way, maybe the owners of these big cars will stop sending emails and allow drivers of smaller cars to have their 15 minutes.
Secondly, there is a backlog in my inbox: I have hundreds of unanswered emails, and yours was one of them – until now.
So, to your question: I wouldn’t buy either of the two since they are both horrible to drive. I’d rather buy a first-generation 5-door Suzuki Vitara, which costs less but gets you more of a car and is cheaply available with an optional V6 engine.
The Cami and Jimny are tiny, bouncy little things that are badly afflicted by crosswinds on the highway, will not seat enough human beings for you to have a memorable road trip, and will shatter your pelvis on a rough road. However, they are also very capable when the ground underfoot gets industrial.
Off-road: Their non-existent overhangs, narrow bodies and relatively high ground clearance make them handy tools for penetrating the impenetrable, and unless you fall inside a peat bog or drive off a cliff, you are unlikely to ever get stuck in one.
The muddy conditions you inquire about may prove to be their undoing, though: their tiny, underpowered engines don’t generate enough power to force your way through the clag, which is why Landcruisers are recommended for such. You need plenty of power when going through mud, otherwise you run the risk of wedging yourself into the landscape.
With power, you also need bigger wheels. The Jimny and Cami both run on dinner plates that will cut through the mud and beach your vehicle faster than you can say “I knew 1.3 litres was not enough engine…” The Jimnys sold by CMC had slightly wider wheels, though, which would improve matters. Here’s why:
When forging a path through the quagmire, you need a modicum of buoyancy to prevent getting stuck. The bigger tyres offer a bit of floatation, and the speed complements it.
Of course, it is not recommended that you try and do 100 kph in a swamp, but it is imperative that you keep moving and not stop at all, and sometimes to keep moving, you need plenty of revs and a bit of wheelspin.
With no power at your disposal, compounded by smaller wheels, you will start to sink in the mud and if you try to generate a bit of wheelspin, you burn your clutch and/or stall the vehicle.
The Jimny has a slight advantage over the Cami in that, as a 3-door, it has a shorter wheelbase, and the lack of a body-kit even as an option gives it superior approach and departure angles, and much better ground clearance.
Engineering: These are cheap, narrow, 1.3 litre, 4-cylinder Kei cars. The engineering in them is rudimentary at best, and their only bragging points would be over things we take for granted in other cars such as AC, power steering, power windows and variable valve timing.
Forget about hill descent control, torque vectoring, terrain response systems or submersion sensor technology; for those, you need to multiply your budget by 30 and start looking at Range Rovers, the kind of cars driven by people whose emails I respond to (you opened a can of worms here, my friend).
Availability of spare parts: small, Japanese cars are the topic at hand. What was your question again?
Thanks to you, we petrolheads now look forward to Wednesdays as if it is Friday. Your writing prowess and knowledge about cars is simply outstanding. Keep up the good work. Anyway, to my queries.
1) Why don’t the turbo-charged Subies and Evos come with turbo timers from the factory? And they don’t come with damp valves either: does it mean they are not necessary? Don’t get me wrong, I know what they are used for but it bothers me that the manufacturers of these speed machines don’t fit these gadgets as standard.
2) This is a proposal: I think it’s high time rally organisers used the Jamuhuri Park circuit, where two cars race side by side on gravel, as a spectator stage. They did so last time and it was really exciting.
I am disappointed that this year they have skipped it for the boring Migaa circuit. To the rally organisers: let’s build more circuits like that in our bid to lure the WRC. I doubt it’s costly, plus they can always charge entry fees to recover the costs.
Last but not least, what’s the shape of an Evo’s tail lights? Because we sub drivers can’t recall….
1. These turbo cars don’t come with timers because in stock form, they do not really need them. Once the owners/drivers start tuning/modifying/upgrading them by installing bigger turbos, increasing boost pressures and using manual boost controllers, the need for timers arises.
The turbos spool faster, generate more heat, and the bigger units require more oil for lubrication, which is where the need for timers comes in. The timers assist in heat dumping and spool-down manoeuvres to prevent damage and oil coking. The stock turbos are usually designed during R&D to compensate for this sudden cool-down, according to their capacity.
A small correction though: the factory cars DO come with dump valves, it’s just that these BOVs are not as loud as the aftermarket devices. Some people install new dump valves simply for the noise they make, a noise I will admit is highly addictive. Even I will buy a new BOV just for the “pssshh!!” throttle-off hiss.
2. Well, nowadays we have something called Club TT Motorsports, and though unintended, it sometimes steps in where rally fears to tread. Club TT Motorsports is the committee behind the famous time trials, four of which have been held so far. Three of the four races were the Kiamburing TT hill-climbs, and one was the Murang’a TT.
I will pass your recommendation on to the organising committee and see if Jamhuri Park can be put to good use. Wheel-to-wheel racing is the most dangerous aspect of motorsport, especially where amateurs are concerned, but then again, its entertainment quotient is infinitely greater than the standard time trial format.
If we can get two cars to run side by side (Evo vs STi, anyone?) but demarcate the two lanes into separate pathways, we will be sure to have a show we will not forget soon. What was that you said about Evo tail-lights?
Dear Mr Baraza,
Thank you for sharing your column. The information is very helpful and insightful. Keep up and do not be discouraged by the few negative comments.
I recently bought a 1800cc Premio but need to improve the clearance. I have put strong coil springs and there is some improvement, but when fully loaded, it’s still low on high bumps.
1. Is it true that bigger tyres will increase fuel consumption? I am using 185/70/14. I wanted to use 195/70/15. Will they affect stability?
2. Since I imported it, whenever I drive beyond 100 kph, if I brake, the steering wheel shakes. I have checked the brakes, had the wheels aligned and balanced but no change.
3. The back seat has only two safety belts, with an arm rest in between that can be folded back to accommodate three passengers.
The import inspection sheet indicated that it can accommodate five passengers, so I am assuming there should have been a safety belt for the middle passenger at the back.
1. Not really. Okay, it will, but the difference will be barely discernible and anyway, the instantaneous consumption varies quite a bit. Overall, you will not notice anything.
2. Check your brakes again. Your problem sounds like warped brake discs. You might need new ones.
3. I’d assume so too, so either a) we are both wrong, or b) there WAS a seat belt but for one reason or another it was removed.
When I reviewed a Premio a long time ago, I sat in the back seat to check out the legroom (which was good) but didn’t check for a centre belt, so I cannot tell if this is an isolated case or if it is the norm with Premios.
It is at times like this that reader feedback comes in handy; maybe other Premio owners out there can tell us if their cars are also blighted by fewer seatbelts than there are seats, or if this problem is yours alone.
I like your expert advice on the advantages or otherwise of various car makes/models and solutions you suggest for car problems.
I am an admirer of SUVs currently driving a Subaru Forrester. I would like to upgrade, maybe to a BMW X5 or X6.
Which one do you consider a better deal in terms of performance, fuel economy, and local support, bearing in mind that it would most likely be a second-hand import?
Also, should I buy one that uses petrol or diesel, given that there are issues with the quality of locally available diesel.
I can’t help but notice you share a name with a TV comedian, the famous “Churchill”. You are not he, are you?
The two cars are largely similar and share engines, so performance, economy and local support are no different irrespective of which X-car you go for.
Local support is the bone of contention here: a visit to Bavaria Motors assured me that they do not discriminate against imports; they will support ANY BMW you throw at them. The reports on the ground are a little different but not too worrisome. Some claim they have not got a stellar reception at Bavaria.
Petrol vs diesel: BMWs have not had as many complications with diesel engines as their German rivals, Mercedes and Volkswagen. I think it is a calculable risk, and the calculations say you can take a gamble.
However, the petrol engines are a lot more powerful and much more fun to drive but you need a sizeable fuel budget if you plan to take advantage of the hiatus in the 50km/h town-bound speed limit.
I am contemplating importing a Honda Fit 1500 cc , but the mileage (all in Japan) seems high at 98,000 km. What would you advise?
I would advise that you not pay too much money for it; 98,000km is a lot for a small ex-Japan car. Alternatively, expand your search and hope to find one with lower mileage (it will cost a little bit more, though).
I read your article on revitalisants in Car Clinic with lots of interest.
This Russian revitalisant was introduced to me by a doctor friend who had earlier used it in the UK.I added the gel to my engine oil in September this year and the engine of my Mitsubishi Warrior double- cab has improved in sound quality. It used to be rough, like a truck, but I can now say there is definitely an improvement.
I have also noticed an improvement in fuel economy. The car now does 7 kpl from a low 5.5 kpl, which is poor for a diesel vehicle.
I am ready to take the plunge with you on the gearbox. Let’s compare notes sometime in November.
Interesting feedback. I did review a Mitsubishi L200 Warrior double-cab pick-up some two years ago and two of the many shortcomings on that particular vehicle involved the gruffness of the engine and the poor fuel economy. Maybe that vehicle needed some “revitalising”.
November is here, I will soon get my bottle of magic Russian juice, then we will see what is what. This Russian elixir is called XADO (pronounced “ha-do”) and has apparently been around for some time. Strange how I had not heard of it till recently.
1) I have a Subaru WRX Impreza with a manual transmission that produces a buzzing noise in Gear 5. What could be the problem?
2) As you might have noticed, I am a diehard Subaru fan and I do not think much about your Evo reviews. I am a keen follower of the time trial competitions and was at the Murang’a TT. The Evos might have won the battle, but they are yet to win the war. I noticed that there were only two branded vehicles competing, one of them a Subaru Impreza N8 with the stickers of a revitalisant. What is that?
Greetings, Subaru Diehard,
1. The buzzing noise is more like a continuous drone, especially at highway speeds, is it not? This sounds as if a synchroniser might be worn out or the gear itself might be chipped. The remedy in such a case is to open up your manual transmission and replace the offending component, be it the gear or synchroniser unit.
2. I did a little research and the results were… well, VERY interesting. This is what I learnt:
a) The manufacturers of the revitalisant have a whole line of products, most of which are in liquid and gel form. If there is a liquid that goes into the engine (oil, transmission fluids, power steering fluid etc), more likely than not, they have their version of it, save for petrol/diesel.
b) They also have other products that they call “revitalisants”, which in essence are “metal conditioners”. What these conditioners do is “heal” scarred metal, like your gear in 1 above. Scratched surfaces can be “revitalised” by the application of a “revitalising” product such as benzoyl peroxide in the control of acne or Candid B cream in getting rid of ringworms.
Now, here is where the plot thickens. Their own blurb says that the revitalising cream (it really is hard to think of it as anything else) will seep into the hairline fractures and scratches on any metal surface, sealing them completely.
It apparently forms a ceramic layer over old metal surfaces, rendering them “as good as new”. Since most metal surfaces damaged in this manner are part of a rubbing, friction-prone pair, the mode of the gel, it is claimed, is to form a kind of hard-pack cement the more heat and pressure is applied, and if it is heat and pressure you seek, you need not look further than the engine. The result is filler material and a coating that effectively restores the metal surface to its factory smoothness.
Derision was not far off. Real petrolheads are a discerning lot and are incredibly difficult to please and/or convince about certain matters. There were those who cried “Heresy!” and dismissed the metal conditioner as a marketing ploy for “magical cement” that has no place in the real world.
Further research reveals that this marketing ploy is nothing short of a cliché, seen before in a million other miracle cures that do not really work, preying on fear and gullibility to generate sales. Then there was the warning notice on the tubes of gel, which tend to come in threes (engine, transmission, and something else, I am not sure what): “Parts, if worn out, will still need replacing.”
Parts will still need replacing. The next question is fairly obvious: if these parts will still need replacing, what is the point of the conditioner?
It turns out that some people blew their engines, then applied the gel thinking that it would restore them. That is not how it works. It does not unblow your engine. It will not fuse broken metal pieces together, nor will it reduce the mileage covered. It repairs distressed surfaces.
The theory is embedded in nanotechnology, which I will not delve into right now for fear of making this column look like the introduction or research notes of a Michael Crichton novel. Nanotech is a field known to many but understood by few. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the manufacturers chose this word to sell their stuff.
A bit of their history (this should make good reading for Cold War pundits): The discovery of the active agent in their revitalisants came about from a mining operation in Russia in which the engineers noticed that the further down they dug, the “newer” their drill bits became, which was the exact opposite of what they expected.
Apparently, the drill bits were coated in a kind of ceramic material derived from the soil, which kept the bits in a shiny, new condition, whereas in normal digging, the drill bits get eaten away and need replacement every now and then.
This happened very many years ago and some Soviet scientists got interested and started poking into the soil around that particular mine shaft, conveniently located in or near Siberia, in what I believe was a government-sanctioned and KGB-protected undercover experiment lasting several years before the agent (still a secret, clearly, since it goes unnamed) was isolated and put to the test in industrial applications.
This sounds a bit like a flight of fancy, does it not? A legend created by the legend itself in the style of Verbal Kent/Kaiser Soze. Maybe, maybe not, but ask yourself this: Have you ever seen a Russian tank breaking down in any war theatre? Those things are more reliable than the rainfall in Kakamega. In fact, have you seen any old Russian tank? They are all new. There could be some truth to this.
Stepping out of the Ludlum novel and into the real world, the world of testimonies. Of course there are those who will dismiss the revitalisant as a joke, what with the crazy Russian story behind it, the incomprehensible nanotechnology explanation (I do not know if those scientists discovered a colony of nanobots living in the cold Siberian wilderness or what), and the fact that it is cheap for what it does.
Given how much income evangelists generate from mere prayers, imagine how much money Jesus would make if He came back and decided to charge people for resurrections. This is the logic here: If it is actually a miracle cure, why does it not cost more?
There is the flipside of the coin. I have colleagues who have dared to revitalise their engines with the gel and this is what they say. The first one declared “no noticeable difference” and described it as just another oil. Clearly, this person did not follow instructions. You are supposed to add the gel to the oil in your engine. He does not recall any gel, so he is out.
The second one said that his engine actually ran smoother after adding the gel; not just smoother, but noticeably smoother after a distance of about 500km. He is seconded by a third individual.
The fourth one says he, too, had a slightly noisy transmission (like yours in 1 above), with the added benefit of a notchy gear-shift action, but this has since improved dramatically after putting in the gel. There was one who suffered a seized engine following a crankshaft bearing failure, but he swore it had nothing to do with the gel.
I looked each of them straight in the eye for several seconds to determine whether brown Russian envelopes had changed hand, particularly in the case of the last guy. They all seemed legitimate and their claims seemed to hold water (I may have ridden in one or two of these “smoother” vehicles and they are not half bad), so this is where I will conclude my response: I, too, am taking the plunge in the name of research.
I am going to test the revitalisant first week of November. Not that my car actually needs it, though I might have started developing a “slightly notchy” gear-change too. My engine is perfect, if I may brag a little. If the nanotech is nonsense, as some people claim, then I would rather risk my gearbox, which is easier to fix, than my engine.
In one of your articles you said: “Nobody ever supercharged a diesel engine.” You were wrong. Check the website Diesel Hub, Supercharged Diesel engines. Also, supercharged and turbocharged are two different things.
J. Jesse (Mzungu)
Yes, Mzungu, I know supercharged and turbocharged are two different things. I have explained this difference too many times for me to make an error in response.
Yes, supercharged diesel engines exist, but these are mostly 2-stroke engines, marine diesels and generators on oil rigs. Some of these engines are V12s with pistons boasting 8-inch bores — not the kind of engine you will find in any car. More importantly, how old are these engines anyway? Few, if any, of the current crop of modern diesel engines used in any application are supercharged.
Part of the logic is this: diesel engines use economy and efficiency as their main selling points. A turbocharger derives its functioning energy from what was otherwise dismissed as waste, increasing its efficiency rating by a wide margin.
A supercharger uses precious engine power to run, which would be self-defeating and in contravention of the conceptual purpose of a diesel engine: efficiency. While providing a substantial boost in power, superchargers are inherently inefficient, more so in comparison to turbos.
The beauty of a diesel engine is that it can take insane boost pressures in the turbochargers with little risk of getting wrecked. Generating more power from a turbocharged diesel engine is relatively simple: keep increasing the boost pressure in the turbo and tweak/replace the injectors with bigger ones.
If you hit a horsepower ceiling with the current set-up, get a bigger turbo, or a second one (or even third, if you are BMW), and even bigger injectors. To begin with, the robust nature of the diesel engine block means it can accommodate a massive horsepower jump with little need for strengthening.
This explains why BMW has an xDrivex30d and xDrivex40d in the X5/X6 line-up. It is the exact same 3.0 6-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, but in the x40d, it develops a lot more power with little modification.
With the supercharger rendered pointless (now that you can turbocharge the diesel engine endlessly), and it being wasteful in its own way, why would anyone in their right mind want to supercharge a diesel engine?
I would like to commend you for your good advice to people. I want to buy my first car and am torn between a Toyota Premio, Wish, Voxy, and Nissan X-Trail.
I am an off-road guy who does a lot of travelling upcountry, so I would like a machine that is economically efficient in terms of both fuel and maintenance costs. Secondly, it should manage off-road trips and carry luggage because I am also a farmer. Kindly advise.
Interesting query we have here because you want to choose between a saloon car, a people carrier, a van, and a crossover, but what you actually need is a pick-up with 4WD. These are five different classes of vehicles.
The saloon car (Premio) will be cheapest to fuel and maintain. The crossover (X-Trail) has running costs not entirely dissimilar to that of a saloon car, itself being based on a saloon car (the Primera), and also has the added benefit of a modicum of off-road talent. Among the crossovers, the X-Trail is actually surprisingly adept at tackling the hard stuff.
None of these cars is exactly ideal for carrying a farmer’s “luggage” (your words, not mine), because in my mind, a farmer’s “luggage” would include tractor parts, ploughs, bags of seeds, fertiliser, animal feed, the animals themselves and/or plants, pesticides, acaricides, fungicides…
You need a pick-up for this kind of “luggage” because, who knows how many bags of seed you will be moving around? Who knows what tractor parts you might be carrying? A diff and a gearbox count as parts, don’t they?
For fuel efficiency, you will need a diesel pick-up. For lower maintenance costs, you will need a diesel pick-up without a turbocharger. For off-road purposes, this diesel pick-up will need to have at least good ground clearance, and possibly 4WD…
I am torn between getting a classic Peugeot 404 and 504 station wagon for daily use.
I have driven modern cars, from SUVs to hatchbacks, but feel that the cars lack character.
When I was growing up, my father had a car that was treated like a family member; that does not happen nowadays. A car is just that — a car!
My research on the net has shown that there is not much difference between modern cars and the 404 and the 504 in regard to fuel consumption if the balancing/mixing is done correctly. Am I right?
Also advise on safety, speed, road handling, spare parts, comfort, etc. Which one would you advise me to get?
You are right, a sizeable percentage of modern cars lack character. Worse still, they are also quickly losing identity and all look the same.
About the “fuel balancing”, I would not go so far as to declare that there is no difference between 404/504 estates and modern cars.
To start with, what is this “fuel balancing” you refer to? Is it tweaking the carburettor to make the engine run a little bit lean?
If so, then you will also have to deal with loss in power, risk burnt valves and possibly misfiring, which could lead to other kinds of damage, up to and including, but not limited to, top-end (head) damage.
Is the “balancing” mixing petrol with other additives to increase economy?
If so, forget it, there is no such magic elixir that extracts extra mpgs and kpls from a litre of petrol out of the blue (this is a whole other discussion about octane ratings, so yes, such an elixir does exist but things are not exactly black and white here).
Unless you mean large-capacity, high-performance engines of today, then the answer is no, the 404/504s of yore (fitted with carburettors) will not return consumption figures as good as those of modern cars.
If anything, large-capacity, high-performance modern engines have very impressive economy figures when driven “normally”, two good examples being the 2014 Corvette C7 (6.0L V8 engine) and the Mercedes Benz CL65 AMG (6.0L twin-turbo V12 engine), both of which have manufacturer-claimed consumption figures of 30mpg (roughly 12-13 km/l), which is exactly what a Corolla Fielder will do and a 504 station wagon will not.
Most of the other aspects you enquire about are also poor by today’s standards.
Safety is terrible: there are no airbags, no ABS, no electronic driver aids.
The steel/chrome bumpers of both cars and the rounded headlamp fairings of the 404 ensure that the pedestrian had better stay away from the path of an approaching 404.
There are not any energy-absorbing crumple zones, no traction control, no stability control, and no seat belt pretensions… these cars are not safe, period.
Speed is nothing to write home about either: you might remember the days when we had Wepesi, Kukena, Crossroad Travellers and the like, but how long ago was that?
My 2006 Mazda Demio accelerates faster than those cars, and top speed… well, the 504s may have been able to clock 200 or more, but you would not want to do 200 km/h in a 504 with that motion-in-the-ocean suspension setting that was biased more for comfort than outright stability at high speed.
Speaking of suspension, let us deal with the last two traits: handling and comfort.
Handling may have been okay in the 504 saloon (with traces of understeer from the extremely soft suspension), but the lengthy 504 estate was weird when pushed hard.
I know; I tried. Turning hard, this is the order of events as they happen. First up is tremendous body roll. You would think that the car’s door handles will brush the tarmac at any moment.
If the shock absorbers are shot through, this might be as extreme as the tyre treads scraping away the lining of the wheel wells.
Next comes understeer. Feed in lock, feed in more lock, cross your forearms, and keep turning the wheel: all this leads to the car barrelling straight on, towards whatever obstacle might have necessitated the corner that is just about to be your undoing.
Braking only aggravates matters. You have to get your speed right if that understeer is not to end in a massive accident.
You are now midway into the corner and understeering. You will feel the vehicle bend in the middle as you turn, because 1. the 504 estate is very long and 2. structural rigidity is a well-known weak point of Peugeots in general, and 504s in particular.
The folding of the car about its midriff is worrisome; it is even more alarming than the understeer you are still fighting.
If you survive this, then now comes Newton’s third law of motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Now that you were forcing the frame to warp through hard cornering, at one point the frame will want to straighten itself out.
The timing of this counter-action is most unfortunate, because it occurs at the moment when the vehicle stance is nose-down, back up.
This means that most of the weight is over the front wheels, leaving the rear with little or no grip at all.
Given that you were cornering hard, the normal oversteer typical of long cars is to be expected, but this oversteer is further exacerbated by the elastic rebound of the frame and the complete loss of grip at the back.
You will spin, and spin badly. Counter-steering does not really help, because 1. the steering rack is highly geared, requiring numerous turns from lock to lock and 2. Power steering was not available on all 504 models.
The best thing to do here is wait for the car to stop by itself. If it all goes belly up, you will then have a chance to discover the answer to your last question: 404/504 spares are hard to come by nowadays.
I own a 2003 1.8cc Toyota Allion. I have experienced a strange phenomenon, about three times now.
When I am driving, the engine shuts down, all the lights on the dashboard — including the hazard lights— come on.
However, after a short while it comes on again or starts when I ignite it. What could be the problem?
I service the car even before its due date and this began about a week ago. I have had the car for two years.
Kindly assist since this might happen when I am speeding and the results could be disastrous.
This sounds exactly like a problem with an anti-theft device: the engine cutout. The symptoms are typical of when the cutout kicks in when running the car after failing to disengage it first.
What I really cannot explain is why it took years for it to become effective.
My guess is that the battery in the plipper (the part of the car key that you press to unlock the car doors and/or deactivate the alarm, if so equipped) could be running low, and that the cutout is part of the security system.
So, pressing the button might unlock the doors but the battery, being weak, might also fail to disengage the engine cutout.
As you drive along with the cutout still active, it gives you a small grace period, a sort of countdown, for you to disengage the cutout before the system assumes you are a thief who does not know where the cutout is and will thus impede your progress before you go too far.
This is just a theory, but it is the one I believe strongly in.
Have an electrician look at the vehicle, with emphasis on the ignition system. Let him trace a cutout.
If none exists, then he can go searching for other problems (which more likely than not, will still be electrical).
I am an avid reader of your column. I am a great fan of muscle cars.
Between the Mitsubishi Galant and the Subaru Impreza WRX sedan, which one is better in terms of performance?
Also, what is the difference between an SUV and an SAV?
Which Galant are you referring to? I can only assume that it is the VR4, because it is the most similar to the Impreza WRX.
The VR4 is faster. It has a 2.5 litre V6 engine, turbocharged and intercooled to 280hp, and this power is put down through a tiptronic-style semi-automatic gearbox.
The Impreza WRX is good for a “mere” 230hp (the latest model has to around 260-265, but there is no new Galant VR4, so we will compare age-mates here, old Galant vs old Impreza).
This makes the Galant superior. However, if you introduce the STi version of the Impreza WRX, the tables are turned and the STi dominates (it might have the same 280hp in one of its myriad iterations, but the packaging is smaller and lighter, offering better responses and performance).
An SUV is essentially what we used to call 4x4s: tall, high-riding, estate car look-alikes with some degree of off-road ability due to increased ground clearance, and maybe 4WD. Jeeps also fall under this category.
SAV is a class of vehicle that did not exist until BMW discovered that the automotive industry has some murky areas that could be taken advantage of, especially targeting the blissfully ignorant, who just so happened to have a lot of money.
Create an answer to a question nobody asked, imbue it with polarising and highly controversial looks, market it aggressively even before production starts, then sell it under a title that not even the most accomplished motoring journalist can explain convincingly: the Sports Activity Vehicle.
The premise looks good on paper. The top part is a sports car. The bottom part is (supposed to be) an off-roader. In the real world, this thing is a lumpen, high-priced trolley for ferrying privileged children from expansive homes to schools that other privileged children attend; an obese brat-mobile that does nothing convincingly, except seek attention.
It is neither a sports car nor an off-roader. Still, it sells so well that the original, the BMW X6, was later joined by 60 per cent of an X6, called an X4.
It sells so well that even that the most venerated of car makers, Mercedes Benz, has joined in the action with the recently announced GLA “sports activity vehicle”, a dead ringer for the BMW X6, save for the badge on the bonnet.
It makes a motoring writer want to pull his hair out, if he has any.
Congrats for the good work. I am working on my car magazine and for sure I’ve got a lot to write about, given what I am learning from you.
Now, apart from their names, what is the difference between the Toyota Harrier and Lexus? I only know that people love the Lexus because they say it is luxurious.
And, what is so good about the X trail? Almost everyone is buying one. Why don’t they go for machines like the Mark X?
Lastly, don’t you think the Mexico police were wrong in getting a Bugatti just to make sure that they outdo the fastest car on the road in case of a chase?
Assuming that I get a Land Rover Defender 110 and I commit a crime then take a damn rough road, would they get me with their Bugatti?
All the best with your car magazine. I am looking forward to seeing it on the stands.
Apart from the names, the Toyota Harrier and Lexus RX also differ in spec levels, and the availability thereof. Only the top spec Toyota Harriers can match the Lexus RX cars trim for trim and engine for engine.
However, while the Toyota Harrier can be had with smaller engines, some of which have 4 cylinders, the Lexus RXs are all 6-cylinder cars. Meanwhile, the Lexus is also available as a hybrid, while the Harrier is not.
The choice of an X Trail over a Mark X is purely an individual preference and might not necessarily be a definite marker of trend. Maybe some buyers of the X Trail want a car that can drive over tall grass and small rocks because of the tracks they traverse.
Maybe some prefer the taller driving position and better outside view accorded to them by the cross-over utility. Some of them could be fearful of the 2.5 litre V6 thirst of the Mark X as opposed to the X Trail’s 2.0 litre straight-4 (relative) economy.
Maybe some love the square, breeze-block, sharp-edged pseudo-off roader looks of the X Trail instead of the Mark X’s curvy, artsy panel beater’s nightmare of a body. The reasons for choosing one car over another are as varied as they are numerous.
The police acquiring super cars are more of publicity stunts and tourist attraction gimmicks than an absolute need for speed. The only exceptions I’d put forward are South Africa using the Audi S3 and VW Golf GTi, the UK using Nissan Skyline GTRs (R33 and R34), Australia using Impreza WRX STis and Saudi Arabia using the Mercedes Benz E63 AMG as road patrol units.
They actually use these cars for high- speed pursuits. The Bugatti Veyrons, Ferraris, SLRs, SLS AMGs and Lamborghinis bought by various police forces around the world (especially Italy and the Middle East) are purely for show.
Those towns have clever mayors, and these mayors would really love it if tourists visited them more often, and one of the ways of attracting people is via a blatant show of opulence (this mightexplain why some men wear jewellery).
Ferrari and Lamborghini are names instantly identifiable to anyone, petrolhead or not. If your police department has one of them, people will definitely come to have a look. Your town thus gets a much higher profile on the world map.
One thing, though. If you are driving a Land Rover Defender 11 and you get chased by a Bugatti Veyron in police colours and you take the “damn rough road”, don’t for a moment stop and think you are home and dry. If that particular PD can operate a Bugatti Veyron, then they sure as hell can also operate a police helicopter.
First, I would like to declare that as I am writing this, I am not in that state of being friends with Mututho, though I will be driving towards home, thanks to my car knowing the way home as long as you put it on D.
I have been reading your articles for a while now, and I have some points to make/ask. Many of the emails that come to you ask about buying a first car, but they seem ambitious, asking about German cars and the likes of Range Rover Discovery and so on.
Is there an option of advising them to be real or else they tell us where they mine money to buy and maintain such cars as first-time buyers?
Second, I would like your review of the Nissan Teana, especially the comparisons between the JK, JM, and JX versions in terms of suitability for the Kenyan market.
Third, what’s your opinion concerning Nissans generally? Since the new CEO Goshen took over, they have been producing quality cars.
Do you see a possibility of upstaging Toyotas soon? I need to declare that I don’t hate Toyotas, but sometimes I think they just employ engineers who are not up to the task. Otherwise, how else do you explain the Platz and so forth?
Finally, how come you drive a Demio if you really are a petrolhead? The car, though not ugly, does nothing on the road apart from getting you from point A to B. If you appreciate car technology and the advancement of it, can’t you buy a better car?
I love the Demio, by the way; I bought one for my wife. It consumes relatively less fuel and keeps her away from my Teana JM 2009 model.
Finally, why is with Harrier becoming a lady’s car? I drove one recently and my friends asked if it was a new car for my mama. I hope my wife doesn’t read this, since it will spoil her birthday gift.
Just before I go and get my last one, why do you refer to Top Gear? It just a comedy show in which Jeremy is making £2m (Sh 296m) a year just to review supercars nobody will drive with our speed bumps. Mike the mouth
This is one of the most ridiculous emails I have received in the four years I have written the DN2’s Wednesday motoring column. In fact, it is one of the most absurd emails I have received in the 15 years I have owned an email address.
I don’t know if you are still alive to be reading this, but if you are, read it very carefully, my advice is short and simple: do not drive drunk.
Unless you own the as-yet-still-not-in-production Google car, your car does not know the way home; you just happen to be the momentary, and I do mean momentary, favourite of the cheeky deity behind the blind luck enjoyed by drunkards, the shameless god that is the reason the high and plastered somehow survive long falls, lightning strikes and dangerous drives from the local tavern back to whatever cave they crawled out from.
One day that benevolent spirit will turn malevolent and find a new favourite. It will drop you like a hot potato, and there will be hell to pay. I repeat: do not drive drunk.
There is no option for my readers telling you where they mine their money from. It is pretty obvious. If you want to own a Range Rover or a Land Rover Discovery, my advice is again short and simple: work hard. Also, there exists no such thing as a Range Rover Discovery.
What does “suitability for the Kenyan market” mean? The Teana, in whatever iteration, was meant to go on roads, while carrying people and burning fuel in the process.
We have roads in Kenya don’t we? Kenyans are people, are they not? Last time I checked, we had fuel too. The roads nowadays are good (mostly), some of the people (among which you are definitely not included) now take better care of their cars, so the griping about longevity is almost moot; and fuel quality has been steadily improving. Why would a Teana not be suitable for the Kenyan market?
The CEO of Renault-Nissan is called Carlos Ghosn, not “Goshen”, and yes, he has turned Nissan around. For a good example of his abilities, look no further than the R35 GTR, a car I fawn over endlessly.
However, upstaging Toyota is going to take some doing, if it even happens at all. Nissan has been growing better by the day, but then again, so has Toyota.
Catching up will not be easy, especially when factors like reputation favour your rival. The explanation behind the existence of the Platz (and the Opa, the Will and the Verossa) is: this is what happens when you employ 13,000 designers in the same company. These are way too many opinions and tastes. Some of their creations may be questionable.
Yes, I am a petrolhead, and yes I drive a Demio. It gets me from point A to B, but if you think that is all, then you either a) have never really driven a Demio properly or b) aren’t a petrolhead to start with.
That car puts smiles on my face, because I enjoy driving it. It is also affordable on a motor journalist’s weekly stipend.
If I drove a Range Rover Discovery (which does not exist), then I’d be a good businessman or a successful drug dealer (who is also a good businessman, if you think about it critically).
Your qualifying statement there reeks of innuendo: who says the Demio is unadvanced and devoid of technology? Those descriptions best fit the 1989 Peugeot 405 SR I drove before, but not the Demio.
While it is not the same as a Mercedes S Class — or even a Nissan GTR — in terms of gizmo deployment, it serves its purpose, and does it well.
I don’t need military-grade infra-red readouts on my windscreen or torque-vectoring AWD drivetrains, nor do I need launch control or a twin-clutch gearbox.
What I need is a responsive engine with electronic fuel injection and variable valve timing, a manual gearbox and nice grippy tyres. Check, check and check.
So you got the wife a Demio. Now she and I can have two things in common: we drive the same car and we are not sure your drink-driving habits are worth bragging about.
I cannot explain why women love the Harrier. However, I can make an educated guess, stemming from several interviews I have had with a number of them. They think it looks good.
They think it is a big enough car to make a statement without it being too big. They think it can handle most situations thrown at it, “most situations” in this case being bad roads. They are mostly right.
I know what Top Gear is, I know how much Jeremy Clarkson claims to make per year and I know exactly how seriously to take Top Gear.
What I do not know is how carefully you have been reading my writings. Quoting Top Gear is not the same as using them as a reference, and how often does it happen anyway?
You must either be suffering from amnesia or you are so forgetful that you don’t remember what you wrote about the same car some years back.
You are the same person who described the Avensis as the best car ever made by Toyota. Today you call the same car blande, which, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, means not interesting or exciting/lacking strong flavour”. How do you reconcile the two?
How can you use public media like the Daily Nation to display your ignorance to the whole nation and beyond. I might not be a car specialist, but today you have also proved not to be (although you want people to believe that you are).
One thing I know for sure is that the Avensis is not what you described it as in your recent article. Besides, how can you restrict your comparison to only the Mark X simply because the reader asked about the two.
I have driven both cars and I think going by the way you wrote, the makers of the Toyota Avensis should sue you.
The only problem is that you will not be in a position to pay a fine of $2 trillion like the case in the US where a woman was awarded a similar amount (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then that should explain why you write the way you do).
Let me not even waste more time with you. No more comments from me. Eric
Thank goodness. It was becoming difficult to keep up with your train of thought.
Anyway, it is not only unlikely, but also well nigh impossible that I would call the Avensis “the best car ever made by Toyota” because, where would that leave superb classics like the 80 Series Landcruiser? Or the Mk. IV Supra? or the AE86 Corolla Levin?
What you read was “one of the best built”, i.e. build quality is superb, but then again this is Toyota, very few, if any, of their cars are built below standard. So that is not saying much.
Also, what you read (“best car ever by Toyota”) was not written by me. This is not the first time I have called the Avensis a boring car.
The Merriam-Webster definition of “blandest” is exactly the one I was going for in my statements. Kindly prove otherwise, or else cut down on your Internet costs by not sending me any more bad mail like this one.