Back pain.

Back pain.

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JM Baraza: Driving and back care

Help me choose between the S10 Crown Athlete and the F10 5 Series

Toyota Crown

Toyota Crown

Photo credit: Pool

Hallo Sir,

I am planning on upgrading from my current Toyota Crown Royal Saloon (GSR 180 – 2007). I am undecided between a BMW 5 series and Crown Athlete - both cars 2014 Year of Manufacture.

I am looking for comfort/luxury, power, stability, and an appealing sporty design.

I prefer the inline 6 (528 or 535) for the BMW, either diesel or petrol, though I don’t know how this will affect me in terms of reliability and maintenance costs.

About the Crown I prefer the non-hybrid 2.5 v6 athlete (GRS 210).

I’m really inclined towards the BMW but I’m scared of reliability due to fear of the unknown based on online bashing of BMWs reliability.

Kindly share your insight to help me make an informed decision.

Regards, Joseph

Hi Joseph,

Germany vs. Japan once again, huh? It never ends. So between the S10 Crown Athlete and the F10 5 Series (is it a coincidence that both platform codes have a “10” in them?) which is better? I must say it depends on a lot of things...

Luxury: this is somewhat subjective, but not quite. There are four pillars of luxury: space, comfort, light and quietness, with an obvious fifth which I will add: quality.

Now, while I didn’t quite get a tape measure out to establish the interior dimensions of both cars, there is another way of determining this: wheelbase length and width of the car. The longest S20 Crown saloon stretches out to 2925mm worth of wheelbase, and this is the Chinese version which you can’t have.

The Chinese market is bog on extended platforms, and it’s not only Toyota who sell priapic versions of saloon cars exclusively in China, several other manufacturers do as well. You, however, will have to make do with the global version that tops out at a “mere” 2850mm. The 5er? It comes in a one-size-fits-all wheelbase length of 2968mm. The same applies to width: the Crown stands at 1800mm (+5mm for the engorged Chinese version) versus 1860 for the BMW. The first hit goes to the Panzer.

Comfort depends on how hard you spec your BMW. You can go for a highly kitted unit with ventilated and heated seats with massage function, something the Crown cannot really match. Both the Athlete and the 5 have sports-oriented suspension, so they’re not exactly magic carpets floating on wispy clouds, but I found the F10 to be somewhat smoother and quieter. However, you do tend to “float” on the seat rather than get buried in them, unlike the Crown where you sink into the seats and they embrace you warmly. For this, victory is again awarded to the BMW, simply because of the party-trick animatronic seats.

Light: Well, both cars have two tone interiors, but the BMW offers a wider range of colors o go with the standard black accents. They have broadly similar glasshouse acreages, but in general, I found the BMW’s interior, when the black is paired with beige, to be brighter than the Crown’s. This means the BMW wins again; however, there are some, like yours truly, who prefer dark interiors despite their transformation into kilns in summer weather. This is a case where personal preference is trounced by industry standard. The BMW lands a third blow against the Crown.

BMW 5 Series F10

BMW 5 Series F10

Photo credit: Pool

Quietness: the two are quite silent compared to lesser fare, but cannot match their elder siblings. They’re not 100 per cent sound-proof. Depending in which model you are driving, the BW either wafts silently before degenerating into a distant thrum for a 4-cylinder, or a muted howl for a six-cylinder, or a guttural roar for a V8 when given the beans. The Crown will waft silently as well and transform to... you know what? I have no idea. I have never really opened the taps on a Crown. Perhaps I should. It comes either with a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder - these have never sounded good outside of a Subaru - or a pair of V6es - 2.5 and 3.5, whose vocals can be transcribed from a Mark X, which yowls belligerently at high rpm. Let’s call this a draw...

Quality: aah, yes. The BMW is a premium sedan from Germany. The Teutonic perfection that this implies is unmatched save for fellow Germans or high-end Brits, also German: Bentley, a Volkswagen, or Rolls-Royce, another BMW. Toyota seems to thrive on restraint and durability, which is a different direction on the same quality chart. This, too is a tie, incidentally.

Power: The cars you prefer on either side are not exactly favourably matched, so I will go ahead and let the numbers across the board speak for themselves:

➡F10 528i: 241hp, 350Nm

➡F10 535i: 302hp, 400Nm

➡S10 2.5 V6: 212hp, 260Nm

➡S10 3.5 V6: 311hp, 377Nm

There is something to note here: the 535i carries the most torque, which is the most important consideration since it indicates the immediacy of response when gunned, or what we like to call “in-gear acceleration”. While the 3.5 S10 has marginally more power (and you never asked about it anyway), the torque superiority of the F10 535 means the 5er will outrun the Crown from a rolling start.

Stability: this is clear BMW win with its suite of electronic nannies that keeps the car pointed correctly. The Crown’s driver assistance is not as advanced as the BMW’s. Another German knockdown...

Appealing sporty design: this is subjective as well... or is it? I have never liked the looks of the F10, all the way from the lowly 520 up to the god-of-thunder-himself, the mighty M5. The F10 seems... bland. Yes, it was compensation for the universally ugly E60, but it was overcompensation. The E60 shocked the world with its minging looks to the point we will never forget Chris Bangle and his nightmares which he transformed into rolling sheets of contorted metal. The F10, to undo the mess that was the E60, went too far the other way and became instantly forgettable. Close your eyes and imagine an F10. You can’t, can you? That’s how anonymous the design is.

The Crown, on the other hand, is something else. An angry face paired with sharp lines and an angular boot means it looks like an assassin. Based on looks alone, you’d expect it to tear the 5 Series to pieces in a showdown despite what we’ve established in the preceding paragraphs. It looks like a Lexus, even. Close your eyes and imagine an S10. The correct image springs immediately to mind, doesn’t it? And the vehicle in that fantasy is invariably white, amirite? This is the first clear victory for Toyota.

Reliability: your fears are not unfounded. The N series of engines festooning the engine bays of the F10 BMW is notorious for their lack of dependability and cost of curative maintenance. This is how bad they can get: I once had a lady offer a key-to-key trade between my 1993 E34 5 Series (M50 engine, Germany’s version of the legendary 2JZ) and her late model F30 3 Series (which uses more or less the same N family of engines as the F10). Why? She was sick of it; sick of shelling out fistfuls of cash to breathe life into an engine that seemed to have lost the will to live the moment it was loaded onto the cargo ship that brought it over. And she was serious; she was ready and willing to exchange her new, shiny, fancy car for one that costs less than the exhaust system on her car. I said no.

The Crown? It’s a big Toyota saloon running naturally aspirated Toyota engines, the legendary GR series which never seem to fail no matter what you put in them. They also come packed with fewer electronics, and a non-centralized CAN bus nervous system, meaning that, unlike some overly complex Germans, the car won’t refuse to start if the radio isn’t working or the massage seats aren’t heating... This is the second unequivocal Toyota victory in today’s comparison.


So, which one to go for? The answer is simple: none of the ones you selected. Go for the 3.5 litre naturally aspirated Crown V6. It has the power: 311 donkeystrength’s worth, to be precise, which is half a hundredweight twice again over the lesser 2.5. The 3.5 is also better specced, which means the luxury levels are approaching, if not at BMW’s level, it has the looks to match the go and finally, you seem to live in mortal fear of flatbed trucks and repair bills, two areas where the BMW will do nothing to assuage your uncertainty.

Get the 3.5 litre Crown. Just don’t get it in white; try another colour like wine red or something. Everyone buying a Crown is buying a white one.

Toyota Premio

Toyota Premio

Photo credit: Pool

Would you please help this Premio owner who suffers from lower back pains?

Hi Baraza

Thanks for the commendable job you do at Car Clinic. We all benefit tremendously from your advice. Now, I would like to advise the Premio owner with lower back pains. This is from my own experience, and if he takes my advice seriously, he will save himself a great deal of mental and financial stress.

The problem is not the car; it is a lack of physical exercise leading to poor fitness. No amount of lumbar support or pillows on the driver’s seat will cure that! I used to experience worse pains with even less than an hour’s drive on my Forester. I visited specialists countless times with no improvement; they would take my money. Until the day I decided that my body deserved better, took ownership and started exercising regularly. Today I look back in disbelief, knowing that the solutions to most of our problems lie within us.

Let him start exercising regularly (3 to 4 times a week is enough). The exercises should especially include those that strengthen the back (you can google these). Joining a gym and lifting weights regularly will make it even better as it builds the overall body strength. With consistency, his pains will be gone within a few months, and he should adopt this as his lifestyle.

He can then keep his money until he wants another car, not due to pains but because he wants an upgrade or a change. I hope he comes back to report when he succeeds.

Kind regards


Hi Gid,

The temptation to call out the Premio owner’s lack of fitness was very great when I responded to him, but this is not a health clinic, nor am I a physiotherapist, so it’s not my place to tell him that a lifestyle change will work wonders compared to customizing his car or changing it outright. Then again, perhaps it’s not always a lifestyle consequence that causes back pains; sometimes, things happen despite our best efforts. Things like accidents and infections: those too cause back pains. But I insist, this is not a personal wellness column; it focuses on automotive wellness.

I agree with you: physiotherapy will go a long way in helping our poor Premio owner, more than changing cars would. He could opt for the BMW 535i I have just discussed in the previous correspondence, and spec those overengineered seats that massage your back and derriere as well as either chilling you into hypothermia or poaching you alive inside your car - a lot of physiotherapy involves those temperature fluctuations alongside massage and exercise - but those seats are not designed to cure physical pains, the features are there for the wealthy to indulge in a bit of extra pampering at personal convenience without resorting to slave labour. So, no, the 5 Series is not the answer either.

So, Premio owner: there is some advice. Gid says to hit the gym. Let Gid know once those pains disappear. Then let me know when you’re ready to change cars for non-medical reasons. Ciao!


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