Land Rover Discovery.

Land Rover Discovery.

| Pool

JM Baraza: Hold on to your money, Land Rover Discovery 3 works best as an art installation

Dear Baraza,

Your column in the Daily Nation on September 1 left me highly entertained and a little more enlightened than I had been before picking up the newspaper. And that was because you honestly reviewed two vehicles I have a fetish for: the Land Cruiser 100 and VW Touareg. There is a third vehicle I would want you to break down for your readers because I have been thinking of buying a used one: Land Rover Discovery 3. Is this a good buy or will it be goodbye financial security as my retirement savings shift to my mechanic's remuneration?



Hi Eric,

Aah, the Disco 3. Owners will defend them to the death, which is usually not too far off anyway due to blood pressure complications brought about by owning and maintaining a three-ton oil painting that drips onto the museum floor. Yes, the Disco 3 works best as an art installation, as a sculpture, handsome bit of kit because once the warranty ran out on these, so did their will to maintain forward motion.

I will not say it's a good buy, because it isn't. Yes, when new, it brought about a raft of new and impressive technologies such as air suspension, Terrain Response System and some double-chassis setup that made it excellent both on road and off it. But the 3 is getting on in years now. The air suspension is known for expensive compressor failures and leaking bags, an expensive fix.

The Terrain Response System is an electronic suite and we know how electronics handle the passage the time. That double-chassis meant a lot of extra weight to lug around using only two engine options: a 4.0 petrol V6 (thirsty since it has to work hard all the time) or a 2.7 diesel turbo (frequent engine and turbo failures because that is essentially the engine capacity of an Escudo in a vehicle weighing twice as much)

It's a tough call, to be honest. If you can get a cheap one in fairly serviceable condition, then it's a steal if you put in the work to keep it running - and it will be a lot of work. Unfortunately, cheap ones are approaching write-off status and should not be touched with a ten-foot pole.

The serviceable ones are still costly, and that also means what is meant to fail on the car probably hasn't failed yet, so it will most likely fail under your ownership. Buying the car would be akin to spending a lot of money now so that you can spend even more money in future curing problems you could have avoided in the first place...

I’m shopping for a car, but I’m torn between the Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester…

Toyota Rav 4

Toyota Rav 4

Photo credit: Pool

Greetings Baraza,

A while back, you advised a reader to get the Subie XV given their lifestyle (remote work and weekend explorations). I've joined the league of work from anywhere with good internet, and I'm looking for a vehicular companion. I'd like a car that's fun to drive, easy to repair, has a good ground clearance, four wheel drive or AWD and not a Juke, please.

I'm torn between a locally used RAV4 (4WD) and Subie Forrester, both 2009 to 2012. Which do you think is a good fit? What are the pitfalls to look out for during the purchase process? I'm aware mileage isn't a true indication of an engine's condition. My needs are simply a "go anywhere" car on a Sh1.6 million budget. Looking forward to reading your wise and witty advice.

Anthony Andrews.

Subaru Forester

Subaru Forester

Photo credit: Pool

Hi Anthony,

RAV4 versus Forester, the perennial debate. Well, well, well, the Forester will win as usual, no? Let’s see:

1. Fun to drive: the Forester. Some will say how I favour Subarus, but they need to know that the Forester platform is derived from the Subaru Impreza (I bet they didn’t know that), and the Impreza was created specifically to replace the Legacy as a works rally car (a car run by the factory team). So the Forester handles well. Add a dash of turbocharging here and an exhaust rumble there and you can see how this is an easy win for the Fozzie.

The Random Access Vehicle started life as a jacked up segment pioneer derived from which platform again? The Toyota Camry. Yes, you read that right, the Camry: one of the least exciting vehicles to ever leave the Toyota factory.

2. Easy to repair: the RAV swings back immediately with a counterattack. There is reliability to consider - bulletproof Toyotaness versus the niggles that plague Foresters: power steering system gremlins, weak stabiliser links, gasket issues, and if you are slinging a direct injection engine, if you skip the monthly Italian tune up* you will have even more problems.

Reliability aside, some standard procedures are a nightmare too. The flat four engine is a masterpiece of balance and packaging, but try changing the plugs on one and see if you won’t skin all eight of your knuckles in the process. Oh, and this is AFTER you loosen the engine a little bit and jack it up from below...

3. Good ground clearance: the 2012 RAV4 boasts of 7.5 inches. The Forester packs a meaty 8.7 inches, with the turbo one rising even higher at 8.9 inches. The Subie is the obvious victor here.

4. 4WD/AWD: well, at some point Toyota decided the “4” in RAV4 was redundant and started offering 2WD versions of that car. You will NEVER get a 2WD Forester unless someone disconnected a driveshaft. I’m pretty sure that is not a car you want to drive. Another Fozzie win.

5. Not a Juke: both cars score equally on this front, so it’s a draw on this particular contest.

The pitfalls to watch out for are the usual: beware of conmen. Verify the details of a car you are interested in and do not spend any money at all unless you are driving off with the car right there and then.

OK, you can spend a little money. Hire someone knowledgeable (my company offers this service) to assist you perform an inspection on a potential purchase. The mileage (and its verification), the vehicle condition - both mechanical and electrical/electronic and whatnot.

I seriously doubt there is a better car for your “fun-to-drive, go-anywhere” prerequisites. There is a serious contender in the form of sibling rivalry: the Subaru Outback which is more practical, but may be a touch unwieldy due to its size, so, really, what you want is a Forester

Many questions regarding the 2000 manual GTB Legacy answered

Subaru Legacy

Subaru Legacy

Photo credit: Pool

Hello Baraza,

I daily drive a 2000 manual GTB Legacy with twin turbos. I have changed the motor once after it failed due to oil neglect and replaced the primary turbo, which went out for reasons unknown to me. I have always thought of swapping this motor to a single turbo motor, say the V6 SF5 Forester or V7 WRX. My questions are:

1. Would a V6 SF5 motor running on TD04 outperform the Twin Turbos motor that is stock in my GTB? Kindly comment on the performance aspects of these two engines in bottom end and top end power bands.

2. Can the SF5 V6 motor run fine on TD05 turbo without a tune?

3. I understand you have owned a GTB-E Tune Legacy almost similar to mine. What are the tips of ensuring that a daily driven twin turbo Legacy (without a tune) remains with a healthy motor despite some spirited driving?

Hi Peter,

Well, well, well, what have we here? I had a twin turbo manual GTB Legacy as well, but mine was a Revision D, 2001 model. Mine ceased to be a twin turbo after a simple gasket replacement exercise went awry and cost me an engine. After much consultancy, I went the single turbo way, which is what you should do too. You know what single turbo mill works best with a manual BH5? The Version 7 WRX one. That pairing is simply magical.

(Failure of the primary turbo was a common problem on the twin turbo EJ208, so wonder no longer why yours failed.)

1. I don’t know how well a Version 6 SF5 block with a TD04 would perform. The stock twin turbo made 280hp on paper, which makes it theoretically more powerful than both the v6 SF5 motor and the v7 WRX one, but I assure you, my car felt faster with the v7 WRX motor than it did with the original twin turbo powerplant. I don’t know how that works and I don’t feel like attaching charts and graphs showing power bands and torque curves to try and explain the different tunes that come with these engines.

That said: my car was an E Tune II, and I was made to understand that E Tune stood for “Economy Tune”. This holds water because despite common misconceptions about turbocharged Subarus being thirsty, mine really wasn’t. 12km/l was the norm, and that included the occasional blast to the dark end of the speedometer. To get that kind of economy meant the “E Tune” robbed the car of low end responsiveness for the sake of top end cruising (the thing is geared to do 300km/h at red line in 5th). The v7 motor that I swapped in later was peppier and responsive at low end, and got to v-max much faster, apparently, while somehow developing less horsepower. On paper and on the ground, things are different.

2. Again, I don’t know, but I seriously doubt it. What I know is swapping out turbos of different sizes, capacities and designs is typically accompanied by a tune to get the new hardware to work properly with the existing infrastructure. Yes, the v6 engine will run on a TD05 turbo without a tune, but whether or not it will run fine is unbeknownst to me. I am not a tuner, despite having taken a few lessons and experimenting on virtual ECUs, but I quickly got bored and moved on to other things...

3. Ah, a kindred spirit, ey? Yes, El Turbo, the 2001 Subaru Legacy BH5 GT-B E Tune II Revision D that I once owned before someone took it off my hands for a fair shake of the wallet. Daily driving a stock GTB is child’s play, however, stay faithful to a fuel forecourt that will not sell you bilge water in the name of fuel. V Power may or may not be your friend, fuel prices be damned. Try and stay away from the stratospheric red line (8500rpm) despite temptations to tickle it once in a while. Stick to the service intervals and use the finest oils. But most importantly, should you ever get a head gasket failure (and you will), please don’t be like me. Find a real mechanic who won’t yank the vacuum lines like a Greek mythological hero grabbing a gorgon’s head. That is how I lost my engine.

Baraza, you crack me up…

Hi Baraza,

You made my day regarding that rejoinder on the Toureg vs Fortuner, simply left me in stitches.

You really play around with words.

I had a good laugh. Keep safe and keep writing.


Hi Njoro,

I am glad you enjoy my writing and turn of phrase.

Keep safe too and keep reading.