I've a budget of Sh5m, which of these off-roads would your advice me to get?

landcruiser
landcruiser

What you need to know:

  • Let's also quickly whittle down to the best Land Cruiser to go for.
  • The 70 Series is hard as rocks and is the off-road enthusiasts' definitive go-to instrument.
  • It may be solidly built but creature comforts do not exist on this vehicle, at all.

Baraza,

I have always loved 4x4 off-roading. I am planning to get one for myself. I admire the Land Cruiser LC76 wagon, but recently, I joined several Facebook pages where I am seeing most guys using the Land Rover Defender, Land Cruiser Prado models as well as Land Rover Discoveries. Which one would you advise me to get? I have a budget of approximately Sh5 million.


Hello Kennedy,

I'll keep this short and to the point: Land Rovers can go anywhere. Land Cruisers will come back from anywhere. Go figure.

With the Defender and the Discovery out based on reasons cantered around reliability, let's also quickly whittle down to the best Land Cruiser to go for.

The 70 Series is hard as rocks and is the off-road enthusiasts' definitive go-to instrument for traversing the intractable and the penetration of clag, but the pricing borders on the ridiculous, which is its first failing and can be explained further by its second failing: the vehicle is as basic as a cup of water. It may be solidly built but creature comforts do not exist on this vehicle, at all. It doesn't even have a turbo, which is insane for a diesel engine in this day and age*.

This now leads to its third failing: it is as uncomfortable as trying to quench your thirst with that cup of water by inhaling it through your nose. I took a brand new one to Magadi and back at a time when the tarmac ended at Olepolos and the rest was what adventurers refer to as “bush country”.

On my return, there were tears at the corners of my eyes. This had nothing to do with emotion, it was the result of eating a heavy lunch and trying to stick to schedule over goat tracks in a vehicle with no air conditioning but with suspension made from whatever material Iron Man's flying suit is constructed from. The vehicle didn't break a sweat, but I did. It was an enlightening drive but not a fun one.

Toyota Prado 4WD. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

This is where the Prado comes in. Bells and whistles abound, meaning comfort and luxury can be had to go with the off-road capability of a Land Cruiser.

The suspension is softer and more pliable, the 4WD is user-friendly, more so when pitted against the archaic setup in the 70, and it has air-conditioning.

However, the use of IFS (independent front suspension) in contemporary models has led to accusations of the Prado softening into a schoolyard bully - tough in reputation only - rather than being the single-minded MMA scrapper that its ancestor (the 70 Series, ironically) started out as.

These accusations may sound right but... ignore them. For everyday use, the Prado is the more sensible vehicle compared to the 70. However, if you are the type that climbs trees in your vehicle and travels from one point to another in a straight line despite whatever lies between, then perhaps you need to swing your gaze back to the 70.

 (*Yes, I have heard of something called a VDJ79, which is a turbocharged diesel 70 Series. It carries the V8 engine from the 200 Series but it comes with a single turbo as opposed to the VX's twin setup. This vehicle is only sold in Australia and is not cheap.)

*****


Which one would you buy – the VW Touareg diesel 2.6-litre engine or the three-litre petrol engine?

Dear Bwana Baraza,

Two questions:

1. Is the OBD2 scanning device able to scan all vehicles, from Japanese to German as well as British and American brands?

2. If you had a choice to buy the VW Touareg one diesel 2.6-litre engine and the three-liter petrol engine, which one would you settle for? The year of make is 2004 and 2006 respectively. They are second-hand, of course, and have probably been used locally - mileage is between 100k and 150k and both selling at between 1.2m to 1.4m Kenya shillings.


Hello,

Two answers:

1. This will depend on the device. OBD II scanners vary in complexity and ability from handheld affairs that pull codes only from certain common brands to massive, trolley-bound computers that cannot only read codes from anything and everything with an electronic control unit, but decipher them for you on the spot as well.

Now, many manufacturers, more so those of high-end luxury and performance brands such as McLaren - make proprietary equipment for their engine and transmission management systems so no scanning device outside of their own franchised workshops is going to read them, no matter how hard you try.

This is to prevent tree-shade mechanics and fly-by-night tuners from having a go at repairs or improvement on a vehicle they know little about.

It all boils down to the type of scanner you have and the brand of vehicle whose ECU you are trying to scan.

2. To be honest, I wouldn't settle for a 16-year old Touareg, at least not with my own money. Yes, it is an attractive vehicle. Yes, it is a capable vehicle. Yes, it is high-end. Yes, it is cheap. However, cheap and high-end means one thing: trouble. A vehicle can only have one or two out of these three qualities: cheap, fast, reliable. It can never tick all boxes.

Well, the Touareg with its road-biased construction is no slouch, and at about a million bob plus change, is one hell of a deal for what you are getting. Guess what lies in store for you? I don't need to say it.

That said (or not), it's quite the dilemma choosing between the diesel and the petrol versions. The diesel has torque for days (if the turbo is working) and is economical to a fault (if it is running).

The problem is that it's not exactly reliable, and being a diesel with a turbo, repairs can be a swine to handle professionally and financially.

DPF failures are very common as are blown turbos and injector malfunctions.

Older diesels can also pack quite a racket, which is unbecoming for something that started life as a school bus for the progeny of the 1 percent or a shopping basket for the mothers of this progeny.

The petrol engine, which to cut a long story short would be the smarter choice to make ultimately, is a lot more reliable - but not infinitely so – and is smoother with it. It also costs less to put right when things start to go bang – and they will. However, say goodbye to fuel economy and be prepared to perform a slightly detailed search to track one down in good nick and at that price range. While they exist and can be found, Touaregs that run on petrol are not as many as their diesel counterparts.

Volkswagen Tuareg. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

****

Despite the engine you go for, there are a few other things to prepare yourself for when shopping for an archaeology-class Touareg.

Air suspension is not your friend. Some models came with two batteries, one of which is underneath the driver's seat which is itself motorised so merely accessing that battery is a 48-hour job.

Depending on specs, sometimes simple enhancements such as installing an aftermarket radio messes up with the CAN bus system – the electronic nervous system of the car – and you could easily brick the vehicle (turn it into an immobile sculpture-in-the-round to act as a monument and ode to German engineering)

******


I own a Prado, I’d like to drive a Range Rover Vogue one day, what do you think about it?

Dear Baraza,

I'm an ardent reader of your weekly column and I have benefited more than once from your advice regarding upgrades. Today, my question is on Range Rover Vogue.

My “mature” friends talk of it highly compared to its sisters, the Sports and Discos.

I know reliability is not synonymous with Land Rover brands particularly the models I have mentioned, but still, I would like to hear your thoughts on old Vogues (2008 - 2012) for mild off road excursions.

I own a Prado, which is reliable and easy to maintain, but there is still that ultimate motoring urge to finally drive a Vogue, even if it’s an old one.


Hello Dominic,

I understand the ranking of non-P38 Range Rovers in the desirability stakes. I may even secretly harbour that desire as well. Range Rovers have always been engineered with impeccable off-road ability despite being festooned with baubles and trinkets aimed at enhancing the happiness of the Queen of England, and costing as much as her crown.

Idiots will look at the luxurious accoutrements and say “No it cannot go off-road”.

Ignore these people who've never sat inside a Range Rover, let alone driven one, and listen to me: Range Rovers are very good off-road cars. Shame about the reliability, though.

Mild off-road excursions will be highly enjoyable in this car, especially the 2008-2012 model which was the final facelift of the L322. If you can, make a beeline for the 4.4 V8 diesel turbo, that is one of the best engines I have had the honour of unwinding on a South African freeway and in a South African trek across the South African veldt.

Shame about the reliability, though. (I'm not suffering from a shortage of patriotism, sometimes the truth hurts but things look and feel nicer down there compared to here. The roads and even the jungle).

You will enjoy the excursions, but the aftermath... not so much. Suspension failure is on the cards, like it or not. It is an air suspension system, so use your imagination to predict the size of the repair bill that awaits you.

Range Rover Vogue. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

There are those who have converted L322 suspension systems into a standard coil-spring setup, which enhances the reliability thereof to no end, but there is a trade-off: you lose the legendary off-road ability that defined the vehicle to begin with. You also lose comfort and handling. Your choice.

L322s are also known to eat their brakes: heavy vehicle with massive power and small-ish brakes means discs don't last long under heavy use. This may or may not have been addressed in the facelift version, but it is still something to watch out for.

Lastly, if these excursions involve a lot of dust, then prepare to do a lot of electronic work. So-called “sensors” and dust do not mix well, we've had a brand new Land Rover Discovery 4 light up its dashboards with a whole array of warning lights some of which we had never seen before, when we exposed it to the dusty quarries of Lukenya just outside Nairobi.

It really is a shame about the reliability of Land Rover products because I will reiterate: they're very desirable vehicles, they're comfortable, stylish and they drive nicely. Shame about the reliability, though...

*****

Baraza, I want to get myself the Toyota Corolla Fielder, but I’m afraid of the hybrid…

Hello Mr Baraza,

I want to know if there is a Toyota Corolla Fielder Hybrid as well as a non-hybrid version - or is it merging of the two models of the car that make a hybrid. I like the Toyota Corolla Fielder especially the 2013 model, my worry is possibility of it being a hybrid, which you have warned us about before.


Hello Denis,

Well, yes, there exists a Fielder hybrid alongside its non-hybrid version. By hybrid we mean it uses a combined powertrain: internal combustion and electric power. I know the dictionary definition of “hybrid” may point at your other surmise – that of merging two vehicle models in one – but we don't talk like that here in the motoring world.

Toyota Fielder. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Hybrid almost always means having two different kinds of powertrains, of which one is almost always electric while the other is almost always internal combustion.

As for reviewing the vehicle... let me get my hands on one and we see where it takes us.

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