I have Sh10 million to spare, which car would you recommend?

Chevrolet Tahoe. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Many aspire to owning a “V8” Land Cruiser as a symbol of actualisation, but would you know, the Tahoe is actually more comfortable. Part of it is its construction, part of it is its image.

  • That floaty, disconnected feel that compromises drivability gives a boost to comfort levels. In a Land Cruiser, it feels like you are in a motor vehicle.


First, thank you for your educative column, which has been an eye-opener to many aspiring car buyers. I have a number of questions.

Compare the 2018/2019 Chevrolet Tahoe and 2018/2019 Toyota Land Cruiser V8 in terms of their base model prices, availability of the Tahoe spare parts here in Kenya, handling, reliability and comfort.

With a budget of Sh10 million, would it be weird to buy a brand-new Toyota Land Cruiser J70 series, five-door troop carrier (a vehicle I love so much) as a private car instead of a Land Rover Discovery 3 or 4, a vehicle I believe is better than the Land Cruiser in almost every aspect apart from being one of the vehicles with very low reliability indexes and high maintenance costs? What about a Volkswagen Touareg or a BMW X5 or a Range Rover Sport.

I miss the tough look of the Land Rover Discovery 3 and 4. It was so commanding. The new Land Rover Discovery looks more like a sedan than a proper large-size SUV: Why do you think Jaguar Land Rover Inc is making every Land Rover model look like a Range Rover. Isn't that too monotonous?

James, Busia

Toyota Land Cruiser. PHOTO | COURTESY

Hello James,

1. Since the Chevrolet Tahoe is a USDM (United States Domestic Market) vehicle, I will give the price in dollars. The Tahoe starts at about $48,000 (about Sh5 million) for the newest entry-level model, which is a 5.3-litre Vortec petrol V8 in basic LS spec with 355hp and a six-speed semiautomatic. There is a more expensive 6.2 V8 that costs $65,700. In comparison, the Toyota Land Cruiser 200 V8 costs about $88,000 (about Sh9.2 million) in Heritage Edition spec, but this comes with a lot of retro badging and BBS wheels along with a market-specific 381hp 5.7-litre petrol V8 mated to an eight-speed auto and not the 4.5-litre twin turbo diesel V8 that is sold locally, or the more common 4.6-litre petrol V8 that is imported by a lot of rich people. Please note that the LC200 costs somewhere between Sh20 million and Sh25 million for a zero-mileage, non-Heritage example, so you can use that as a yardstick to translate the Tahoe’s dollar costing into more familiar currency.

Spares: Well, don’t expect to find any Tahoe spares around here for obvious reasons (USDM), so the internet is your friend. Happy trawling. I need not talk about Toyota spares, they are ubiquitous to the point you may find them on sale at a kiosk in the Northern Frontier District. Again, stating the obvious here...

Handling: This is an interesting one because I have not driven a Tahoe but I have ridden in one a few times. It loses out in drivability to the Land Cruiser though it has 2WD as an available option because while the 2WD may handle better in real life, the platform (which it shares with the Cadillac Escalade) is engineered to provide a floaty, disconnected feedback compared to the Land Cruiser. Not that the Land Cruiser is a Lotus Elise in nature, it too is an over-servoed, over-damped, overweight steel sculpture, but the Tahoe is slightly worse in this regard. The Tahoe wins, but only because of the 2WD and only for drivers with above-average talent.

(Now that we are stating the obvious, the Chevrolet Tahoe will hang up its boots long before the Toyota Land Cruiser even starts breathing heavily when both are taken off the tarmacadam.)

Reliability: Toyota Land Cruisers are often used in guerilla warfare and humanitarian missions. Chevrolet Tahoes are not. Go figure.

Comfort: Now this is an interesting one. Many aspire to owning a “V8” Land Cruiser as a symbol of actualisation, but would you know, the Tahoe is actually more comfortable. Part of it is its construction, part of it is its image. That floaty, disconnected feel that compromises drivability gives a boost to comfort levels. In a Land Cruiser, it feels like you are in a motor vehicle.

In a Tahoe, it feels like you are sailing amid ships through calm waters. That is because for it to serve as a Cadillac, it has to appeal to overprivileged, overage American billionaires. The Land Cruiser has to appeal to people who do not recognise roads. Image? Watch any American action movie or TV programme and the feds are always showing up in black tactical gear, toting black automatic weapons and riding black Chevrolet Tahoes. There is something about the vehicle that makes the occupants feel like they will break anybody’s elbows or pump them full of hot lead if they dare look at them wrong. The Tahoes I rode in were all black, but I was not going to shoot anybody with an AR15, we just used them for airport transfers and to go shopping at a nearby Walmart. The feeling that I was Jack Bauer (JB?) en route to meet a powerful Washington politician still persisted anyway.

2. With a budget of Sh10 million, you will have plenty of change left over after obtaining a 70 Series troop carrier for yourself, but when you say “weird”, that opens a whole other can of worms. Yes, it’s weird. What do you want a troop carrier for?

That is a utility vehicle in all senses of the word, and that is why it is used for ambulance work by the army and the various central and federalised governments, along with humanitarian work by NGOs and the UN. It is a very specific tool and there are side effects of selecting such a single-minded instrument for personal use: it’s not very comfortable, there are few conveniences and it is archaic. Did I say it’s uncomfortable?

The Land Rover Discovery 3/4 is a rather nice car (one is an update of the other) but as to whether or not it is better than a Land Cruiser is a matter of conjecture. Better than a 70 Series? For personal use, yes. For use as a tactical vehicle to wage war against oppressive regimes, not so much. Better than a J150?

Volkswagen Touareg.

Well, it looks and handles better and has a lot of fancy stuff in it to intimidate your friends with, but while the J150 has fewer shiny trinkets, those trinkets will work longer and harder compared to the Disco’s numerous toys. Better than a 200? Well... yes. The 200 is too big, too heavy, too thirsty, too ostentatious, but I secretly desire one anyway.

As you noted, a low reliability score and high maintenance costs push the designed-by-ruler-only Land Rover Discovery a few rungs down the Ladder of Need - which is different from the Ladder of Want in which the Disco reigns supreme. Come on, we all have to admit we all secretly want a Discovery 4, but reliability and maintenance are a buzz-killing reality check on that fever dream.

When you mention maintenance and reliability, it is wise to scoot past the Volkswagen Touareg and the Range Rover Sport. No amount of defense is going to change their notoriety in lacking those two qualities except for these other two qualities: you had better be buying them either extremely cheap or extremely new. The former is to mitigate the subsequent costs you will incur keeping them functional, the latter is because of warranties and the general tendency of new items to work properly for a while.

The X5? Comme ci comme ca. Handsome little devil, not as unreliable as its Euro-siblings but then again not as ripped and rugged as the various Land Cruisers. The latest one comes with seven seats and to match the Range Rover and the Land Cruisers, but it will cost a lot more than the 10 million bob you have. A slightly used example surrenders the seven seats and the modicum of off-road talent the new one got.

3. I know and I agree. I pointed out the less charismatic look of the new Discovery and caught some heat for it. I mentioned the rear hatch number plate slot is too small for our prison-sourced number plates and was pooh-pooh-ed. I mentioned the aluminum surround panel on the centre console sends a retina-scorching laser into one’s left eye after reflecting the sun and was told they’ll look into it.

I mentioned the diesel version needs a front suspension optimisation since it is not as well resolved as the petrol one and never got a response. But these are not the new Discovery’s biggest problems, no sir.

The first issue is the name: it’s not called the Discovery 5, it’s called the All-New Discovery - a name that was strongly insisted upon by the PR stiffs on behalf of the makers, and a name that made sense in 2017 when it came out, but this is two years later: What are we supposed to call it now? What will we call it in 2022? Those PR people need to get back to us on that.

The other problem is that it is a seven-seat Land Rover. What is wrong with that, you ask? Well, the Discovery Sport is another seven-seat Land Rover that looks exactly the same as this one. Hmm. But wait, there is more! The Range Rover Sport is, you guessed, a third seven-seat Land Rover that looks not too different from the first two, but at least it is distinguishable. What the hell, Land Rover? Have they never heard of products cannibalising sales from each other?