The Prado will beat the Touareg off-road, but by a small margin

Tuesday March 8 2016

The Volkswagen Touareg.

The Volkswagen Touareg. Photo/FILE

Dear JM,

Like wine, your column gets sweeter everyday. Kudos.

1. I am in love with the VW Touareg although I have never driven one. How good is it compared with a typical Prado? I am saving to buy one from Japan. Please advise before I RTGS the funds to Japan.

2. My Honda CRV has been going off in motion and no mechanic has been able to fix it. The fuel pump, fuses, etc. have been replaced, to no avail.
Prof Peter Ngure 

Hello Ngure,
1. A Touareg vs a Prado, huh? I have discussed both vehicles here before, and it boils down to where you do most of your driving. The Prado is excellent off-road. The Touareg is better on-road, but its degree of excellence on tarmac cannot be compared with the Prado’s off-road mettle.

The Touareg has a harsh ride for what should essentially be a luxury SUV. Its actual rivals — the BMW X5, Range Rover, Porsche Cayenne and the Mercedes ML Class, rather than Toyota’s second most rugged utility — are a lot more comfortable.

The Touareg’s problems don’t end there. It has a dim-witted automatic transmission, the interior is a bit bland and the view backwards is seriously hampered by a tiny rear windscreen. Then there is the fact the diesel versions don’t have good stories to be told about them once they land here.

In comparison, the Prado rides like a boat even on smooth roads, its rollover tendencies are more immediate, it also has a bland interior and the vehicle has become a little too common on the roads.

If you can tolerate the jarring ride and are deft when it comes to using side-mirrors, then the petrol-powered Touareg is a better car. The Prado may be superior off-road, but it is by a very small margin; nothing that a little deftness and training can’t compensate for. If you want to drive a fail-safe cliché that could one day topple in inexperienced hands, then the Prado is what you want.

Addendum: again, depending on what you are looking for in a car: the Prado can seat seven people, while the Touareg can be had in heated-up performance versions such as the 5.0 litre R50 or the V10 turbodiesel. The Prado will carry more people, but you will at least get to your destination before them in a Touareg.

2. Now, this one requires more information. Does the vehicle stall only when it’s very hot? If yes, then what the car is suffering from is “vapour lock”. This is when the heat in the engine causes the fuel to “boil” before it gets to the injectors, creating bubbles and thus creating a very lean intake charge.

The immediate cure for the symptom is to stop and let things cool down a bit, but this begs another question: why is the engine overheating? That is an underlying cooling system problem.

If the stalling occurs under normal driving conditions, then there is one other thing that needs checking: the fuel pressure regulator. This is a device that comes in engines with fuel injection, so if the vehicle stalls in motion, this can only mean that the engine is starved of fuel. Now that you checked the fuel pump (and filters too, I believe), the remaining surmise is that the regulator is faulty.

Bwana Baraza, In reference to DN2 of February 10 in regard to the “missing” Subaru GT, please advise Anthony (and others) to have the petrol pump/filter, which is located under the rear seat, checked and cleaned. I had a similar problem with my Subaru and when the filter was checked, it was found looking like a tea bag, only with the leaves outside. It was cleaned and the miss went “missing”Peter Ngige

Hello Peter,
Interesting that you should bring this up because I, too, had a look at my fuel pump/filter/gauge rheostat because the fuel gauge was giving inaccurate readings. The exact location of this kit is under the back left seat. My filter, just like yours, looked like a used teabag, but I haven’t had a miss (yet).

Maybe that is because the fuel pump still works well. One mechanic inadvertently turned the key to the on position with the whole filter/pump/rheostat assembly pulled out and the pump splashed fuel all over the back seat.

Now the inside of El Turbo smells like a petrol station on a busy day. Thank you for the input, though. I hope Anthony is reading this.


I love Car Clinic. Your column is the only reason I read a newspaper (online).
I am a Subaru fan. Welcome to the family. I was first fascinated by the Hilux at a tender age before falling for the Subaru engine sound. It was a Leone.

Then the “face me” matatus, which were mostly Hiluxes and a few machos (Peugeot Marshalls) here and there, were fired by the 14-seater matatus. I liked the Hiace (Shark, Ndume, 5L, Box, 7L), the Kenyan nomenclature. Some say the 7L is the engine volumetric size, which makes me chuckle.

I am having sleepless nights because of the 5th generation Hiace (The Box!). First, I didn’t know they are turbo, then I later discovered petrol are NA and recently, that some have ‘Freno’! I criticised a motorcyclist, telling him to quit blowing air into his empty tank to economise on fuel because was affecting his soberness after he told me, “Kumbe mbox iko na Fureno ta FH!”.

Then another friend said the same thing. I froze recently when I noticed one KCC of Menya Sacco breathe out a cloud of smoke like an FH! A Forester almost messed us here. Most NA Subaru drivers are the ones letting the brand down! They seem to think it’s an aeroplane. At least aeroplanes adhere to radar communication!

Back to the “box”: please clarify this “freno” thing or is it a Jacob’s brake? Also, give an overall review of the vehicle, indicating the pros and cons, as well as the common versions in Kenya.

Finally, I noticed a good number of Dualis and Airwaves with considerably long glass roofs that don’t even seem to open. We now have greenhouses in the name of sunroofs?

Aspiring sub owner, Stan.

Thank you for your interesting, welcome message but do take your time to put down your thoughts.

I too have heard mumblings that the HiAce H200 van comes with an exhaust brake, and like you, I, thought to myself that the quality of narcotics people are on nowadays seems to have deteriorated from the days of the Subaru Leone. I thought the HiAce is too light and the engine capacity too small to justify the installation of an engine brake. That is why I contacted one of my more trustworthy contacts at Toyota Kenya for confirmation.

Feel free to tell your motorcycle compatriot to lay off the hard drugs. The HiAce does not, in fact, have an exhaust brake. This is word from Toyota Kenya (and the Internet, which has never heard of a Toyota 7L engine outside of Kenya).

My contact said the exact thing I was thinking all along – the HiAce’s front discs and rear drums are enough to bring it safely to a stop. The available engines (the 1KD, 2KD, 5L,1TR, 2TR and 4Y) max out at about 3000cc and 4 cylinders. Some of these are the selfsame powerplants used in the Prado, and I don’t recall any Prado ever having an exhaust brake.

With a load capacity of roughly one tonne and a two-tonne curb weight, a fully loaded H200 should weigh just about three tonnes on the higher side. Three tonnes are too few to warrant auxiliary braking systems, more so if you have disc brakes.

The smoky vehicle you saw was most likely diesel powered, and the reason for the smoking could be any of the following: the driver was running on adulterated diesel; the turbo had failed, or was failing, and thus not boosting; the intercooler had been removed and the vehicle not tuned in response to that change; the air filter was clogged or the injectors need tuning. Whichever way you look at it, that “Jacob’s Brake” effect is actually a symptom of an engine operating below standard.

Pros: the pros are that the vehicle is more spacious than its predecessors, and its use of a Prado engine means it is more powerful and more economical. The turbos make them invincible where it matters – on hilly terrain.

The cons: the vehicle is expensive. Previously owned, long-wheelbase, high-roof versions cost about Sh3 million. Then for some reason, most PSV drivers need re-education because of the things they say about these vehicles and the way they drive them.

A case in point is the rumour about the exhaust brake. It must have come from a PSV driver. They also have no respect for turbos: they overload them, and after they stop, they don’t give the turbines time to spool down before cutting them out. This tactic is murderous to turbocharged diesel engines.

I once sat in an automatic one, and the driver did not know how to drive it. We travelled from Eldoret to Nairobi in second gear. Somewhere around Naivasha, the driver complained about the consumption and I told him it was because he had driven more than 200km in second gear.

He asked me how I knew the car was in second gear. I pointed to the gear lever. Do not try this at home (fiddling with vehicle controls when someone else is driving), but I gently nudged the gear lever from “2” back to “D”, at which point the transmission immediately shifted up. The revs dropped and the vehicle gained speed. The driver looked at me as if I had just performed a miracle.

Which brings me to the third “con” of the H200: many people, especially PSV owners, will tell you the vehicle is not very reliable. There is nothing wrong with the HiAce; it’s the drivers who have a problem. When they try to hit 80km/h in second gear, it is inevitable that the reports they bring back will include stuff like “poor consumption” and “questionable reliability”.

This might explain why the early units of buses such as the Isuzu MV123 and Nissan Diesel CB46 did not last long on the roads. The drivers did not know how to take care of a turbocharged and intercooled diesel engine properly, so failures were very common. It’s taken close to 10 years for them to realise that the Isuzu is actually a fine machine once the drivers are updated on technological advancements.

About the sun-roofs: these are called full-length sun-roofs. They also somehow double as a solar panel to power some of the less power-intensive electrical components like the radio.

They are thus IR- and UV-resistant: the infra-red part of the light spectrum is responsible for the heating effect of any light beam, however slight it might be, while ultra-violet rays are what give you skin cancer if you sit in the sun for too long.

The special glass used thus allows only visible light through while sparing you the heat and carcinogenic death rays. You can thus safely pretend to be in a convertible when you are, in fact, sitting in a small van.

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