Audi A4 reflects German cold logic, the Lamborghini Italian exuberance

Tuesday October 24 2017

A file photo of a Lamborghini. Italians are

A file photo of a Lamborghini. Italians are flamboyant and showy, which is why despite Lamborghini being bought out by the Germanic Audi (in turn owned by Volkswagen), they still design road cars that look like fighter aircraft. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP  

Good day, Mr Baraza,

I am not a fan of your column. In the beginning I found your articles funny because of the questions people asked: how to calculate the volume of a car engine, why cars sound different although their engine volume is the same, or someone looking for a car that can do 450 km without breaking down.

I don’t believe that Kenyans can ask such stupid questions. I think you make up the questions. The breaking point came when you wrote: “Germans are notorious for designing cars shaped like briefcases.” That was sometime in 2014. For your information, the chief designer for VW was Walter de Silva, an Italian. The chief designer for BMW was Karim Antoine Habib, a Canadian. He succeeded a Dutch guy, Adrian van Hooydonk. You are a half-baked Kenyan journalist who happens to write something about cars.  When I need any advice on my Lexus RX 400h, I consult the Internet. Plenty of advice there.

J. Jesse from the land of Mercedes, Audi, VW, BMW


Hello Jurgen,

Thank you for your rant.

I am sure with nearly 7 billion people on the planet, the permutations available for qualities of life and educational opportunities are as varied as the faces of these 7 billion people roaming the globe.

Nobody knows everything, not even I, much as sometimes hardened fanatics might believe I am a small motoring god. I am far from that. What I have is exposure, and plenty of it.

The others don’t, and that is why they ask all those questions.

There is no such thing as a stupid question. Annoying ones, yes, especially when they get repetitive, but not stupid ones.

You will never learn anything by pretending to be a know-it-all; asking questions will clear the air on things one might be in the dark about.

You give me too much credit by alleging that I compose the questions myself. It might look like the case from where you stand, but I challenge you to sit down, week after week, for seven straight years (one year for every billion people on the planet, if you think about it) and conjure up a variety of Q&As to feed the motoring public every week without fail.  It doesn’t seem so easy now, does it? Do you see the weakness in your theory?

German manufacturers do design vehicles that look like briefcases: dark hues, square edges, conservative design and impossible to tell one from the other.

Look at an Audi A4 in black and tell me it doesn’t look like a briefcase. Look at an Audi A6 and tell me t is not an A4 at 110 per cent. Look at an A8 and tell me that is not an A6 at a further 110 per cent.

I don’t care whether the heads of design were Italian, Klingon or nomadic Khoikhoi wanderers from the Kalahari, these companies have briefs and principles that they have to follow because it is ingrained into their corporate cultures.

Germans are coldly logical and humourless, and their cars reflect it across the board. Italians are flamboyant and showy, which is why despite Lamborghini being bought out by the Germanic Audi (in turn owned by Volkswagen), they still design road cars that look like fighter aircraft.

It is corporate culture and the ethnicity of the shot-caller has nothing to do with it.

Calling me a half-baked Kenyan journalist is again attaching credentials that I do not possess to my résumé. I am not a journalist. I am a scientist and a mathematician by training, a geek who happens to write a weekly column on a subject he is passionate about, which makes me a freelance contributor to the paper.

This is a special status that allows me to be as half-baked — or totally unbaked — as I want with no repercussions on my end, except maybe for embarrassment every time I am called out for substandard work, which is rarely.

Consulting the Internet about your RX400h is probably the right thing to do anyway, because most online forums have people with more specialised knowledge than my own.

There are 7 billion people on this planet; this means there will always be somebody who knows more about something than you do.

This also means that there will be shady characters who will wilfully lead you down the garden path with nobody to publicly call them half-baked for their crap. Let me know how safe you feel among this second lot. At least I have a board of directors to answer to if I sell them short on my contract, so I have accountability to keep me in check.

These faceless, misleading Web-dwellers do not. Good luck with your Internet research, but don’t feel bad if one day your solution-seeking lands you smack dab in paragraph three of one of my articles.

These are available on the Internet as well, so there is no escaping my presence.


*Addendum: if I compose the weekly correspondence myself, then it follows that I composed this one as well, which in turn means that you do not exist: you are a figment of my imagination. Mull over that as I curl up in the corner of my nest and weep for a minute from the effects of your acerbic and frankly racist treatise...




Hello Sir,

I appreciate the work and time you put into educating and entertaining us. I am not sure which car to buy. A Golf GTi MK6 or a Tiguan. Odd comparison yes, but I have read and heard that their 2l engines are similar.

Despite the obvious differences such as load capacity and speed, which one is more ideal in terms of reliability, consumption, cost of running and availability of spare parts? And are these cars generally a good pick?



Hello David,

The two cars have similar engines and basically run on the same platform so it will boil down to which of the two really tickles your fancy. The Tiguan is more practical, somewhat. I’d go for the GTi because it is relatively quick and exciting to drive. I can’t think of a single convincing reason why I would buy a Tiguan, but there are those who do, anyway.


Dear Baraza,

Thank you very much for responding to my e-mail sent on September 15, 2017.

I saw your response and I’m m really glad that you responded to it with such beautiful photos to enable me to make comparisons. You are indeed awesome. Keep doing what you do. Kudos!

Thank you for clearing my mind. Now I know exactly what to look for.



Why, thank you, Eva! For a minute there I was beginning to doubt my own legitimacy after Jurgen ripped me a new one. I can stop crying now and get back to work.

Note: the photography is entirely my editor’s handiwork. They sometimes wake up on the right side of the bed and do justice to the Wednesday centrepiece. I, on my end, will continue doing what I do.


Between the Ranger and Hilux 4WD, which performs better on bad, flooded roads?


Hi Baraza,

I live in an area where we are battling bad roads and floods. I am buying a double-cab soon but cannot decide between the Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux 4WD, petrol engine or diesel.

Please advise.



Go for the Ford. Their latest products are exceptional, while the Hilux has been deteriorating with every successive model and is now a rackety, brittle, oddly-geared shadow of its former self. The manual one is especially disappointing. Petrol or diesel is up to you: petrol if you like smooth, quiet operation; diesel if you are after economy and torque, but the counterweight is comparatively expensive maintenance.

In detail, the Ranger has better refinement and is more comfortable than the Hilux. It is cheaper and better equipped. The interior looks are subjective but Toyota sticks to the age-old Japanese method of offering things in one colour only, myriad plastics, with maybe a splash of faux wood to break the monotony.

Looking deeper reveals more thoughtfulness in the Ford. The grab handles are retractable — very handy when being thrown about side to side on a rough road — and the sun visors have slide adjustment. The rear bench is roomier than that of the Hilux.

The Ford has an extra cylinder in the engine bay that directly translates to comparatively superior grunt. It also feels more SUV-ish, with better suspension optimisation but the handling can get a bit boat-like owing to the soft stilts. The Hilux feels aged in comparison, thumping into and over road imperfections and getting skittish when unladen. Its steering is a lot heavier too and can get tiresome on challenging drives. Dear Toyota, electric power assistance in the steering system is a thing now.



The Skoda Yeti so impressed me, I want my very own

Hello Mr Baraza,

I would like your advice regarding a very unique car. I borrowed a friend’s Skoda Yeti to travel upcountry during heavy rains and saying I was impressed with the car is an understatement.

The model I drove was a 1.8l TSi with four-wheel drive and a top speed of 240 kph, as well as a sixth gear. It was also very spacious and comfortable. The car’s handling in the mud was just amazing.

The Skoda Yeti impressed me to the extent that I’m planning to buy one myself. I was told by my friend’s mechanic that the Yeti is basically a Volkswagen Tiguan built on a Skoda platform in Eastern Europe and is built on Volkswagen Passat mechanicals. I vaguely recall CMC introducing the model in our market some years ago but I really do not see many of them on the road. The name Skoda was indelibly imprinted in my mind by the unbreakable Skoda Octavia WRC cars which participated in the Safari Rally some years ago.

Please give me some information about the Yeti, that is, are spare parts available? Are they common with Volkswagen, except of course, the body parts?does it have  a direct link with the Passat like my friend’s mechanic said?

Tom Lepski Ochola


Hello Tom,

I, too, was impressed by the Skoda Yeti when one of them showed up unannounced for the Great Run 8 — The Gr8 Rerun — and diced with the big boys all the way to Malindi through dust and ruts and one particularly nasty quagmire that claimed a Nissan Patrol. The little Yeti just shrugged off the challenge and completed the run. Applause!

Parts are available in this age of the internet and electronic money transfers. The Yeti also shares running gear with Volkswagen cars, from engines to drivetrains to platforms, which means that there is a direct link to the Passat; though I don’t understand why you single out this one vehicle when many Volkswagen Group cars are known to share so many things.


Here’s what was ailing the Merc E250 cutting power

Greetings Barasa,                                         

I am the chairman of the Mercedes Benz Club of Kenya (MBCK), which comprises 160 owners of Mercedes cars. We offer technical advice, educate members on many aspects of motoring include safety, and also offer a forum for business networking and socialising. I noted the article on October 18 relating to a Mercedes E250.  There are two possible causes for its loss of power:                                                           

 1. Worn-out camshaft gears which has been reported on the 271 engine.   The replacement might cost more than Sh150,000k.   

2. A faulty catalytic converter, which requires replacement.                          

 I believe the most likely cause is (2) hence I would have the car diagnosed to determine the effectiveness of the converter as a similar vehicle had the same issues and changing the converter cured the problem. It would be good to have the customer contact us for further advice and follow up.        

Saul Ongalo


Thanks for the insight. I do have questions of my own, though:

1. Won’t worn out camshaft gears make a detectable noise? The complainant never mentioned any unusual sounds.

2. The faulty cat might have been the culprit behind the CEL, but the complainant never mentioned what the diagnostic report yielded.

Anyway, that aside... thanks again for the insight and I hope the inquisitor is reading this.


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