CAR CLINIC: I’m torn between a BMW 320i M Sport and a 520i M Sport - Daily Nation

CAR CLINIC: I’m torn between a BMW 320i M Sport and a 520i M Sport

Wednesday November 8 2017

While the 3 series is cheaper, with almost

While the 3 series is cheaper, with almost similar amenities, the 5 series seems  larger and more executive.  I am coming from a 2007 Subaru Legacy. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By Baraza JM
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Hey Baraza,

Great job in your column, I am an avid reader of your articles . Your analysis is always incisive.

My question is simple: I am trying to choose between a 2009 BMW 320i M Sport and a 2009 BMW 525i M Sport. While the 3 series is cheaper, with almost similar amenities, the 5 series seems  larger and more executive.  I am coming from a 2007 Subaru Legacy.

What are your thoughts on both cars? The one I choose should serve me reasonably well for three to four years.



When you are walking on thin ice you might as well tap dance. Now that you want to dabble in the premium luxury that BMW offers, go the whole way and get the 5er. It has always been BMW’s definitive vehicle and is the one shown the most love by engineers.

Does buying a 504 today make sense?

Hi Baraza,

I  had the privilege of growing up in a house with a second generation Isuzu Trooper (2001) and a Peugeot 504 that was bought around the same time I was born in the early ’90s. Sadly, I never got to drive the 504 after getting my licence because it had been sold but the Trooper is still around. Would you recommend that I buy a 504 when I have the money or should I just move on to newer, more fuel-efficient and tech advanced cars? (I find the Trooper a beauty because I like manual cars but the consumption is crazy).

David G.


Hello David G,

Move on to newer, more fuel-efficient and technologically advanced cars. A 504 from the early ’90s is not your friend, agemate notwithstanding. It has few amenities if any, no creature comforts and is thirsty, not to mention environmentally unfriendly. Also, expect infirmity at frustrating levels once it begins to show its age, and it will show its age because it’s old. This car is not your friend.

There is a massive disclaimer to my comments above, though. If you chance upon one in pristine condition then by all means go for it. The vehicle has a distinctive design, is extremely comfortable and it purrs like a kitty when stroked in the right way. This will make a very good collector’s car, the operative words here being “collector’s car”; but the flipside is you will have your work cut out keeping it in shape. It is not recommended for daily driving; the risk to its integrity and the associated costs= of keeping that integrity intact is too high.

Get something contemporary for starters, then save up for a 504 as a second car.


What if we could fill car tyres with nitrogen


Thanks for your informative articles.

If you compare plane and car tyres, plane tyres are filled with nitrogen and not normal air that is readily  available at gas stations and roadside yards where motorcycles are repaired. This is because nitrogen does not expand and the tyres rarely blow. Is there a way a car tyres can be filled with nitrogen and avoid tyre burst-related accidents and incidents. Is this possible or is nitrogen too expensive?



Hello Brian,

Yes, there is a way that car tyres can be filled with nitrogen and that is by visiting one of the gas vendors such as BOC and asking them for nitrogen. It is that simple, but it might or might not be cheap. I don’t know how much nitrogen costs and whether it is sold by mass or by volume at STP (standard temperature and pressure).

What I know is filling your tyres with nitrogen is an overkill. Only one car comes standard with nitrogen-filled tyres and that is the Nissan GTR. But then again, the GTR is a 315km/h, 1,800kg car that does 0-100 in less than 3 seconds, and whose cornering abilities are so violent that the rims have special grooves to hold the tyre bead to prevent the tyres from getting torn off their moorings when turning hard. Such a vehicle might, indeed, need nitrogen in its tyres since the whole idea behind using nitrogen is its inertness and insusceptibility to temperature fluctuations. A car that can rip its tyres off its rims is going to undergo a lot of temperature fluctuations when driven the way it was engineered to be driven.

Plane tyres are filled with nitrogen for slightly similar reasons, though nobody does any hard cornering with aircraft while taxiing on tarmac. Planes fly very high where it gets very cold (to below freezing, actually) and the air in the tyres loses volume (Charles’ Law) or even condenses into a liquid form. This means the tyres can collapse to the point of unseating themselves from the rim and the air escapes, giving the aircraft a flat tyre while aloft, which should make the present tense at landing time. Speaking of landing time, some of these aircraft weigh as much as 300 tonnes and have to slow down real quick from a touchdown speed of around 280km/h. That is a lot of stress for a tyre and it generates a lot of heat... the same tyre that moments before had been stowed away as part of the landing gear in subzero temperatures now has to withstand heat levels almost twice that of boiling water at sea level. Most “normal” air is highly susceptible to Charles’ Law, but nitrogen, with its boiling point of -173 deg C, is not. That makes it ideal: the tyres are less likely to change shape/pressure switching between those two temperature extremes. Cars? No.

Blowouts in cars are a result of poor tyre quality, overinflation or overuse. Not the type of air used to inflate them... and anyway, normal air is already 78 per cent nitrogen to begin with, how much of a difference will a 22 per cent increase in purity levels make, unless you are brutally exploring the outer edges of the GTR’s performance envelope?

There is a fairly obvious prophylactic against blowouts and that is preflight checks... both for aircraft and for motor vehicles. Use proper quality tyres, inflate them to the correct pressures and try not to drive like your running gear is similar to Fred Flintstone’s.


My Subaru seems a little too thirsty


Hey Baraza,

I appreciate the work you are doing. You help us a great deal before we run to our sometimes money-hungry mechanics who make strange diagnoses just to milk us of our hard-earned cash. I can’t wait to read your informative and mostly humorous responses to readers’ queries, so here comes mine:  

I recently acquired a 2010, 2000cc petrol turbocharged Subaru Forester EJ20 and it has been doing great. On fuel efficiency it does 7-9km/l when I’m on “I” and 3-5km/l when I’m doing sport sharp (S#). I thus avoid the S# like the plague unless  it’s really necessary, but I feel  the consumption on Intelligent is still too high. What do you think? I rarely go past 2000 revs when on “I”. 

Secondly, someone told me that I should never use the “small” spare wheel that comes with the car since it interferes with the car’s settings which, when tampered with, affects axle settings, consumption, stability and grip. I owned a Legacy before the Forester and I noted that whenever I put the small spare wheel, the AWD light stayed on.

I assumed this was because the smaller wheel did not have as good a good grip as the rest of the wheels. But does the smaller wheel really have any negative effect on the car or is it just another myth? 

Peter Waihura


Hello there,

Yes, your consumption seems a bit off the scale, particularly on S#, especially since you claim not to exceed 2000rpm on the “Intelligent” setting. But then again, where and when do you drive? If you spend a lot of time in traffic jams, then 9 km/l is not so strange after all.

The someone who told you about the space-saver spare, the infamous, insurance-voiding “doughnut” was on to something.

He is right that it unbalances the vehicle somewhat, particularly on stability and grip but I’m not too sure how badly it affects the consumption and “axle settings”, whatever those are.

The trick behind AWD is  that the manufacturer takes time to set it up and, therefore, one is not advised to play around with tyres sizes inconsistently.

If you adjust the size of one tyre, do so using the same mathematical factor on the other three as well, but this only applies to aftermarket modification. The use of the doughnut is not an aftermarket modification, so it is allowed up to a point.

The doughnut is an emergency crutch to use when you have no full-size spare. It is not meant to be driven on extensively or intensively like a normal tyre; its function is to get you from your trouble spot to the nearest service station where you can either replace or repair the errant tyre, after which you uninstall the space-saver.

That is why most of them come with the recommended 80-80 regulation: drive no faster than 80km/h and no further than 80km on the space-saver. Anything beyond that and you’ll be dicing with the jaws of fate.


I’ve searched for info on Ford Cortina, in vain

Hello Baraza, 

I have been an admirer of vintage cars and recently decided to dive into the unknown and bought a Ford Cortina MKL 1.6. My problem (if you can call it a problem) is that  I have no idea about its engine and performance-related issues. I have tried google, to no avail. It would be of help if you have anything to share about this model.



Hello Kennedy,

There is a clear and obvious reason behind the dearth of information on the Ford Cortina: the car is old. The Cortina came and went, and people forgot all about it... and then the Internet was invented.

Most cars from that era whose details are readily available on the Internet have one thing in common: they are significant. The significance could be cultural, aesthetic, technological, or even political (the Volkswagen Beetle), but it is still significant.

The Cortina experienced no such glamour. It was built in a dark era as far as unionisation of the workforce and motivation of management went, with the sole intention of motorising an uninterested middle-class public that had only recently been slapped with a 70mph (112km/h) speed limit on British motorways after some adventurous petrolheads in an 7.4 litre AC Cobra tried to attain v-max on the same roads, to the attention and displeasure of the authorities. Motorists of that era found the present tense and the past perfect as enthusiastic driving was strangled by the quietly emerging nanny state.

Under those circumstances, it was imperative that one create something special in order to acquire validation among the highly discriminative driving public, and the Cortina was not exactly special. It was attractive to the middle-class family, but the middle-class family is only a worthy ambassador for detergents and bathing soap, not motor vehicles. Anonymity beckoned. Anonymity was embraced.

At least the car tried to look the part in the early stages, but the 1.6 litre engine was not going to get any pulses racing, even with the more efficient cross-flow and twin cam heads. The Mk IV models sealed the Cortina’s fate as middle-class fare when it was dressed in the most bland, underwhelming and  noncommittally offensive bodywork anyone had ever seen. Anybody who was even remotely interested in petrol quickly lost interest in that car and from that moment onwards, it would make its ignominious ingress into the hallways of “meh”. Such is the lack of interest in this car that nobody could be bothered to establish a veritable repository of information about over and above the regulation Wikipedia page.

The Ford Cortina. Nobody will miss it.


Tell me about the Rolls Royce Ghost and Merc G-wagon 4x4

Hi Baraza,

Lately, I have been in a dilemma. For years I have eyed Rolls Royce vehicles and now I feel I have enough to buy a Rolls Royce 2015 Ghost. But just the other day I started eyeing  the Mercedes G-Wagon 4x4 and the Bentley Bentayga since  both are cheaper to maintain than a Rolls Royce. Please review the cars and tell me which one is suitable for  Kenyan roads and where I can get dealers to help me with overhauls and service every now and then.


This stinks of a practical joke, so I will scoot smoothly past it like a well-kept 504.