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Baraza, could you decipher this puzzle regarding my beloved Ford pickup?

Tuesday February 25 2020
Ford

Interior dashboard view OF Ford Ranger Raptor T6 mid-size pickup truck in photo taken in Munich, Germany, on February 1, 2020. PHOTO | COURTESY

By BARAZA JM

Mr Baraza,

As I've indicated before, I do not bear loyalty to any brand as far as passenger cars go. I've owned a Peugeot, Renault, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Nissan (3), Subaru (2), Isuzu and a Toyota that somehow strayed into this congregation.

However, when it comes to pickups/ bakkies, I’m unapologetic about being a Ford person. I’m on my third since 2007, all new from CMC. I’m gearing to acquire the fourth but I’m puzzled at its dwindling CC count.

Here goes. I got my first Ford Ranger XLT 2.5 litre in 2007. It returned [email protected] and 275nm of torque at 2000rpm. I traded it in in 2013 for the 2.2 litre T6, then acquired another in 2015, both of which return [email protected] and 375nm torque at 1500rpm. As you can see, the drop is from 2.5 to 2.2. lt somehow resulted in more power.

Now I’m ready for a trade-in, and the good CMC people tell me the engine has dropped to 2.0 litre but returning 157kw of power and a whopping 500mn of torque!

Being a simple farmer from Koru, I’m at a loss as to how the vanishing Ford Ranger engine is churning out more torque. I mean, 500nm? Care to shed some light on this?

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Patrick

Hello again, Patrick,

I admire your stand. Brand loyalty is counterproductive both to the fanatics and to the brand itself.

From the zealots’ perspective, it inhibits objectivity, limits their scope and curtails their exposure, which, you will realise, are the ingredients of ignorance and delusion.

The fallacies that emotionally charged badge whores believe about the marques they worship are shocking, and tempting as it is to go into specifics, I will repeat last week’s disclaimer by stating that I am a member of very many owner’s clubs and I do not want to offend them. I still need them at the end of the day. However, I will state the fields in which this delusion is strongest: safety, performance, reliability and … ahem … resale value.

Brand loyalty also harms the brands themselves, a specific example being Land Rover. They have spent the past 30 or so years selling vehicles based on romantic ideologies fostered by the Series cars, the Defender and the Range Rover Classic.

Those were excellent, envelope-pushing vehicles for their time and they redefined many things that people took for granted about 4WD vehicles way back then. Then came the ‘90s and Japan cottoned on to what they were doing and turned the formula up to 11.

The Japanese (particularly Mitsubishi and Toyota) did struggle a bit to unseat Land Rover as the definitive off-road vehicle brand but they soon realised it wasn’t as difficult as they feared, since Land Rover was trading heavily on nostalgia rather than advancement. The clout of the name was selling more than the actual substance behind the name.

The outcome of this was plummeting sales and the brand changing hands several times between the Rover Group (which folded under the mediocrity of the first Freelander), BMW, Ford, and later Tata, who have now stated that they too want to get rid of the marque. Go figure.

THIS WAS THEIR PROBLEM

This was their problem: they listened to too much bar talk. Land Rovers are handsome, charismatic, rugged and the brand carries a rich history.

Hell, the Royal Family of the United English Kingdom of Great Brexitland trundles about in them. Everybody talks about getting one, including myself.

I have been known to declare an unrequited infatuation for the Discovery 4, but once the money sits right and everyone sobers up, the sensible types go for Land Cruisers and Pajeros instead, and when Jeep entered the right-hand drive market, Land Rover’s fate was sealed.

This is what brand loyalty does to you: it makes you complacent and you forget that you have to stay competitive.

The undoing of Land Rover is the lack of reliability. You know things are bad when Britain’s most unreliable vehicle is the Range Rover Sport, if the news media from 2019 is anything to go by.

This is a country in which Fiats and Alfa Romeos are also sold, but no … the least reliable vehicle just had to be an insanely complicated but ultimately multitalented SUV coming from an iconic brand that is England’s third most influential export after imperialism and premier league football.

I digressed a lot there, so back to your query. Devices decreasing in size while increasing in power is basically an empirical definition of technological advancement, be it motor vehicle engines or the processors in glowing electronics.

Ford are not the only ones to do this, many, if not all, vehicle manufacturers are achieving this too. How to get power and efficiency from a small power plant involves boffinry in material science, combustion control and engine management.

To make your quest easier, throw in some forced induction and a clever gearbox. Turbocharging is the easiest way to squeeze big power out of a small engine while maintaining a modicum of efficiency.

Turbocharging is a form of technological advancement by itself, but it increases cylinder pressures by a large amount, which in turn places strain on the power train components, which means you have to make these components sturdier.

Building them stockier than usual increases weight, which is an enemy of efficiency and may sap some of the extra energy you are liberating from a litre of crude, so you have to make the components stronger while avoiding a weight penalty, or even dropping weight if you are something special. That means you have to dabble in the dark arts of metallurgy and material science to find materials that are both strong enough to withstand the increased engine output while light enough to maintain efficiency and conform to design standards such as handling and weight distribution.

Another side effect of turbocharging is virtually increasing the compression ratio, which in turn affects combustion by increasing the probability of preignition/knock.

You could deal with this in three ways: one, advise your customers to only feed jet fuel or kerosene to their vehicles like they do rally cars. Jet fuel is not readily available and paraffin will kill your engine very fast, so … no. Secondly: design the combustion chamber such that fuel delivery and flame front propagation (which we will discuss briefly next week) do not clash in their objectives and create knock. The third way is an extension of the second: play around with the engine management system such that valve operation and fuel delivery are optimised in a way that avoids knock. Voila! You have your little engine reliably delivering big power.

It sounds fairly straightforward when put in such simple terms, but trust me, it’s not easy to do, particularly the reliability part. Plus, there is a lot more that goes into building a whole new engine than using exotic materials and tuning the ECU. That’s why nobody bothered to explore this until recently when the real reason for the downsizing came about: emissions control.

In certain dominant markets and trading blocs, car manufacturers are now being penalised according to how thirsty their products are and how much pollution they put out. So what to do? Downsize engines. However, downsizing comes with a performance penalty that has to be palliated. Innovation to the rescue. Turbos. Variable valve timing. Aluminium engine blocks. High pressure fuel rails. Direct injection. Cylinder deactivation. Whatever.

This is the main reason engines are getting smaller but power outputs are getting bigger across the board, and yes, that includes in Land Rovers as well.

Ferry etiquette: Dos and don’ts when crossing the Likoni channel

ferry-pic

Commuters on board MV Harambee ferry on Likoni Channel. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Hi JM,

Thank you for the car advice, running seven years now, that you give in your column, keep it up. First, my condolences to the family that lost their loved ones following the ferry incident in the Likoni channel. I have some questions regarding what to do when using the ferry.

1. Should I step out of the car or remain inside?

2. Should the engine be off or on? Off seems odd to me, it would be wise to leave the engine running in case the ferry leans back, making it necessary to floor the gas.

3. Should I leave the windows open or closed and the seat belt on or off? What about the handbrake?

4. In case the car falls into the ocean, how do I get out?

5. Does the load in the car affect the ferry or is it designed to be capable of handling heavy loads?

6. What are the chances of a car that has spent time at the bottom of the ocean getting back on the road?

Regards,

Moses

Hi Moses,

Your year count is short by a quarter dozen. We are drawing close to 10 years now, not seven. As you can see, the column is so popular and so busy that we are responding to a 2019 email in 2020. That doesn’t make the information I’m about to share stale, though …

1. Exit the vehicle if you are not driving. All passengers of all vehicles have to disembark when aboard a ferry, leaving only the driver.

2. The engine should preferably be off. It is friendlier to the environment and easier on your fellow ferry-using humans’ lungs, and probably ears. If the ferry starts listing or capsizing, no amount of throttle opening is going to save that car. Abandon it immediately and head for the nearest floater. Pray that the sharks have taken a day off …

3. The window positions are entirely up to you, whether up or down. As stated above, once all hell breaks loose, you will not be exiting the ferry with your vehicle. Let it go. It won’t matter whether the windows are up or down when it starts sinking.

It will sink faster with the windows open but it will sink all the same. For security considerations, though, just keep your windows up. There are plenty of opportunists out there who are not above helping themselves to the contents of your vehicle if they spot a path of low resistance into it.

Parking brake should be engaged.

This one is fairly obvious: with it off, the motion of the ocean could rock the boat and cause your car to roll into another one which will leave you with a tedious case that is going to annoy the hell out of your insurance company as they wonder how you hit another car while at sea.

Seat belts: Off. The car itself is not in motion, so you don’t need the belt anyway. Plus, once Poseidon summons the vessel to his domain, you will want to exit your vehicle as quickly as you can. Having the seat belt on when this happens is only going to slow you down.

4. How do you get out? The answer here is “immediately”. Don’t wait to see how far you will sink, just get the hell out at the first sign of trouble.

If for whatever reason you are still inside your car as it goes below sea level, here is what to do: first, it helps if you know how to swim. If you don’t, start learning now.

If the windows are open, let the water first rush into the car until it fills the interior then swim out the open window.

Do not try to battle the sea by trying to rush out as it rushes in, you will not win. Physics is a cruel and unrelenting mistress.

If the windows are closed, you will have to open them and repeat the process above: wait for the car to fill up with water before swimming out.

Use those precious seconds that the water takes to rush in to grab one last lungful of air before venturing out into Davy Jones’ locker. In case the windows malfunction, find a way to break the glass to allow the water in.

(Warning: the seawater rushing into a submerged car will pressurise the air inside the car and cause you the kind of pain and discomfort only reserved for sinners in hell. Your ears may bleed, your Eustachian tube will be on fire and your eyes may bulge.

That is why it is advisable NOT to be inside the car once it starts going under, the discomfort could disorient you and cloud your thinking.)

5. It depends on what you mean by “car”. If you mean “passenger car”, no amount of overloading is going to overwhelm the ferry, its buoyancy is tremendous … but it’s not infinite.

6. The odds here are zero to nil, or slim to insignificant at the very best. Yes, you can rehabilitate a vehicle recovered from the depths, but you will soon discover it is easier to manufacture a whole other car than bring the drowned one back to life.

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