I got myself a BMW, what do you think about the car? - Beaking Kenya News

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Wednesday, 17 February 2021

I got myself a BMW, what do you think about the car?


Hello Sir Baraza,

I hope you are doing well. Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude for sharing your vast knowledge in cars as it benefits many of us who follow you.

Earlier this year, I asked for your advice on which to choose among a Demio, Imprezza, and a Legacy. Your response was very helpful, and I am still considering getting a Legacy as a daily driver (Maybe one with a turbo).

However, life is interesting because when you ask for bread, sometimes it gives you a snake. We acquired a BMW E36 that was cheap, and do I say, sir, the machine drives like a beast. It rides well and it is very modern for its year of manufacture 1997. It also has features that modern (Japanese) cars in 2010 do not possess (not hating), it shifts well, (although it grinds at gear number three on highway speeds).

Did I mention that it is a manual? I like that car, albeit it comes with its very pricy spare parts and a minor service that is double the price of the previous car we had, a Nissan bluebird QG10. The BMW's previous owner still makes me mad by how he mistreated the car, he was a careless guy, so it came with problems and I think that’s why people fear BMWs because when it starts demanding for spares, utahema.

How is BMW as a brand? I lack knowledge on the 3 series across all BMW 3 series models and I would like to know more from you. Mind you, I still consider an STI as my dream car and I would not mind an M Sport nikiomoka.

In terms of BMWs, I am leaning towards owning an E90, that is, after my experience with the E36. What is your take on the E90 in terms of reliability and long-term use and how does it compare with the Subaru Legacy and the Mark X? The reason for the comparison with the Legacy and Mark X is because of their large displacements (CC) and their size (I have driven none of the two).

I would also want to know your point of view on other saloon cars that are as enjoyable as the E36, because as a car enthusiast, I may want to experience cars from all ‘walks of life’. Life is too short to drive boring cars, or am I wrong?

Kindly advise, your opinion is highly valued.

Thank you,
Your German car fan, (from Kiambu)


What do you know, a fellow after my own image. I too own a 20th Century BMW but still harbour indecent thoughts about turbocharged Legacy wagons. Now, let me tell you about BMW.

They're Germans, naturally, therefore that means they're built like tanks, especially the versions you and I possess - I own an E34 525i four years older than your E36. These vehicles, I believe, were the apogee of BMW's car building campaign. Their respective successors, the E46 to your E36 and the E39 to my E34, were the last time BMW gave us real BMWs despite their foibles: the E46 lost the driver engagement that was the pride and defining characteristic of the 3 Series line, but by God, the car was desperately good to look at, while the E39, one of the best-looking BMWs ever made, came with electronic issues but it democratised Steptronic technology to middle management types whose bonuses were healthy enough to get them a large German saloon, but not enough for them to upstage senior management who flexed their net worths by going the James Bond way of slinging E38s, which is another BMW that I desire not so secretly.

After these cars came and went at the onset of the 21st Century, BMW went mad. Their lead designer at the time, one Chris Bangle, bungled up the looks by dishing out atrocities such as the E60 5 Series, which is ugly whichever way you look at it, and the E65 which was released specifically to unsettle sufferers of OCD such as myself.

They did not stop there, they had to introduce iDrive, which sounds like an Apple product but was much more inconvenient to operate (this has since been improved and is one of the best user interfaces to be deployed in a car, but let's stay on theme), they started making their current crop of N Series engines which are such a load of manure that, I kid you not, I was once offered a key-to-key trade by a lady frustrated to the end of her tether by her N-powered 3 Series she thought my 400,000km Panzer was a better proposition. Of course I refused, and now she hates me, but I don't care. 

Subaru Legacy


There was the E60 M5 which came with 10 cylinders that nobody asked for, accompanied by a fearsome thirst and an electronic diff that exploded every time you drove the M5 the way M5s should be driven. It had what we call an SMG, a kind of semi-automatic gearbox that was as delicate as it was expensive, though it imbued the hot saloon with an ability to outrun Ferraris, which is no mean feat, but still... the E60 will go down in history as the most unloved M5 of them all, which is quite the achievement given that it is scientifically impossible to dislike the M5, that is how awesome that model should be.

There is more, and we will stick with the M5 to show just how badly BMW had lost the plot. The E39 came with an V8 engine and six-speed manual, a true driver's car, which is what BMW prides itself as the builders thereof. The E60 was auto/SMG only, except for the US market where a slightly detuned and detorqued six-speed manual was an available option.

Yes, BMW denied the E60 M5 the one thing that made M5s so wonderful: a three-pedal setup, but then capitulated and availed the manual gearbox in the one market on earth where nobody drives a manual: the Democratic Sovereign Kingdom of the People's Republic of the United States of Americalandistan. What was wrong with these people? Had they forgotten what they stood for? Yes they had.

I test drove the G30 BMW, the current 5 Series model, in South Africa back when it was launched and for a moment there it looked like the Bavarians had sobered up, but I was wrong. They started selling us grilles with cars attached to them and in a shameless display of hubris that I will bet my contract will come back to bite them, they dismissed feedback.

The reviews were horrible. The leering, toothy rictus that infested their latest cars were roundly vilified and castigated and how did BMW respond? Grab a strap and bang yourselves, losers, we have been making cars for many years and you can't tell us jack squat.

Wait, what? Yes, you read that right. BMW decided millennials know nothing and are not worthy of expressing opinion on the offensive countenances that started off with the new 7 Series, so to hell with your distaste, we will beat our cars with an ugly stick and you will buy those cars, like it or not.

What is a motoring journalist except a freeloading beggar dabbling in convoluted ego trips using borrowed demonstrators that they cannot afford in the real world. Ouch, BMW. Just... ouch
It's such a shame though. The brand once ruled, but now they just suck and they know they suck which is why they're reacting like spoilt children.

Maybe the engineers took over and chased off the designers because, once you look past the shiny grin that greets you any time you approach a new BMW head-on, they have recovered their touch. Under the metal lurks the finest drivers' cars you can find anywhere, I have test driven a few of the new crop of cars and their finesse borders on the epic.

The new 5 Series is a meister, invoking the reason why BMW calls itself "The Ultimate Driving Machine". The new X5 has four turbochargers and attacks the horizon like a heat seeker with air conditioning. 

Toyota Mark X

A Toyota Mark X.

Pool | Nation Media Group

I have been chauffeured in a 6 Series Gran Coupe, a vehicle I firmly believed should not exist but whose existence was justified when, in a moment of omnipotent whimsy, I requested the driver to floor it. The way it reacted makes me firmly believe it was a 650, or some such.

And the X3? I also tested the new one which you'd be insane to overlook if your bread is long and your family is standard (two and a half children tended by a trophy wife). The X3 is excellent: the right size, the right power, the right build and the pedals are works of art. It is hard to point to a perfect car, but I can: the BWM X3 M40i, the G01, 3.0 liter twin scroll turbo good for 355hp, performance to tame the egos of lesser mortals, refinement and luxury to tame your temper when you find the trophy wife smiling suggestively at the watchman, and engineered by petrolheads. The car is damn good.

So, having flown off on a tangent, I can now answer your question. If you want an E90, get a coupe. It looks infinitely better than the 4-door, and to hell with the kids, they'll grow up and buy their own BMWs. Reliability and long term usage will be a lot worse than if you sling a Mark X or a Legacy, and to be realistic, just get either of the Japanese cars, but if you can track down an E90 coupe, then go for it. You only live once.

JM, do I get myself the Mazda Axela or the Subaru Impeza?

Hi JM,

I hope the subject gets your attention. I wish you the very best in convincing MPA partners to add the Landcruiser 200 to your fleet. Sir, you have won the hearts of many, including myself, through your wit and humor. Keep up the good job. 

I beg to have your take and help me decide which car I should settle on as my first. I’m torn between the Mazda AXELA 2010/11/12 and Subaru Impreza of the same years. I will use the car to hop to business meetings around the city and long drives once a month if time allows. The parameters of importance are that it should be fun to drive and easy to maintain.

SN Njoroge.

Hello Njoroge,

My partners should toe the line, and if they don’t, I’m going to play the my trump card and ask them who is the car expert here, me or them? That should shut them up nicely. I want my, sorry, our Landcruiser before the year is done.

Mazda Axela

So now, since you are comparing Axelas to Imprezas, I take it you are not referring to a WRX or an STI, right? Natural aspiration is the criterion. With that in mind:

1. Fun to drive: the Axela, mostly, but if you can pony up for a WRX then it wins over the Mazda.

2. Easy to maintain: Subaru. I still hear Mazda owners weeping about parts availability, and these cars are a bit delicate. Subarus are tough cars that don’t break easily.

Subaru Impreza

Subaru Impreza.


3. Long-lasting: please see point 2 above, then let me crown it all off with a testimonial anecdote: I once owned a Mazda that I really liked but I had to let it go two years into ownership because I foresaw its inability to weather the vagaries that define the personal and professional lives of one JM Baraza. What did I replace it with? A Subaru.


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