On petrol versus diesel
For more than a year now I’ve been holding back on a short note in Drive Out. My intention is also to lay an egg on 4x4s and then, of course, to joke a bit with Jaco Kirsten, the editor. I mean, you can’t help but love Jaco, but that’s where the trouble starts. You want to wind him up because you love him. Two previous Drive Out issues (#108 and #110) opened the door. In the April issue is Murray Burger’s letter about the expedition vehicle of the year, Mic van Zyl’s petrol versus diesel discussion, and then the news that the Cruiser 200s (all diesels) are tops in terms of sales in South Africa. Now, I’ve driven some of these vehicles, a combination of petrol and diesel, Jeeps, Pajeros, Cruisers. Here is my opinion: When it comes to sand driving and towing in Africa, it’s really a 50/50 call. The majority of South Africans are crazy about diesel vehicles. I understand that. However, I want to say that if you put two vehicles (one petrol and one diesel) with more or less the same abilities next to each other for the sand roads of Africa, I would choose the petrol. It’s simply easier/better and the 50ppm challenge (in, for example Mozambique) just makes it more so. I don’t think there is a big gap between diesel and petrol vehicles where that is concerned. With regards to Murray’s letter about the Nissan Patrol versus the Land Cruiser 76 Series V8: I’ve never owned a Patrol, but I think it’s one of the most underrated off-road vehicles in South Africa. They just don’t sell well. But how do the manufacturers explain a well-specified petrol engine 4.8 litre GRX and then in the other model this “flat” diesel machine in terms of kW and Nm. Come on, guys. Almost like the Prado diesel or the old Pajero, is it that hard to add that little something extra? Here I think about the Pajeros that understood that and added that little bit (of about 380 Nm to 440 Nm) to the old-technology engine (500 ppm). And right there you have the one of the best value-for-money off-road vehicles in South Africa. Mitsubishi’s marketing strategy boggles the mind. A Pajero sales agent once told me at a show in Midrand that there’s “good news” for me. What? I ask. There’s a new version of the Pajero on its way and it looks just like the Discovery. And right there I decide not to buy my fifth Pajero. I’m now two Cruisers strong. My “issue” with Jaco is rather about the “most competent 4x4 of the year”. For the past two years there has only been one winner, without any runners-up. This time it’s (again) the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, which is great for the “extreme stuff”. I get it, but that’s not what most of us want to do with the vehicles. We also tow with them and drive on the open road. Two years ago Olga and I drove in the direction of Damaraland and Kaokoland. We drive far, very far, and alone. We drive with a FJ Cruiser, a red one. On the trip in Namibia we see a few FJs (there where not a lot of other vehicles drive) and not a single Jeep Wrangler. “Where’s Jaco now,” I ask Olga. I’m not disputing the winner, I’m merely asking which vehicles are runners-up. The gap isn’t that big; on the contrary, I know a few guys who traded their Wranglers for FJs. Just saying… Then Mic van Zyl’s column about the petrol-diesel discussion in the April issue. I’ve already mentioned that I prefer petrol vehicles for sand driving and towing. The past year I’ve been driving a diesel Land Cruiser 200 GX. In a year we’ve covered more than 40 000km, including big parts of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. The fuel consumption of a diesel 200 GX and a petrol 4-litre FJ was almost exactly the same in similar conditions. With our last trip to Pomene in Mozambique it was almost 100% the same: three weeks on the road, Afrispoor caravan, extra cans for water and fuel, and two kayaks on the roof. The FJ did the whole trip at 5.4 km per litre versus the GX’s 5.5 km per litre. Makes you think, right? By the way, if you were wondering how I really feel about Jaco and Drive Out, well there isn’t another 4x4 magazine that is as topical and stimulating. It’s balanced, resourceful, and challenging. Thanks Jaco and the gang. You do excellent work.