Kenyans splurge on cars that say you’ve arrived


Today the world is a global marketplace where you can get anything and everything at the click of button. All you need do is pick up your smart phone, tablet or ‘phablet’ to access your bank account.

Then start counting the digits at the bottom of the statement. If there are at least nine digits to the left of the decimal point, a smile should cross your face.

Now close your eyes and imagine yourself behind the wheel of any of the cars you see in this page. You can even go one better and contemplate owning a Rolls Royce, Bentley, or Maseratti Quattroporte.

You will not be the first as some Kenyans have already made these dreams valid. There is even a Maybach, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lamborghini on the road somewhere in this great country. These vehicles are driven by people with a passion for speed and luxury and for whom money is no object.

Cars like this are made to order and everything is customised for you when buying new. Prices vary depending on your choice.

With regards to power, you get standard engines and have the option to take it to an approved tuning house for extra grunt. For instance, the Ferrari California T features a V8 turbocharged engine that manages 412kW at 7500rm and a whooping torque of 755Nm at 4750rpm.

It is obviously frighteningly quick, reaching 100kph in 3.6 seconds and 200kph in 11.2 seconds. It manages a top speed of 320kph. Rarely will you need more than this.

Those extra zeroes in the bank balance also allow an elite few to airlift any of these vehicles for service every couple of years, or fly in the mechanics to do the necessary here.

I would honestly not recommend these vehicles for those whose bank balances do not elicit a grin as they do not come with the local support needed to make your driving experience worthwhile.

I called DT Dobie and inquired if they would support the Maybach. Yes, of course we can service, was the answer. If you want one, you will have to wait for the new Mercedes U Class in 2020 as the Maybach has been discontinued.

If you wanted the Rolls Royce Ghost or the sporty Wraith, you would need to speak to Bavaria Auto as it is a BMW product. They, however, do not have the tooling to service the car locally.

The local motor industry is going through its biggest change ever in the history of the country. There are mergers and acquisitions, takeovers and makeovers.

All this may be interesting, but not more than the number of new cars that are finding their way onto our roads. The biggest brands are heading this way in pursuit of oil money and a booming economy.

The most notable new entrant is Porsche which has found a home at the Sameer Business Park. Range Rover changed hands about a year ago and now is managed by RMA.

BMW is doing well at Bavaria Auto under the Simba Corporation. Big changes also at DT Dobie who took over Volkswagen and lost the Nissan franchise to AMH Group. They still have Mercedes, though. But enough of that corporate talk.

What can you spend your money safely on? Here is a list I think you should closely look at if you are finally ready to flex the muscles of that platinum card that’s been dropping loose change in hundred-thousand shilling shopping sprees.

BMW 7 Series

Another underestimated marque locally but celebrated across the globe. A limo you will enjoy driving more than sitting back left. It has been redesigned to cleanse it of the “Bangle butt” fiasco that made it a worldwide controversial sensation.

What does it come with? You get a Twin Power Turbo Diesel that holds the title of the most powerful straight six diesel engine. Advanced features such as coasting mode, proactive hybrid technology and the Driving Experience Control switch with ECO PRO mode enhance both driving comfort and efficiency.

Its optimised chassis gives you self-leveling air suspension at the rear axle for long-distance comfort. You can choose from the 740i with 235kW (320bhp) and 45Nm torque or go for the V8 with 330Nm (450bhp) in the 750i or opt for the V12 with 400kW (535bhp) and 750Nm of torque.

The entry-level price for the entry-level 730d is only Sh15milion. Choose the 750i-760li and that changes to Sh30 million. If you really want to get performance and utility in one package, you might want to consider the X6 or X5M going for Sh17million.

The BMW 7 Series has only managed to shift 5 units in the last 12 months and if you are one of the lucky owners and are looking for a silver lining, you could always look to ROBBE & BERKING to add a sterling finish to your BMW. They bring 140 years of experience in silverware.

Porsche Panamera/ Cayenne

This car, on the other hand, is for those seeking to defy convention. It is still too early to say if it will be a game changer but I suspect it will do a great job giving the young, top executive looking to differentiate himself from the old guard something to think about.

Firstly, you can configure it to suit your taste and style. You will need to be technically savvy and log into Porsche’s website and click on Kenya.

Choose the model you desire and spec it up to your heart’s desire. Watch as the price rises and only stop when the digits start tickling your bank balance.

The Panamera is five meters long and should cost you anything in the region of Sh20 million. If this car is not up your alley, you can opt for the Cayenne or the latest model, the Macan. The demand for Porsche is so high they have sold out their entire allocation for 2014.

If you want a Cayenne, you will need to plan to have it in early 2015. That is just how well priced it is. A carefully spec’d Cayenne starts at Sh6.9 million.

Tick the right boxes and it will soon be north of Sh8 million. Compare that to the competition from Mercedes M Class and BMW X6 and you might just shift allegiance to the boys from Stuttgart.

What does the Cayenne have? You most likely will consider the 3 litre that comes with 309kW (420hp@6000) with 520Nm of torque. That allows you to travel at a maximum pace of 287kph. Good luck finding a road for that in Kenya. Fortunately, it stops as quickly as it goes.

Travelling at 100-0 km/h, you will come to a standstill in 5.1 seconds. From 160kph to 0kph, it will need just 11 seconds. Are you feeling safe already?

The New Mercedes S Class

This is the ultimate statement of achievement. Let’s dispense with the facts of what this car represents. Sixty nine journalists from 22 countries were given access to this car and declared it the most luxurious in its class.

Launched worldwide in October 2013 and in June this year in Kenya, the new 2014 Mercedes S Class oozes luxury and opulence and is the choice ride for the rich and nouveau riche.

That said, I am not a big fan of its new exterior. I know for sure I will enjoy how it drives and look forward to comparing it with the Porsche Panamera and the BMW 7 Series.

This is a vehicle suited for those who need to be seen to have money, and not necessarily class. It is loaded with enough kit to possibly navigate a spacecraft on a mission to the moon. What does it have?

For comfort, start with the reclining seats with perforated and ventilated Designo leather. Throw in the Burmester stereo that costs Sh2.4 million and you get an idea how expensive the options are.

You will enjoy a three-dimensional listening experience provided by the 3D sound created by speakers integrated into the vehicle’s roof, the overhead console and in the overhead control panel.

You can choose any of the engines available for the S Class as long as it is the V8 and above. The V8 comes with a 4,663cc engine with 335kW (455hp) at 5,250rpm. Torque is 700Nm between 1,800-3,500rpm and a limited top speed of 250kph.

The V12 is equipped to thrill with an output of 390kW (530hp). This bi-turbo engine also seats in the S600 and packs a bigger punch than its predecessor did with 380kW (517hp).

The displacement of the engine has increased from 5,513 to 5,980 cc. The maximum torque of 830Nm is available from just 1,900 rpm.

You can opt for the AMG that also comes with 12 cylinders, twin-turbocharging, 463kW (630hp) plus an output of 1,000Nm of torque. This vehicle sets new standards as the most powerful vehicle in its segment of the market.

Mercedes Benz launched the S Class in May and have delivered three units. They expect to sell at least 10 units by the end of the year.

What will you pay for it? Start at Sh18 million (150,000 Euros) and for the top spec’d V12, expect to cough up as much Sh36 million.

Range Rover

Bespoke luxury need not be a stretch. That is why the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport exist. You can have the best of luxury and manage to venture off-road to your country home at the cliff of your mountain.

That said they are not being left behind and have introduced a long wheelbase Range Rover targeted primarily at the Chinese market. It will obviously find its way here. It comes with an array of super and turbo charged engines that deliver awesome power.

The top spec V8 is a 5 litre supercharged unit that delivers 375kW (510bhp) 625Nm of torque available at 1,850-4,000rpm. That gives you a top limited speed of 250kph.

The full bells and whistles include the obvious air suspension and advanced terrain response that reads the road for you and adjusts the suspension to handle the rough stuff.

The flagship Range Range Autobiogaphy will deplete your account of between Sh19.5 million and Sh27.5 million.

If you want to increase the luxury and power options, you can approach the special tuning houses like Hamman, Arden and Overfinch.

All said and done, you are better of ordering a vehicle that has local support for everything from service to suspension repairs. It helps to have a warranty that covers your engine and drivetrain in case of any technical issues.

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