There is certainly a lot to write home about this Jubilee Year for this country of ours with regard to progress; both the good and the bad. Attaining fifty years is no mean feat, and most of us would want to show that over that time, we have progressed. And taking of which, and coincidentally so, Progres (pronounced as pro-gray) is the latest buzz word in the auto market in this beautiful fifty year old land. Perhaps one in every four cars that whoosh past you on that bumpy road of yours is a Toyota Progress.
Toyota Progress who/what? You are asking me? You probably don’t live here or are poor at reading car names off their backside as they drive past. No crime; this is the Toyota Progres. You know the Mercedes Benz ‘round eyes’? Now the progress is that Toyota with similar eyes-of course to the not-so observant observer.
That nicely shaped sedan from Toyota, with double round eyes, a sleek body and interior finishing all comparable to the craftsmanship of whoever made the Mercedes; and here I am talking about the E-class.
I have not met a dirty Progres or one so badly maintained with the bumpers falling off. Even those that have fallen prey to our expected road carnage are drop-dead graceful; their ‘new’ number plates not older than the UAQ series proudly hanging on. A few are older. And most are in the grey and black shade, making them even sleeker.
Make no mistake; this car is not as ‘young’ on the global auto market as it is in Ugandan. The first Progres off the production line was 1998; with an inline 6-cylinder of 2.5L or 3.0L Since April 2001 Toyota put in Progres Direct Injection (D4) engines 1JZ-FSE (2.5L) and 2JZ-FSE (3.0L).
Imagine if you had seen a car, in 1998 with 6 airbags, voice activated GPS system, full wood and leather trim, gilt or silver analogue clock and full soft touch plastic interior, dual zone air conditioning and automatic head lights and wipers? No wonder we still think this car a Mercedes; at least a Toyota Mercedes [odd but apt name, I must admit].
In 1998 the Progres had an equipment specification that not only surpassed European sedans of similar exterior size, but could match much larger cars such as the BMW 5 series of the era and the Mercedes-Benz E Class. Interior size was also generous, offering the best legroom in its class.
“Owa Benzi simumanyi kukobo,” brags a certain Hajji whom we will not name. Loosely translated the Hajji meant that behind the wheel of his 1998 progres, he feels he has a better ride on the road than anyone in a Mercedes. Certainly he was not talking about the AMG type!
Shem who rides one of those equally popular Mercedes types, the C200 scoffs at this talk of comparing Mercedes to the Progres, even any other Japanese sedan. “Boss, a German car is a German car,” he says with the accompanying sneer typical of most German car fanatics. “Get the real thing, not a look alike. No matter how physically they resemble, you will easily tell the boy from the man when you get the engines running, gear engaged and gas pedal pushed down,” he says before admitting that well, the Progres looks sleek to the eye and smooth on the road.
One can’t compare the body strength to say that of the Mercedes E class of the 124 series, the Progres body is made of more malleable steel and will thus not withstand as much when involved in a crush. But these two are comparable in speed, with the Progress able to hit highs of 200kmh and remain stable on the road; but again, you have to be mindful of which road.
The sad bit about this car is that its production was discontinued in Japan in June 2007. Reasons abound, but none so deterrent from us here enjoying our progress ride as a sign of and yes, into our personal progress! It’s the new status symbol, sedan costing over 20 million shillings and in such many numbers on our streets, it is surely a sign of progress-if not, what is? Enjoy your ride!