x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

The battle-scarred warrior

This Dubai resident says his ordinary Kia Sorento is the perfect fit for his adventurous lifestyle.

Bob Boersen bought his Kia Sorento when it was less than five months old. Now, five years later, he says he intends to keep his off-roader until it does not move anymore.
Bob Boersen bought his Kia Sorento when it was less than five months old. Now, five years later, he says he intends to keep his off-roader until it does not move anymore.

London-born, half-Dutch, half-Danish Bob Boersen is more than six feet tall, is dressed daily in tailored cuff-linked shirts, the fabrics and designs for which he chooses personally, and "handsome" is a word regularly used to describe him. As facilities manager for Sama Dubai, his gregarious, confident and occasionally flamboyant character must come in handy. Yet there is a peculiarly practical side to him.

Take the car he drives: a five-year-old Kia Sorento. It is not the most glamorous of vehicles but ideally suited to his adventurous, outgoing character. "I bought the Kia Sorento because I had the desire to explore the country," says 34 year-old Boerson, "which meant the sand dunes and wadis, and for that you require a four-wheel drive." He only bought the Kia after two years of renting Peugeots and VWs when he first moved to Dubai to work as a food and beverage manager. But it was the draw of the UAE heartland which finally convinced him to pay the Dh68,000 for the five-month-old off-roader. "It had about 15,000 kilometres on the clock. Now it's got 140,000," he adds.

"Knowing my main reason for getting the car was for off-roading and wadi-bashing, I went for something which isn't expensive to maintain. Korean parts are cheaper than if you go for a VW, for example, or an American brand." Boerson has spent Dh12,000 on major repairs to the car now known as the "Bobmobile"', complete with "Bob" nameplates on the front and rear of the vehicle. "Having blown up two cylinders and having them replaced, I basically have a new engine," he comments. Apart from the cylinder incident which he admits was his fault, he says his Kia has never let him down throughout his exploration of the region behind the wheel. "I've taken it off road a lot; into the wadis, mainly - Al Ain, Musandam, Wadi Bih, into Oman down to Ras al Jinz. It's seen its fair share of off-roading," he smiles.

Boerson believes that if you buy an SUV and don't use it for its proper purpose, when you do decide to take it off-road it won't be able to handle it. He admits it's just a theory but he sticks by it. "I drive over speed bumps without braking, I drive over sandy bits onto the beach, through the salt water; you name it. Everything you shouldn't do, I do - and the car has been a good servant for five years."

He has no desire to change it either. "I will keep it until it doesn't move anymore. My favourite aspect of the car is that I don't feel as though I have to be careful with it." When asked what life would be like after the Bobmobile, he answers reluctantly: "If I'm still in Dubai I think I'd go for the Range Rover. Not the Sport, because however big it looks on the outside, on the inside it feels like a kart. My knees are up against the dashboard, my head hits the roof, I just don't fit inside."

It's not an issue most of us have to consider when purchasing a vehicle, but more than two metres tall, Boerson can't fit comfortably in to every car. But surprisingly, his fiancée Evelyn owns a Porsche Boxster which is perfectly able to accommodate him: "I can drive that - German people are tall, so German cars have a bit more space for the legs. It has more space than a Jeep Wrangler for me." So his current favourite - the Fiat 500 - might just require a little adaptation.

Fortunately, there are years of life left in the Sorento, with plenty of experiences to add to the Bobmobile album next to the RTA parking ticket where beside "Brand of Car" the officer wrote "Bob", and the substantial dent in the rear bumper from the collision with a bus that changed lanes without looking. "I don't intend to fix it - it's one of the wounds of battle," he comments. And now we're on to Dubai driving, Boerson is on a roll. "People say it's hard to get your licence in Dubai. I don't understand it because, to me, it seems like Dubai is the easiest place. If the only thing you learn is parallel parking and your U-turns on Al Wasl Road, you've not done highway driving, night driving, driving in the wet, hill starts - you're basically missing 75 per cent of the skills you need to drive properly."

"I'm a very engaged driver," he continues, "and I think that has to do with the driving lessons back home. On the test, suddenly the examiner would flip up your rear-view mirror and ask 'what is the second car behind you?' And if you couldn't answer, you'd get minus points. It's not just watching the tail lights of the car in front of you. Driving is constantly being aware of your 360 environment."

Boerson also has a dream to start a car collection. "Jay Leno is my role model with his garage full of cars. I will get there one day," he smiles. "The bashed-up Kia Sorento gets parking space number one and I've asked my Dad to ship over my old buggy I had as a kid and that can go in number two." motoring@thenational.ae