Real Wheels Live

Feb 28, 2014

The Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown and guest Lou Ann Hammond will discuss the auto industry. Plus, they'll give purchase advice to readers.

Good morning Warren and Friends

What a wonderful birthday week I have had! I got to stay in my own area, Northern California, and still attend a Chevy Tahoe/Suburban event in Tahoe and then a GMC Yukon Denali. Did you know that the Chevy Suburban is the longest running name brand model in history? 80 years old. I posted a picture of a 1936 Chevy Suburban on my facebook - https://www.facebook.com/DrivingTheNation - if you want to see what the first generation looked like.

I also drove a Ford Fiesta ST and now have a BMW 428i coupe in my front yard. The Fiesta had more stuff - heated seats etc - as standard than the BMW 428i. I actually liked the BMW idrive better than the Ford infotainment system.


Let's chat about cars

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Lou Ann Hammond

I have often wondered why Honda does not offer the Accord with AWD, seems to me that would make it more attrative to buyers in "snow/rain" states? I know they have the Crosstour---but that is one ugly vehicle.

Honda soon will offer the Accord with all-wheel- drive, especially thanks to this winter.

Simple question, which one would you chose?

I am driving the BMW 4 right now. The msrp is $40K but the car is already at $48K and it doesn't have a NAV system or heated seats.

I think the manufacturers are trying to reduce cost to get into certain segments but those segments have cars that are already there that have all the content.

I would go with the Audi 5 or try a VW Passat TDI.

I'd go with Audi, which offers more for less. BMW seems hopelessly wedded to the tracyic of placing a charge on every single option.

We're hoping to settle on the Prius V as our family vehicle but are having trouble figuring out if we should go with another car because of the lack of a blind spot monitor (which Toyota makes available on EVERY other model!). My husband's biggest issue driving is his blind spot (and this will be his primary commute car) so he's inclined to go with the Accord/Camry but we need the interior space (similar to our crossover) and would prefer the Prius V. Is it crazy to think we can we ask the Toyota dealer to custom order one with the monitor since it's available as a feature on other models?

Honda offers a blind-spot monitor. Check again with Tpypta. I'm sure that Toyota can provide one, too.

Hi Warren. This will probably get a discussion going but my question is why are some models/brands like Land Rover/Jeep always on the "worst" lists but people still buy them?

Because of status and luxury. I have had 2 landrover Range Rovers that have completely quit on me. One time we were out in the middle of nowhere and they had to bring a guy with a computer in to reboot it. Then we had to go to the landrover dealer to get it fixed.

Having said that they are beautiful vehicles with everything you could want in them.

We are well into 2014, but some dealers still have 2013 cars that never sold. Since the new models are out, they are likely to offer discounts on the 2013 models. In general, is it better to save money on last year's model or pay a bit more to get this year's? Any exceptions to the rule?

I would buy the 2013 model and bargain for as many "free" options as possible.

Regarding a previous comment about LED lights being "bling": LED's use much less power than regular lights, and are MUCH longer lasting. An owner will probably never need to replace an LED light during a car's lifetime.

Seriously? I have seen LED lights on the highway that are burnt out and haven't been replaced. Does anyone know what the difference is between the price of an Audi led light to replace and a regular headlight?

We just put new lights in our living room and used led but they are like 3-4 times as expensive. If someone doesn't have that money they will buy the regular lights even if they can do the math and know that leds last longer.

Who called LEDs "bling?" I didn't. LEDs offer more candle power at reduced energy consumption. Not "bling" at all.

Hi Warren/Lou Ann! Maybe you can throw this out to the peanut gallery for me. I am deciding between an Audi and BMW. I love the look of the Audi, but like the way the BMW drives better. So the decision may come down to little things here and there. They both have LED daytime running lights, but they operate differently. The BMW's LEDs are always on, while the Audi's will blink on/off when you are using the turn signals. Considering how may times you use your turn signals during a normal commute, it makes me wonder if the Audi's LEDs lights will have a shorter lifespan than the BMWs. Are LEDs similar to other light bulbs in that constantly turning them on/off will require more frequent replacement than if they are left on? I have read some Audi owner forums, in which there are complaints about how early in the car's life these LEDs need replacement and how much they cost out of pocket. I think I would be unhappy too, to fork out that kind of money for light bulbs, no matter how cool they look. On the other hand, the always-on BMW LEDs "seem" to last longer, and BMW covers maintenance for the first 4yrs/50K miles. In the luxury car world of $80+ oil changes, this is nothing to sneeze at. So should I go with my heart (Audi) or my head (BMW) on this one?

First, as I wrote earlier, I would choose Audi--simple reason, more equipmwnt for less money than BMW. I somply don't like BMW's exorbitant options pricing strategy.

And, frankly, I think Audi cars drive just as well as anything from BMW.

Love my 2010 G37 and was considering the replacement, the Q50 but the reviews aren't so good, an apparent step back. Considering moving to slightly larger and still highly rated M37 but wondering what else in that category you like. I don't want a Lexus because I like a sporty feel over a plush feel ... and I don't want run flats! Thanks!

What are the characteristics of the 37 that you like?

I just drove the VW Passat TDI and loved it. Of course I also drove the Audi RS7 (at $125K!) and loved it too.

Audi and BMW have great drivability cars as well.

I'd buy a holdover G37, assuming that I could find one. I'm still trying to figure out what Nissan/Infiniti was trying to do with the Q50.

Depends if you want ponderous understeer with Audi A5 or more balanced handling and RWD with 428i. I am assuming the 428i is RWD? 428i is better balanced and has better brakes. The A5 is just a really nice VW Golf since they are built on the same platform. The BMW 4 series doesnt share a platform with a less expensive vehicle. Although both BMW and Audi have some of the worst dealer service in the industry Bmw dealers are just slightly better than Audi dealers plus there are more good indy BMW specialist than Audi specialist in most areas of the country. The BMW Car Club of America is one if not the top marque car club in North America. Oh and Audis suck on track. No Audi club even comes close. Clifton, VA

Baloney. I've driven evrery Audi available on every road-type imaginable. Loved them What "ponderous understeer"?

Hi Lou Ann and Warren, Bought our S60 last year, love it. No maintenance issues so far. We still have a 16 yr old V70. But our independent mech of 16 yrs says he will not be able to work on the s60 when it comes off of warranty, too many expensive computers for him to buy in order to service the s60. Do you think small mechanic shops are in this situation? Here's hoping the Volvo dealer will treat us with low dollar maintenance like our indy has done. Thanks for wonderful advice over these many yrs.

The S60 saved me from hitting an hurting an unwary pedestrian. That's the S60 with pedestrian intervention rtechnology. I love that car.

We need to replace our old family sedan, and we're test driving the usual suspects, the Accord and the Camry. Looking for reliability, a comfortable ride, and a bit of fun. What other cars should we be considering in that category? Thanks.

The Accord and Camry are great. You might also want to look at the Buick Regal GS. Seriously. And the Hyundai Sonata for good value. And the Ford Fusion Titanium.

Its on the list because the testers at CR dont go off road and hit the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee hard because they can go off road and far off road unlike competitors from GM, Ford, Toyota, Lexus, BMW, Audi, Honda, Acura and Mercedes. Some folks actually do go off road. However Jeep did have a lot of software issues with both 2014 Cherokee and Grand Cherokee. BTW Warren Range Rover and land Rover have improved their reliability over the last few years once they were no longer owned by Ford or BMW. CR used to ding BMW back in the early 90's on cup holders. What cup holders have to do with reliability and dependability I never know. Finally Consumer's Report has a very interesting demographic which is unique and does not represent the average car buyer. I take their reviews with a grain of salt. Clifton, VA

My rationale for the disparity in CR ratings remains the same as ever. CR speaks to its own audience, most of who, you're right don't go off road.

Lou Ann here:

Good morning Clifton. Consumer Reports also dings vehicles because of the infotainment systems. That is why Ford is so low on their list.

Given the large difference in cost between regular and diesel fuels, I am reconsidering getting a Jetta TDI in favor of a standard Jetta. Locally, the difference is 50-60 cents per gallon. I love the TDI, but need some advice. Thank you!

I think you will love the TDI, too, probably more so than the gasoline Jetta. TDI offers 30% better fuel economy and much better torque.

Its inherent in their design because unlike a BMW with near 50/50 weight distribution most Audi's have 55% or more over the front wheels. BMW places their engines closer to centerline while Audis are over the front driveshafts. You can place a BMW 4 series in turn 9 at Summit point and it will hold the line a lot easier than the A5. A5 requires a lot of steering and accelerator input. Clifton, VA

That sounds like BMW marketing to me. As I said, I've driven Audi models all over the world and have been perfectly happy.

I think it was Lou Ann who last week referred to LED lights as bling. LED's in some applications (including home lighting) are indeed much more expensive intially, but over the long term they are cheaper than the other types, due to less energy usage and longer life.

Yes, you are right. It's not so much that they are bling, it's they give the bling effect. Warren is right that they last longer, but they also cost more to replace. I fear - and have seen - led lights out on a car and am concerned that it will take longer for a consumer to replace them with that hefty cost.

It's like when gasoline prices spike and we get all the questions about whether a car that is supposed to run on premium can take regular gasoline.

 

As a Prius v Driver I have had no issues with a blind spot, however I do lean forward when merging. Have you considered a extra mini mirror?

Thank you.

Or adjust your mirrors out more -- blind spot gone. I think this trick has been discussed here before. I've adjusted my mirrors this way...I'd never go back to the old way. A google search will get you info.

Another welcome suggestion. Stiil, I'd much rather have blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning as part of the package. If Nissan can offer that, I don't see why Toyota can't. For me. the absence of that advance safety technology would be a deal breaker.

Lou Ann here:

I also like Honda's new technology that allows you to see the right side lane in the NAV system. It's particularly important if you're in the far right lane (assuming there are 3 lanes) and want to go to the right lane and the person in the far right lane wants to go into the same lane you are going in.

Anybody who buys a car knowing it takes premium, or who can afford a car with LED headlights, hopefully realizes that nicer stuff requires more dollars both short- and long-term. Otherwise we should refer them to Mrs. Singletary's chat, no?

We saw this happen in the 2008-2009 arena. People who purchased high end goods in 2006-2007 saw their fortunes wiped out and had to make some tough decisions. I like to let people know that some of these costs are expensive and to keep them in mind when purchasing a car.

This should be standard! I used to have a Dodge Colt, and if I left the lights on, they shut down to fog lights. Saved my battery a number of times. Just bought a Mazda2. Already left the lights on once and discovered that they stay on. I may be dumb, but this is dumber. Wish there was an after-market way to fix this.

Battery-saving technology is standard on most new vehicles. I wouldn't buy one that lacked it.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Be careful in Geneva, Lou Ann. Thanks for your help in all things. And thanks to you, too, Matthew Monahan, Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson. Eat lunch. Have a great weeekend.

In This Chat
Warren Brown
Warren Brown has covered the cars industry for The Washington Post since 1982.

On Wheels Archive

Real Wheels Live Q&A Archive
Lou Ann Hammond
Lou Ann Hammond is the founder and owner of the first privately owned automobile website Carlist.com. Recently Lou Ann has developed an automotive and energy issues related website, Drivingthenation.com, that covers a broader range of subjects than solely the automotive or the energy industry.
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