Real Wheels Live

Jul 06, 2012

Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown will discuss the auto industry. Plus, he'll give purchase advice to readers.

Does anyone offer Jeep Wranglers for rent in the Northern Virginia/DC area? My son is interested in a Wrangler with a manual transmission but would like to drive one first and not a typical test drive where they only allow you to drive around the block. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Perry

Some Jeep Dealers and Chysler dealers in the Washington area have such programs. Check the Chrysler/Jeep listings.

Hi Warren, have you tested or reviewed the 2012 Kia Soul? I notice that you never mention it when you recommend the Rav4 or CRV. So long as you don't need all wheel drive (and honestly how often do you need that in the DC area?), it seems to offer a great warranty, good fuel economy and lots of standard features for the price. It just seems like a lot of people looking for a small crossover could save thousands by getting a Soul.

The Kia Soul is a good urban car/wagon. It's primarily a commuter, not meant for anything all-wheel or four-wheel drive. Unique exterior design, to say the least a good buy for a commuter.

Hi Warren, We keep our cars for about 10 years. What are some good choices for this market segment ?

There are many: Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu and Impala, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata...It all depends on how much money you want to spend and why.

Good morning, Warren. My wife's 2003 Honda Element has had an engine calamity that may well cost more than the vehicle is worth to repair, so we're shopping. She's a dog trainer, which means she needs to tote gear one day and animals the next--clients' dogs or our five rescues. So, flexible cargo capacity matters quite a lot, but so does safety, inclement weather handling, and responsible use of fuel. She likes the Honda CRV, but is concerned about visibility. She's attracted to the Chevy Traverse, but I'm concerned about is size for city driving. I think the Subaru Outback might be a worthy compromise. Would you agree--or have other suggestions? Many thanks.

You settled on the  same car I was going to recommend--the Subaru Otback, perfect for big dogs and stuff. We cart our Chocolate Lab up and down the East Coast in that one. We could handle two or three dogs  in that one. But our dog, Rosa Parks Brown, much prefers the company of people.

Warren, between a BMW 535, an Audi 6, and a MB 350, which would you choose and why? And is Jaguar in this league yet? Thank you.

The Jaguar XF Supercharged sedan, which I am driving now, is a worthy competitor with the Euros you mentioned. But my favorite of the bunch remains the BMW 535--more of a complete package in terms of power, handling, luxury.

Hi Warren - long time reader/lurker here. My husband & I have finally decided it's time to replace our little 1998 Honda Civic for something a little larger (our other car is another Civic, a 2002). We've been discussing for some time and have finally narrowed down to three we are interested in: Honda CRV, Hyundai Tucson, and Subaru Outback. I'd love to hear your feedback and advice. I work in Atlanta and have an hour-long commute each way, so mileage is important. We also have a 5-year-old daughter who has already expressed her thoughts (Honda, hot pink), ha. We'd like to be able to run around with our three bikes and have room to haul gardening stuff, and be comfy on the journeys to my folks in DC. Thank you!

Seriously, get the new Subaru Outback, which is larger than its predecessors--but not so large as to be a burden in city driving. All-wheel-drive standard. Made larger because Subaru understands that many families want the  utility associated with size without the hassles of poor fuel economy (27 mpg city/30 hwy), 2.5-liter flat four, or poor ingress and egress. Great for families.

Mr. Brown, thank you for doing these chats! I've learned a lot reading them but now have a question of my own: Our family's commuter car is an '05 Honda Civic. We bought it for less than the resale value is currently and it is very efficient, but it has over 100k miles and my husband is craving some nicer features (Bluetooth compatibility, speakers that don't turn off randomly, less road noise). At the same time, it's very hard to consider downgrading from a consistent 34+ mpg! We've been researching the Mazda 3, Hyundai Elantra, and a couple of others in that class. Which would you recommend, or do you have another favorite entirely? We'd prefer to stay under $20k and don't mind buying used so long as it's relatively low-mileage, as we tend to drive our cars until they expire. Thank you!

My favorite among that group is the Mazda 3--styling inside and out, overall performance. It can handle any modern infotainment device, including BlueTooth connections.  A new 2-liter inline four-cylinder engine is available with an estimated 35 mpg hwy. Fun to drive. However, that said, I think you'd be cheating yourselves not to take a serious look at a fully equipped Elantra. Check the prices.

I own a smart fortwo and have always gone to the dealer for service. That is inconvenient due to the location. I know a smart is not as common as a GM or Ford car so I am not sure if other repair shops can handle the oil changes or other repairs. I know smart has ties to Mercedes. Can I take a smart to any repair shop? If not, can I at least go to any Mercedes shop?

I'd take the car to Mercedes, which owns the Smart franchise and developed the Smart car. Either take it to a Smart or Mercedes dealer--NOT to anyone else.

The premium to purchase a hybrid is a few thousand dollars. Is it worth it in terms of the gas savings over a period of years?

Not necessarily in terms of  straight dollar/cents return on investment. Gasoline prices in this country change frequently, and often head downward. But I've come to love the thinking behind hybrids and electrics. They really do save fuel, which has other benefits that might effect us in ways (such as the continued operation of fossil-fuel dependent electric power plants).

Is there any new information about the next generation Miata?

I will check. Stay tuned.

Recently got a 2013 Edge SEL with the 2.0L ecoboost and FWD. We're only getting about 19 MPG on it (through about 1800 miles of driving with mix of tooling around Fairfax and trips up and down 395). I can't seem to find an answer anywhere if this is just a break in period and my MPG is going to increase or if this is just a function of the type of driving we do. I enjoy the car otherwise (good response/handling and the touchscreen/voice command is pretty easy to get used to), so I'm not annoyed, just more curious as to what to expect.

My hunch is that it's mostly a break-in period. Valves in these things don't "seat" properly until 3,000 miles or so.  And, yes, check tire pressure, driving style, and driving loads, all of which can affect mileage.

My 2000 Nissan Quest has been declared "total" by my ins. co. I'll put some money to what they say they will pay, and will have max of 6-7K for a replacement. I liked that car - easy entry, flexibilitiy to carry passengers and cargo - we're antiques dealers - acceptable mileage. Folding up to get into compact cars is an issue for husband and self. Do you have recommendations other than walking in what I'm sure is going to be age/price range? Thank you.

I'd go back to your dealer and ask for another quest--and a deal, yes, a seniors' price break. Really. If the dealer is smart, he or she will work it out.

Have you test driven the 2011-12 Saab 9-5 turbo/Aero? Your thoughts please.

I haven't driven a Turbo Aero from Saab in years. But, I will check it out. Saab's had so many financial problems, it's hard for scribes like me to get cars from them. But I will check.

Warren, I've got a prius that has over 100K on it. Should I drive it into the ground, or, would you suggest I get what I can get as far as a trade-in goes, and get a new one? I've had it for 6 years, which isn't too shabby, but the expensive maintenance is on the horizon. For what it's worth, I still average 48-50 mpg.

I'd drive it until it won't drive anymore. Sell it for scrap. By then, you should have enough money to buy a new one. Seriously.

Looking for a two door/two seat sports car, strong preference for a hardtop (had a ragtop way back in the past and don't want another one--too noisy, body rattle, roof durability). Willing to go up to $40Kish; looking for value but not exceedingly price sensitive. Car will be for daily use, but I don't commute so not looking for great practicality (won't need it for hauling mulch/bicycles/plywood sheets, kids are grown and gone, etc) Mazda Miata w/hardtop option? 370Z? Mercedes C250 Sports Coupe? Infiniti G37? Gently used Mercedes SLK w/hardtop? Any recommendations?

Get the Nissan 370Z and be happy, and feel free to stop by and take me for a ride.

We are currently looking for a new 3 row SUV. The JX is currently selling for close to MSRP which I don't want to pay while the 2012's Enclave/Acadia are being materially discounted. Should I purchase a 2012 Enclave/Acadia, wait to see the revised 2013 Enclave/Acadia with new technology or pay top dollar for the JX. Please advise.

I'd take the Buick Enclave or GMC Acadia over the Infiniti JX35 any day. The Buick and GMC models have far more usable space, are built exceptionally well, and are capable of handling any modern infotainment device. Crash ratings are excellent, as is affordability in comparison with the JX group. Demerit: The Enclave and GMC interiors are a bit dated. Big deal.

Hello Warren, Getting ready to make a move from my 2005 Acura TL 6 speed MT. About your size and drive about 15-18K per year. Suburban with a few road trips to upstate NY and Charlotte, NC Would like something a bit smaller, but still with MT. Looking at a TSX, ILX, Audi A4, BMW 3 series. What else? Your thoughts? Thanks.

You made that one easy for me. The Audi A4 hands down. You'll thank me for that recommendation. Accepted.

Producer Dominique here. On behalf of Warren Brown, thanks for joining us this week. He and Lou Ann Hammond will be taking your questions next Friday. Have a great weekend!

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

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