Real Wheels Live.

Dec 12, 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


I am in Detroit MI for a Ford event. This could be the first time I have said that the weather is better in Michigan, even though it is 32 degrees, than it is in Northern California.  We're going to miss the storm only because we're leaving Detroit late so that I can chat with all of you. 


San Francisco has shut down their airport, we will fly into Sacramento, CA tonight. The winds and rain should be through by then. We live in Northern CA, the Sierra Nevada foothills, with trees on our property. They way I'm looking at is, there is a tree in the back of the house, if it falls I get a new kitchen, if the tree in the front falls I get a new living room. I'm good. :) 


On Tuesday, on the eve of the storm, we gave back the Bentley Continental GTC V8 S. What a beautiful drive. Yes, it was $257,000, but ocassionally it is wonderful to drive a thoroughbred, just to know what the difference is. 


I also drove the Lincoln MKZ hybrid for $46,800 and 45 mpg. Last week I complained because the P-D-R- are next to the nav system and there was no stow away under the center console. I am happy to report the MKZ does have a stow-away and I am getting used to the buttons next to the NAV. 


Ford announced the new SYNC3 (and the death of MY ford touch) which is way easier to use. Ford partnered with Panasonic, not microsoft, on this project. SYNC 3 will support Apple’s SIRI.


Ford launched 23 vehicles this year, they plan to launch another 16 in 2015 and 12 performance vehicles globally by 2020. They have 3 vehicles, the Mustang, the F150 and the MKC up for a North AMerican Car and Truck of the Year award. 


Bill Ford introduced a new start-up program called Techstar Mobility - Ford, Magna International and Verizon Telematics are combining to contribute $2 million to start-ups that will work in the mobility/auto sector. 



Let's chat cars 


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What does the future hold for engines that are not turbocharged or supercharged, or both, especially smaller engines?

Ford just brought out a 180-degree flat plane naturally aspirated engine on their GT350. 

Performance and luxury cars are growing at a very fast pace so you will continue to see performance engines, including the naturally aspirated ones like in Ferrari and GT350s. 

Normally aspirated engines will continue, primarily four and six-cylinder gasoline models.

How does the new VW GTI stack up against the 3 & Focus ST? The next step up is starting to look interesting too. Ford announced there will be a US Focus RS. Add the rumored 4wd MazdaSpeed 3. And there's now a lot of competition for the Golf R and WRX (STI).

The Volkswagen Golf TDI and GTI are on the North American Car of the Year award. I wouldn't be surprised if they won. 

The Focus ST is a great car/engine and yes, just yesterday Ford announced a RS coming  to America. You are right there are a lot of performance cars with great content coming out. The Golf GTI is a long time favorite of mine. 

When is the Alfa 4C going to actually get to the States? They've done all their pre-release teasing, I want to see it! (And, incidentally, what do you guys think of it?)

When Fiat Chrysler Automotive is ready. They haven't established a US business case for that one, yet.

Lou Ann here: 

I've driven the Alfa Rome C - a true sports car. 

I thought they were bringing them out shortly, though I haven't verified that recently. Let me touch base with Maserati. 

Hi there, Be careful what you wish for Lou Ann! When the derecho came through here, I desperately wanted it to take out my kitchen (circa 1967). Instead, it took out my gazebo, the one thing I LOVED at the house! :-( Anyway, any word on Jeep's diesel engine and if they've worked out the complaints they've been getting on it? And if so, what other models they'll be putting it into and when? Thanks!

I know, I thought that as I was writing my opening but really I could use a whole new house. It's the contents inside the house I would have problems with. Stretch, my husband, has his beloved Steinway - don't ask him his decision if he had to pick between me or that piano! :) 

No news on the Jeep saga. 

$55,000 is a lot of money, which is what FCA is asking for the  AR 4C. An unproven a time when FCA is struggling to get its 500C right. I'm not placing bets on the success of that one.

Last week, one of your viewers indicated that, in his/her area, premium was not more than 20 cents more expensive than regular. According to, the national average for regular was $2.711, compared to $3.116 for premium, a difference just north of 40 cents per gallon. The average mid grade price was given as $2.931 and diesel was reported at $3.543. (Maybe, he/she was thinking of mid grade.) all prices were given for Dec. 5, 2014, the date of the discussion. With these price differentials, regular fuel looks very good when one tries to predict the long-term cost of operating a vehicle.

It is still a risk to buy more car than you need simply because of the current downward fluctuation in fuel prices. Best to buy what you can actually afford long term.  Those prices will change.

Hi there, I have a 2010 (bought in Sept 09) Mazda CX 7 that at about 65,000 miles the transmission completely blew. I will admit that I do not take it to the dealer for servicing, but I do have it regularly serviced. The technician at the gas station where it landed said that the fluid was awful looking. Aside from never going back to my previous mechanic, is it worth writing to Mazda about? The mechanic said he was pretty shocked that it went out. Thanks.

It is always worth writing about. Maybe, Mazda will try to help you. Worth the try.

Sometime in 2015 I'll be buying a new car. I currently drive a manual 2008 Honda Fit that I like, except for the stick shift. I drive the BW Parkway every day and just can't deal with the manual in traffic anymore. I'm looking for something similar, or even a little larger -- a 4 door hatchback, automatic, that is, above all things, comfortable, and not too expensive. Of all of the options out there, which would you go with?

So many choices including Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Chevy Cruze, VW Golf, Mazda 3, among many others.

I certainly would give this one a serious look.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, Love your chats. Lucky enough to get a mid-size luxury sedan now that my 15-year old car is on its last legs. Do you have a preference between Audi A6 and BMW 5 series? What about the diesel option with these two?

Lucky you! 

I like the interface of Audi better, they use google maps, my favorite. If you go with the diesel version you're going to spend about $12,000 more for TDI than an AWD A6 gas. 


I am one of the few people that like the 5 grand touring vehicle and all its functionalities. I like the way the BMW drives and I like the way the Audi drives. 

This is one time I would really be torn. 



Own a Subaru for the storage and all wheel drive, I'm thinking the new Golf R would be a fun replacement. Do you have any idea how many R's are coming here? As a PNWer who lives in the snow, are their any other AWD hatchbacks I should test drive? (I use snow tires from Dec to April.)

I'd look at another Subaru...or something like an A4 sedan, with Blizzak tires.

Just some Friday fluff ... I saw a Lincoln Town Car **Station Wagon** on my commute in and I don't think I've **ever** seen one before. And no, it was not a hearse. When did they make those? It actually said "Town Car" on the side ...

Didn't they used to make them? I saw a Plymouth Belvedere the other day on a CA highway. It's great to see some of the old cars still around. 

Was there a good reason the car companies to spend tens of millions of dollars on self parking cars? Is this really what the average car person wants? Have a great weekend.

Yes. We're eventually moving to autonomous driving cars, more for safety than anything else. But that's a long way off. Self-parking is just one of many steps toward autonomous. Don't worry, you'll still be able to crash your own car, if that is your wish

Could either of you tell me if in your view (s) if there is a substantial difference in any areas between the 3 and 4 series? Is the 4 series worth the extra costs in any way? Thank you

The 3-Series starts at $38,700. The 4-Series starts at &40,600. You can option the 3-Series into a 4-Series starting price. You can't do the reverse with a 4-Series. Seriously.

Hi! I've been looking at what little information I can on the upcoming Honda HR-V as a utilitarian city vehicle. My fiance has a Fit and we love it, but we could use something that has a little more size and heft. What do you all know about it/when is it coming out? I can't wait to see one and test drive!

The HR-V is an all-new model. No pricing just yet. But if you want a little more utility in a Honda, the proven CR-V is a good bet.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. We are working on making this a must-visit site. Please, work with us. Thank you Michelle Williams, Lou Ann Hammond, Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson. Eat lunch!

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 Recently Lou Ann has developed an automotive and energy issues related website,, that covers a broader range of subjects than solely the automotive or the energy industry.
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