Real Wheels Live

Jan 09, 2015

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


Welcome back! I hope everyone had a great holiday. We did. Stretch and I stayed home and got to see so many friends. 


I am one of the jurors for the North American Car and Truck of the year. Next week we find out which car or truck wins the awards. Most the cars I drove over the break were the finalists for NACTOY


While I was on vacation I drove the Ford F150 aluminum 4-cylinder truck. Our friend Bill got to drive in it and is already talking about buying one. 


My husband's, Stretch, favorite car we got was the Ford Mustang. 


My favorite car was the 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI SE for $30,910 out the door. Great little hatchback that gets about 30mpg. 


A piece that is a little off automobile topic is the article I wrote titled, Peace on Earth; a POW’s old secrets and a Steinway piano on Driving the Nation. You can read it at


How do you feel about self-driving/autonomous cars? That was all the talk at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas, NV 


I have a few articles up about what was shown on but if you want to hear me talk on 


WJR with Frank Beckmann about the challenges of autonomous vehicles and CES go to


If you want to hear me on WABC's John Batchelor radio show with Thaddeus McCotter go to


Finally, it is winter. If you think it is cold in DC, I was talking to my relative, Gerri,  in Newfoundland, Canda, via Facebook last night and she said it was -37 celsius there! I cannot fathom. That is -34 farenheit here. And yes, they let there cars warm up on remote start before they get in them. Not because there is ice on the car, but because they can't drive safely when they, and the car, are that cold. 


Let's chat cars 


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The price difference between regular and diesel has been mentioned here recently. ON a recent round trip from D.C. To Florida, the difference seemed to usually be between $.85 and $1.00. The lowest I noticed was $.75 and the highest was $1.15. Two questions occurred to me. Has the price of gas dropped much faster than the price of diesel and, if so, why? With such high price premiums for diesel fuel, is it even possible to save money, in the long run, by buying a diesel, vice gasoline, powered vehicle?

The price of gas has dropped faster. There remains an estimated .80 crnts per gallon difference between diesel and gasoline. In terms of fuel conservation, assuming our leaders stillo are interested in that goal, it makes little sense. Diesel is 35 percent more efficient than gasoline. But I suspect we have politicians who are more interested in putting through the Keystone pipeline thant they are in fuel conservation.

As a result of an incident on I-95 over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was reminded of the desirability of having a full-size, non-temporary spare tire, which allowed me to complete my trip and obtain an exact replacement at my convenience. The often-stated reason for the disturbing trend of manufacturers to eliminate spare tires of any kind is weight reduction to improve fuel economy test results. If true, why didn’t EPA specify testing be performed minus this important safety item, and what are the chances it will revise its test requirements before car designs make impossible to carry any spare at all?

Why would you test a car with a part you don't provide? Most manufacturers provide a kit to repair the tire, but I agree, I would rather have another tire. 

On the other hand, I have never had a tire blow out on me so I doubt I would buy one. 

Well, I'd love to be able to get stuff done while my car drives me around. And I'm sure that MY self-driving car will be great. But what about the idiot computers self-driving the other cars? Am I supposed to replace my horn with an angry tweet @Google?

LOL or do a cntrl_alt-del to reboot the car? 

There are lots of questions, and jokes, about autonomous vehicles but they are coming. Audi drove an A7 from Stanford to Las vegas 95% autonomously. 

We all have the starlings of autonomous cars, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, sensors, back up cameras. 

It isn't a gimmick, it not only will save lives, it will save time and fuel. 

The emergence of autonomous cars won't happen that way. You won't be able to speed willy-nilly in a self-driving car. Infrastructure transponders will do a lot of traffic control. Self-driving, to the extent it actually occurs, will happen in ultra-regulated environments.

Have you driven the 2015 VW Golf R? What is your feelings about the DSG vs. 6 spd. manual? Thanks, Paul, Chevy Chase.

I drove the Volkswagen Golf R in Europe 

Unless VW has changed its mind they won't have manual here. "VW says they had to make a decision between automatic and manual for the U.S. market, even though they have both transmissions in Europe." 


Parallel parking is pretty much the only thing I have left to impress my wife.

You have more than that. Listen to your wife.

Warren and Lou Ann, How about also mentioning how easy it is to replace bulbs for headlights, turn signals, brake lights etc in the vehicles you are testin. Some vehicles require you to disassemble the front end just to change a headlight bulb. Gone are the good ole days when you undid three screws to change a headlight or untwisted a bulb and replaced it with a new one. Also HID and LED technology is great but what about replacement cost of the LED if it fails or is damaged by stone. Happy New Year Clifton, VA

My friend, Guy tiffany, the conspiracy theorist of all time, was talking about that over the Christmas holidays. Not only is it very difficult to change the bulbs, the cover is plastic now, not glass. He says that the plastic fades and the glass doesn't. And he's upset that the LED costs so much more than regular lights. 

But then he also admits they last longer. 

I do not have a garage to store my summer tires or my cars ... do tire places have options to store one's regular tires and wheels.....

Some do, yes. As do many high-end dealers.

The lack of even a donut spare led me to buy a Camry Hybrid over a Fusion Hybrid. All Ford put in the trunk was a tire inflator! I've had blowouts from running over unavoidable junk on the Beltway and potholes on 295 and don't want to be left on the highway unable to make it home.

It does seem to be part of the car-buying decision making process for some people. 

If you think DC has problems, you should try driving in Michigan. And their government couldn't stop fighting and adding pork belly to the legislation long enough to fix the problem so now the problem goes to a vote to the people in May. 

I told them they should use sand in the Detroit area instead of salt, that way the sand could fill in the potholes. Apparently, Detroit has a slew of salt and they use it for the snow because it is so much cheaper, so now they have to buy filler for the potholes. And we're not talking little potholes, they are huge! They'll take out your tire if you hit it right. 

My wife and I have been using winter tires on our vehicles for the past 5 seasons, and the idea of not having them is now unimagionable. I've been trying to convince my aging parents who live in the plains to similarly equip their Buick, but keep running up against a wall of mid-western stubbornness. They insist that their "all-season" tires are adequate, although when visiting over the holidays my father managed to spinout the tires starting from a complete stop (street plowing there is an embarassement). They apparently have no expectation of solid traction in the winter. Have you any suggestions on how I might break through this wall of obstinacy and convince them to properly equip their small tank of a sedan? As a side note, I wonder how many of the collisions we saw here on Monday might have been avoided if DC area drivers also universally used winter tires.

Nothing short of having them go to/participate in a demonstration of how "all-season tires" (a marketing ruse if ever there was one) actually perform in ice and snow, which is not good.

I recently set out to get a Corolla with the mindset of it being a simple commuter, point a-to-point b car (I wanted something that could make it over 200k miles). I ended up with the sport model - it has features I didn't even know were available on the Corolla - and I absolutely love this car. Perhaps the key is to have low expectations at the start!

You got up-sold. The regular Corolla would have performed perfectly.

Is there anything really you need to do to prepare an automobile for driving in really cold weather? Guessing check the battery, tires and make sure your fluid levels are up to snuff...

Oddly enough, Gerri (my relative in Newfoundland, Canada who owns an Ecoboost) had a problem in cold weather yesterday - -37 celsius. 

This is her quote, "Said high engine temperature and the topped her up with coolant and turned of the engine light but don't know why it happened!!! Getting another timmies (Tim Hortons) and going to try it again!!! Wouldn't think an engine would overheat when the temp is -35....LOL!!!!"

So, all fluids should be checked. batteries, tires (spare too)and keep an emergency kit in your car and a bag of sand. 

I thought I saw something about VW only producing 500 Golf Rs (for the US?), though I can't find that now. If Mazda steps up with a 4wd MazdaSpeed3 (as rumored) and Ford has the Focus RS (as promised), perhaps VW is going to have to do better with the R. I'll be looking at replacing my 2001 GTI in a couple years, I'm happy to see lots of interesting options to choose from.

There will be lots of attractive options. VW knows that.

I recently took my car in for service at the dealership and asked the service advisor if there was anything special I needed to do since I was taking many shorter trips and commutes, rather than longer ones. His response was to make sure to warm up the engine for a few minutes on trips less than 20-30 minutes, since short trips don't allow enough heating of internal parts. He seemed to indicate that water pumps can give out a lot sooner if you don't actually get the engine and related parts hot enough. Of course, I am taking the advice, but wonder what your thoughts are on that.

Study just released, I forget the name, saying that warming up car in winter is a waste of time, fuel, and clean air. I frankly agree. A car in good condition does not have to be warmed up.

For the past several years, car manufacturers have started "piping in" car sounds, either passively (through actual pipes) or actively (running car sounds through the car's sound system). At the same time, they're adding more weight for soundproofing so that we don't hear anything. This seems crazy to me. Why don't they save the weight of the soundproofing and the complexity of these gizmos and just let the car "speak" for itself? If they're ashamed of the way the car sounds, fix that instead. What am I missing here?

You're not missing anything, they are. They think a car should sound a certain way and do exactly what you are saying they do. 

I call them the Aflac edition. The car is always quacking at you. You open the door there's a noise, you turn it on , there's a noise. If a person pays $100,000 for a luxury car they want that luxury to be true, not made up. 

Like a meet & greet or something?

We have asked and have received no answer. 

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: I think I can top your friend's brutal temps in Newfoundland and Labrador. I went for a 20K walk Wednesday, when the windchill was between -35 and -37. Back to cars: Any thoughts on the excellent sales numbers for 2014? Any disappointments? What new cars are you most looking forward to drive. Garey, Ottawa

Nope. This is the happiest I've seen the global car industry in years. Here's hoping that the irrational exuberance over falling gasoline prices doesn't undermine the push for fuel efficiency.

How well did he fit in the car? I've had problems in the past with leg room.

Stretch is 6'4" and has a knee issue but he fit fine and his knee didn't bother him. But he liked that car so much he wouldn't have said anything bad about it. 

He loved the design as well. Moray Callum is Ford's chief designer. Ian Callum, his brother, is Jaguar's chief designer. Look at the car and see if you agree with Stretch that there are some Jaguar-like design in the ford 

I have been driving manual transmission cars since 1962 and am thinking about buying a car with a dual-clutch transmission. Some manual transmission die hards maintain that a manual transmission allows the driver to have better "control." Other than slipping the clutch, which I have not had to do for many years, does a manual transmission allow the driver to have more control than a dual-clutch transmission?

Nope. Not at all.

I've had my 2013 Chevy Cruze about 15 months, about 9,000 miles, and I just received my third recall notice! I usually keep my cars until the wheels fall off, but I have a feeling thats not going to happen with this one. Or maybe that will happen in the next few months.

Are you getting these problems fixed? It is a problem that many of the people who own these cars are not taking the recalls seriously. 

Please folks, if you have a problem with any car email NHTSA and report it. And follow-up and get it fixed. 

It could mean your life. 

Any reactions?:

I agree with them, "Be sure to seek a mechanic who is ASE certified."

Continental AG just showed us some software that allows the mechanic to diagnose the problem and show it to you, the customer, in layman's terms with diagrams that show exactly where the problem is on the car. 

I thought they already had this but Continental said no, the mechanic has to diagnose the problem then go to books to find the problem and doesn't really have a way to show you. 

Bottom line - be wary. get another opinion if you don't agree with the first one or suspect foul play. 

Any thoughts on the new Colorado? It's pricey but more family-friendly than our Silverado, but I've also heard that Toyota is releasing a new Tacoma in the next year. Should we wait?

I would wait to see what the Tacoma brings since that is their biggest competition. 

I loved the Colorado and the Canyon. The only thing I didn't like is that they don't offer it with a push button. You still need to put the key in the ignition switch in the steering column and they're still advising you not to put any keys on the ring.

Thanks everyone for joining us today. Great job again, Michelle. Warren and I will chat with you next Friday, after the Detroit auto show. Thanks Gerri in Newfoundland for all the information. 

And remember, never drive faster than your Angel can fly. 

much love, 

Lou Ann 

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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