Real Wheels Live

Jan 23, 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


I miss seeing all of you at the Washington auto show this week. Have you seen Warren? 


Instead I was at the opening of Ford's new Research lab in Palo Alto, CA. Ford is partnering with companies and colleges, not google, to help create one of the largest automotive research labs in Silicon Valley. And if you're an engineer or techie type, they are hiring 125 people to work there.


I am driving the new Nissan Murano and boy what a difference. We drove over 200 miles in it yesterday and both of us were impressed with how little our backs hurt and just the vehicle in general. The car we're driving is $40,000 out the door and the last I looked we were getting 22.5 mpg. I will check, but I bet the Murano has the NASA seats Nissan has started using. 


Let's chat about cars 



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Looking for a new AWD wagon. Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70 (have a soft spot in my heart for Volvos) are on the list, what else would you suggest I consider? Looking for good handling, decent fuel economy, reliability,full range of safety features, and not underpowered. Would like room for 4 adults. Also, am hearing whispers that the XC70 may be phased out soon. Have you heard anything similar? Enjoy the chats, thanks for doing them!

Good Morning 

I have a soft spot for Volvos as well. I think you should take a look at the new XC90 plug-in hybrid that is coming out. It's beautiful and smart too. 

Subaru Forester, Subaru Outback, Subaru Legacy,  Subaru XV Crosstrek, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Juke, Kia Sportage, Acura RDX AWD 


Dear Washington Post,

Yesterday's article about manufactured engine noise was nearly perfect in tone. I lived next to an increasingly noisy road and could only enjoy the front porch during rationing or when gasoline topped four dollars a gallon. How about improving motorcycles? Those made to be defective mufflers are obnoxious. Why do electric vehicles need a noise? Wouldn’t it be wiser to school pedestrians and cyclists to be more attentive?

The lower the gasoline goes the more noise you're going to hear. 

I don't like manufactured noise in a car, especially when I open a door or turn it on or turn it off. My brain gets tired of hearing. STOP 

So, yes, I agree with you but I think we do need to watch out for pedestrians etc. I just saw a video of a guy that was texting and almost ran into a black bear. While absolutely hilarious it shows how consumed people are. 

It seems like car companies seem to be reducing their wagon offerings in the US (Acura, for one). I plan to go to auto show this week to start the search for our new family vehicle. Is it at all worth telling any of the reps "please bring your wagons to the US!"? (Looking at you, Mazda.)

They call them hatchbacks. Look at all the hatchbacks including the cute little one from Mazda that Derek Jenkins just designed

Hi Warren, Thank you for taking my question. I have a MB Bluetec and was wondering if there is any difference in the Diesel #2 (not blends) that is sold at different gas stations? Is one brand "better" for my engine? Thanks.

I used to work for Chevron and I do think there are gasoline companies that have additives that increase the efficiency of an engine. 

I buy Shell. 

Has the new Mercedes C class finally topped the BMW 3 series as the top driver's car?

It depends on whether you ask Mercedes or BMW :) 


Is there anything special that we should look for?

Warren :) 

I would look at any concept cars at the show. That shows the direction that the car company is going to take. It's always fun to see the mix of performance vehicles and fuel efficient vehicles. 

If you're taking a kid with you have them pick one car from every manufacturer that is their favorite. Mark them down and then pick the car of the show. 

Have fun.

Don't electric cars need to make some noise so blind people know they are there?

LOL I don't think it's just for blind people. I think there are a lot of people that can see that don't look. 

So pedestrians and cyclers can hear them. Nothing worse than sounds of an obnoxious engine. But there are some engines that sound beautiful unmuffled the best is mid 50 to mid 60's Ferraris like a Testa Rosa or 275 GTB, aircooled 911s from 70 to 1978 and big block Chevys. Only motorcyle that should be unmuffled are Ducatis. harleys should be forced by law not to emit over 75dbs at full thotttle ever. halreys are the worst sounding engine ever made. Clifton VA

Good Morning Clifton

Mazda CX-5; Subaru Outback, Kia Sorrento or Honda CR-V?

Mazda CX-5 

beautiful exterior design, great drivability. 

Hi. I was looking at Subaru because I would like my next car to be an AWD, but was surprised that the Legacy and Outback were only available in automatic. I really enjoy driving a stick, and was wondering why Subaru would stop offering that option. Also, any chance that Subaru will offer the Legacy wagon again?

I haven't heard of them bringing the wagon back. Manual transmissions on average are loss leaders. Many car companies have manuals so that they can say their car starts at a really low price but they know most people won't buy a manual. 


2012 Jeep Wrangler. Only 12,000 miles, bought brand new and serviced at the dealer. Yes, 12k miles only. This week the heat stopped working immediately, and the engine fan started running constantly. Pulled over, no coolant in the overflow tank. I researched and apparently Chrysler had a bad batch of early Pentastar engines with SAND in them. So now heater core, radiator, and more must be replaced and a new style of coolant put in. Car is out of warranty now. Any recourse? This is 3rd brand new Wrangler in 15 years....I hope FCA isn't going downhill.

email me at lou at 

put washingtonpost in the subject line. 

I will send your problem to the Jeep people. Jeep is doing really well - they don't like these problems. 

Some new cars have an electronic emergency brake whereby you push a button to engage. But if you ever have a dead battery, you cannot disengage the E brake without using a special tool to manually "unwind" them. You are essentially locked in place without the ability to reposition your vehicle to facilitate a jump. Are these electronic brakes really a convenience Desired by buyers - or just another attempt by car makers to de-content to make more profit?

Which car manufacturer? I'll ask. 

Is he not participating in today's chat?

Warren is locked in the basement of the Washington auto show with a bunch of students and no hotspot for internet access. 

I would believe this all except there is no way there are a bunch of teenagers without a hotspot/wifi. 

It's the same problem with all the murder mysteries today - the kid never has a hotspot phone with them… yeh, right

Hi Warren and Lou Ann,

Have either of you had a chance to check out the new VW Golf based sportwagen and do you know when it may turn up in dealer showrooms? Thank you! Grant in King George

The Volkswagen Golf series just won North American Car of the Year

Should be soon. 

Currently I live in Virginia but I'm planning to move to California in June. I have a '96 Mercury Villager that seems to have something come up as soon as the previous issue has been fixed, and a budget of $5,000-$7,000 for purchasing a replacement vehicle. I have two questions, how feasible is it to hope to coax along my current vehicle across the country? At what point should I cut my losses, and what kind of car would you recommend within that budget? I'm hoping to not only make it to California with the car I use, but also to have that car for 2-3 years once I get there. In addition, either car will either have to be able to hold my possessions (primarily a bed, TV, a book case and appliances), tow a trailer that is holding those possessions, or be able to be towed behind a U-Haul or similar truck.

Buy a used Hyundai or Kia and rent a small trailer with a lock on the back. We just drove from Toronto Canada to California. It's a long drive with a lot of open space and very few garages along the way. Don't take the chance. 

Also, load your smartphone with waze, yelp and any other apps you like. 

Download onto your phone every morning the John Batchelor radio show and you can listen to it when there is no radio frequency. 

have fun. 

Just from a reading of documents relating to EPA vehicle environmental / fuel mileage test procedures, it appears that the disappearing spare tire is a consequence of how curb weight is defined, which in turn affects dynamometer settings for a vehicle's test. For example,"Vehicle curb weight means the actual or the manufacturer's estimated weight of the vehicle in operational status with all standard equipment, and weight of fuel at nominal tank capacity, and the weight of optional equipment computed in accordance with §86.082-24" Despite extensive web search effort, finding the actual text of 86.082-24 has so far been unsuccessful, so the interpretation of regulatory intent is still a mystery. However, if a piece of equipment such as a spare tire is considered optional, why didn't the official test definition of curb weight exclude any tire repair / replacement items, even if the manufacturer planned to offer it as standard, so that it wouldn't work against mileage test results for a vehicle? Can any of your EPA contacts answer this question

I will ask a friend that works at SAE. 

It sounds like one of those loopholes like why the car company doesn't have to advertise the car price with the shipping cost even though you can't buy the car without paying shipping cost. 

I just got an invite from Volkswagen for the Sportwagen event, which means you will see that vehicle in the dealerships soon. 

Warren sometimes has an email or contact info for manufacturer or service reps. Any Jeep contacts? They need to know about this. There is apparently a Star Case out for this issue, but car is out of warranty (only 12k miles though). THanks.

As I told them, send me an email at lou at and I will make sure the folks at Jeep get it. 

Dear Warren,

We are a largely bike-commuting, one-car family with a second child on the way. We need a car that will accommodate two rear-facing car seats. We currently have a Kia Forte hatchback, which has been perfectly fine and functional for us, but we are both former wagon owners and would really prefer to return to a wagon. Our priorities are gas mileage for environmental reasons, safety, and sufficient space for the car seats. We're planning to test drive the Prius v; I'm very pleased the 2015 passed the IIHS small overlap test, but do you think it's worth spending the extra cash for the Five so we get the optional -on safety features? I hate that we would need to pay for a massive stereo upgrade to get the safety options. In addition, I'd be grateful if you could suggest three or four other good options for us--we're contemplating the Cmax hybrid, an Outback, and the Mazda 5 (though bad mileage) as comparisons but would appreciate your insight. Thanks for your help!

I would buy the Prius V with all the safety features you can get. This is about your children, not you. You're protecting them. Make sure your car has a backup camera with sensors. Not negotiable! 

You can also look at the VW Golf Sportwagen that is about to come out. 

Lou Ann, my question is really for your husband, in a way. He and I are similarly tall. I'm wondering if he sat in the new Volt and how he fit. Thanks much.

Stretch (6'4") did not sit in the Volt. He was sick at the Detroit auto show and that is where they unveiled it. 

Hello Warren, I purchased a 2010 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI upon your recommendation. It was my first VW and I was hoping to develop a brand loyalty that might continue for many years. I have been very pleased with the purchase and the performance until a recent problem with the car and the lack of solution from the dealer and VOA. Last fall my car developed an issue that was traced to the fuse box in the car. I took it to my local VW dealer where the issue was solved for $00+ bill. When I was there I learned that the same issue had led to a service action (97AM) for the same year (2010 Jetta), but only for the sedan, not the Sportwagen. I was out the cost of the replacement of the fuse box (more than $400) for an issue that VW had determined was a problem, but did not cover my specific car even though it was built in the same factory at the same time. It is an unusual failure and unlikely to be random with my car. But they will not cover this cost. In follow-up calls with VOA, they tell me that the service action is VIN specific and my car is not included. I explained to them that I was really hoping to buy many VWs for a long time, but this was disappointing to me and has caused me to re-evaluate that and has led me to not recommend the car to my friends, family and colleagues. This is sad for me and means VW has lost multiple customers. Can you help? Thank you for your consideration.

I can send your complaint to VW. send me an email at lou at and I will pass it along. 

put washingtonspost in the subject line. 

I will email you the Jeep details this afternoon and let you know where the car is. Thanks!

I'll work on it later today. I'm off to workout now. 

When will cx-3 be in usa? Will it have 4wd? How much??

not sure of the date or cost but I got this off their website so I do believe it will be AWD, "The powertrain for North America is the SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter gasoline engine, which along with Mazda’s new-generation AWD system delivers powerful and linear driving performance and outstanding environmental performance. To enhance the customer’s driving pleasure, the model also offers a wide range of Mazda’s latest technologies, including the Mazda Connect infotainment system and i-ACTIVSENSE advanced safety features."

Thanks everyone for joining the chat today. Thank you Michelle for producing it. If anyone sees Warren at the auto show give him a hug for me. 

And remember 

never drive faster than your Angel can fly 

much love 


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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