Real Wheels Live (Jan. 29)

Jan 29, 2016

The Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown and guest Lou Ann Hammond discussed what they're seeing in the auto industry. Plus, they gave purchase advice to readers.

Good morning Warren and friends,

Hopefully everyone made it through the storm OK. I heard from a couple of you that you were able to make it to the auto show. What did you think? What was your favorite vehicle?

I ended up leaving on Thursday, but got to attend the policy day and listen to Hondas CEO, John Mendel, give his keynote and his ground with the journalist afterwards. D8 oh ease secretary Moni's talked about plans for the future of the nation in the energy sector and then I had to head home before the storm.

Monday I headed to Newport Beach to drive the 2016 Nissan Sentra. The new Sentra will get EPA estimated fuel economy of 29 city/38 highway/34 combined 

Following up on that ride, I took a train from Irvine, CA to San Diego, CA (because it's the closest to automated driving in Los Angeles I could get) 

Over the Coronado Bridge, almost to the very end of California is Imperial Beach and a little hotel called Pier South Resort. I think of this area as the Key West of the West, kind of chic shabby. There I picked up a 2017 Hyundai Elantra and drove it for a day. It's going to be a tough decision for all of you between this years mid-size segment. Cars are not selling well, because of the price of gasoline, so all car companies are being highly competitive when it comes to pricing. 


The SE and Limited trims are arriving in dealerships this month. The Eco trim will be available this Spring, with pricing announced at a later date. A Sport model will appear later in the year.

Some of the decision will come from driving the car yourself, some will come from design. I've included pictures of both.

What do you think of each car? 

Let's chat

My recollection is that Lou Ann was going to a press info on the Cascada. How did you like the car? Thank you.

Good Morning

Yes, right before the Washington Auto show I dropped into Florida and drove the Buick Cascada. 

I liked it. I liked the less than 18 seconds it took to put the convertible down, the drivability. It was a nice drive and easy to get used to. 

The competitors would be Audi A3 and Lexus IS convertible. 20/27 is the mpg and it starts around $33,000

I've noticed lately that all-electric cars are driving around in the rain and at dusk without their headlights on. I can only assume that they are doing so in an effort to save their battery power, but it strikes me as a very dangerous choice to sacrifice visibility for power. Have you seen this phenomenon? Do you think auto manufacturers have any responsibility to circumvent the problem?

I think there are certain requirements that you have to have your lights on at dusk, aren't there? 

If this really is the case, that people are not putting their lights on to save energy it's not a smart idea. 

I constantly see people sticking their wipers up into the air when the forecast calls for snow or ice. Unless I am missing something, the wipers on my new Chevy Trax can't be left up. I can only lift them a few inches away from the window before the arm hits the hood. Do the auto manufacturers not realize people like to put their wipers up before storms.

I didn't realize it. I don't live in a place where it snows (okay, maybe a couple inches a year). 

I wonder if the wipers get frozen in place? Do they break off?

I see why you would do it. Can you wrap them in a towel instead? 

Interesting question. 

Anyone else out there have thoughts on what my Chevy Trax friend can do? 

I apologize, my earlier attempt at a comment was somehow interrupted. My basic comment is this: Gas prices change fairly rapidly and a car purchase tends to last a much longer time. Someone who buys a low-MPG vehicle today may regret the choice when oil gets back to its long term equilibrium. Not that I think MPG is the only, or even most important, factor in a car choice.

You are right and when gasoline gets to $4.50 a gallon again it will become a big issue again. 

I tell people to think of gasoline as a variable interest rate - you don't know what your payment every month will be so plan accordingly. 

Apparently, MB, my favorite manufacturer (sorry, Warren) is choosing not to appear at the Washington Auto Show. Do they fear immediate cross-shopping with Audi and BMW? Or does it have to do with projecting their brand image, "The Best or Nothing"? Or something else? I have to say, one of the charms of my local MB showroom is their friendly, no-pressure style: "Do you want one (of the best) or not?" Perhaps MB is telling us, "If you really want the best, you know where to find us." So, MB is training us to be aspirational with their relative exclusivity (no show) and high prices, right!? Conspicuous consumption (God must love me!) and all that Max Weber stuff.

I love Mercedes as well. No apologies needed. 

It's become a thing in the last couple of years. Car manufacturers are deciding which auto shows to show at, instead of being at every car show. At the Detroit auto show 5-6 car companies didn't show up. It was so lean that Hearst magazine and Robb Report were on the show floor! 

DC/Virginia is Mercedes-Benz audience so I'm not sure why they didn't show, but it's not because they want to give sales away. 

Your response to last week's question about future Mazdaspeed vehicles was interrupted by Lou Ann's return from her successful escape from Snowzilla. have you heard about any new Maazdaspeed vehicles.

Sorry about the interruption. 

I have heard there is a 2017 Mazdaspeed3 coming to America, but have not confirmed it. I sent a note to the mazda group to see if I can get anymore info for you. What are you interested in? send me a note at lou at driving the nation dot com and I'll find out for you

It could be that you need to turn on the wiper after you turn off the car, so it goes into "service" mode, then you can lift them off. My GTI is the same way, you can't lift it when it's in the down position. You need to turn off the car, then turn on the wiper, and it will stop in the vertical configuration, then you can lift them off.

Great information! Thanks 


Wrap them in plastic grocery bags before the storm. Or get up early and warm up your vehicle and turn on the front and rear window defrosters to high and let the car do the work. Wiper blades can stick to the glass and rip off. Do not try using hot boiling water to melt the snow and unstick the wipers. The extreme differential in temps can cause the windshield to crack. Plan ahead get up early and give yourself plenty of time in the snow. Oh and change your wiper blades at least once a year Clifton, VA

Thanks Clifton 

Have you seen the next generation Enclave/Traverse yet. If so, any info about them? Thanks

I think you are the person that asked about the Enclave/Traverse/Acadia. I talked to a couple of colleagues about this and if you want the nicest with all the bells and whistles go for the Acadia. It is the top of the line. I actually like the Enclave for best in value. 

There may be better methods, but the reason is that you don't want them stick/frozen to the windshield when you are trying to scrape it clean before driving. Pulling them away while frozen on can cause them to tear, as can scraping the windshield and inadvertently hitting the blade with the scraper. there may be better methods, and I like the suggestion of wrapping them in plastic. I have a windshield cover that I can leave on overnight and remove in the morning, leaving the windshield and the wipers clear of ice.

It sounds like a product that is waiting to be designed. We should put our heads together and design something that goes over and under the windshield wiper that can be removed before you get in the car. 

So leaving your blades up when you know there'll be freezing rain or sleet is a good idea because it prevents them from sticking to your windshield. But if you're expecting heavy snow (like we had), I don't understand why so many people had them up? They just get in the way when you're trying to clean the snow, and there's a good chance you can damage it while doing so. With the amount of snow we had, I start the car (when I can clear the snow from the doors, tailpipes, and intake) and heaters, and by the time I clear all the snow off the car, the windows are warm and no need to worry about sticking wipers.

That's what I have done when I've been in snow, but I have allowed myself that much time to do it. 


It seems that all the dealer advertising emails highlight "specials" that are about lease prices rather than discounts from the MSRP. Apparently leasing has become a dominant means of "selling" cars. I understand the lower monthly cost versus financing a purchase, but after paying several hundred dollars a month for three years, plus an initial several thousand, the car reverts to the dealer and you have nothing. I have always purchased my cars, normally with financing, but pay them off as quickly as possible and keep them ten years or so. What am I missing?

Warranty. A lot of people are leasing cars for the length of the warranty and give them back afterwards. 

It's a show of the difference in mindset. Even cars are becoming throw away, like changing in your smartphone or computers every couple years. 

People put their wipers up to prevent the blades from getting stuck to the windshield with ice. But its relatively rare, and it seems to have become a thing around DC. I even saw someone with wipers up while parked in a parking garage. A friend who hails from upstate NY makes fun of folks for doing this. He's worried about stretching/yielding the wiper tension spring, but I think that's overblown too. I think it's largely unnecessary, but largely useless too.

The biggest problem in California this year is actually having rain and people realizing they haven't changed their wipers in 7 years! 

It's a good problem to solve; we need the rain  badly. 

Hi, Warren -- Remember last week, when we were talking about Lincoln build quality? Over the weekend I took a photo (that I don't know how to upload here) of the back of a new-looking Navigator. The name of the car is right there in bright chrome: LINCON (sic).

No way! 

It's because the owner took the L out right? 

Has to be. send me the photo - lou at driving the nation dot com

During Snowzilla I saw a number of commercials on the new 2016 Rav4 Hybrid (as we watched a lot of TV during the snow storm!). How does this vehicle compare with the Acura RDX? I am looking for a car to keep for 10 years. We are a family of 4 plus a dog (with 1 going to college in a year).

I have driven the Rav4 hybrid, not the 2016 RDX. 

I would look at each vehicle in price and see what you safety and technology you can get on the newest model. You're going to get at least 5 mpg better on the RAV4 hybrid. Toyota is well known for their batteries so you have no problem there. 

It's not an issue of right now which is better, it's how much you can continue to enjoy it 10 years out. The more safety and technology enhancements you have going in, the longer you're going to enjoy it. 

Hi Lou Ann and Warren, According to the Nada Guides, VW used car prices have fallen, on average, about 12 to 15 percent since September. A 2012 Gulf TDI in my area dropped form $18999 to $16699 with 34K miles. Then yesterday, a transcript from a legal hearing quoted the lead VW lawyers as saying, in effect, some of the older TDI models, those with the nitrogen capture system, will need to repurchased by VW as the retrofit cannot be completed in allowed time frame. From a financial perspective, would you buy a VW diesel now? If so, what model years?

Warren has always liked diesel, I have always liked plug-in hybrids. I would buy a plug-in hybrid because it gives the Nation the ability to see what needs to be fixed in our infrastructure as we go further into solar panels/electricity. 

You would have to ask Warren about diesel

Do you (or any posters) have opinions on when and whether the $179 updates to navigation units (I have the Infinity G37, 2010) are really worth the cost? I've done it once about two years ago and just not sure that I got any value. I find the unit itself really helpful but the updates are steep. Thanks!

Or if you can find a friend that owns a copy? :) 

Seattle skier here. It's so common for people in the Pacific Northwest to raise wipers. Depending on the temperature either either a ice layer forms on the wipers rendering them useless or they freeze to the windshield. It's not uncommon for strangers to put up other's wipers had they forgotten when leaving to go skiing.

And to leave them a cup of Starbucks :) 

(For anyone that doesn't know, Seattle is the home of Starbucks) 

Hi Warren and Lou Ann: Have you spent any time talking to Jaguar about its new F-PACE? The thing is GORGEOUS in pictures, and initial reviews of its "off-road" (i.e. ice, snow, mud) capabilities are positive. Any more insight as to when it will be available here (other than "soon") and is it on your list of cars to test-drive soon?

I haven't driven it, but I talked to Ian Callum and was at the unveil when he talked about it. The crossover is supposed to join the line-up in 2016. With how hot all crossovers are it will do even better than projected initially.

I currently have a decade-old Lexus RX 350 but would like to get a new crossover SUV with all the new safety features (but not with 3 rows of seating). I'd happy get the 2016 RX 350, but it looks like it's designed for (well to do) 20-something male videogamers. Will people look at me funny in such an agressively styled car?

When I see the Lexus front I think the same thing, but when I see it on the road it's not bad. 

No, they will still see you as a well-to-do above 20 something 

Do you know when the new Civic hatchback will be sold in the US? The best car I ever had was a Honda Accord EX-L station wagon. Although Honda sells an Accord wagon overseas, they do not sell one in the US. I am hoping that the new Civic hatch might partly address my desire for an Accord wagon. Thanks for the ticket to the DC Auto Show! Martha

You're welcome! I heard from a couple of you that you got the tickets we left and were able to get to the show and have a good time. 

I have a call into my Honda buddies and will let you know next week. 


Hyundai/Kia tout their 10 year 100,000 mile warranty which is a mighty good sales feature. But I've heard from other brands' dealers that the warranty replacement parts Hyundai/Kia use might be reconditioned rather than brand new. What assistance can you offer to reassure me? Will Hyundai/Kia cite you a statement promising their warranty uses brand new parts throughout the 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty period? Thanks.

I have not heard of this but have a call into my Hyundai/Kia buddies and will let you know next week. 

I recently drove one as rental for the week (probably 2015 model), and it fell very "flimsy", as compared to my 2008 GTI. I know the Elantra gets good crash scores, but the car itself didn't feel very solid, and I got tossed around when the road was rough. I've also driven the current Sentra as a rental also, and same comment, except that the Sentra interior was awful and drab. For my money, the small car to beat is the Civic. I hope the hatch/wagon gets to us soon!

The Honda Civic just won Car of the Year. Both Elantra and Sentra are up for the Car of the Year (because they are bringing out fresh designs/engines this year) in Jan 2017. Both have done a good job on the cars, but it is a tough segment and car sales are down.It will be interesting to watch. 

Thanks for the chat today. I am on battery reserve now and Warren couldn't get internet at all, so we'll call it a day. 

I told a couple of you that I would get back with you next week with answers, and I will.

Stay safe, keep your wipers up and your winter tires on. 

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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