Real Wheels Live

Feb 27, 2015

The Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown and guest Lou Ann Hammond discussed the auto industry and gave purchase advice to readers.

I continue to be mystified why Honda doesn't put AWD on their Accord. Am I missing something?

Not as much as Honda is in sales. 

There are other mid-size cars, like the new Chrysler 200, that have added all-wheel drive to their sales line-up and are reaping the benefits. 

I will ask Honda. 

Are there any new Mazdaspeed cars coming ourway?


Good Morning Warren and friends

It's my birthday! I love birthdays. I wake up in the morning singing. 

To my close friends and family Stretch and I call them and sing Happy Birthday. His Mom used to do it to us when she was alive and we now carry on the tradition. 

Whenever I think of the song Happy Birthday to ya I think of Stevie Wonder and John Lennon. They will forever be intrinsically linked in my mind. 

I was at a Steve Wonder concert with my buddy Paul Lanier at the Oakland Coliseum. We were bopping to the live vibes of Stevie Wonder when all of a sudden the music stopped and Stevie stopped. It was then that Stevie told us that John Lennon had been shot. The Coliseum was quiet aside from the gasps. But then Stevie, in all his wonder started singing and the song he sung was Happy Birthday to ya. 

Celebrate your birthday everyday, you never know when it's going to end. 

Let's chat about cars 

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Porsche Cayman S

(The 2014 Cayman S. Photo courtesy of Porsche)

Do you have any advice about how to negotiate a fair price for a higher value auto such as the Porsche Cayman S? I can't seem to obtain much of a discount off the MSRP even though I have consulted with several area dealers. If I am to order a new vehicle with my specific options, I was advised that I will not be able to obtain the invoice price as well. Can you help? THANKS Rudy

What is more amazing is that there are cars you have to be invited to buy.

There are certain cars that have a cult following, some that are exclusive and the manufacturer doesn't budge on price. They only produce a certain amount. 

On the other hand, that keeps the resale value high. Look at the 33 stradale, the car the new Alfa Romeo 4c spider was inspired by - only 18 were made, there are only 15-16 left and they go for about $18-20 million now. 


I was just reading the AP story on the Post's site about the new JD Power dependability survey. The story says, "The top two complaints were technical ones: inability to pair phones to the car and trouble with voice recognition systems, which often misunderstood drivers’ commands. That’s a change from past years, when design problems like wind noise or mechanical issues topped the list." If electronics, which might once have been considered details, top the list of complaints, does that imply that all vehicles are greatly improved or are consumers' concerns shifting? I appreciate your perspective.

We live in a connected world. Inability or difficulty in connecting is a big consumer concern. We want our cars to work in the same manner of our smart phones, tablets and laptops. We want those devices to work equally well in whatever vehicle we're in, which is why car companies now are installing Wi-Fi as standard equipment. build quality no longer is a major concern. Everybody has good build quality.

Our Honda Civic has traction control. There's an off button. Under what circumstances would one turn it off?

me, never. Some people like the feel of driving without traction control, they like to drift. Me, I want to drive for a very long time. 

If you wanted a Porsche-like driving experience but wanted something a tad more livable, what cars would you recommend? Thanks

None. I'd be happy with the non-Porsche cars available, of which there are many

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, Buying a new Audi quattro and I have to get to work even when DC shuts down with some snow. Is there any advantage to getting a Q5 over A6 for driving in snow if I get quattro and snow tires? I prefer driving a sedan.

I prefer a sedan as well. The only advantage is you can see higher, but the SUV is a bit more top heavy and can catch a wind easier. 

I would stick with what you like and get the best tires you can buy and drive slowly. 

You can get Quattro tech in a variety of Audi sedans.

Does the price of a new Yaris, make it a great buy?

Price and quality, yes.

I submitted a question yesterday - I 'm looking for a reliable, fuel efficient car with a high seat and good leg room. I'm looking for good value, also. A used car would be fine. I love my Prius, but I am too cramped, to the point of it being painful to my long legs.

My husband, Stretch, is 6'4" and he loves the MINI. Great drivability and lots of room. 

Check out the Kia Sorento EX. New. with all-wheel-drive.

I seem to be in an endless cycle with the dealer and my smart fortwo. The check engine light first came on in October. Since then, my car has been back to the dealer at least 6 times. Every time they return the car, they are confident that the problem has been fixed. I believe the error code had been indicating a lower than usual pressure. At Christmas, it also had an oil leak (which I never did learn if it was related to the check engine light issue or the work they had performed).

Earlier this year, they replaced the pressure control valve, and then when the check engine light came back on, they said it was an air leak. Now it might be another air leak or something with the throttle body. I don't know engines and feel the service advisors don't either as they can't usually explain thing in terms that I can understand.

After the months of waiting to put this chapter behind me, I am ready to dump the car and NEVER return to the dealer again. I am thinking the Chevy Spark as a replacement. It is still small, not too expensive, and best of all, a make that most shops can get parts for without making me always go back to the dealer for repairs. What do you think?

First, take it to another Mercedes-Benz dealer. I am thinking M-B of Arlington. Good crew. Happy customers.

I cannot stress this enough, you need to file a complaint against this car.


file a complaint

Warren, if you had your choice which would you choose and why? Or none of the above? Thanks

The Audi 5, because Audi's pricing strategy makes more sense to me than BMW.

What is the future for collision avoidance systems and what cars have the best now?

Bright future. M-B and Volvo probably have the best--currently. But watch out for the technologically savvy South Koreans.

You will only see more avoidance in the future. Vison Zero started out as Continental AG's signature philosophy but even the OECD, International Transportation Forum is using it. 

Mercedes and Audi are the two I think are the best.

what happened to propane/natural gas ? we have buses and garbage trucks...and electricity on gas.

Both fuels are still viable, as you pointed out. Batteries and gasoline have better press.

In response to a prior questioner who was asking about discounts, I had a friend recently special order a new 911 and he was able to get a small discount off of invoice. But it's not going to be like buying a mass-market car, so don't set your sights too high. For the questioner who asked about livable Porsche alternatives, I would say that BMWs are probably the closest, assuming that livability refers to space. Otherwise, a Porsche is a very reliable and livable car.

Porsche does have a European program that allows you to order here and pick up in Europe and drive around and then have it shipped back. It's an experience.

BMW and Porsche have always been competitors. 

There is NO alternative. If you really want a Porsche, buy a Porsche. Period!

Did either of you see the article on the massive depreciation of electric cars? Seems the confluence of new models, improved technology, concern about battery longevity and lower gas prices are really doing a number on resale values. 50% off for a 3 year old Leaf. Ouch!

Yeah. Does not surprise me. Battery technology is changing so quickly, it is hard to guess right on this one. It's like betting on the future resale value of a laptop, smart phone, or tablet. Good luck with that.

Can you guys explain a bit why you're not concerned about the rapid rise of tracking technology in new cars? Yes, cell phones do quite a bit of tracking, but: a) you can take some steps to limit it; and b) it doesn't throw off quite as much data. I saw an article in the WSJ a couple of weeks ago that quoted a Ford exec saying that the Fusion collects and transmits 25 gigs of data/hour. That's a lot of data. Yet that doesn't seem to bother you. Why?

If you are worried about tracking, disconnect, unplug, throw away your smart phone, computer, laptop and credit card. Otherwise, stop worrying. Someone somewhere is tracking you. It is the world we live in.

The Wall St Journal today reported that prices for used electric cars, such as the Leaf, have collapsed. Does that bode ill (for the manufacturer) for prices of new ones? I'm interested in the new Chevy Volt. Think prices will be soft?

Prices on the new Volt will be softer. Prices on used electrics, and new ones, collapsing with oil prices. We'll see how long that lasts.


Lou Ann here: 

It is a game other countries are playing because they don't want the U.S. to become energy dependent. 

I love my Prius for fuel economy and tight parking ability. But a knee injury has made the 6` me realize that I must duck and twist to lower myself into the seat and the driver seat does not go far enough back for my knee to be comfortable. Can you recommend an affordable/good value used car with not so low a seat, excellent leg room, and the best fuel economy? Thank you!

Have you looked at the Prius V? If not, check out things Hyundai ans Kia for best value.

How long do you think it will be until we see electric-only cars with a range to rival the Tesla Model S? And will those vehicles need to use Tesla technology, so they can charge rapidly at the growing network of superchargers? Thanks for your thoughts.

I figure five to 10 years, with acceleration of product availability dependent on advances in battery and recharging technology.

How would you rate the Lexus GS series vs BMW, Audi, MB equivalent models? Thanks

People love Lexus because of quality, reliability, style an pricing. BMW and M-B are crazy to ignore that.

To the Yaris person. I bought a new one in 2007 and have close to 90,000 miles. Only done routine maintenance and new set of tires. Not much pick up but usually I am the only person in car. Mine has speedometer, etc in middle which I love as it give me more vision looking straight ahead. Good sub compact car.


How much higher are the seats in small SUVs than in small sedans/ hatchbacks?

It all depends on the vehicle.

For one, sometimes - not always - it helps to turn off TC if you're trying to get unstuck from a snowbank.

good point. Thanks 

I have a 2004 Boxster I rarely drive due to weather and a rough commute (maybe once or twice a week April - October), and a 2006 Audi A4 that's still got legs, but beginning to show her age. I need at least one sedan in my life: too hard to get dogs in an out of a coupe. I was hoping to consolidate to one car, but it seems impossible: no four door convertibles left on the market [other than the Jeep Wrangler I suppose, but (no offense to Clifton) I've driven these (but not recently) and hated the way they handled]. Any advice? I guess I'll keep the Boxster and buy a new A4, or maybe a Subaru, when the Audi goes, but I feel guilt over the amount of time the Boxster stays in the garage.

Audi 5 or 6. Volvo s 60. Dare I mention Buick for the dog? Our Ms. Parks, the chocolate Lab. loves the rear seats of things Buick.

The 2016 Buick Cascada Convertible

(The 2016 Buick Cascada Convertible. Photo courtesy of General Motors)

Have you seen much about this new convertible? It looks like it's filling the niche that the Camry Solara and Chrysler Sebring occupied, a (hopefully) reasonably priced convertible, not too big but can seat four if necessary (if not exactly comfortably). I'm hoping to get something a bit larger than the roadster I currently have, a bit more practical without sacrificing all fun. What do you think? Worth waiting a year for?

Buick is on a roll right now and this and the beautiful Buick Avenir concept are noteworthy. I don't have the pricing for it but I am sure it will be competitive to the convertibles in that segment 

Join the BMW, Jag, Or Porsche club local chapter should ahve someone at a local dealership who gives deals to club members. Search internet for forums on that make adn model there maybe somone llocla w/ a delarship who is give good pricing for exampel I can get 9% of invoice on a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Navy Fed Cu has discounts on highe nd vehciels to include Aston Martins Range Rovers but not Tesla. Clifton VA

Clifton sometimes you are a wealth of information

See, that's the thing. Sure, somebody is always tracking us. But that doesn't mean we should be happy about yet another group doing it. The Markey report was a bit unnerving. And seriously - 25 Gigs of data/hour? What on earth are they collecting?

Data - big data 

I agree with Warren on this one - Porsche is unique. There are many reasonable alternatives to a brand-new Porsche, though. Porsche owners tend to be enthusiasts who take very good care of their cars. Previously-owned examples are much more affordable, no less enjoyable to the driving enthusiast. Just be prepared for the "normal" maintenance that these cars require - the life cycle cost is higher than something like a Honda, but worth the rewards of driving pleasure. Get a good pre-purchase inspection from a professionally trained Porsche mechanic and don't be afraid of odometer readings up to 100K.

Good information. thank you 

Thanks for joining us today. Please return next week. Thank you, Michelle, Jessica, Lou Ann and Ria. 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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