Real Wheels Live: Best snacks to eat in your car, 'Top Gear' suspension and more

Mar 13, 2015

The Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown and guest Lou Ann Hammond discussed what's going on in the auto industry.

Good Morning Warren and friends


My good buddy Warren is back today!  I, we all, missed you last week WarBro. 


I have started seeing a fusion of design going on now between sports cars and SUVs and between sports cars and wagons. I wrote about this last week after I drove the 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen. 


Many of you will remember driving around in a station wagon. The whole family packed into a station wagon. I was the tiniest in the family, so I rode in the back next to the cooler on the long cruise, staring out the back window. When we got hungry we would stop and eat, no going into a restaurant with five kids for our family. No, my Mom would pop open a can of Campbell's vegetable soup and scoop off the top liquid, and I would eat it cold out of the can with a white bread sandwich. Those were the days! 


The SUVS and wagons are melding and eventually the stigma of having a station wagon will be gone because the cars are now being sold as sportswagens or as a Sport Activity wagon.


I drove a 2015 BMW X4 Xdrive 28i this week and felt the same way I did as when I was driving the 2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen. Lots of functionality and a great driving machine. 


(The 2015 BMW X4 Photo by Lou Ann Hammond)

I did notice that I have gotten used to blind spot warning - the little orange icon that comes up on your side mirror when someone is in your blind spot. The X4 didn't have it. 


The machine out the door is $54,500 including a $950 destination charge. I got about 25 mpg, helped along by a start stop and an 8-speed sport automatic. 


For any of you that want to see what Mercedes is planning for the future you can read the piece on the self-driving Mercedes-Benz F 015 concept.


Let's chat about cars.

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The question of the relative seat heights came up in a recent chat. Is there an online source that lists the driver's seat heights of various vehicles?,, the respective vehicle manufacturers. Check vehicle specs.

We just replaced our beloved car and couldn't help but notice how grubby our beloved car was. So we're trying to swear off in-car eating of fast food. We're contemplating snack food and the realization is that hard shelled candies probably won't get all over the place, but chips and crackers will. Do you have limits on what you eat in the car?

Neither Warren or I are supposed to eat that kind of stuff; him for his health me for staying a size I don't have to buy new clothes for - and my health, of course :) 

I don't eat fast food. I've never had an in-n-out burger. I did eat a Burger King burger in Sept when we were going across the country so I won't need to be reminded not to eat fast food again. 

I eat carrots and hummus Yes, I'm from California. I will have chips because I love them so much and there's nothing as gratifying as the crunch of salt in your mouth, but I try to restrain myself. 

Stretch and I love chocolate but you can't have that in a car unless you're going to eat it right away. 

We always carry water with us, we don't drink sodas so we have to have water. 

How about everybody else? What is the one go-to snack you keep in the car?

no bar.b.cue or fish of any type. Sticky stuff must wait for home.  No open french fries. -- Warren

CR is usually very positive about Lexus vehicles, but they are not very kind about their IS models. Your views?

I always thought the IS was a corporate overreach, an attempt by Lexus to be all things to all incomes. Lexus is NOT for all incomes.

What are your favorite type?

The big, knobby kind available at Wendy's.

Loved, loved, loved last week's column about "luxury" in the Land Rover. Your attitude about snobbery in the car industry is one of the reasons I love your column. I don't know of any other automotive industry columnist who would call Land Rover out like that. Okay, I admit I don't read any other automotive industry writer. Keep up the good work.

Warren tells it like it is. He writes for the audience that commutes to work everyday. He himself commutes up to New York to see his children almost every week. He knows what he would buy and he sees what you would buy. 

He is a rare breed and I love him and his wife dearly. 


Those little Baby Ruth bars and water bottles always accompany me. The bars are relatively lo-cal (at least compared to a road burger or other poor choice) and the water is a must. We buy the little bottles to reduce waste.

Wife and doctors have nixed my candy addiction. Bottled water okay with an occasional hamburger. No more fried chicken. Aging sucks.

Hi Lou Ann and Warren, I was wondering when Hyundai starts bringing out it's next model year. I'm looking at getting a 2015 and like to buy when they're trying to make way for the 2016s. Thanks!

Now. Seriously.

Why have some manufacturer switched to run-flats and others have not? Does the dealer fix a run-flat if you get a flat tire?

Consumer reaction. Many consumers do not like the hard ride of run flats. But others prefer the lightweight of those tires (no need to carry a spare) and the "security" of traveling 50 miles after losing tire air.

We travel with nuts for a quick bit of protein, but then we get salt everywhere... it's like the open fries. Carrots would be decent car food, but hummus adds a level of potential messiness.

Yeah, but there are only two of us and we're pretty good at keeping things upright. We also take bread and almond butter and jam and make sandwiches. Nothing like a good ole' fashioned pb&j. It's our comfort food. 

 Are we going crazy? Are there no limits? It was a parade of the super-rich--new Bentley sports coupe, Aston Martin, new Porsche Cayman GT 4 and GTR. Lots of talk about how sales of the most costly automobiles are up 150 percent. Of course, there was common metal. But I left Geneva feeling that the working and middle classes are automotive aftertoughts.

The Honda Civic Type R

(Photo by Keystone, Martial Trezzini/AP)

I read that this was introduced at Geneva. A 305 HP Civic hatchback, please tell me that it won't be coming to the US or that it is too small to pass the Stretch test, I have so much fun with my 160 HP 2002 Civic Si that I could not be trusted with this monster. BTW, someone complained about the frequent mention of Stretch's height. It is important for those of us of reasonable height to know how cars fit, too many cars sound great until I try to sit in them, please keep telling us if he fits in the cars you test.



For anyone that doesn't know, my husband, Stretch is 6'4" (and worth the climb :) 

Warren and I are not as tall. We don't think of those height issues in the same way. We think of whether we can get up there, not whether we can squeeze into something. 

I mention his height when I answer a question because there are people out there that don't read our chat every Friday :( Many of you do, but...

I have not talked to Honda but every other car company is bringing a version of a race car in a subcompact so I would assume they will as well. 

I will be at the New York auto show and I assume it will be as well. I will look at it then. 

Though I've been told that rule goes out the window once you have kids. For now, no food or drinks in the car.

Or if you want decent food without paying an arm or a leg on a long trip. 

We also found that yelp helped. If we wanted to stop for an actual meal we used yelp to find a $ or $$ off the beaten path. 

I will have water in the car on most days, but I usually limit snacks to long road trips. I have learned that the best types of snacks are those that are easy to eat with one hand and don't make a mess. Often, that means the kids meal burgers. A McDonald's hamburger is smaller and doesn't have as much lettuce/sauce as the Big Mac to fall out and potentially make a mess. While I enjoy fries, I find they are not the best car food. They taste best warm, and eating in the car is slower, so they tend to become cold.

I am down to the occasional burger--fries only if the Chocolate Lab is riding with us. She loves those and does not leave a single crumb when eating them.

My wife has just taken a new job that's going to require her to float among several locations in different parts of the District. She is patently not a car person; to her a car is an appliance. For the in-city mileage, I'm thinking of a Prius. Good thinking? Oh, and for a car snack: Pringles in a cup holder.

To many people a car is an appliance, but some appliances are better than others. If a car is an appliance to here get the deluxe version with all the safety features. A blind spot monitoring and a rear view camera are a must. Honda has a camera that when you put the right blinker on you can see to the right and back of you. If you're parking on the road it would be nice to know if a bicycle was whizzing by at the same time you're backing in or turning. 

Ford has a technology that assists you in parallel parking. Look at that. 

Toyota has a Prius that has a plug-in for electric miles. It would also allow her to park in the spots closest to the building that others can't park in because they are reserved for charging your car

I have a 2013 GTI, top of the line, which I leased a few years ago. When I got the car, I thought that this would be my last car because of an unfavorable cancer diagnosis, but I seem to have beaten the odds. I love driving the car, but I have trouble getting out (about 20% of the time), even though I am only about 50. (I have had several abdominal surgeries because of the cancer). I have several is to buy the car off lease (I have low mileage, it would be a good deal), one is to go for something a little higher (a Small SUV such as a Forester or CRV -- easier to get in an out of, but less fun), or check out the new GTI's. The only negatives I can think of in keeping the GTI is 1) VW off warranty can be scary, and 2) because of the 18" low profile wheels and the potholes around here, I think I spend more in tires/rim replacements than gas. Any thoughts?

First, congrats on apparently living successfully with cancer.

I love the new GTI--the 2015 Autobahn version. It is an absolute delight to drive in dry weather. Snow is something else with those low-aspect ration tires. No go, there. I am short. So, I fit well. Try moving up to a performance version of the Passat for more space.

Bananas are our usual snack for long drives. We always keep a plastic grocery bag handy to discard the peels. Also whole almonds. If we are heading off for a really long drive, I will make sandwiches ahead of time, nothing messy - usually ham and cheese or sliced turkey. No messy foods allowed in our cars. If we have to have a burger and fries, we will stop and eat inside.

Goodness, are you Tanya, Mary Anne's sister? She  and Mary Anne do exactly the same thing.

I never see anything written about home electric bills for cars when you re-charge in your garage. Any idea how much re-charging adds to your monthly electric bill?

I've had cars at the house for a week at a time and haven't noticed in increase our electric bill but have noticed a decline in our gasoline bill. And I don't have to stop to buy gasoline! 

I do have to plug in but that's easy because we have an electric outlet in our circle in our driveway and in our garage. We did have to increase our main amp in order to have an EV car. 

Why can't the world leave Land Rover alone they make the best SUV'S and still people have to find something to cry about. So my question is who has a better looking SUV inside and out than Land Rover? And i love my 2014 Autobiography Sport.

I am not picking on Land Rover, just its pricing strategy, which I find ludicrous given the current competition. LR can't get me anywhere I can't go in a substantially less expensive Jeep Grand Cherokee. So, what am I paying for in LR?

We got a new Honda Fit and are loving the right side mirror camera (and yes, I'm the one who asked about salty snacks!).

My salty friend - I love a good Fuji apple sliced up in a baggy with cinnamon and salt on it. Forgot that one. 

I love the Honda Fit - it's so functional and Honda has come a long way with their CVT. 

Congrats on the choice

My backup car is a 2004 Chevy Trailblazer. I don't drive it often, which means I don't need to get gas all that often, but when I do, it seems to overflow when the pump shuts off. This wasn't always a problem, but has been the case for the past few years. If I know about how much gas I need and watch the pump, I can slowly add gas and avoid having it overflow, but I am not sure why this is a problem in the first case. I used to be able to pump gas without any problems. I assume the pumps are pumping faster than they did 5 years ago, but don't know if it is a sign of some issue with my tank that should be check out or just something other people experience.

Vapor pressure builds in a gas tank left sitting for a long time. That pressure can counteract the inflow of gasoline. When filling after a long park, fill slowly...and leave some space at filler neck for the outflow of vapor.

Road trip faves: Decaf & water. For crunch, baby carrots. Grapes are also a fave. Zone bars (but they need to stay in the cooler until you eat them.) Now, as Robert Johnson might say, I got ramblin' on my mind. Thanks for that...

Decaf? not me. Black tea, though. Yehh on the baby carrots an grapes.

We eat oranges on the way back from the beach and leave the peels on the floor for a couple of organic air freshener! Also, you want to remember to remove that half a bagel with cream cheese you didn't finish, honey.

Still getting in trouble for that one, eh? :) 

I love oranges when I'm tired because the smell makes me wake up. You're so right, it's a great air freshener. Sometimes I eat it on the airplane. Beats the other smells on the airplane. :) 

Take a close look at this one.

FWIW, my wife had abdominal surgery last year and has a terrible time getting in and out of my Passat. She's much more comfortable getting in and out of our Murano, which I guess is a midsize SUV. Good luck and watch that core!

Thanks for that. Best of luck to you and your wife.

I bought a low-end 2014 Honda CR-V 15 months ago and have never liked it. I read your review of the new 2016 Kia Sorento last week and have been thinking about it ever since. I've never looked at a Kia and wonder if the features and apparent quality of the mid-range version of that model would be worth the hit on trading in a car so soon after I bought it. I wouldn't mind the larger size either btw. I may also look at the Toyota Highlander.

What is it you don't like about your CR-V? 

The Kia Sorrento and the Hyundai Santa Fe are both great vehicles with lots of standard equipment and a 10 year 100,000 warranty. 

The 2015 Golf SportWagen

(Photo courtesy of Volkswagen)

Will the vw sportwagen be 4wd with a diesel engine?

I believe they only have front-wheel drive now, but I heard they will be bringing an all-wheel drive diesel to the New York auto show. 

Hi Lou Ann/Warren,

Last week someone mentioned putting WD-40 in locks to prevent them from freezing. This NOT recommended. The oily residue of WD-40 will attract dirt and soon there will be a malfunctioning lock. Best option is Graphite lubricant. Please do note.

Thank you for  the note. That makes perfect sense. I still like the thought of putting a tarp over the car as well. 

What are your thoughts on the suspension of Jeremy Clarkson?

It' my understanding the he hit someone. Not allowed.

It's also my understanding that he has been testing his boundaries for quite sometime. He found out where the boundary is. Now we get to see if it costs him his job. 

Only Grand Cherokee that can match the V8 Supercharged is the SRT. Grand Cherokee SRT off road ability is at best a gravel and dirt road and a grass covered field. SRT can't compete with any Range Rover Sport in real off road situations. 2015 Sport V6 has more off road capability than the 2015 Grand Cherokee V6, Diesel or V8. It's close. I am waiting for the 2016/17 Full size Discovery. Also current Range Rovers and Land Rovers are significantly more reliable than current Grand Cherokee. FCA ownership didn't do Jeep any favors. All Sergio cares about is pushing product out. Also Land Rover dealers are far better than most Jeep dealers. Safford Jeep Chrysler in Warrenton, VA is the best of DC area Jeep dealers. Best service department I have ever dealt with. Clifton VA

Here's the thing. I have seldom seen a Land Rover with a dent, scratch, dirt, or anything indicating that it has been driven off road. I usually see those models in tony Northern Virginia shopping centers or, oddly, cruising the streets of Manhattan, usually near Park Avenue. I'd stick with Jeep.

The past few chats, you mentioned reporting issues on How do we know our issue is something out of the normal that should be reported, or do we report everything and let them decide if it is normal?

report everything and let them decide. It's what you spend your tax dollars on, yours and others safety. 

Hi, Warren and Lou Ann! Any word on this yet? After driving a family member's Highlander I think I'm willing to wait it out so I can get another Subaru, but I'd love to have an idea of when they expect to release their new 3 row. Thanks!

I'd wait for Subaru.

How are people inserting pictures in their questions?

Lou Ann Magic

Hi, all,

This is Michelle, the producer here. I've been adding the photos in :). Let me know if they're helpful or not.

In a prevous chat after complaining about all the automatics I'd driven, Lou Ann asked if I'd driven a shiftable automatic. I hadn't used the shifters to any great extent, until last week. I got a Durango as a rental. The 8 speed auto seemed pretty decent to my surprise. So I tried the paddle shifters. And, well it shifted like an old-school automatic... late, slow, and mushy. Additionally the paddle shifters mean you really can't shift while cornering. That works in a racecar with less than a turn of the steering wheel lock to lock, but as soon as you need to hand-over, it goes out the window. I call that one a fail.

Okay, you, nor I, are race car drivers. We're not good at paddle shifting when cornering and going 50 mph. 

However, I'm not sure a Dodge Durango is the car I would have tried that on. A Porsche maybe. 

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thanks Michelle, Lou Ann, and Ria. Have a great weekend.

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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