Real Wheels Live: The BMW i3, the worst car snacks and more

Mar 20, 2015

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

Last week's chat was so much fun with all of chiming in about your favorite snack in the car that I wrote an article; Top ten healthy snack foods to eat in the car on a road trip on Driving the Nation. 

So, today the question is what is the worst snack/food you have ever tried to eat in a car? Last week Warren said BBQ. I would definitely agree with that one. 

How many of you drink coffee while driving but still thinks it's dangerous? 

Is there anyone that won't eat or drink in his or her car? I met one woman this week that wouldn't but it's because she has suede seats. 

I drove the 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R-design this week. It's seemed lighter than the Volvos of old, a bit more nimble. Of course, it is the R-design. 

The 2015 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid R-Design

The 2015 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid R-Design (Photo courtesy of Volvo)

The car I drove would cost you $48,225 out the door (without tax) and got about 25 mpg of city and highway driving. And, no I still wasn't kind to the pedal. I try to drive all cars the same so that you get a real world comparison. 

Part of the $48K includes a $900 charge for blind spot monitoring. Volvo didn't have a backup camera, which surprised me. All of you know I believe that backup cameras and sensors save lives, especially children. Volvo is known for safety so I'm surprised they haven't included that as standard. They did have sensors. 

Next year 2016 model cars are required to have backup cameras. 

I would have liked a more robust radio sensor. I live in the country and occasionally the signal in the car has to be reacquired, but in the Volvo it happened more often than in any other car I've driven lately. 

For any of the beautiful people out there looking to buy the fastest SUV in the world I offer you 

The 2016 Porsche Cayenne Turbo S Is the Carmaker’s Most Powerful SUV Yet - See more at

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BMW i3

The all-electric BMW i3 was featured in an ad spot during Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1. (Photo courtesy of BMW Group)

Have you driven it? Can we look forward to a longer range version in the not-too-distant future?

I have driven it. Most people don't know the car is carbon-fiber so it is lighter which helps get even better driving range then would be expected.

I talked to Robert Healey from BMW about charging and BMW knows a lot about EVs. This is not their first EV.

The BMW i8 is a wonderful car as well. They are spending a lot of money of EVs and plug-ins and still concentrating on being the ultimate driving machine. 

I did some research on plug-in hybrids and noticed that there are financial incentives to buy one. The Toyota website showed zero percent financing for 60 months and $3000 cash, on top of a federal tax credit of $2500 for the Prius plug-in. Are sales of these vehicles really so weak that it is necessary to pile cash on the hoods to move them? If so, do you think that the current low price of gas is the reason? Does our car-buying public think that gas prices will stay low forever?

Sales are not strong enough for success without incentives. But manufacturers, based on their own research, are pushing ahead with alternatives because they know oil is not forever--certainly not at today's prices.

Yes, I've driven it. And, yes, we can look for longer-range BMW electrics in the future.

Like the reader whose reaction to a medical prognosis that included a severely limited life expectancy, I bought a hot hatch for my "last" car after getting the bad news. 13 years on, and suffering similar physical problems getting up and out of my pocket rocket, I have decided I should celebrate my good fortune with a new car. Based on my experience, I have two pieces of advice. 1. You may be on the right track with the small SUVs. The Mazda CX5 is worth a look, even though it isn't quite in the GTI's league as a fun car, it handles and stops well. (The new CX3 might be worth a look, when it arrives.) 2. Get a vehicle you think that you will love to drive (within the limits of practicality, budget, etc.) The longer I survive the more I become convinced that those of us living on borrowed time don't have time for boring cars. I seem to recall that Warren has a history of "medical adventures", he may have more to add.

Congratulations on beating the actuarials. If your "medical adventures" are anything like Warrens and you are as gracious and dignified as Warren is about them I applaud you. 

Yes, the CX3 is a must look - here I am talking to Derek Jenkins, the designer. great looking car. It's a Mazda. It has all the right values to be fun.

A Volkswagen Golf GTI is a great ride and you could look at getting that one. The Ford Fiesta ST is also fun to drive. 

I am going for a third kidney transplant at the end of the summer, most probably my last one. Which is okay. I've had a life filled wth love and doing what I love. No complaints. Live each second to the fullest. We are all on borrowed time. Find someone to love and go for it,

The sophistication and accessibility of active safety systems (adaptive cruise control, lane management, auto-braking, cross-traffic and blind-spot monitoring, etc.) have increased tremendously in just the last couple of years. After 45 years of driving with never having bought a new car, I am interested in getting a new car for the first time just for these improvements. But are even more improvements just around the corner and will I regret my new car next year when I see what I could have gotten?

Those advanced electronic safety systems, all cited by you, are worth the money. One, passenger protection automatic braking, probably saved my career and bank account. Lane departure warning and blind-side monitoring have also helped to keep me out of trouble. I now swear by those systems and passionately recommend their purchase.

Lou Ann here 

I really like a back-up camera with sensors - not one or the other but both. Lane departure warning in certain cars can be very robust. When your'e driving the car try going into the next lane without using a blinker and you will see what I am saying. Blind-spot is another technology I have really started relying on. As you get older you have less ability to turn your neck. Blind spot warning helps. The Nissan Murano has a technology that allows your car to see two cars in front of you to see if the car you can't see is braking. 


All kinds of new technology. Welcome to the new world. 

You're the auto-knowledge psychic -- you know what we're about to ask before we even ask it!

LOL - Or I just take so long to answer them :) We both get to see the same questions but I take longer than warren on most occasions. 

2015 Nissan Rogue

(Photo courtesy of Nissan)

Bought a 2015 Nissan Rogue the day after Christmas. During the test drive I said "whoah listen to that engine noise!" and the salesman blamed it on the CVT which he stated was loud but very smooth. Bought the car anyway because I was already emotionally tied to the purchase and loved everything else about it. Now every morning when I pull out of my neighborhood and drive up the steep hill, all I hear is engine noise and question my purchase. EVERY MORNING! It drives me crazy. But I love everything else, the size, infotainment system, comfort, gas mileage. The engine noise is only loud at low speeds and going up hills. The car is less than 3 months old. Is it just me or do others have this complaint about their Rogue?

CVTs can be noisy. But they are reasonably fuel-efficient and generally worth the cost. Unless there is something else wrong with your Rogue, I'd keep it.

Why hasn't someone invented something better than the standard windshield wiper? I mean, do we really need to pay $10 for a wiper blade that only lasts for a while? I won't even mention all of the wiper fluid that is needed. Cars need to have infrared heaters, laser beams, or some other technology that can keep the windshield clear. I think someone is finding the sale of wiper blades too much of a cash cow to change to something cheaper and better.

Who can afford you proposed inventions?? Not to mention the possibility of a blind-induced collision if one of your proposed inventions fails in traffic. Current wipers work just find--check-able, easily replaceable, and many of them rain-sensitive automatics that work just fine at reasonable cost.

If all other things are equal (engine power, car weight, etc), will a two wheel drive vehicle always get better gas mileage than a four wheel drive?

I've seen 2wd and 4wd vehicles getting the same mileage, or maybe 1 mpg different. I don't know if they changed the weight just that much to make the difference or if it is the transmission or something else. Warren? anybody else? Where's Clifton when I need him? 


Even on the shortest trips, coffee in a good, safe travel cup, is my favorite travel companion. Safe snacks would include pop tarts, mini Ritz sandwiches (filled with peanut butter or cheese), any bite size snack. Too bad you can't find a White Castle. Warren, you know yourself that the big bucks are in luxury cars and sports cars. The automakers don't make enough money on the mainstream brands us common folks buy.

If the car companies did not make enough money on mainstream cars--Chevrolet, Volkswagen, Toyota, et al--they wouldn't even be able to think of producing the lux-mobiles. Not one super-luxury company is independently self-sustaining--including Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Land Rover, et al.

There's a dial on the middle console, right under the info center. It's marked "volume." Turn it far enough to the right that you don't hear the engine. You're welcome.

One fix.

Has Tesla done away with it as Elon Musk predicted?

No. But most people who buy a Tesla don't take it on cross-country trips. Musk has a great product. If gasoline were $6 a gallon would you buy an electric vehicle that you could charge for free at any of his charging stations? 

Hello there - curious to know if you think the new flagship Caddy, the CT6, will be a major step up for Cadillac. After seeing spy shots, the design doesn't seem daring at all. I'm not confident it will be a true BMW/Mercedes/Audi fighter.

design is one element of the car and I would say it is more daring than some of the other cars. It will be shown at the New York auto show and I will get a picture of it for the chat. 

I'm not in love with using Steve Wozniak as the person who is daring. Will most people know who he is other than dancing with the stars? He doesn't have the cult following Steve Jobs did.

Wasn't he the guy who got onto Wolf Blitzer's TV show on a bet? and he used the Toyota debacle to do it? anybody know? 

The 2016 Mazda CX-5

(Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations)

Thoughts on the 2016 Mazda CX-5, are the additional new safety features and the new redesign worth purchasing the 2016 over the 2015?

I know the 2016 has a new audio system.

The Starting MSRP: $21,795

I couldn't think of what else was new so I went on their website

What’s New for 2016:

  • -  New grille and new foglight surround design

  • -  Upgraded center console, dashboard and

    armrest design

  • -  Added electronic parking brake

  • -  Addition of MAZDA CONNECT Infotainment

    System with larger seven-inch full-
    color touchscreen display and multi-function commander control

  • -  Available LED headlights for Touring and Grand Touring models

  • -  Standard Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio

  • -  New colors: Sonic Silver and Titanium Flash 

 There doesn't seem like there's any new safety features, more 

connectivity. Did you see new safety features on the CX-5? 

Cadillac is a mass-market product, an expensive mass- market product, but mass- market nonetheless. Frankly, under its new leader ,Mr. De Nysschen, I think Cadillac is having an image/middle-age crisis. Making Caddy a super-exclusive brand (good luck with tha) won't do anything to improve Caddy's or GM's overall sales. GM is a mass market company. Keep making good cars and please understand that your ultimate survival is in the middle and working classes--the people who buy most of your cars--not the enor

mously compensated 1 percent. Pleas follow my advice, Mr. De Nysschen. You can thank me later.

The 2015 Golf SportWagen

(Photo courtesy of Volkswagen)

Have you driven the 2015 VW Golf Sportwagen yet? Thanks, Bill, Rockville.

Yes - loved it. You can pick gasoline or diesel. If you drive the diesel watch for a lag off the line. Tell me if you feel it. 

I used the google maps on my iPhone instead of its nag system.

Looking for a 4-door convertible, suitable to use as a family car with 2 young kids. Is there anything out there? Bonus if it is not super expensive.

Ford Mustang. ack seats for real people, including children.

Hi Lou Ann and Warren,

Thanks for taking my question. I live in the PNW and commute via motorcycle mostly. (HOV lane access for essentially all highway commute cuts 15 minutes off my time.) I just spent $1800 to service my brake system. I'm hoping to get another 18 - 36 months out of my car before it's replacement time. When I do buy the car it will be a late model used car, i.e. something new last year through next year. My requirements are all wheel drive. My father instilled the idea that manual transmission handle better in the snow because I "control" the ability to physical separate the engine from the drive train via the clutch. As I do a lot of skiing and general, snowy mountain travel is having a manual transmission still preferred? Or can I broaden my search to include all manner of automatic transmissions? Regardless, what cars should I follow now (test drive, monitor via consumer reports, etc) for this eventual replacement vehicle. FWIW, I love the BMW GT line but it's a bit outside my price range.

Get a Subaru. Check with Carmax for available used model. Check thee brakes. Drive carefully.

I will get the video fixed. It was ported over to youtube but we still have the old defunct system up. Sorry, we're changing host providers and it hasn't been easy. 

It was an interview with Bob Carter, top brass in Toyota.  I actually talked to Wozniak on his personal phone line (he had just gotten out of the shower so I had to hold while he put a towel on :) He was going to go on the John Batchelor radio show with me about the Toyota issue but backed out at the last minute.

From the last chat Lou Ann, I've got to spend Porsche money to get an automatic that manually shifts worth a d--n? With the dwindling number of real manuals, the future doesn't look bright.

You don't have to spend Porsche money to get a good manumatic. Lots of good ones available from almost every manufacturer.

Wanted to let you and your readers know that Mazda USA has finally produced a fix for the 2014 and 2015 CX-5 USB music resume issue I've written you about previously. There is a Mazda TSB -- info and discussion at :!!!

Thank you for that feed.

I have one of those too! She always wants to know why I took the faster, shorter route instead of the way she goes....

Do you know how much money you could make if you could create an artificial intelligence override to the nag system woman that every time you made a wrong turn she would say, "What are you, stunned? Why bother asking me which way to go if you're not going to listen to me?" 

People would use their nav system just to hear her responses. 

Warren, how about McLaren, Koenigsegg, KTM, & Ariel? I'll grant you the guys that have been around a while, but I think most of the upstarts are still standing alone. I'm not sure how they do it though. Many of the upstarts from the 80s are gone. A clue there perhaps...

Check the funding and ownership. You will find a big manufacturer or supplier in there somewhere. What is the cost of unit sales? How many of those sales must they have annually to at least break even?

All, I need a new Crossover/SUV. Like having a full sized row (currently have a 2009 Traverse) but looking to trade up. The Acura MDX was lovely, but that back seat was too tiny for the teenagers in my house - forget the 3rd row. Now considering a Cadillac SRX. Thoughts on that one?

The 2015 SRX

The 2015 SRX (Photo courtesy of Cadillac)

why not the Escalade? I loved that beast. My friend, Sam, has a Toyota and was drooling on the Escalade when he saw it. 

Honda sells Accord station wagons in some other countries; will they ever reintroduce this model in the US? I had a 1997 Honda s/w that was a phenomenally great car. I do not care for SUVS or "crossovers".

Yes. When exactly, I don't know. But, yes.

The new safety features are an option for the Touring and Grand Touring. It includes:LED headlights (replacing the former optional xenon headlights), adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and lane departure warning

I love all of those and would recommend waiting for them. 

1. Will you use them? Stretch loves ACC and uses it every time he drives. 

2. Do they have a backup camera with sensors? The one I would recommend the most

Thanks for the help. 

My husband and I bought a Cherokee last June with the full technology package and I can't believe how much I rely on all of the various technologies. And especially on how much I use the adaptive cruise control, which I find to be spectacularly implemented. While I worried that such things would me me less engaged as a driver, I actually feel like it makes me pay more attention to what's going on around me! It makes me a little nuts now when I'm in a rental vehicle and I don't have all of my sensors and cameras...

I agree. I would NOT buy a new vehicle without those features.

Any kind of potato chips or similar product. You drop one little piece on your shirt and you're out of business from the grease stain.

anything greasy isn't good in a car. Grease stains and smoke smell take away from the resale value. 

Do you have thoughts on the current GLK?

I like the size of it. But, frankly, I think a fully loaded 2015 Kia Sorento is a better deal.

My nag system works just like that, but it takes up the whole passenger seat.


Stretch calls me Hyacinth. What is the British comedy, "Keeping up appearances" where the woman is always helping the husband drive, "mind the light" 

very good 

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Michelle and Lou Ann, you ladies definitely rock!! Thank you. Enjoy the 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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