Real Wheels Live: A look at the Mercedes Benz BlueTEC, the best cleaners for leather seats, and doc fees

Mar 27, 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,

This week I took the Top most dangerous foods to eat in the car.

Strategic Vision came out with the most loved vehicles in the Nation. They quizzed over 500,000 people and found that if you didn't love your car you might as well hate it.

If you didn't love your car and were only satisfied with it you wouldn't recommend it.

I liken it to the old couple that walks hand in hand down the street and everyone says they want to be like them when they're older versus the couple that everyone is wondering when they're going to get divorced.

I drove the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder this week. $40k out the door, 25 mpg. And, no I still wasn't kind to the pedal. It's harder to drive a 3rd row SUV that fast or hard, though.
Nissan Pathfinder

(Photo courtesy of Lou Ann Hammond)

Nissan has a feature in their infotainment system that allows you to capture the song you like and every time it comes on you have the option of turning to that station.

One of my more humorous journalist that had the car before me must have thought they were funny when they set 20 buttons to different commercials. So, you have to either delete the listing or click no you don't want to hear that commercial or the question stays up there for a good 30 seconds.

I still used my iPhone - Google Maps - for navigation.

There' s going to be a brand new Jaguar SUV in town soon.

More details emerge about the Jaguar F-Pace Crossover SUV.

Let's chat about cars

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I need to buy my son a used car for going back and forth between NOVA and Morgantown, WV where he attends school. The roads in Morgantown are narrow and pretty scary in the winter. What kind of car would you recommend that is not terribly expensive but I guess should have 4 wheel drive (?) but not be too large to get sideswiped while parked on narrow streets? Oh and he is almost as tall as Stretch! Thanks.

A tall well-educated man. Sweet.

Stretch would say a MINI Cooper because he loves the MINI. Warren would say look at the costs to keep it.

Subaru anything is good because it's all-wheel drive. Chrysler has a 200 all-wheel drive that has a center console that lets you charge your phone and hides all the wires in a pass through that I think is kind of cool.

  • Chevy Trax - is new but it could be in a good price range for you.

Good luck and congratulations.

All-wheel-drive Subaru. But check the brakes.

We have bought Hondas for several years and are ready to switch. We need safety, latest gadgets, sedan, comfortable ride, AWD, and great gas mileage. Who will make my short list in 2018 or does Honda have something up its sleeve to keep me? Thanks!

Have you been dissatisfied with Honda? If not, why switch? The company continues to make some of the safest, most affordable vehicles available in the U.S.

Find another dealer, seriously. Some dealers don't charge document fees, which are ridiculous in this age of the Internet and rapid communications.

I was priced a Doc Fee of $599 for a used car during quote. What is that and should I pay for this.

I googled to make sure I had it right - I do. Document fees. And they vary greatly.

Apparently, some states have a cap on doc fees and some don't. You bought your car in a state that doesn't. New York has a doc fee cap of $75 according to this article by

Are there any issues with 2014 and newer TDI engines starting in the winter? Specifically, the Audi lineup.

None known. But check to see if there are ay service bulletins issued for that model and problem

2014 E250 BlueTEC

(The 2014 Mercedes E250 BlueTEC. Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)

I have a 2010 Infiniti G37, works great, a little small, 66k miles. Read about and saw the MB E250 blu tec and kinda fell in love ... Financially it's reasonable. I don't need it -- I want it. Should I stay faithful to a car that's been good to me and has life left or go for it? Have you driven it?

Yes I have, but have you driven it. An E250 drives much differntly than a G37. Like dancing with two different women. You should drive it.

It's a beautiful car, you'll have no issues with it. You will love it and the blue tec, but you should drive it to see if you like the difference in driving.

If you don't need to buy a new one, my advice is that you quickly fall OUT  love with that idea.

Winter tires and getting him home in mid March to change them out for all seasons might be difficult. Subies have oil leaks. Biggest difference in tires. Most used cars come with gawd awful tires. So first thing you do is dump the tires. I don't care if they are brand new. With his commute home and being in WVU, take a look at all seasons from Nokian. Or look for all seasons with the three peak mountain snow rating. Nokians can be expensive, so see my friends at Radial Tire in Silver Spring. A Subie Crosstek will work for him. Good tires are more important than the car. Clifton

I don't know how many crosstreks you can find used right now. Sounded like the Parent wanted something a little less expensive.

With ford pushing the eco boost technology it would be better for consumers if they didn't have to use premuim to fuel them. What are your thoughts?

Most turbocharged engines are high-compression machines, which usually require quick-burn premium fuels. I'd stick with that formula.

Sorry went out for lunch last Fri. 4wd and AWD have a transfer case, another driveshaft and another differential with gears and either U joints or CV joints. All these gears and joints result in friction losses which effect fuel mileage. Synthetic gear oils and fluids can help reduce the losses but they still happen. Remember despite what the manufacture calls it AWD and 4wd really only help with acceleration. They don't help with braking to any real degree and even with torque vectoring and other advertising jargon don't do a lot for handling. A RWD with a limited slip differential will get you down a snow covered road with 4 winter tires just as well as the same vehicle with 4wd and AWD. It's the driver and the tires more than the the drive system. For years rwd drive buggies were the fastest at the Baja 1000 over 4wd trucks etc. Now I have 4wd on my 2012 Grand Cherokee but I bounce across fields and down muddy waters strewn farm roads so there is a benefit. If you are on pavement 100% 4wd and AWD is just marketing hype. Many times I saw 4wd pick ups and SUVs in the guardrail on 395 and 495 heading home on the snow in my rwd BMW 3 series. Winter tires rule.

Thank you. But my experience, in Cornwall, N>Y. and environs, says that Subaru gets you through heavy snows.



Hi, I want to down size from my 2008 Toyota Sienna XLE. Am looking for the same comfortable ride, and yet still have some cargo for hauling college kids back to/from school. I like having leather, navigation and auto tailgate. I have looked at Hyundai Santa Fe (which I did like), Mazda CX5, Kia Sorento, Toyota Highlander (seemed too huge), Acura RDX, and even toyed with certified used Lexus. I did not like Subaru Forester or Outback. Thoughts/recommendations??? Thank you and I always enjoy your On Wheels column, Katherine Webster

Good Morning Katherine

You have my top choices at the top of your list.

Hyundai Santa Fe (or Sport)

Mazda CX-5

Either of those are great vehicles with lots of standard equipment. The Sorento and Santa Fe have a lot in common.

Check out the new Nissan Murano.

2015 Nissan Murano

(The 2015 Murano. Photo courtesy of Nissan)

Have either of you ever tested cars with 100k miles to see if they are as good as when you tested them new? What is the worst car you have ever tested.....

An early Hyundai model (circa 1986).

I've been driving a manual transmission for 40 years. I've been looking at new cars and am about to buy my last "new" car before I retire. I am finding that it is more expensive to buy a manual transmission than to buy an automatic. Is this a trend? I suppose I've not been paying attention (or buying many new cars). I love driving a manual and, these days, a big plus would be that "would be" car thieves don't know how to drive a stick shift. Are new manual transmission as reliable as automatics? Should I switch?

Manuals are barely 11 percent of the U.S. market and often are sold as optional equipment. Manumatics work just as well in terms of vehicle control. I'd go with one of those.

I have seen signs in dealerships listing a document or administrative fee and citing a state statute or regulation. Regardless of what the sales staff may tell you, that is probably a cap on the amount of any such fee, not a requirement to charge the fee. Unless the sales staff can show you a statute or regulation mandating such a fee, treat the fee like what it is, extra profit for the dealer. It is easier to check now that it is all on the Internet.

I would say it is a negotiable fee. Ask the dealer if they have leeway on that fee. If they don't want to budge check with the dealer across the state line and ask what their fee is, then go back to your original dealer. paying more for the same car is not smart.

From the article above by

Virginia has no cap on doc fees, according to the Washington Area New Auto Dealers Association.
Washington caps doc fees at $150, according to the Washington state attorney general's office.

Winter tires make a bigger difference than even the best AWD and 4wd. There is substitute for a good winter tire even a hard rain when temps are below 45 degrees. Also turn off the radio and open the window slightly so you can hear what you tires are doing. Also get off the cell and drive. Warren, I could get through 8 to 14 inches of snow no problem in rwd 3 series BMW with winter tires and limited slip. I also had an ABS off switch for the track and deep snow. Clifton

I wouldn't go that far. Winter tires do make a positive difference in traction. But I'd rather put them on an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

Maybe a little off from your regular car topics but what do you - and readers out there - recommend as the best cleaner and conditioner for leather seats. Real leather - not leatherette. Thanks!

I had to walk out to my garage because I couldn't remember the name of it. I just got it and it works great. Lexol Leather care pads. So easy to use - all in a pad.

Chocolate, like so many of us finer things in life, just requires a little attention: I keep my peanut M&M's in the garage fridge, offloaded from the giant Costco size into little Ziplock bags. Grab 'n' go and nothing melts.

all good advice

The 2016 Enclave Tuscan Edition

(The 2016 Enclave Tuscan Edition. Photo courtesy of Buick)

Hi there!

Buick announced Thursday a gussied up version of the Enclave called the Tuscan, but to me the Enclave/Acadia/Traverse are long in the tooth and don't offer conveniences like smart key or push-button engine start. The instrument panels scream for an update. I was also disappointed that the Enclave doesn't offer a heads-up display as can be had on the Acadia Denali, so that was a deal breaker for me. When is GM releasing all-new designs of these stale models?

I like the look of the Tuscan. We will be at the New York auto show next week and will ask for you.

Anything else you want to know about GM products? (or other products for anyone reading this)

The New York auto show is a place we have time to ask these questions so let me know

For the person wanting to downsize from a Sienna. What worked for me was buying a hatchback and renting a minivan when I really needed more space (2000 mile trip with 5 large adults). I have found that I have only needed to rent a minivan twice in 18 years, but I would have saved money if averaged 4 rentals per year.

Great idea, I like that you actually did the math and it paid off for you.

Anything above a $100 is all profit. Back in late 70's used to date a girl who worked at dealership doing docs for new car sales. back then she used an IBM typewriter and could do a 100 a day. Today with technology its easier. Doc fees are a rip off. I say bottom line price including evertything $12300 and that includes taxes, fees tags etc. I dont negotiate fees etc Clifton

different people, different ways.

There is an option to negotiate fees.

Also known as processing fees. When I am in the market for a car, my statement to the dealer is, "Tell me your price including everything except sales tax and license/registration." If I get to the point of saying it's a deal and then hear "Oh, I forgot the processing fee," I get up and walk out.

Another way to do it.

If you live near the border of a state that has a cap, use that in your price negotiation. Works well in the Washington Metro area: I live in Virginia (no cap) but close to Maryland ($200 cap) and cite that fact when agreeing on a price. Many Virginia dealers will accommodate, and those that won't don't get my business.

That's the way I would do it.

I may replace my 2004 Honda Pilot EX-L (210K miles) in the next 6 months or so. Current contenders are Subaru Outback 4-cyl, Honda CR-V, Toyota Venza 4-cyl AWD, maybe Hyundai Santa Fe. Any others you would pick as candidates? (BTW, I'm very happy with the Pilot, but I don't need another one -- too big for my current mission.)

I would go with the new 2016 Honda CR-V - way different than the old model. You know Honda, have no problem with it and just want to downsize.

I like the nav system that shows the right side when you turn your blinker on. I also like that Honda has backup camera as standard - and has had long before it was required.

Is there any indication that the car companies are going to offer a "do not track" feature for their cars, so that they aren't streaming data about where you're going, what you're listening to, etc.?

I have not heard that. I have heard just the opposite.

Hi, my husband and I are currently driving a 2002 Toyota Camry with just over 100,000 and a 2002 Honda Accord with 80,000, both purchased/gifted from relatives. My husband is 70, not driving much at present. I'm 62 and have an 11 mile commute to work through city streets. While we live in the suburbs now, I envision that we will move to the city, or someplace more walkable, in the next three years. My question is two-fold: which car to get rid of; and, more importantly, what would be a good choice to buy in the $25,000 range. As I age, I now want a car with such features as blind spot detection, back up mirror etc. I would also like to buy some sort of hybrid, and I would be interested in one of the small SUVs as well as a sedan. Any advice?

Wow - so many questions.

I would get rid of both your cars. You are at an age that you are concerned about safety and aging (your words, not mine). Neither of those cars have the features you want. I have an older car than yours - a 1993 - and when I drive it I am amazed at how far a car has come in technology.

Backup camera will be required on all 2016 models, so that is easy.

blind spot detection - boy, I use that on every car so I understand you wanting that technology.

I would look at a honda hybrid or a toyota hybrid. honda is known for having safety features as standard.

Will you be able to plugin when you move to the city? maybe an EV - like a Nissan Leaf - would be good for you.

Narrow it down and come back next week.

I would love to know if the 2016 Chevrolet Volt is still on track--on-sale date, pricing details, etc. Thanks so much.

The Chevrolet 2016 Volt

(Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet)

The new Volt was shown at the Detroit auto show, but I will get all the information I can for you.


Hi, thanks for these chats. They are very useful. I have a 10 year old G35X that I would like to replace with another car. I don't want a SUV b'coz I am single person but I prefer having an all wheel drive vehicle for driving convenience in winter/snow. I would prefer to buy something similar to what I have now. So, I was thinking of a BMW or Mercedes. At the same time I am wondering if I should buy a diesel car or electric car. If the electric cars are going to mature more in a few years, may be I want to hold off on it. Thoughts?

You drive in the winter/snow. You don't say how many miles a day you drive. A Nissan Leaf is a front-wheel drive and that is the EV that could give you the best mpg for the money.

There's a chance the Volt will be coming out in all-wheel drive but I'm not positive. Another question to ask at the New York auto show.

BMW has the i3.

I am going to take your question to New York next week. I will get back to you next Friday.

Interesting to see Lou Ann's note about the love/hate thing with one's car. Then Warren's response to the person who wanted to change from Honda, and the other person who wanted a Mercedes. He said don't get the car you want, stay with Honda and fall OUT of love with Mercedes. Hmm.

I said that it makes little sense toe dump a perfectly good M-B just because you fell in love with something else.

You mentioned the 2016 CR-V as a replacement for my 2004 Pilot, but I don't see any specs yet on What's special about the 2016 model that makes it worth waiting for as opposed to a '15?

I meant the 2015. Thank you

We'll be at the New York International Auto Show next week. Please join us. Thank you Michelle, Lou Ann and Ria.

Thanks for the wonderful chat this week folks. We will be at the New York auto show so if you have questions leave them in the comments section below.

Warren, Michelle - thanks so much for all the help.

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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