Real Wheels Live: Gas prices, the VW Golf R and more

Apr 10, 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

Warren Brown and Lou Ann Hammond(Warren Brown and Lou Ann Hammond. Photo courtesy of Lou Ann)

As most of you know Warren lives in Virginia, and I live in California, so we rarely get to see each other. The highlight of the New York auto show was getting to spend some time with my good buddy WarBro. 


New York is fashion and money, the cat walk and Wall Street. It's only fitting that that is the show that showcases the supercars. The luxury cars were out in style; Aston Martin brought their track only Vulcan, McLaren brought the stunning 570S, Lamborghini showed off the Aventador Pirelli edition at a private party and Bentley unveiled the EXP 10 at a small gathering where they let you design your own car and the colors with wood and leather. 

[Photo gallery: The 2015 New York auto show]

What were my favorites? I made a list just for you with pictures I took myself:

Let's chat about cars.

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My understanding of the reports that I read is that hybrids and other fuel efficient cars are not selling well. I read that GM has a 210 day supply of Volts. Does the auto-buying public think that gas prices will stay this low forever? With new, and reportedly much-improved, models of the Prius and Volt due soon, what do you expect the will be the effect on sales of 2016 model hybrids, electrics, and fuel efficient cars?

It depends on the price of gasoline. People buy with a short term memory of how much it hurts to pay $4 a gallon. 

World politics are tenuous and OPEC is keeping the price low. The US is letting go of lots of oil workers because of this. If we were smarter we would inflate the price of gasoline but to Congress it is political suicide to do that. 

At the moment, hybrids are not selling well. Consumers are rational economists, albeit irrational in the long run. Current U.S. gasoline prices are low. That will not last forever. But car companies globally are under pressure to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. They will continue in that effort, as indicated by displays at the New York show. They have no choice--really.

My wife and I will be driving to Canada this spring and I thought that with today's automotive electronics wouldn't it be nice if we could switch between miles per hour and kilometers per hour with the touch of a button. Are any manufacturers doing this?

yes, but I don't know which ones off hand. It is the settings on some of the cars. Read your manual but I think it is configurable in the odometer cluster. 

On some of the nav systems you can also switch the language. 

Since Lou Ann is a Republican I'm surprised she supports higher gas taxes!

She is an intelligent Republican.

Lou Ann here: 

I have never said I was Republican. Warren has. 

I love my old TL and am thinking about a new one but would like to know if there are other cars in that class that I should definitely consider ?

The  Acura Ix, Lexus RX350

2015 Volkswagen Golf R

(Photo courtesy of Volkswagen)

Good Morning, Warren: I have been anxiously awaiting the new VW Golf R (manual), and when I recently noticed a silver one with dealer tags behind me on Wisconsin Avenue, I had an opportunity to take a closer look. When I looked at the driver, I told my wife "that brother looks just like Warren Brown." Could it have been? And any idea when to expect the manual Rs will be arriving other than the vague "summer?" Thanks...

Yes. The Rs will be here by end of year, if not earlier.

Everybody's moving towards autonomous cars. Is there any hope for those of us who like to

It will take a while before autonomous cars come out. It will take a lot longer for all of the cars on the road to be autonomous. 

Look at how old the car is you have now. Add another 10-15 years before autonomous cars come out. 

You'll be driving for a long time. 

...are coming primarily for reasons of safety. I', thinking a decade at least before mass reality. You still wil have to drive your car. At least, yes, you'll have that option. But the autonomous systems, designed t communicate with one another, are aimed at reducing/eliminating our still high traffic carnage.

Yesterday, on my way home. The car behind me was rear ended by a truck behind him. Something had drawn my attention to the truck seconds before the accident, so I was ready to react. The car behind me did bump my bumper, but there wasn't any noticable damage. I have more than 110k miles and wasn't too concerned. It was a light tap and since I had been watching, I rolled forward to further lessen the impact. I know I have seen reports of cars having thousands of dollars from cracked bumpers with low speed crashes, so should I have been more concerned about unseen damage to my car?

The first thing you should be concerned about is your physical health. Once can always replace a piece of steel, we can't replace you. 

Now that you are okay, your senses were accurate. If the bump didn't tweak you it and there was no visible damage to the car the car is probably okay. 

If you want to take it to a mechanic and ask that is fine. It probably is okay. 

Thankfully you are as well. 

Really how socialist of you???Let the marketplace rule!!! Most oil analysts see oil holding around its current price range for the next 12mos. Now if Iran closes the ed Sea through its proxies in Yemen ie the rebels. Oil could spike. If the treaty with Iran happens and the sanctions are lifted you could see oil drop by $15 a barrel. Russia needs hard currency too because of sanctions applied against it. Cuba has oil reserves just not the means to exploit them so when Comrade Barry lifts the edict calling a Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism US oil companies and others will exploit this. The political situation in the UK and the elections in May could effect the price of oil if the new govt favors joining the EU. Bad move by UK in my book. Scotland should have voted for Independence and told its English overlords to pound sand. Price off oil should remain where it is for next 18mos or so + or - 50 cents. GM is ceasing production of the Volt. Hybrids and Evs never made any sense economically since you rarely broke even if the tax breaks. These tax breaks should end now. Clifton, VA

Socialist, baloney. All of the parameters you cite could, probably will affect oil prices negatively. And you conveniently ignore the c ontinued need t reduce tailpipe emissions and fuel consumption in a world that is usuing more of the suff than we could produce or afford.

Lou Ann here:

The marketplace doesn't rule when you have rulers interceding for their benefit. This is not supply and demand we're talking about, this is other countries quashing the U.S.'s ability to produce their own energy by lowering the price of their energy. 

If the questioner has a digital speed it should be a standard feature- we have 2 Prii a V & C .We change it with the press of the button - but odo numbers and Mpg info is still in Miles......

Right. It depends on the age of the car (digital or not )but I think it can be configured easily. 

Find a good dealer. Most Vwdub Dealers in DC area are gawd awful which is why I gave up on Vdubs back in 1990. VW from friends who own current ones make me happy I have two dealers with Jeep dealers and service which are just one step above gawd awful. I am on my 4th Jeep dealer. Safford Jeep in Warrenton is the best dealer I have dealt with since HBL VW back in late 70's. They are great Clifton, VA

More baloney, Clifton. VW dealers in the Washington area. largely in response to the deliberate location of their company's US headquarters in Herndon, re upping their game considerably in terms of service ad repairs

I'm confused -- the UK is already in the EU. I don't think it's joining the Euro anytime soon.

What ?

What's your thought on Cadillac exiting the livery business? Also, will the CT6 move Caddy in the right direction? I think the design of the CT6 is far too conservative.

Cadillac CT6

(The Cadillac CT6. Photo courtesy of Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Cadillac needed to be bold in their statement as a luxury manufacturer. It wasn't making it in Michigan, it needed a shake-up. I was told that had started before Johan took over. 

The CT6 is pre-Johan as well. Remember, Johan ran Audi and Infiniti. He turned Audi around and brought certified pre-owned cars to Audi. If he makes CPO cars a bigger part of  Cadillac that could have the potential to bring the average age of a car buyer down from the 64 years of age it currently stands at. 

If he bring in the 3 SUVS he has said he would that could bring down the average age of the buyer. 

It is hard to have a loyal following when your average age of your buyer is 64. you'll be lucky to get them to buy 3 cars before they're no longer driving. 

watch what happens under Johan's leadership.

Exiting livery? Not really. The CT6 is a big ride. More to come from Caddy, it seems.

They use the pound in the UK not the whatever. Its a big issue in the Uk for the coming election

Yeah, the UK uses the pound. Your point?

HI there - Audi, BMW, Mercedes -- I've owned two of those brands and soon after their warranties expired, I spent thousands keeping them running. A myriad of things go wrong and are very expensive to repair, even using a specialty shop over the dealership. Why do these brands rank so high and why are folks so loyal to them given their long-term reliability? Much happier now with my Buick Lacrosse that has 89K miles and has never given me a problem.

There's a certain brand marketing that happens to yourself when you own a luxury car. You perceive yourself differently and frankly so do others. 

Buick has come back and their products are a lot better than they used to be. People who know this and are content with this will buy a Buick. 

The 2016 Sonata Hybrid(The 2016 Sonata Hybrid. Image courtesy of Hyundai)

I am looking to replace my Hyundai Sonata now that I am approaching 300k miles. What is your impression of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid? Is there a risk to buying used hybrid?

It is more mainstream, less fluidic sculpture. With the Sonata, Hyundai has moved from radical to conservative instead of the other way around.

While it might be off topic - what is keeping us from changing from Miles to KMs

The American public.

Having a lot of problems with my 2009 EOS (the ice and snow have not been friendly to the windows over the last two years) and want to get something else. I commute 62 miles a day so fuel efficiency is important and reliability as I am putting so many miles on a car. Thinking about the Mazda 3 hatchback (previous Mazda owner) but I am afraid it will feel too small after the EOS. I don't need a lot of passenger room. No kids, no dogs, infrequent passengers in the front seat.

I'm sorry to hear that, I really like the EOS. I wonder what you will get for a 2009 Eos? Let me know. 

Mazda 3 hatchback is a good choice. very functional and it is roomy inside. You could also look at the Honda Fit. About the same size but it has so many ways to configure it. 

for fuel efficiency you could look at a diesel or a toyota prius plug-in. 

narrow it down from those and let me know what you think next week. 

Any word on when the new Miata is coming out? I've been looking on the internet, but haven't seen anything real certain. Ideas?

Not here. How say you, Lou Ann?

To the person that wrote in last week about the 2012 Jeep Wrangler. Jeep responded and they need you to give them the information below. you can email it to me at lou at with washington post as the subject line 

Would it be possible to obtain either the last 8 characters of the customer’s VIN# or his/her full name and address?  This will allow us to create a “formal” case from our team and determine next steps.

2012 Jeep Wrangler

I wanted to follow up. 2012 Wrangler with Pentastar V6, bought new in November 2011. Only 12k miles, serviced regularly (only oil changes and inspections with 12k miles) at Jeep in Tysons. In January, Jeep lost coolant, no heat from vents, and radiator fan went on overdrive, and dealer said it was a broken radiator. I was skeptical since I've read about casting sand in the engine from manufacturing defect, where Jeep has a Star Case number that says you must replace radiator, heater core, and oil cooler. Then flush with coolant. Anyway, not 200 miles later, Jeep is in the shop again for same issue. It's out of warranty by years, but still under powertrain warranty. If you google "2012 Wranger - no heat", there are literally hundreds of people with the same problem. This is why people don't trust Chrysler-Fiat...they DO NOT stand behind their products. BTW, the 2012 Wranglers use HOAT coolant and 2013+ use OAT coolant. The two CANNOT mix. I'm sure the dealer techs are keeping track of that in the shop (sarcasm). My warning to consumers - as nice as the Wrangler is (I love it), it's really an expensive and annoying vehicle out of warranty.

The 2015 Z06 Corvette

(Photo courtesy of GM)

I've read that it overheats very quickly under hard driving, as on a track. The on-board computer shuts down the engine. How could the GM engineers let this happen? I know this is really a toy for car nuts, but it presumable showcases GM engineering.

Hard driving on the track? I would have to talk to ZO6 drivers who do that regularly. Street driving, there appear to be no complaints. But those of you with complaints can reach me at

Scotland declares independence just as oil prices crater? Their entire economic argument for independence rested on high oil prices. Without it, independence is not economically viable. Further, oil prices will not spike nearly as much if the Red Sea is closed, presumably forcing oil tankers to not use the Suez Canal and instead go around the Cape of Good Hope. They will still have a direct route to the major oil consumers in Asia, including China and Japan. The real spike would occur if Iran were to close the Straights of Hormuz. War games by the US showed that could triple oil prices. And Iran would not have to sink any US naval vessels, but rather only a few lumbering tankers. The rest would high-tail back to port. Tripled oil prices would wreck Western economies, and be a huge boost to Russia. This would have nothing to do with Yemen. Thus, "Comrade Barry" is protecting the West by cooling down tensions with Iran.

Many countries depend on their independence from high oil prices. All of OPEC and Russia does, which is why Putin wanted Crimea - and got it. 

These prices have nothing to do with supply and demand. 

Have acquaintances who have had good luck buying used rental cars from Enterprise, etc. While I would assume this is typical buyer beware type situation, a big variable imo is maintenance. Do you have any sense of how diligent rental car companies in doing regular preventive maintenance on their fleets?

Most try to keep road-worthy rentals for obvious reasons. My experience is that the quality of that effort varies from company to company, region to region.

Lou Ann & Warren, A common complaint of people who drive vehicles with CVTs is that they feel a disconnect between the throttle and throttle response, as if, in the words of one of my colleagues, the drive train consists of a hamster in a cage powering a set of rubber bands that are connected to the drive wheels. Are manufacturers devoting any R&D time to providing better,more positive feedback from throttle to throttle response? P.S. Nice shot of you two.

My experience is that the reaction to CVTs varies from driver to driver, car to car.

Lou Ann here: 

Thanks for the kind words. I thought you'd like to see us together. 

2015 Audi A7

(The 2015 A7. Photo courtesy of Audi)

Love the look of the old a7. Are the upgrades in the new 2016 worth it or should I go for a good deal on a 2015?

I don't know what they have that is new for the A7 but the old A7 was so beautiful I'm not sure they needed to change it at all for me to buy it if I had the money. 

As fun as it is to talk politics, I'd rather talk cars. What if there were a way to return to the "old days" where cars were, in fact, lighter? You wouldn't need 400 hp motors to make the car fast. Sure, they might not be able to download the latest Twitter feeds and such, and maybe they wouldn't have 20 airbags per seat, but they'd be more rewarding.

No one ever needed 400 hp, but it never stopped them from producing the car with the most horsepower ever. It's the constraints of fuel efficiency from EPA that is harnessing them. 

Warren, Cadillac's new boss said that they are not replacing the XTS, and all new products will not be conducive for the limos and body/frame extensions. He them said at that point Caddy will exit the livery business.

The CT6 has a large enough body and can be expanded. Mr. De Nysschen wants a more exclusive Cadillac. Good luck with that. Cadillac has been mainstream for a long time. We'll  see.

Thank you all for being with us today. Please return next week. Thank you Michelle, Lou Ann, and Ria. Enjoy the weekend.

I'm not generally a fan of CVTs (find Nissan's particularly unpleasant), but Subaru's won me over. My XV Crosstrek's drives pretty much like a normal automatic. It depends on the manufacturer.

Yes, it does...and the driver, what he or she is accustomed to.

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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