Real Wheels Live: The best 4-cylinder sedans, tips for selling your car and more

Apr 17, 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

The 2015 Jaguar XJL

(Photo by Lou Ann Hammond)

This week I had the pleasure of driving a 2015 Jaguar XJL Portfolio edition. What a beautiful car. The base cost is $84,700. The car I drove totaled out at $96,663. 

Beautiful British racing green paint ($1,500) and the premium rear seat package for $7,750 that includes massage and heated seats with ten-inch screens and business tables in the back. Absolute luxury.

Interior of the 2015 Jaguar XJL

(A look inside the 2015 Jaguar XJL. Photo by Lou Ann Hammond)

Audi, Lexus, and Mercedes are well-stocked breeds as well, but there is something about the silhouette of Ian Callum's design that I do love. 


Open Sesame: 

I was perplexed though when I stopped and put the jag in park and took off my seat belt the car shut off, but not always. 

What am I not doing that makes it only do it sometimes? I emailed Jaguar and Maria told me:

"The situation you are experiencing has to do with the "Eco" system. You may have noticed when "Eco" mode is on, that the engine stops running when the vehicle comes to a complete stop. If you remove your seat belt while the engine is being held off by this system, the vehicle will shut off completely. (It still happens to me very frequently). The reason you are not always experiencing this is because the "Eco" system only runs under certain conditions (i.e. the ambient temperature has to be above a certain threshold or the system has sensed that you are stopping frequently)."

It's one of those features that was designed to keep people from removing their seat belts while driving.

If you don't want this to happen, you can simply turn Eco mode off completely by pressing the Eco button on the console.


Thanks Maria"


Let's chat about cars.

Like me on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

List your used car for free.

All things considered except price, please rank these gasoline 4 cyl. sedans in order as the best all-around cars in both your opinions: Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, Ford Fusion, Kia Forte, VW Golf?

I think it would be a silly ranking inasmuch as none of those you mentioned is necessarily better than the other.

Thanks so much for hosting these live chats. I need to replace my car (mechanic says so) and have narrowed down the selection to the Honda CR-V (consumer reports). I plan to buy a used car, not new. I love the older body style (2011) and have found a couple with low miles (less than 25k miles) with EX-L trim (heated leather seats); certified by Honda. The other option, for just about 10% to 15% more money, is a newer version (2013) also with low miles & certified, but the base LX trim. The 2015 has much higher MPG, but I think I would be way over budget to go that new. I am torn - do I go for the car I love with the bells and whistles? Or the newer car in the base version? Am I being an unreasonable snob for wanting the higher trim? For whatever it's worth, I keep my cars till the mechanic says it's time to let go. Help, please - I need an objective opinion. :) Thanks.

I always go for the higher luxury that I can afford. Cars get old fast. You sit in them everyday. Creature comforts are a must. 

Are you paying cash or financing? If you are financing you might want to check and see if Honda has any financing programs that could make it affordable to buy a new car. 

Do the math before you rule out a new car but get the one  that satisfies you the longest. 

Warren & Lou Ann Will be in the market for a new car (e.g. Escape or Outback) later this year. As an aging driver, I want to load it with as much optional safety gear as possible, but excluding frills such as automatic parking. I favor Ford, but apparently the Fusion is their only model that currently has lane warning and adaptive cruise control. None have auto-braking. Will Ford get with it in 2016 and start expanding these options to Escape, Focus etc.? James Johnson Chicago IL

My bias, and it is a bias, is toward the Subaru Outback largely because I have been driving one for  several years with no problems other than those I caused--spilling Coca Cola into the transmission channel.

2015 Subaru Outback

(The 2015 Outback. Photo courtesy of Subaru.)

We (family of 5) currently lease a Subaru Outback. We love it. Our lease is up soon, and we are looking for a car with 3rd row seating to only occasionally use if a friend joins us. However, my parents live in Upstate NY, and, as a result of our visits, our new car also needs to be good if there is a lot of snow. Minivans are too low to the ground if there is deep snow. My sister has a GMC Acadia, but I'm wondering if there are other options. Thoughts? And thanks!

I have a list for you:

3rd row seats - some of these may not be all-wheel drive so check and let me know:

The GMC Acadia is a great value for the money. The Subaru Tribeca doesn't get much play in the Subaru world, but it's a great value as well. (just the design :( 

Look at the Ford Flex. I like that vehicle as well. I'll have warren chime in as well. 


I would stick with Subaru. seriously. Forget the third row. You won't use it enough to justify the expense.

I told Warren he had to pick a 3rd row so he went with The Highlander, Flex, 4runner.

Do you have any more info on the new Prius or the New Buick convertible (Cascada?) that have been mentioned recently? Thanks.

Both are in progress for 2016 delivery.

Hello! My nephew from infancy loves cars. Now that he's 17, is there anyway that I can arrange an information interview with Mr. Brown? This would surely score some major brownie points and would help seal his career as an automotive journalist/engineer! Please let me know! I thank you in advance for all your efforts!

Yea. Just write me at We'll arrange a meeting.

I encountered this Mitsubishi media release through a website, it is not dated, but it is still on their website (April 15, 2015). As I read this, leftover 2014 i-MIEV cars have a $6,130 price reduction, on top of a $7,500 federal tax credit, resulting in a "net MSRP" of $15,495. In California the state government will add up to $2,500 to the pile of cash on the hood, reducing the total to $12,995. If my math is correct, this means incentives totaling $16,130 on a car that ends up costing $12,995. A few weeks ago, the issue of the necessity of tax credits, rebates, etc., to move electric cars and plug-in hybrids was raised in this forum. When the financial incentives required to clear these cars off the lots equal over half the original MRSP, it is Twilight Zone time. Is this an aberration or an indication that auto buyers are intoxicated on cheap gasoline?

The latter. We are intoxicated by cheap gasoline. Gasoline is our un-elected President. It rules the world. When we try to get off the dependence of gasoline the oil barons lower the price and we start snorting it up our tailpipes. 


Sounds like a deal too good to be true, unless  Mitsu is ditching electrics, which I don't believe to be the case. Maybe, an individual dealer's initiative.

Which ones would you pick for a guy who is about the same size as Stretch and Warren ?

Stretch or Warren - a MINI. 

Ah, this is the optional "Husband Waiting for Wife to Run Into the Shop Because I Only Need One Thing, I Swear" system. Very handy in warm climates.


Maria did say If you don't want this to happen, you can simply turn Eco mode off completely by pressing the Eco button on the console.

I had not run into it before and was stymied. Jaguar's stat-stop is robust as well. But what a beautiful car. I can't wait to see what they do with the next generation. 

The 2015 Mini Countryman

(The 2015 Mini Countryman. Photo courtesy of MINI USA.)

Hi there - I've been eyeing the Mini Countryman for quite some time now. Haven't been to the dealership yet because I can be too impulsive at times. I'm concerned about owning a German car once the warranty is up because I went into a big financial hole with a BMW i once had. Thoughts?

Our Mini has been one repair problem after the other. We are not going back to Mini. Too expensive to keep that one going.

Was just looking at subaru's Tribeca and I can't find information on anything more recent that 2014. Did they discontinue it?

yes, sorry.

I like to be able to drive a long distance between gas stops. As I have looked at new cars, it seems like some small to medium sized cars are moving to smaller tanks. Is this correct? If so, why? Thank you.

Yes. More efficient engines. Smaller tanks. Less weight. Overall better fuel economy. And then there is the new Chevrolet Cruze diesel--a good, smooth ride a about 38 mpg hwy.

Ms. Hammond's response to this reader's question is brilliant and, alas, 100% accurate.

Ms. Hammond is brilliant.

Love the 14 Jetta TDI wagon. Has more volume than a small SUV with the back seats down, has the TDI torque, and averages 38mpg. And my dog loves it. Can't understand why Chevy wouldn't release a Cruze Wagon or crossover to try and compete for the market.

I don't know about a Cruze wagon. But the diesel Cruze sedan is a nice piece. I wouldn't be surprised to se a wagon come along if the diesel sedan catches on.

Advice to the person contemplating the two Honda CR-Vs: Never EVER pass up the opportunity to get heated seats. Your lower back and rear end will thank you. If you are a male and in a heterosexual relationship, your woman will never EVER forgive you if you pass on the heated seat option.

I'll bet gay guys like heated seats as well. :) but us women love heated seats. If you work out, you love heated seats. Heated seats would have a better resale value in my book. I'm also sold on heated steering wheels. As we age heat makes a difference. 

My car is almost 8 years old so I have been keeping an eye out for a new sedan, Honda, Toyota, VW are my preferences. BUT I do not want white, black, silver, or gray! When are some interesting color choices going to return? I would really like something green (the color!) Do you have any info?

The Ford Fusion and Focus are available in a variety of greens.

Subie BRZ since its rear wheel drive and more fun than a Mini will ever be. Also slightly more reliable. RWD is always more fun than FWD or AWD especially if it has limited slip differential or something similar. And with 4 winter tires a RWD go will go wherever an AWD or FWD can go in the snow. AWd only really helps from a start. FWD is just for cost and packaging. Maybe a very basic 3 series if you can get one under $40k. Or I take a GTI over a Mini any day Clifton, VA

I would take a GTI over a MINI. I would take a Ford Fiesta ST as well, though I'm not sure it comes in a stick. 

I checked the website given and it appears to be the Mitsubishi corporate site. My recollection of the reviews I have read of the iMIEV, it does not seem to be a very appealing car, but it is probably a really good $12,995 car. In the dim, dark, past, i lived in three different places in California and many of the folks I knew commuted over distances long enough to ensure range anxiety, if that is still the case, it is easy to understand why that the manufacturer, the state and Uncle Sugar have to pitch in so much cash to move these cars.

The iMIEV is a good neighborhood electric car--makes great sense in that application.

Hi folks, I was looking for some information on the newly updated 2016 Pilot, but can't find much, so I'm hoping you might know some details I'm looking for. Mostly, do you know what it's towing capacity will be? Also, any more detail on when in summer it will be at dealers? Thanks!

I think, in looking at their website, that they reduced the base MSRP by $6100, not that it was an ADDITIONAL $6100 off the base MSRP. But still, starting at 22K, take off 7500, possibly another 2500 and it's 12K car...

Do due diligence. If that price holds and the car checks out okay--buy.

I can buy a top-of-the-line heated massage chair for home for $5200 and keep the extra $1300in my pocket. Then again, I could buy a Buick Regal with heated seats, and keep about $60,000 in my pocket.

you could. sometimes having money in the bank is nice. sometimes having a beautiful car with all the amenities is nice. 

When you've reached the point that you don't have to choose life is good. 

Should have been name the Subaru Fugly.

I think it was. 

Your response regarding your Mini scares me - my wife wants a Countryman and now I think I may suggest looking elsewhere. Maybe the new Mazda CX-3...

Yes, I would look at the Mazda CX3 or 5. Our Mini has been nothing but headaches.

I believe it is available with stick only.

That's right! 

The three-cylinder is only available with a manual tranny. 


Thank you 

I have a 2003 Honda Element that I will need to replace in the next year or two. I was just going to go with a CRV but am wondering if I can get more bang for my buck with a Ford Escape or Hyundai Tucson or Kia Sportage? My main concern is reliability but would also like something a little peppier (thus thinking the Ford Escape with Eco boost). Is there really much difference?

Eco Boost is just a way of getting more zip from a four-cylinder engine. Things Ford certainly are worth a look. But also take a very close look at Kia and Hyundai.

I will be selling my car this summer, and I'm not sure whether to go the Craigslist route or just go to Carmax and be done with it. It's a 2013 Honda Fit that will be about a year old when I sell in June/July. I bought it new in 2014 (because there wasn't a 2014 Fit). It will probably have about 3500 miles if that matters. Do you think I'd get enough money from a private transaction to justify the extra hassle?

I would certainly try it. I do love the Honda Fit. 

You can list on and for free. 

see what response you get. ask a dealer what they will give you. 

you have time to do some homework now. 

Each Sunday morning, I retrieve the Sunday paper from my lawn and separate it into two piles: Post content, and ads. The content goes to my table, the ads to the recycling. It's unfortunate that the Post has relegated Warren's Sunday reviews to an advertising supplement section. I've enjoyed reading his reviews and columns since he started writing them. I will miss them.

You can still read them in the supplement--same honesty and thoroughness.

In 2003 I rented a car in Austria in winter. After some time, I noticed that fog and ice disappeared quickly and on close inspection, the windshield was covered with a transparent film with embedded heating wires that very quickly took care of ice and frost problems, much faster than hot air. How has that not caught on?

It could in your part of the United States, but in California we're barely seeing rain. I'm not sure if it is an option or not. 

Ranked, IMO: VW Golf, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Kia Forte, Ford Fusion. If going purely by reliablity, Honda/Toyota. If going purely by value, Kia. If going purely by driving feel/quality, VW. If going purely by a car you will regret if you keep it more than 5 years, Ford.

Not really. Kia offers good value and good driving. Toyota and Honda yield good reliability. VW is like a good hot date, feels good initially, but higher maintenance costs.

I know that leaves only high-mileage cars. Would he be better off looking lesser-selling brands like Mazda?

Mazda might be small but they are mighty and have a cult following. Not sure they will be that less expensive. Mitsubishi would be less expensive and a decent buy. 

Thank you all for being with us today. Please return next week. Thank you Michelle, 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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: