Real Wheels Live: Oil change advice, road cars for retirees and more

Apr 24, 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

Wouldn't you like a car that gives you great mileage on the weekdays and is fun and sporty to drive on the weekends? A vehicle that is small enough to park yet functional for all your daily needs? Let me introduce you to the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R hatchback with adaptive chassis control (DCC) and navigation. (The 2015 Volkswagen Golf R Photo by Lou Ann Hammond)(The 2015 Volkswagen Golf R Photo by Lou Ann Hammond)

I will start with the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system in the Golf R since it has been a torturous winter for many people (and in Michigan it is still snowing!). Most the time the Golf functions as a front-wheel drive, but when the little car that can needs extra oomph, it can send up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels.

The Golf R is powered by a 2.0-liter in-line turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder engine and VW’s DSG twin-clutch automated manual gearbox to get 292-horsepower. Keep all the junk out of the trunk and VW says you'll get a 0-60 mph in less than 5 seconds.

Volkswagen says the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R got an EPA rating of 23 mpg city, 30 highway. My driving mpg was right in that ballpark at 28mpg with very little highway driving.

The car I drove cost $39,910, with the DCC & Navigation Package, including adaptive damping, touch-screen navigation, front and rear park distance control, including backup camera and sensors, and a Fender Premium Audio system.

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Looking for a highway cruiser with space for two bicycles. And since we have a great independent Toyota mechanic, it looks like we're choosing between a Venza and a Sienna (the Boss refuses to consider a Highlander, since she loathes the way a friend's rides). Any comment?

The Sienna makes sense for bikes and bodies. It has one of the most ergonomically sensible vehicle interiors sold in the United States.

Hi, what do you think about the new Lexus NX? I'm considering one over a 2-year-old 350. I am a single woman and this would be used for my 20 mile commute and weekend travel. Thanks!

I'd say save the money and buy the 2-year0old Lexus 350. Why foot a bill for depreciation costs you don't need?

Has Honda got a better CR-Z replacement in the works? I ask because it seems that it has lost its mojo after the CR-Z and the funny Cross Tour and the continual styling refreshening of the Civic.

It is difficult when you have great selling cars to find a way to refresh them to get new buyers and still keep the audience you have. Cadillac Escalade is having that very fortunate problem right now.

Honda is going through its entire line-up, adding new cars such as the HRV and refreshing the rest. I have not seen the a refresh for the CR-Z but I will meet with Honda next week and ask them.

Good morning! I am saying farewell to my beloved 2001 Jetta GLX. It's a V6 stick shift. I really enjoy driving it (and it gets 30 MPG highway.) But it now needs so much work that I'm looking for a new-to-me alternative. I test drove a Honda Fit and liked the cargo space and MPG, but the engine was loud and didn't have much power...I'm looking for a unicorn vehicle: hatchback or sedan with cargo room for groceries, camping gear and luggage, FWD, manual transmission (with a powerful engine), great fuel efficiency and upscale amenities (good audio, sunroof/moonroof, comfortable seats, passenger room in the back). I don't need AWD or crossover/SUV height or weight and I'm happy to buy used. I'll be doing mostly highway miles so I don't want a hybrid. Your thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks!

Ford Fiesta ST

Lou Ann or Warren,

Do you know when the re-do of the LR4 will be out? I think LR is going back to the Discovery name. This is not the Discovery Sport. I love my 2012 Grand Cherokee but each new model year for the Grand Cherokee is getting less and less reliable. Also, I don't trust Sergio and Fiat to come up with a competent chassis. The current one is from the previous generation ML. Fiat just has no experience with SUVs or building a reliable vehicle. Sergio is all about maximizing profit and cutting costs at the expense of dependability and customer service. Jeep dealers are awful.

Sergio is about maximizing profit, which is why he acquired Chrysler for a bargain price. He wanted access to trucks in a market crazy about trucks, which brings up Jeep, and my disagreement with your assessment. I would take a Jeep Grand Cherokee over a Land Rover LR4--comparable quality and reliability, better value.

Lou Ann here:

I asked Stuart from Jaguar about the re-do, "Next generation car will in fact be Discovery and we will use that name, thankfully. No confirm on exact timing but it will be at least more than a year away."

What can we do to persuade VW to export the R Wagon to the U.S.?

Offer a profitable business case, which VW does not think currently exists in the U.S. for the R wagon.

Hi! I recently bought a 2011 Nissan Altima. Guidelines say that oil should be changed every 3,750 miles or 3 months (under most driving conditions). It's now been 4 months, and I've not driven 3,000 miles yet. Is changing the oil every 3 months really necessary with today's cars?

Yes, I think so.

Lou Ann, Do you think that the R is worth the extra price over a GTI? Rodent Track thought not.

You are talking a good $15,00-$20,000 difference between a VW Golf launch edition and a VW Golf R. But most people wouldn't get the launch edition, they would get the $21,000 and add navi etc.

It comes down to a difference in feel while driving. If you're looking for a more performance car and you were thinking of something like a Subaru WRX then I woud go with the VW Golf R.

If you're thinking more like a Honda Fit I would go with the regular VW Golf.

My wife and I are retirees living in southwest Florida. We currently have two cars (2011 Lexus GS 350 AWD with 50K, and 2013 Honda CRV AWD with 12K). We are considering dropping to one car, but need a mid size or larger SUV for traveling with our 60 lb dog. I am considering an Acura MDX or Lexus RX350, or perhaps the Audi Q5. Which would you recommend, or is there another car we should consider? We will likely opt for AWD for safety.

What kind of dog? I miss my dog, PJ-boy, so much.

Do you crate your dog while driving or is he part of the family and sits in the back?

If you crate him any suv with enough room will do. What you want to look for if you don't crate him is a flat back that folds down with no hooks showing that he can get his paws caught in.

I would also look at
Subaru Forester,

Subaru Outback,

Kia Sportage,

Acura RDX,

Chevy Trax,

Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Ford Flex

I would probably end up with the Audi, Subaru or Hyundai

If you can afford it,  go with the Audi Q5. It is a road master for long-distance drives.

Hiya Warren and Lou Ann: It has been a while since I heard anything on Volkswagen's plans to (or plans not to) offer a camper van such as the California to the U.S. market. Will VW or any other U.S. car sellers offer a camper van in the near future? Thanks for doing these chats!

This is the deal. No one has announced plans, yet. But, assuming the economy holds steady/improves, I figure that  Fiat Chrysler Automotive might do something with the Ram Promaster City. That being the case, look for Ford t counter with an RV version of the Transit Connect. Then comes VW.

It's time to replace my wife's thirteen year old Accord. We're empty nesters now, so she doesn't need a family size Sedan anymore - just something more appropriate for a short commute and mostly local errands. I've suggested something small and efficient like a Mini or the upcoming Fiat 4 door, but she's afraid of driving anything small. What are your recommendations for a relatively small, but high-safety rated vehicle, preferably equipped with the latest features like blind-side warning, etc.?

Get a fully equipped--with advanced electronic safety equipment, such as blind-side monitoring--Hyundai Sonata  or Kia Optima. Seriously.

Expecting baby #1 and need to replace our sporty 2 door with a family car. In the near future, the most people we will have in the car is me and my spouse, baby in car seat and 82 y.o. in-laws. No drives longer than an hour or so. Any recommendations for something reasonably comfortable for everyone that's not too expensive and is not a minivan or SUV?

Congrats on Baby #1. Don't be surprised by Baby #2. It happens. Look for a small, safe station wagon or Sedan. The Audi 3 and M-B GLA 250 feel the need without making you feel like a parent every time you get behind the wheel. But, if image worries aren't your problem, take a good look at the diesel Chevrolet Cruze.

Good morning, folks. I see very few new cars these days that have body side moulding. Mine, on a 2005 car, has saved me more than a few door dings. I'm just wondering why they're not around anymore? Is it just styling? Aerodynamics? The auto industry trying to enhance the auto body repair industry? Thanks for your thoughts.

Body-side molding is old-school (stylistically) and not much appreciated by younger buyers today. Adanced electronic safety features--blind-side monitoring, lane-departure warning--help to reduce dings.

Buy a Yeti cooler or ARB cooler/refridgerator, Coleman camp stove and get a nice tent that mounts on top of your SUV. Beats the heck out VW Camper Van. Better off road ability than anything VW, Porsche , or Audi makes if you get a grand Cherokee, Tahoe or Land Rover/Range Rover. Sometimes you need low range when camping Warren and Lou Ann Clifton, VA

Thanks for that.

My lovely wife is driving a Volvo XC 70 that she really loves, but it is nearing the end of its useful life (more and more repairs lately with 100k+ miles on it). What new station wagons (not SUVs, not even small ones) should she drive? The back of the wagon needs to be big enough to fit our 80 pound labrador retriever. Thanks a lot!

Oh, another dog lover.

I would buy either the Audi All-road or the MBZ E-class station wagon

Nothing is too good for our animals.

Volvo lover, take a look at the XC60.

Really??? Now I know they are lower in emissions Warren. But even with current U.S., future E.U. and even future U.S. standards, diesels still emit very fine particulant matter. We are talking passenger vehicles and trucks and not commercial diesels here. These emissions cause cancer. Might be why London and Paris are considering banning diesels. So if it isn't CO, NOx and other emissions it's something more deadly with diesels. Diesels and Kermit don't go together. They aren't green despite their lobbyists! Clifton, VA

Really. Modern diesels emit very low levels of particulate matter.  After treatment exhaust technology reduces nitroxides. And 46 miles per gallon highway, which is what I got in the diesel Cruze, is very hard to beat.

From Nissan USA's own owners manual: Use Schedule 1 [3,750 mi/3 months] if you primarily operate your vehicle under any of these conditions: ● Repeated short trips of less than 5 miles in normal temperatures or less than 10 miles in freezing temperatures ● Stop-and-go traffic in hot weather or low speed driving for long distances ● Driving in dusty conditions or on rough, muddy, or salt-spread roads ● Towing a trailer, or using a camper or car-top carrier I wonder who's trying to sell that as "most driving conditions" to someone who drives under 3k miles in a four-month span.

Follow the manual. That's the point, isn't it?

Caterham Super 7 or Ariel Atom: Depending on the engine options and your ability to control your right foot both vehicles are fun and fuel efficient. Both are probably two of the vehicles you can have the most fun in with your clothes on Warren and Lou Ann.

To bad Jeremy Clarkson punched out his producer. It would be a great piece for Top Gear.

...perhaps the V60 or new XC70 are what you meant?

He probably did, it's a good station as well, but I would still look at the Audi or MBZ station wagon.

I dunno, I get my dings in parking lots. Spaces have gotten much narrower over the last couple of decades. That little strip of trim would be nice.

Ok. Or, avoid narrowly spaced parking lots. That little strip of trim is ugly.

I would caution Clifton about definitively stating diesel exhaust causes cancer. A very thorough American Cancer Society fact sheet says, "...changes in diesel technology in recent decades have resulted in lower levels of soot (particles) in diesel exhaust. Studying diesel exhaust exposure from decades ago may not be the same as studying current exposures."

You are right, which is also why diesel costs more. The oil companies were made - kicking ans screaming - to clean up diesel and they are passing on the cost.

Lou Ann, your thoughts on this car?

If you like the muscle car look it's great. It's fun to drive. Drive the Mustang and Charger as well.

Warren I know you are quite disappointed with your older Mini, but does leasing a new Mini make any sense for something fun to drive, with a manual tranny, for someone your age and size --- like me?

Leasing makes sense for something fun to drive--the Mini or something like it. Leasing usually means you won't have it long enough to be disappointed.

Thank you all for being with us today. Please return next week. Thank you, Charity Brown, Lou Ann Hammond, Ria Manglapus. You all help make this a fun enterprise. 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.
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