Real Wheels Live: The New Miata, radio and CD players in cars, and more

May 29, 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


I'm back!!! I had a great time with Bosch at their 62nd International Automotive press briefing. I got to drive the (as far as I know) first ever electric AND autonomous Tesla Model S!


I haven't put up the video yet, but I got to ride in the blood-curdling Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid. So much fun. 


And, of course, wouldn't you know it, we wanted to go from Boxberg to Heidelberg by train, and the trains were on strike! We managed to get there 5 hours later by train only because the train company has a deal with the most senior people that they can't be laid off, but they can't strike. 


This week I drove the Toyota Avalon hybrid and got 36 mpg. The cost of the vehicle I drove was $45,000. The two competitors I would look at are 2015 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid FWD and the 2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid FWD.

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

(The 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid. Photo courtesy of Lou Ann Hammond)

I have not had time to update this list, but I will this week. NHTSA has recalled over 34,000,000 cars over the Takata airbag. The best list I have so far is


You can go to and put your VIN number in and see if your can has been recalled.


Let's chat about cars 


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List your used car for free.

There was a very interesting interview this week with Ford executive Billy Ford, grandson of the company's founder. Billy Ford has always been one to look ahead--paying close attention to environmental concerns while others were pretending that global warming was a political joke. The AN interview has him looking forward to a very different automobile industry, one in which many people share cars, less folks own them, and a car is just...transportation. Food for thought.

Hi Lou and Warren, In the last few months have seen increased instances of the following: - Driving at high speed on the shoulder to get ahead during rush hour (If one commutes at a specific time, it is usually the same folks) When folks get away with this it sets a bad precedent. - Cutting into traffic at the last minute at exits when all else are crawling - Speeding up to prevent lane change when one turns on the indicator for lane change - Changing lanes without using indicators - Not burning headlights during rain while using wipers (it is the law in MD, but folks will pass under signs stating the same and do nothing) - Distracted driving (especially due to electronic devices) Is the solution more enforcement? Is it re-education of drivers? Germantown, MD

I wish it were that simple. It's the lack of people caring about each other. I see it as well and it saddens me. 

People are in such a hurry to close the gap between cars because they're afraid that another car will fill the gap if they don't that they don't care that they're sitting on a railroad track. 

Stretch facilities between his two favorite sayings, "Autonomous vehicles can't get here soon enough" and "no wonder the Aliens don't talk to us"

Keep your sanity, take a minute, save a life - it might be yours. 

Too often is selfish driving--"me-first" driving, especially the extremely dangerous silliness of using the highway shoulder during rush hour.  It needs to stop.

It seems like everybody lately is adding touch screens into their cars. Is there any data on how long they last? (I mean, a 5 year old laptop is ANCIENT, right? And good luck repairing an iPod...) But I tend to keep my cars for a long time (at least 10 years), so I wonder how well those things will perform in later years.

really good question. I have a 5 year old laptop that is now considered antiquated and it cost me $2,000 when I bought it. I'd be lucky to get $500 for it now. 

I just gave away my iPhone 4S to my best neighbor Sheri when I got my iPhone6 because the pennies I could get for it weren't worth the hassle of selling it. That and she had recently lost hers and I couldn't text her. 

The touch screen in the car maybe a conduit to the software in the back which is usually the part that ages the quickest. My monitor on my computers still work, but the software and hardware is antiquated. 

I would think the car companies have separated those items and can upgrade software and replace hardware while the part we see stays the same. 

My spouse's Honda CR-V has close to 160,000 miles and it's time for another vehicle (spouse prefers the high vantage point in an SUV); however, with one child due to enter college soon we need to keep spending under control. We had a bad experience with a Chevy Venture minivan so we're not thrilled with "American" vehicles. Any preferences?

Honda Fit,or HR-V

The Fit starts a little over $15,000 but sits smaller, the HR-V starts under $20,000 and sits a little higher. 

Since you've had a Honda for 160,000 and didn't complain about it I would stick with Honda. 

...looks like future trend.

After the last decade, we're getting there. People are leasing because they can't afford to buy, and kids getting out of school can barely afford leasing after paying their rent and loans. Several of the 25-year-olds my wife supervises share an apartment and each pays one of the guys to drive them all to work in his beater.

This goes beyond leasing or buying, this goes to the heart of even owning a car. If you look at the top of the questions you can see one person complaining about people and their driving habits. The roads are completely congested with people and their cars. If you go to San Francisco it seems half the people driving around are looking for parking spaces. If you didn't own the car you wouldn't have some of the hassles of ownership and you could go to your local rent a car when you needed it. 

My wife & I are interested in a new vehicle. So far have looked at a Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX5 and a Chevrolet Equinox. Any other two row cuv's to consider?

Other, Yes, the Kia Sorento.

Warren, I live in northern Idaho at the end of a half-mile gravel and dirt driveway with 10-12% pitches. Last fall, partly based on your recommendation, bought my wife a 2015 Subaru Forester. Easily handled the driveway (unlike my front-wheel drive VW Passat). Just traded in the VW on a second Forester. Thanks for your recommendation.

My pleasure. Gladd it all worked out.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

(The 2016 MX-5 Miata. Photo courtesy of Mazda)

So the new Miata is kind of out (I think they're taking orders). Have either of you had the opportunity to drive one yet? Impressions?

No, we would love to though

Are CD players in cars going away? I was looking at the Chevy website and saw some of the cars no longer come with the CD players (unless I was reading it wrong). I survive my commute with books on CD from the local library. While the library is starting to move towards downloadable audio books, the bigger collection is only available on CD. I am not ready to give up a CD player.

Do you have a cigarette lighter in your car? You can buy a CD player that hooks into your cigarette lighter. Of course, those are even more extinct. :) 

Depends on the car company. Some car companies are leaving them in, some taking them out. Call and see if it is an option. 

...going. going, going.

I don't have a question, but more of a comment. I'm not sure if you guys realize this, but in the past few months, the chat has become more of a pulpit than a chat. It seems like you guys (and no offense Warren, but it's mostly you) are becoming more and more dismissive of (and sometimes seemingly hostile to) people who have views that differ from yours. In particular, I'm thinking of the way you guys tend to respond to Clinton (with whom I disagree on almost everything) and that automotive privacy guy (who I think has a point). Please take this in the spirit it is offered - as an observation and constructive criticism. Yes, it's a criticism, but one that's offered with the goal of improving the chat, not with the intent of haranguing you guys. Thanks for listening with an open mind. I'll hope to "see" you guys at 11:00.

Thank you. My apologies for offending anyone. All views are welcome here.

Lou Ann here:

Thanks for the feedback and sending it directly to us. 

I'm trying to sell my old car, but I'm having trouble pricing it. I'm not sure I understand the terms used in some of the pricing guides. The car is a 2005 Toyota Camry LE with no options (no leather, no sunroof, no premium audio system), 4 cylinders, 80,000 miles, clean, and in good mechanical condition. Edmunds and Kelley price it at around $6000 to $7000. But the NADA website, using the car's VIN, lists clean retail as $8950. I can't tell if that's what a dealer would charge, or is a private-party sale. Craig's List for my city has a few 2005 Camry's with similar mileage for $10,000 and up, but they are either LEs with leather, sunroofs, V-6, or the higher-trim XLE with all that stuff as standard. How should I decipher the NADA price? And do you think the Edmunds and Kelley are as accurate as the NADA?

I think, based on experience, Ednunds and Kelley are closer to the real market, thus closer to the truth.

I'm all for taking the service plans included with a new car (4 years/50K of service came with my new SRX) but what about getting a service plan for a used car? Just bought a 2006 VW Beetle Convertible with only 47K - does it make any sense to purchase a service plan or extended warranty on this one?

It depends on what they are warranting. I typically don't buy service plans because I end up taking my car to a mechanic outside of the dealership. My husband can still do the oil change etc. 

Also, in 2009 we saw a lot of car dealers go under and those warranties that they sold privately were null and void. I don't see that happening now, but...


Check with the seller for extended warranty,. Carmax could be your best bet for post-sale service.

Hi, Electronics dude again. I guess my question was more whether there is data about the longevity of the screens themselves. Are they more of a "wear item" that are expected to go after a few years, or are they really holding up over the extended lifetime of a car? (Maybe I'm worrying about nothing and they last forever? For what it's worth, I love my smartphone *and* my fountain pen, which I suppose makes me a confused Luddite...)

i DON'T THINK there is much to worry about on the matter of screen durability.

10 years old with only 80k? Consider keeping it. I'll assume it's paid off. Think about what you can bank without the car payment. The car might not be fashionable anymore, but it'll allow you to have a stylish retirement account!

My 1993 stills runs just fine. I have no payments, banking $350 a month. That's an extra $4,200 a year. 

That's a vacation. 

We, two retired baby-boomers with two dogs who travel in their crates, have a Volvo V70 and love it. We won't be trading it in anytime soon, but I look around and see nothing on the market that really compares. There are SUVs with higher lift heights (not good) and less horizontal space (also not good - we need the width for the dog crates), worse handling and worse MPG. There are smallish sort-of wagons, crossovers and the like, but pretty much nothing that's directly comparable. So, do we just prepare to keep this thing for 15 years? Or am I overlooking something that would fill the same niche?

Prepare to keep the Volvo. Yes.

Lou ann here: 

Audi has an all-road station wagon, Mercedes has a beautiful e-class station wagon. more expensive but they are station wagons. Smaller would be the Prius station wagon. 

My current drive, a 2013 GTI is coming off lease in about 8 months. While I love driving the car, it has had too many warranty issues for me to keep it, with total repair price (had I had to pay it) approaching $3000. So, I am thinking of something different: the 2016 Volt. Any thoughts?

You want to drive electric/hyb rid? Yes, the Volt is well worth a look. But I'd check with with CR to get a real-world idea about owner experience.

Also look at the Toyota Prius plug-in and the Ford Fusion plug-in

A 1993 car... (I own a 20 year old car myself, so I shouldn't laugh...)


Lou Ann here:

LOL - The banks feel the same way about my house. It is paid off as well. 

I am laughing all the way to my mattress :) 

(The XV Crosstrek Hybrid. Source: Subaru)

(The XV Crosstrek Hybrid. Source: Subaru)

I'm curious about what you think about the new Subaru Hybrid Crosstrek XV. It's their first hybrid and we are hesitant to buy something that is a "first generation" product.

I was not an early supporter of the Crosstrek when it came out a few years ago. But, based on owner/user surveys, it it seems to have improved. A hybrid version should be interesting.

Hi; I'm moving across the country next month, and will need to buy a car to get around. As I just paid for a wedding, I'm looking at getting a used car. But I've never done that before, and I'm guessing there are lots of ways to mess it up. Do you have some basic tips for someone looking at buying used for the first time?

A few years ago the Honda Element was THE vehicle for pet lovers, particularly owners of large dogs. Honda let the Element die. Was it because of low demand? I know that if a manufacturer introduced a pet friendly vehicle that I would put it high on my list when looking to purchase a replacement for the current fleet. Are pet lovers too small of a market niche for vehicle manufacturers?

Honda had a dog edition of the Element and to this day I can't figure out why they discontinued that vehicle. 

People spend more on their dogs than they do on themselves! It's a market waiting to happen and yet the car companies are not capitalizing on it.


Don't overlook the VW Golf Sportwagon.

Thank you Sir/Madam. 

We have two good vehicles with an average of 12 years and 155,000 miles on them. They still run well and we just rent when we're taking long trips. $300/week to Enterprise every couple of months beats $700 payments every single month.

My sentiments exactly. Why make someone else rich? 

My daughter hit a guardrail in her 2001 Honda CRV while she was - in spite of being relatively intelligent and knowing not to do this - looking down at her phone to see if the GPS map had loaded. We've gone over all this with her and are thankful she was not hurt and that there was a guardrail present. The back fenders - both - and the front fender have dents, and there is a scrape along the side. Insurance has totaled it. My husband has gotten a quote from them on what they'd pay if we decided to keep it and fix it. It was a great car when we bought it 2 years ago - rarely driven, low mileage, in great shape - and we know we'll never find another like it, especially with what insurance would pay. Should we take the insurance money and pay the extra to fix it? Our mechanic has checked it over, and it is sound except for the body damage.

Fix it and let her buy a new one with her own money. 

I had an accident when I was a teenager and the one thing I remember from that accident was crying and telling my father that I had totaled the car. He told me, "Lou, we can always replace metal, but we can't replace you" Dad is gone now, but those words meant so much. 

The problem is your daughter is intelligent and wants all the technology the new cars have to offer. Fine, work for it. Save your money, girl,use the CRV as a trade-in when you get enough together. She will respect the car more if she has to invest in it.

She can also invest in a hands free device (I got mine from Brookstone) that allows you to hook your iPhone in your vent so that you can see the nav system on your iPhone without looking down. 

I am glad she is safe - it is the most important part of the conversation. 

Thank you everyone for joining us, for all the great questions and all the considerate comments. We appreciate your feedback. 

Come back next week with more questions. Thank you Warren and Michelle. 

And remember - (especially my last chatter)

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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