Real Wheels Live: Cadillac's woes, city cars, and more

Jun 19, 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,

It will be over 100 degrees today in Auburn, Calif. If you have people or animals, in the back of the vehicle it tends to be warmer. Bring water and treats. Park in the shade if you can. Lower the windows 1/2 an inch if you are in a safe neighborhood. And don't forget to put your meats and frozen items in a cooler on the way home from the grocery store. You don't want to eat spoiled food.

2016 Volvo XC 90 T6 and T8 PHEV

I drove the very new Volvo XC 90 T6.

The 2016 Volvo XC90 T6
(The 2016 Volvo XC90 T6. Photo courtesy of Lou Ann Hammond)

The Volvo XC 90 T6 AWD is powered by a 2.0-liter super and turbocharged direct injection engine that can extract 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. It is mated with an 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with start/stop.

The competitors for the Volvo XC 90 T6 are, Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer, Chevy Traverse, Toyota Highlander, and the GMC Acadia.

The T6 AWD Momentum starts at $48,900, the T6 AWD R-design at $525,00, the T6 AWD Inscription at $54,500. I drove the Volvo XC T6 AWD Inscription that had a suggested MSRP of $66,705.

The T6 gasoline version is EPA rated at 20 city/25 highway miles per gallon (mpg). My mpg was right in the middle of those two numbers.

You can see my review of the T6 and the T8 - the first plug-in 7-passenger 3rd-row seat at

The 2016 Volvo XC90 T8

(The 2016 Volvo XC90 T8. Photo courtesy of Lou Ann Hammond)

Let's chat about cars.

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Hi guys, I've been reading a lot lately about how poor sales are for Cadillac. What do you think is the problem? Image, style or quality? What can save Cadillac at this point? As the previous owner of an Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series (both within the last six years), I can say that I will never buy one of those German brands again. As soon as the warranties were up, all types of expensive, unforseen (mostly electrical) problems arose that hit my wallet hard. Friends of mine who own these brands have similar quality issues, yet they continue to buy those makes over and over. I have my eye on the 2015 Caddy CTS V-Sport (not The V) but I'm concerned about all the bad news for Cadillac as of late. Thoughts?

Cadillac's sales are "poor" only in comparison with other luxury car sales. The problem is that Cadillac does not know what it wants to be. Here's a suggestion: A company that makes darned good, attractive automobiles, accessible to more than the one per cent of the population.

Lou Ann here: 

I wouldn't be concerned about the bad news about Cadillac. Are you hearing that they are not reliable? NO, you are hearing their sales aren't good. This is good for you. You will get more of a car for a better price and it will cost less to keep in the long run. Send us a follow-up after you buy the car and let us know how you like it. 

If you wanted to buy an economical car that would only be used for commutes to and from work and didn't need to worry about number of seats or storage room, what would you get? While I have enjoyed driving an SUV, I don't need something that big to take on a 25 mile commute each way. A hybrid might be nice, but not sure it is worth the expense and not ready to trust an electric car with a limited range before needing to recharge (I like gas because that you are never more than a few miles from a gas station and can fill up in minutes).

I'd get a Hyundai Elantra or something such as a VW Passat TDi.

Lou Ann here: 

I know you said no hybrid but look at the Toyota Prius. 50 mpg! 

The 2015 Forester

(The 2015 Forester. Image courtesy of Subaru.)

I have been considering the Forester and the Outback. There are some differences in size, price, etc., what do you see as the not-so-obvious differences between the two that might lead a buyer to prefer one over the other? Thank you.

2015 Subaru Outback

(The 2015 Outback. Image courtesy of Subaru.)

The Outback is more of a traditional station wagon, which I like. The Forester sort of mimics a SUV.

A few months back, in response to a question about a source of seat hight info, Warren mentioned Edmunds. I have spent some time on Edmunds and other similar sites, and I can't find a seat height listing. Am I missing something? Is there a reliable online listing of seat heights? Thanks.

Most specs can be found on sites like edmunds, but I don't remember seat height being one of them. What information did you want? 

How high the seat is? How high it will go? Most drivers seats are powered now and they can go an inch or two higher so it would be difficult to give one seat height. 

The 2016 Mazda CX-3 (Image courtesy of Mazda)

(The 2016 CX-3. Image courtesy of Mazda)

Lou Ann, my recollection is that you are going to be testing the new small Mazda utility vehicle soon. Please be sure to tell us how Stretch fits, including the back seat. I have a large family (not a lot of them, but they reach and surpass his altitude). Thanks. PS Please also tell us how he fits in the new MX5.

Dear Super-Stretch,

I will be testing those in July. I will let you know. 


Back in the day, I had a RX7 convertible with headrest speakers, a feature that I found very useful (it was not necessary to have the radio/CD turned up as loud as I would have without them). Are there many new cars with headrest speakers available now?


Go to the "features and specs" section of That should also give you a good idea of how your body will mate with cabin space.

Would you purchase a hybrid or regular gas car if you were buying a Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, or Toyota Camry? Additionally which of these in the hybrid would you recommend? John Gardner

Hello, John. I'd get either the Ford Fusion Hybrid or Toyota Camry -- probably the Fusion because it, in my humble opinion, looks better and works just as well as the Camry.

2016 Audi Q3

(The 2016 Q3. Image courtesy of Audi.)

I have been researching the Audi Allroad, Q3, and Q5 as I like hatchbacks and small wagons, but am willing to consider a relatively small SUV. On the Audi website, they list the A3 Sportback e-Tron but it has apparently not arrived yet. Do you have any info on this new model? Thank you.

Hmm, I thought the A# e-tron was here. It certainly hould be here this summer, I think.


What are you looking for? the biggest difference in mpg versus cost? or looks? 

You can go to and do a side-by-side comparison of fuel economy. You have to find the exact vehicle you want to do a side-by-side comparison of the price because of the option pricing. 

Looks - they are all decent looking cars with good reliability. 

Were you surprised by the results of the JD Power survey? It did not surprise me how well the Korean manufacturers are doing , nor how poorly Fiat/Chrysler is performing, but I was surprised by the mediocre results for Honda/Acura. What is happening to their focus on the quality they were previously known for?

Not surprised at all. The Koreans are smart--exceptionally good products loaded with technology at accessible prices. FCA is struggling with things Fiat. Honda, Acura quality is still tops, but, alas, marketing messages are all askew.

The 2016 Fiat500X

(The 2016 Fiat500X is unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Nov. 20, 2014. Photo by  Jae C. Hong/AP)

Good morning Warren! We have a Jeep Grand Cherokee and are looking for a smaller 2nd wagon/crossover/suv. We'd been looking at the Subaru XV Crosstex and have become interested in the the Fiat 500x after reading your review among others. The 2nd car would be the commuting car but have space for the dogs (100lbs Lab and 50lbs Shepard) if need be. Currently live in the DC area but frequently travel north and may be moving in the next 18-24 months. Are there other options in that class to look at? We won't be buying for months, spending this summer test driving and looking at options (on the vehicles and specific dealers). Thank you!

Good morning! Go with the Fiat 500x, which fits nicely in urban-area traffic, is fun-to-drive, gets good mileage, does well in inclement weather and makes more sense than the Jeep Renegade, which is based on the 500X.

Good morning! My wife's 2005 Mazda 6i has treated us fantastically over the years. Other than somewhat disappointing gas mileage, it's everything we need in a car... and with only 65k on the ticker we hope it lasts us a good long time. That said, her father is very worried about the airbag recall, to the point that he's expressed interest in buying it from us and selling us instead their older model Mazda 3 (in fine shape, but not among our top choices for an eventual replacement). I, too, would much prefer my wife remain unperforated by Takata shrapnel. We love this car, and would love to keep driving it. How worried should we be? I dropped the dealer a note via email a week ago and they have yet to reply. Any idea when Mazda will be able to actually do something about it?

Is the 2005 Mazda you have on the recall list?

If so, Have you called your Mazda dealer? Have you gone to the dealership to try to get it replaced? 

I would be proactive then sending them a note if my car had that airbag. 

You should have received, or should soon be receiving a recall notice by mail. If/when it is delivered, take your Mazda in for a fix. Until then, don't worry. Just drive carefully.

Warren and Lou Ann, Have either of you done any long term testing of an EVs available in the US? A good friend of mine was using his Tesla and a small U haul to bring his daughter back from college in WV. Did anyone know that most EVs cut the power available back after repeated heavy acceleration ie climbing the mountains on I64??? Now the trailer weighed less than 1500lbs and the car was no where near its load limits. However the power cutback became dangerous life threatening because of the 18 wheelers. A good friend of mine in Idaho has similar issues with her Tesla with no trailer and driving in the mountains. So before the mags like R&T, C&D, MT et al and automotive writers rhapsodize about EVs you might want to drive one in the real world. R&T has an interesting test of Tesla's coming M5 fighter in this month's issue where they suffered similar problems in testing. Clifton, VA

Yes, and I'd never use any of the EV's driven to tow anything, including a 1,500-lbs trailer. The physics just aren't there. Work load still too quickly drains battery power. Towing anything is heavy workload for an electric vehicle.

Go online and find a site that lets you do a comparison of the costs and see if when the price difference pays you back. Some vehicles pay you back sooner than later. Others its the 10+ years Clifton, VA


A follow up to the Cadillac sales question. I am wondering what is happening to Audi and BMW, if the quoted experience with issues is not uncommon. I still have a 2002 BMW Z3, my son has a 2006 Audi A4 and we've had excellent reliability from them, now both well over 100K miles. These model years predate some of the slick electronic gizmos that it seems are becoming popular (no i-drive or anything like that) and the proliferation of computerized everything. I wonder if these things can really stand up to the real driving environment - temperature ranges, humidity and vibration. Pretty hard to make a vehicle choice when the chicken don't come home to roost until the warranty just expires.

They can...and do. The "slick electronic gizmos" are the wave of the automotive future. Traffic fatality data indicate that they already are paying off in reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities, pedestrian injuries and deaths. Look for more of them in all cars.

2016 Honda HR-V

(The 2016 HR-V. Photo courtesy of Honda)

I'm in the market for a new ride in the next year. I've loved Honda (cars) in the past and there seems to be a lot of good features on this car for a lower pricepoint. Have you driven it? Thoughts? Forthcoming article? Thanks!

Next week and looking forward to it.

Why not just save your money and get a similar Golf model??? Remember Audi's are really just upscale Vdubs that suffer from FWD handling issues in comparison to Bimmers and Benzs. AWD is only an asset when you you starting off and accelerating. Its does nothing for you when it comes to handling. A RWD Bimmer is much more fun to drive than any Audi.

I don't know about the real-wheel-drive Bimmer claim. But the VW Golf is a good suggestion.

One of my grown children has a Forester and the other two, with children, have late model Outbacks. Forester seems a bit taller with a bit shorter length. Maybe easier to park. The Outbacks drive like cars, plenty of room, attachments etc for car seats and all that. All have been giving very reliable service and meeting every expectation. One of the Outbacks has the big V6 and AT, while the other has 4 cyl with CVT. No complaints about either one, which surprised me. Wife and I have traveled with our daughter in her Forester on long trips in the western states. all I can say is - Excellent!

I agree. Thank you.

What pick up truck or SUV will hold my gun rack for Winchester Model 70 and my Kreighoff over and under 12 gauge

all pickups. 

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thank you Michelle Williams, Lou Ann Hammond, Ria Manglapus, Michelle Dawson. All women. I know. Ain't I lucky? 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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