Real Wheels Live: Entry-level luxury sedans, car subscriptions and more

Jul 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.

Ha! I drove the 2015 Rolls-Royce Wraith. I never again will think of luxury cars in the same light. There also was the Toyota Highlander, Ford F-150 and Acura RDX...for the rest of us.

It's been a busy week again. We drove three cars this week: the 2016 Mazda Miata, the 2016 Mazda CX-3, and the 2015 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe Manual.

The 2016 Mazda Miata

(The 2016 Mazda Miata. Photo courtesy of Lou Ann Hammond.)


The 2015 Jaguar F-Type
(The 2015 Jaguar F-Type. Photo courtesy of Lou Ann Hammond.)

What a surprise it was to find out that Mazda's head designer, Derek Jenkins, was no longer with Mazda as of last Friday.  Jenkins had been working with Mazda since 2009. Right before the launch of his latest design, the Mazda CX-3, he quit.

I put some video and pictures up of the long awaited Mazda Miata MX-5, including a video from the event, on Facebook.  Gorgeous car, fun to drive, here is my review.

I also drove the 2015 Jaguar F-Type S Coupe Manual in Italian Racing Red metallic at home this week. Stretch loved this two-door coupe, but Stretch loves anything Ian Callum designs. It's part of the reason I keep an eye on the designers. If you're a car enthusiast, you know who designed your car. If sales are going up is it partly because you like the design of that car?

The only change I would make is I would buy the convertible S-Type that starts at $92,000. Look, if you're going to buy this type of car, buy the car you want. A coupe is a great driving car; top down is priceless.

A 2014 Chrysler 300

(A 2014 Chrysler 300 is shown. Image courtesy of Chrysler)

I drove a Chrysler 300 as a rental car last week. It was comfortable and nice to drive, but the visibility out the back was terrible. I'm short, but not that short. Why isn't this addressed in new cars?

It's addressed in all cars, but some cars address it better than others. I just drove the Jaguar F-Type and had the same problem which is why I would rather have a convertible. 

What is helping is sensors on the side and in the back. Couple that with a camera that allows you to see the back and I feel a lot more comfortable backing out of places. 

Agreed. I am told by "experts" that it has to do with "common body mass" as applied to the intended drivers of certain vehicles. I guess we shorties aren't common.

Several months ago I wrote in regarding replacing my EOS convertible that I was have issues with. I recently purchased a Mazda 3 S Touring with all the upgrades I wanted. I love it. It drive great. Still gives me some power and I think the car is super cute. The onboard entertainment/NAV system takes some getting use to but the audio system with Bose speakers sounds geat. Buying 87 gas is saving money and the gas milage is pretty good which is important as I comute 65 miles a day..

No argument with any of that. The Mazda3, in almost any trim level, is an enjoyable piece of work.

Lou Ann, did they say anything about upcoming Mazdaspeed vehicles at your Mazda meeting?

No. It was an interesting event. There were two cars they were showing, but the head designer wasn't there. Derek Jenkins is no longer with Mazda and there isn't a replacement yet. No executives were there and the top PR person wasn't there, he was in Japan in meetings.

I'm not sure where Derek is going. 

Good Morning Team - I'm in needed of trading in a Land Rover LR2 for something that is cheaper to maintain and good for a new commute (better gas mileage and maybe not premium gas). I do want something that is fun to drive and I can feel proud about driving around clients and colleagues. I keep coming back to the Acura ILX - don't really love the nav/dash diplay, but I like the 4 cylinder engine, good has mileage, and bells and whistles. The Lexus IS and Infiniti G/Q sedans are all 6 cyl and rear wheel drive (which is okay if I can still get the above). I thought of staying away from European b/c of the reputation that they are also more expensive to maintain than the Japanese counterparts. Any recommendations of sedans I should consider or that I'm not thinking of? Any words on the ILX or other Acura that fits my needs? Thanks!

Seriously, instead of a sedan, take a good look at the Honda Pilot Elite--has all of the plush and chutzpah people like. Sedans? If tou are going to consider things Acura, you might as well save money and buy high-end Honda. Or consider Lexus.

I was just talking to a friend of mine about this. Vicky loves the drivability of a nice car such as the BMW but doesn't like the expense after the warranty is over. 

Look at leasing a car. You get all the new car feeling for a couple years and none of the headache when the warranty is over. 

The pros of using smart phones for mobile connect is that smart phones are more easily updated than onboard stuff.  But onboard emergency communications systems--such as air bag deployment in a crash--are hard to beat.

I just got a new GM car that came with both OnStar and XM for a trial period. What are the cons of NOT paying to renew after the trial period. Back in 2004, I had another GM car that came with OnStar. After a few years, I stopped paying to renew. Back when I first got that car, the OnStar was using the analog cellphone network and I did get a notice in the mail to upgrade the equipment to the digital network. I assume that if I continue the subscriptions, I will also keep the equipment up to date if something changes. Since it is built into the car, it might also impact the resale value. But, paying for another service which I have never before needed seems like nothing more than another bill to pay. What are the pros and cons of maintaining a subscription to services connected to a car?

I don't think it will affect the resale value. The subscriptions would be turned off/discontinued when you sold anyway so the next person would have to renegotiate the subscription. 

I have found that if I let a subscription lapse the company comes back with a better rate. Not saying this can happen here, but...

The pros are the service. Onstar is great if you have a problem with the car, are being robbed, have an accident. You have a built-in responder. 

XM is something that is hard for me to live without in a car. I don't watch TV at home, but I listen to TV on the radio. I also love the assortment of music channels. 


I know that many new cars come with a backup camera to help people see what is behind them when they back out their driveway or a parking space. But, what about having a camera that shows the side of the car when parking in a shopping center or other parking lot. I know I see a lot of people who open their door and realize they are not even close to being centered in a parking space. It would seem that a camera that looks down from the side mirrors would let the driver know where the line is and if they are good.

Honda and Nissan, and Mercedes-Benz, share your concerns. Nissan, for example, has a marvelous 360-degree camera.

Audi 5 or BMW 4....reasons? Thanks

Audi 5, simply because Audi has a more sensible options pricing policy than does BMW.

Lately, it has been taking my GPS much longer to find the signals needed to calculate my position. Sometimes, it is working in 10 seconds or less and other times, it is more like 10 minutes. I think I had driven 7 miles yesterday before the map updated. Do GPS units have an "expiration date" after which they no longer function? Usually, once it finds the satellites, it is fine. I know I have heard that things like solar flares can impact the signals, but I haven't seen anyone else mention a problem making me think it is just me.

GPS units, onboard, can become obsolete in terms of info provided. That is why I prefer easy-to-update smart phones.

Are there any Jeeps that you recommend? I just returned from the Adirondacks, and it seemed that everyone drove a Jeep. I was thinking that they may know something that I don't know about them.

Yes. The Jeep Trailhawk. Love that one for off-road. Easy to drive and handle in narrow quarters.

I dunno, my brother. You should see how hard it is at 6-5 to find something that fits that you can enjoy. A lot of the high-MPG cars have windshields so low that I can't see out the front!

Also, agreed. The "common mass" thing just doesn't work for many of us.

So Lou Ann is the F type worth 3 times the price of the Miata??? I take the F coupe since I have always preferred E type coupes ie Series 1, 1 1/2, and 2 to the convertibles. But I prefer MGBs to MGB GTs and Spitfires to Spitfire GT6s. Dont forget the F type has a leading role in the latest James Bond movie coming out in early November. Clifton, VA

Warren here. NOPE. Nearly 50% or more what you are buying when you are buying a luxury car has nothing to do with the actual performance of the car. It's "prestige" and "blue sky."

I would take the Mazda Miata GT for $30,000+ or the new Corvette convertible. The F-Type goes to a different segment, the $100,000 segment. 

How 'bout RR vs Bentley or Masserati, names that a RR buyer might actually consider? Cadillacs are aspirational for people who are used to buying Buicks; I don't think a RR potential customer is going to ever set foot in a Caddy dealer's shop. Or vice versa.

Ha! You are absolutely right! No Rolls-Royce buyer seriously is going to consider Cadillac. Maybe, Bentley or Maserati. But RR is RR. There are no substitutes. And it goes far beyond the car itself. It is how the customer is treated pre and post-sale. Very much like royalty.

Lou Ann, having just driven the '16 Miata, how does it compare to the original? I just bought a '94 (NA) and I absolutely love it, and I'm curious as to how the '16 (ND) serves as its fourth-generation successor after the third-generation (NC) was maybe a better car but not a better Miata. Dynamically, could you tell that the ND weighs about the same as the NA?

The difference is in the placement of the drivers seat and the pedals. The MX-5 engineer, Dave Coleman talked about the front engine, rear drive Miata, "this is the first time we built from the drivers seat out - most the time we say, the engine needs to be here the HVAC needs to be there. This time we put the drivers position first. The pedals laid out in line with the car position for ideal pedal position."

Mom is in the market for a new SUV and it WILL be German. Previously owned an ML320; presently has a Toureg. Besides BMW, is there enough difference between the Audi and Porsche offerings and the Toureg to add them to the shopping list? Thanks.

Mom, or you? Sounds like you. But, if you are looking at the Porsche, you might as well consider the Touareg and save some money. Not terribly much difference between the two.

I was driving a rental recently in a heavy nighttime downpour. I tried to reach up to turn off the distracting lights on the mirror and apparently hit the wrong button. It was more than a little unnerving when the OnStar guy asked if I was okay.

It would have been comforting if you hadn't been and needed him. Thank him and go on

I test-drove a Miata years ago, and loved it on the curves of the back roads. Then the sales guy had me take it out on the highway. Yikes! At that point I felt like I was driving a toy car, surrounded by monsters. I ended up buying a Nissan 350Z, which I still have and love. Is the new Miata big enough to avoid that "I'm in a toy and what am I doing here??" feeling?

I agree. The Miata alone on a country road is fun. But I've too often made the mistake of putting one on I-95 and the NJ Turnpike. Not funn at all in those driving environments.

Talking "base" 4 cylinder models here, highway driving, need car to get to 250k miles at least (I've taken cars to 300k). I'm torn. Like the Sonata, but it has direct injection engine where the Camry's engine is based on 1980's technology and lasts forever. Is Camry still the safest bet? Not considering anything with CVT or DSG transmission. Thanks!

The Camry is a safe bet, as is the new Corolla, Nissan Altima and, for that matter, the Ford Fusion and Chevy Cruze.

Any out-of-date software and data on board the car would not cause this issue. Occasionally the GPS constellation will have fewer satellites in view, but it would not be a continual problem. It's likely that a connection between the antenna and the GPS sensor in the car is marginally faulty, or perhaps something else in the car is interfering with the signal. By the way, I agree with Warren about the trade off between installed navigation systems and driver-provided technology. The installed equipment is usually very expensive and prone to obsolescence in a few years. I wish car makers did more to accommodate driver-provided technology such as convenient mounting locations, power connections and interface with the installed audio equipment. Otherwise drivers are stuck with suction-cup mounts or vent mounts etc. Not very elegant.

Thank you.

Kind of a startling admission, isn't it? Seems like every product design should start with the user experience (except Microsoft, or Comcast, who will tell you what you want and you'll take it).

There are too many "cars by committees" out there. Too much stuff that everyone thinks needs to be on a car and not enough of what a person buys a car for - to drive 

What do you think of it? It would be a second car (used) that may replace the first car if I like it enough. Anything to look out for? Thank you.

My love for it rapidly disappeared on a 300-mile drive to Virginia from our house in Cornwall, NY. The 500x wore me out on that long drive--hard to maneuver and lousy in crosswinds. I am no longer a fan.

How long before there's an effective standard for security of on-board computer systems from remote hacking?

Probably within a year before it has to be revised again. Cable. Chrysler is working on a fix. How long the fix will last is anyone's guess. Hackers are a talented annoyance.-

Warren and Louann: I enjoy reading your chats every week and have a question about our next car. We currently own a 2009 Honda CR-V. It is an all-around good car but not great for long-ish road trips. The seat cushions are fairly short (we are not tall) and offer little thigh support and are not that comfortable for long trips. Also road noise is pretty loud. We are thinking about something that has really comfortable seats for the long haul, decent gas mileage, some hauling capacity (wagon/cuv) and of course, decent gas mileage (more than 30 mpg highway) and good reliability. Any recommendations? Was thinking of Volvo V60, Toyota Venza, BMW 3-series wagon or X3. Others to consider?

There's a whole new line-up of cars for you. 

mazda cx-3  

nissan juke 

jeep renegade 

honda hr-v

Try this segment and let me know how it fits you. They are just coming out on the market Really, I want your opinion. You are the perfect person to hear from. 

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thank you Michelle Williams, Lou Ann Hammond, Ria Manglapus. Couldn't make it without you. 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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