Real Wheels Live: Auto IT security, the new Miata and more

Aug 07, 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,

So, what did everyone think of the GOP debate? What was your  favorite line from the evening?

You know what I realized? I realized I missed Tim Russert. I missed the days when we sat down to hear what the candidates had to say to make a decision, not to see if they would make a mistake. Our question-and-answer sessions are more like people going to NASCAR to see if an accident happens than to see the race. It's taking on the qualities of a sitcom.

This week I drove a Jeep Renegade and a Kia Sorento.

The 2015 Jeep Renegade

(The 2015 Jeep Renegade. Photo courtesy of Lou Ann Hammond)

The 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk was a burnt orange and everywhere I went people looked. The MSRP as tested was $30,245 and I got mid-20s on the fuel economy.

Kia Sorento

(The Kia Sorento. Photo courtesy of Lou Ann Hammond)

The Kia Sorento was around $30,000 and had all the bells and whistles (not a 4X4) with beautiful tailoring on the interior. I got about the same mpg as the Renegade, but loved the drivability so much more.

I think part of the difference was the 9-speed automatic on the Renegade. I asked the President of ZF, the transmission manufacturer, at what point - how many speeds can you have before a transmission is a CVT. I think it is 8, nine is too many.

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A 2014 Ford Escape

We're considering buying a Ford Escape with the 2.0 liter EcoBoost engine. Should we go for the 2015 version or hold out for 2016? Any major upgrades to the 2016 model?

Buy the 2015 at a really great price. There will be some changes in infotainment, so if that is a big deal to you watch for those, but the car itself is already good. 

Light trucks and crossover utility vehicles are leading the way to strong global auto sales--17.5 million seasonally adjusted rate--in the U.S. auto market. Here's betting Honda will take advantage with its excellent new HR-V--that's HR-V--compact crossover.

Hey guys - need your advice. Gonna trade in the Honda Odyssey for a family sedan. I'm a single dad so it's just me and the two pre-kiddos. I like the Fusion and the 2016 Mazda 6. What are your thoughts? I will not do a Hyundai, Kia, Chrysler, 2015 Malibu (but the upcoming 2016 Malibu loooks hot). Hate the Altima. Recommendations? I plan to look later today and tomorrow.

Congratulations on being a stand up Dad and thank you. My friend, Kimatni, has a Facebook page called fit fathers if you want to check it out. 

I love the Fusion. I like the Mazda 6 as well, but the Fusion is a great little car. Great mileage and a decent average price. I would get the plug-in hybrid, but that's me. 

Have you looked at the 2016 Honda Accord? It's the first car EVER to include Android or Apple car play in a car. I'm driving a 2015 right now and the 2016 is a nice redesign with all types of good safety included for a person who has children. 

Enjoy your children. 

I'd take the Fusion over the Mazda 6. Fussion simply feels better in hand, The Mazda6 is nice, well-done, but feels "soft.." I'd also consider the excellent  Honda HR-V. Great job, Honda!

Kia has a large dealership near our home. My wife and I want to buy a medium-size sedan or a hatchback, from Kia. We have friends who own and are happy with their new: Kia Forte', Kia Optima, Kia Soul. All else being equal, which would you recommend if safety and reliability were the ONLY criteria? Most of our driving is local. Thanks for any advice you can offer. Obviously a test drive provides no real insights to safety and reliability.

I'd go with the Kia Optima and take the full advanced electronic technology package with it. That includes blind-side monitoring, land-departure warning, etc. It's a hard-to-beat package at that price, content and good quLITY.

Now that both Jeep & Tesla vehicles have been successfully remotely hacked, how can a consumer access a vehicle's IT security? I suppose we can always skip an option or turn off any outside network connection. But that seems a drastic (if potentially necessary) step.

I don't know. I do know that both FCA and Tesla are working on counter measures. I also hope that our lawmakers are working on legislation to severely punish anyone who causes a crash by hacking vehicles, or doing something else as foolish as flying drones in commercial air space.

In general when is the best time to buy a new car? End of the model year? I'm looking to replace my GTI with a new one, or a 3, or an ST... in a year or so. There are no major model changes coming in that trio, unless I get together enough scratch for the R/RS/Speed3 (if it exists). The current GTI is still running fine, so I can time my purchase however I like.

"Best time to buy" is mostly mythology. "best time" is when you have the financing and when inventory balance works in your favor. For example, now might be the best time to buy a small car instead of a truck or crossover. Why? Small car sales are down, trucks and crossovers are red-hot. Apply the same strategy to your stated choices. What is the sales, inventory situation for each. Check,,

When people talk about the best prestige cars I head MB, BMW, Lexus, Audi but rarely is Acura mentioned. They seem to get high ratings by consumer mags for their build quality and reliability---what do they lack. if anything?

Acura makes a darned good car. What do they lack? Prestige. Which, in my thinking, means they lack absolutely nothing. To me, this whole "prestige" thing is a bit silly, unless you are buying Rolls-Royce.

Lou Ann, do we know yet how Stretch fits in this and the CX3?

Stretch hasn't been in the vehicle yet, but he would fit fine. The 2016 Honda HR-V and 2016 Mazda CX-3 are creating a new segment of vehicle and I think they will do well. 

Any word yet on when we will see the new Buick convertible and how it will be equipped?

2017, assuming it goes through. I will learn more at the upcoming Frankfurt show.

I am considering the purchase of a BMW 320. I also like hatchbacks and wagons. How much different from the sedans are the 3 series Gran Touring and wagon? Are they worth the extra $9,000 in base price over the sedan? Thank you.

The 3-series has something for everyone; a hybrid, gasoline, diesel, sedan, hatchback, wagon. 

It's the functionality you're paying for with a GT or wagon. I like the GT because it masquerades as a sedan but can turn into a hatchback. 

Watch the mpg. They lump all the numbers together because they can, but the high numbers come from the hybrid and/or diesel. 

I have read about various types of crash avoidance systems on new cars that will stop a car before a crash. Are these systems good enough to avoid problems in heavy stop and go traffic? It seems like they might increase your chances of being rear-ended as they suddenly stop to avoid hitting the car ahead of you. Over the years, I have found the throttle to be as important as the brakes in avoiding accidents, do these systems control the throttle, also? Thanks for helping me plumb the depths of my ignorance on these matters.

All of the systems I've tested are good systems, operating at speeds of 25 mph or less. Especially good at stopping hits with pedestrians, and smashes into rear ends. No system is perfect and none excuses you from controlling your vehicle. But, are they helpful? Yes. Extremely.

I guess UGLY doesn't matter so much when you're out amongst the mud, sticks and rocks. ugh

Ha! I would never, ever take a Jeep "Light" Renegade into the mud, rocks, sticks.

With so many auto recalls nowadays, do you think this adds to the price of a new vehicle?

Yes. The oil companies passed on the price of diesel when they had to retrofit their refining to decrease the parts per million of sulfur and the car companies will pass on every expense they have in the form of a price of a car. How else will they survive? It Accounting 101.

The only reason they wouldn't add the cost in is if the market wouldn't bear the added cost. 

I am looking forward to buying a new car in about two years, if I were buying now, i would probably buy a BMW 320. Are there any new sport sedans expected to arrive by the 2018 model year? Thank you.

None that would change your mind from wanting the BMW 3-Series.

Go on the internet and google processing fees by state. You will see different prices for different states. I think NJ has a limit on the amount you can charge on processing fees. 

I know we aren't going with the best bargaining position...What are the best fees to negotiate away when buying an new car? Is a $599 "processing" fee really just pure profit? Do most dealers have room to deal below the "Internet" price?

I would argue against the "processing fee," which is largely bogus, the higher the more bogus. I WOULD KNOW my credit score/rating BEFORE entering the dealership. That strengthens your bargaining position. Look at your intended vehicle. How is it selling? What is the local inventory situation? Negotiate.

Good for you dad! Not sure why, though, you say you don't want a Hyundai. We just bought the 2015 Santa Fe (3-row) with ALL the bells and whistles (back-up cam, blind spot monitoring) and much to our surprise, we LOVE it. And for under $40K. Unless you've had a bad experience with them, you might want to reconsider the brand.

Single Dad was looking at sedans, but I agree, a Hyundai Elantra GT would be wonderful as well. 

It's a good question, why not a Hyundai for Single Dad. 

You really should drive the 2016 pilot and the kia sorrento 

My current ride is a 2004 Pilot EX-L that is in fine shape, with 216K miles as of yesterday. My M.O. is to drive it until something major goes bad (like engine, tranny, or A/C). So as not to be caught flatfooted by a "need a new car" mechanical problem, I've been doing a little research on possible replacements. So far the candidates are Subaru Outback Premium 4-cyl and Toyota Venza AWD 4-cyl (tied for first place) and Honda CR-V. I have driven all of those, plus the RAV4 (meh) and Mazda CX-5 (nice). My requirements are: AWD, decent amount of space, lower rollover risk than the average SUV (that's the big reason I got the Pilot), reasonably quiet on the highway, and better fuel economy than the Pilot. I also have the Hyundai Tucson in my sights but haven't driven it yet. Anything else out there I should be thinking of?

Check out the Kia Sorento. But I truly believe you will be happy with the Outback. And, oh, you might also look at both Honda CR-V and HR-V.

Warren just recommended a package that includes lane departure warning. How sensitive are these systems? Will you get a warning every time you change positions in your lane to miss a pot hole or avoid a vehicle in the oncoming lane that strays over into your lane by a few inches? Thank you.

Some of the lane departure warnings can be very robust, but you can also turn them off if you're in a bad location. 

If you don't use your blinkers lane departure is going to be a complete nuisance for you because it will go off every time you change lanes. 

On that note, every car should have lane departure warning then, because too many people act like they bought a car and blinkers were optional and they didn't purchase them. 

Warren and I were just talking on the sidelines about the debate. 

My take: 

I think Trump is a plant for Hillary. 

my take that I posted last night - I miss Tim Russert. Russert would have reminded us that this was not a sitcom, that this was a debate between a group of people that will end in one of them becoming a nominee for the Republican Presidential race. I think that is what was missing in this debate. I bet we find out tomorrow the number of people watching were historic. Not because they wanted to watch a meaningful discussion on the long-term health of our great nation but because they wanted to watch a sitcom. And I added this this morning on the washingtonpost chat - I missed the days when we set down to hear what the candidates had to say to make a decision, not to see if they would make a mistake. Our question and answer sessions are more like people going to NASCAR to see if an accident happens than to see the race. It's taking on the qualities of a sitcom.


I've always believed that you can't counter an argument unless you first understand the person with whom you disagree. Sadly, it's such a posturing world now that true discourse doesn't happen much.


Thank you all for being with us today. Please return next week. Thanks to Michelle Williams, Lou An Hammond, Ria Manglapus. Love you all! 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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