Real Wheels Live

Nov 06, 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,

What a beautiful week on your side of the Nation. I've been in North Carolina the last couple of days, and I have had a wonderful time.  I flew in to drive the all new Lexus SUV Rx 350 and RX 450. Both were great driving vehicles, but Holly and I decided that we would buy the RX350 and/or the Lexus RX 450h (hybrid) F-Sport. 

This is the first time Lexus has had a F-sport hybrid, and it is a joy to drive. 

It takes a few minutes to figure it out, but basically if it is a hybrid look for the blue in the Lexus emblem on the front of the SUV that has the honeycomb front (they are actually Ls and Fs if you look closely).

Your Eastern fall colors are beautiful. If you want to stay at a hotel that pays attention to detail and has a local and National curated art show stay at the Umstead Hotel and Spa. It's minutes away from the Raleigh Durham airport. 

Last night we drove an hour to eat at a place I would recommend to anyone that is driving this way on Highway 95, stop and drive into Rocky Mount, NC to the Prime Smokehouse

Ed Wiley III got his cooking skills from his renowned saxophonist father, Ed Wiley Jr. Order the brisket, the 7 cheese macaroni and collard greens and you will be so happy. 

About the 2016 Lexus RX 350

Horsepower 295 hp @ 6,300 rpm

Torque 267 lb.-ft. @ 4,700 rpm

Estimated Fuel Economy* (City/Hwy/Combined) 19/26/22(AWD) 20/28/23(FWD)

2016 Lexus RX 350 FWD: $41,900 

2016 Lexus RX 350 AWD: $43,300

2016 Lexus RX 350 F Sport AWD: $49,125

2016 Lexus RX 450h

259 hp @ 6,000 rpm (308 horsepower including hybrid drive)

247 lb.-ft. @ 4,800 rpm (not including hybrid drive)

Estimated Fuel Economy* (City/Hwy/Combined) FWD – 31/30/30 AWD – 30/28/30

2016 Lexus RX 450h FWD: $52,235 

2016 Lexus RX 450h AWD: $53,635

2016 Lexus RX 450h F-Sport AWD: $57,045

So did Lexus let you test the off road capabilities of these do fine pseudo SUVs??? Both are nothing more than mall crawlers and would get stuck in wet grassy parking lot. You missed some of the really great places to eat in that part of NC. NC also makes some pretty decent untaxed corn liquor. Not as good as VA but passable. Clifton, VA

The prime smokehouse was a pretty good place to eat Clifton. When Stretch and I went across country last year we would look on yelp to decide where to eat. We ended up going about 10 miles out of the way, but it was always worth it. If you're on hwy 95 try it. 

The Lexus RX 450h has a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds. People that own that type of car would have all-wheel drive and towing capacity. They're not looking at going off-loading. 

Lexus knows it's audience 

Did Stretch come along on your trip?

Sadly, no. And we have good friends that live here, Anne and Bill, so the two of us will have to come back and enjoy some more of this Southern hospitality. 

My girlfriend, Holly ( and I drove the Lexus' together. We went antique hunting. If you want a great place for antiques in Raleigh it would be the hunt and gather store. 

The Lexus, by the way, has a great turning radius. Since we weren't on the path Lexus sent us on we kept making extra turns :) 

are just really nice jacked up shooting brakes or estates ie station wagons. They aren't SUVs in any sense of the world. They dont go as far off road as their rivals from Jeep, Land Rover, and even the euro version Mercedes SUVs. US version of Mercedes latest SUVs are not as good off road as the Euro versions since you can get skid plates and other off road equipment as options in the EU and UK.

Thank you Clifton 

Have either of you driven the 2016 Mazda MX-5 (Miata), and will there be an upcoming review?

I have and here it is

I like the Miata, always have. For me, it would have to be a second car, but a roadster for under $30,000 is quite handsome 

Last week Lou Ann had a question/concern about the Honda CRV and its transmission behavior going down a hill. I have a 2013 Accord with essentially the same drivetrain: 2.4 direct injection engine with CVT. What I’ve noted in my car is that, going down a significant hill at moderate speeds (25-45mph), the CVT transmission will go into a lower ratio (analog to a traditional automatic transmission downshift), raising the engine RPM but also providing a degree of engine braking during the downhill descent. When the car reaches the bottom and gets to a flat roadway, the CVT will seek a higher ratio (upshift) after a second or two. If I had to guess, the engine/computer has a sensor to detect roadway incline or decline and adjusts the transmission ratio as “appropriate”. Note that I only see this behavior on significant hills and not on gradual/slight inclines/declines.

I would concur with that. It's just an abrupt feeling. 

Does it change over time for you? Like, does the car figure out how you're driving, or do you just get used to it changing like that? 

We live on a hill so going down that hill and hitting the bottom was when we noticed it. 

Thanks for the input. 

What should I consider when looking at a car, like the Hyundai Sonata, with both hybrid and non-hybrid versions? If the price difference is manageable for me, then should buying the hybrid be automatic, or are other factors (maintenance, reliability) in play? My current car is a 2008, and this wasn't really an issue back then.

Look at the difference in fuel economy.That's what you're buying with a hybrid. That and a better low-end torque. The electric motor helps fill in the gaps when an engine is struggling. 

I think you will see a 48V mild hybrid on many cars within the next 5 years. It's very reasonable - only about $1,000 extra, but for the small engine that struggles it really makes a difference. 

Warren and Lou Ann, Car & Driver agrees with your position on the importance of winter tires on snow and ice. They tested six winter tires and said that even the worst of the six " far better in winter conditions than any all-season tire on the road." All of that testing and they could have just read what you had to say on this live chat. Keep up the good work.


Is it true that the only way to get a diesel engine in the Chevy Colorado is to buy the crew cab version? What about those of us who don't have to haul a crew but still want to tow a trailer?

I believe you're correct. If you want a gasoline version you have more options, but not for the diesel. 

I can't think of another mid-size truck that has a diesel variant that isn't crew cab. 

I am not sure the Ram 1500 diesel comes in anything but crew cab. 

Is he chatting today?

Just like the rest of us, Warren serves at the pleasure of the internet. 

He is trying to make it work, but having some difficulties. 

I can only speak for myself but I have put off buying a new Toyota or Honda or Subaru until the Takata air bag issue is fully resolved. If these and other manufacturers guarantee me their air bag inflators don't contain unstable ammonium nitrate but something like a more stable chemical like guanidine nitrate, I will proceed but I'm not buying what in my opinion might be a pig in a poke.

Your position is understandable, certainly difficult to argue with--which is why Honda, Toyota and Mazda have divorced Takata.

I succumbed to the lure of VW's "please don't leave us" owner loyalty bonus and got a Golf R. While I haven't even had my first fill up, everything is good. However the car came with little rubber band "summer" tires, which aren't going to cut it when the weather gets bad this winter. Besides I'd like to take advantage of the 4wd. Still, it is only a DC area winter. Do you have any suggestions for a winter tire that will last more than a season or two. The recommended Blizzaks may be nice, but they aren't cheap, And if they deteriorate or age rapidly, it's hardly funds well spent... $800 a season for tires, in DC?

Blizzaks aren't cheap. But they are well worth the cost. In a bad snow storm, and we do get those in the mid-Atlantic region, they could save you a lot more than their price.

I'm sure they are great and Lexus performed fantastically in the recent CR reliability survey. I have a 2009 Toyota RAV4 that has never had a significant problem. But I just don't get what Lexus is doing with the front of its vehicles. It's like they are designing them for a 55 year old CPA who wants to unleash his inner rap star.

I totally dislike the current front-end design of all things Lexus. Just me.

Lou Ann here: 

I don't think it is just Lexus. The front end is too visible for me as well. It is a bold bully design that could be toned down and look a lot more prestigious. 

I have never been as shocked and dismayed by a business corruption scandal as I am by the deliberate deception that VW perpetrated. There have been lots of cover-ups, but this goes beyond that. There was a deliberate intent to falsify and deceive, knowingly BUILT IN to the cars! I cannot imagine buying a new VW product now. I feel terrible for the dealers, who are presumably suffering because of misdeeds they had nothing to do with. I was actually considering the Audi A6 and A7. So now I'm wondering -- if I buy a used car from an Audi dealer, does it put any $$ into the pocket of the parent company, or does it stay entirely with the dealer? I don't know whether to mark Audis off my search list completely or not.

It depends on whether the Audi has a warranty on the car, but even then the warranty is already paid for. Ask the dealer 

I think you are safe to buy a used Audi if your concern is making sure you don't give the parent company any of your hard earned money. 

It is the culture of the company that doesn't allow failure by an individual. For it to be deemed a human frailty to admit that the science can't be done to create an engine that can meet those specifications. 

Volskwagen will have to pay Billions of dollars, but more importantly, they will have to have a meeting of the minds, a clearing of the entire upper management, to get rid of that type of mindset. 

Unfortunately, there will be some great, some brilliant minds that will be fired as collateral damage as well. 

I generally will not be driving in bad weather. Do I need to get winter tires on my Subie in the off chance of bad weather?

Need to? Probably not. Highly recommended? Yes.

I am amazed at my 2016 Legacy. First, eyesight works...put on cruse on the freeway, and it practically drives itself. But what really amazes me is 1) how nice the car is -- practically a luxury car, and 2) 38 MPG on a 400 mile rode 68 mph. (24 in my daily driving). I did not think that was possible with AWD.

It is a nice car, a very nice car. The symmetrical all-wheel-drive system on that one is marvelous.

Hi guys, I saw on a car news blog a sneak-peak of the upcoming GMC Acadia. Nice. When is it coming out? Is it in fact going to be smaller this time than the Buick Enclave and the Chevy Traverse? Will Cadillac also get a version of this, and if so, what will it be called? Please find out for me. Trying to hold off as long as possible because I want to new Enclave.

I think the Spring of 2016 as a 2017 model. Yeah, and Cadillac probably will get a version.

Hi, considering a new Chevy Suburban but YIKES...expensive $$$. The Ford Expedition EL will accommodate my family's needs and is a heck of a lot cheaper, but it seems like it was designed in the early 19990's. When will Ford become more competitive against the Suburban and GMC Yukon with an updated Expedition/Navigator?

Have you looked at the new Lincoln Navigator with the black label edition? It's a lot more expensive (depending on the option/model you get) but it is a sweet ride. 

I'm looking at the prices of the new Suburban and $50,000-$60,000 looks in line with that type of vehicle 

Regarding your question about changing over time: the behavior of my Accord has been very consistent over the 3 years I've owned the vehicle. The "upshift" at the bottom of the hill is fairly abrupt - certainly not the smoother change in CVT ratio in response to accelerator pedal change. To be clear, it's a very minor annoyance to me - the 2013 Accord is the best 4 door sedan I've owned in my 37 years of owning sedans from Pontiac, Chrysler, Oldsmobile, and Hyundai.

No need to complain.

How close to the recommended miles should one get the oil changed? If they recommend getting an oil change every 5,000 miles is that a conservative estimate? Is it OK to wait 6,000 miles?

Ford is promoting a big sale where select vehicles are priced just above what employees have to pay. Based on what I have seen, some vehicles are not included in this sale. It also appears that a customer has to select from what a dealer currently has in stock. Based on your experience, is this a buying opportunity on par with GM's Employee Pricing back in 2008? In other words, if I'm looking to buy in the next year, the vehicle is on the sale list, and the dealer has one in stock, does this represent an offer I can't refuse?

Pretty much. They're trying to move product that is already manufactured and this is the easiest way to ensure it is done. 

The longer the car has to sit on the lot the more expensive it becomes - insurance, etc. The days on the lot is a way to note how good true retail sales are. 

It's a brilliant simple way to get old product to move so that they can bring in the new sheet metal. 

If you like the vehicle and were going to buy a car anyway, do it. 

Is it worth the money to get the STi as opposed to the Impreza WRX? Both are AWD but the STi has a bigger engine. I've never owned a AWD car before but would like to buy one for winter driving in the metro DC area. Thanks!

Here's the deal: A posted speed limit is a posted speed limit. Traffic congestion is traffic congestion. A blizzard is a Blizzard. The WRX won't get you out of any of those situations and faster or better than a STi. Your choice.

Does this work in the real world? It looks cool in the commercials. It also reminds me of the self-driving cars that work great on an enclosed track, but have trouble dealing with crazy human drivers on the road.

Yes, it works. And, yes, you still must be keenly aware of the actions of other motorists.

I envy the new owner of the Golf R. I recommend checking Tirerack to make comparisons of test results, cost, etc. I have personally had great luck with Continental DWS and I think they may have an updated version now.

Did you know that Continental is making their own rubber from Russian dandelions?

Michelin winter tires are even more expensive. See my friends at Radial Tire in Silver Spring. there prices beat everyones to include Tire Rack and Discount Tire. Get a spare set of wheels for your winter tires and this makes live easier. With free rotation you just have them rotated on for winter and off in Spring. Winter tires also give better performance in temps below 45 degrees on dry and wet roads. They are worth it and I have them on my 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee that has 4 wheel low and all the traction nannies. Clifton, VA


In most places, DC especially, its the chassis that gives you the joy of driving. The WRX really has all the engine this little car needs to move it. If you have the chance to take it to the track, and time to learn how to get the most out of it, you might actually enjoy the STi enhanced power, but otherwise I suggest you are better off to save your your money for gas and good tires.

I agree if you don't have enough money for gas and good tires you shouldn't be buying a high end sports car. 

Thanks for visiting today. Please return next week. Thanks for the save, Gene. As always, Thank you Lou Ann Hammond and Ria Manglapus. Love to Holly Reich. 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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