The Washington Post

Real Wheels Live

Nov 20, 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 still in Los Angeles at the auto show. It's been a whirlwind.

We test drove the new Toyota Prius Toyota RAV hybrid  in Dana Point. Great new design for both and new fuel numbers and pricing below. 

The new models for the Prius based on the Toyota’s New Global Architecture

Prius Two $24,200

Prius Two Eco $24,700 

Prius Three $26,250 

Prius Three Touring $28,100

Prius Four $28,650 

Prius Four Touring $30,000

The 2016 Prius is anticipating fuel economy ratings of 54 MPG city / 50 MPG highway / 52 MPG combined (Final EPA figures pending.). That’s better than any mass- produced passenger vehicle available without a plug. And, as before, the Prius sips regular-grade gasoline. A new Eco grade model is expecting ratings of 58 MPG city / 53 MPG highway / 56 MPG combined


2WD LE $24,350

2WD XLE $26,270

2WD SE $29,265

2WD LTD $31,510

AWD LE $25,750

AWD XLE $27,670

AWD SE $30,665

AWD LTD $32,910 

EPA Estimated Fuel Economy* 24/31/26 (FWD)

(city/highway/combined MPG)

22/29/25 (AWD)


AWD XLE $28,370

AWD LTD $33,610 

34 / 31  / 33 

(city/highway/combined MPG)

The Los Angeles auto show was light this year, but I got the picture for Soccerman that he requested = The Fiat 124. 



Let's chat about cars 

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And if you want to see random pictures from the 2015 Los Angeles auto show here are more

We're considering a small SUV type family vehicle, with a premium put on safety and efficiency. I'm intrigued by the new HR-V, which I think I saw on the street the other day, but I'm afraid it might not be significantly larger than our current Impreza hatchback. What do you recommend?

If you want larger, look at the mid-size CR-V or, certainly, the Mazda6. The Ford Escape, to, is another of my favorites in this category along with the Chevrolet Equinox.

I am considering a 2014 Mercedes C300 4matic or 2014 BMW 328I Xdrive. I make sure preventive maintenance is done on time. Will keep the vehicle for 8 to 10 years and put 200,000 plus miles on it. Reliability and comfort on long road trips are most important. Which one would you recommend.

I like the drive and versatility of the BMW 328i xdrive. 

You're not going to go wrong with either, just my personal choice.

For visibility and practicality purposes, I'm interested in a genuine station wagon. Truthfully, a 1980s-era K-car with updated safety features and a modern engine would be great. Closest I've found are the TSX Sport Wagon (discontinued after 2014) and the VW Golf (shamed by the diesel fiasco). Everything else seems to be a toned-down SUV, a crossover with obtrusive C-pillars and little interior space, or $40k+. GM won't import the Cruze Estate or excellent offerings from Vauxhall and Ford won't import the Focus or Fusion in their respective wagon forms. Honda and Toyota have great-looking wagons available in Europe and refuse to bring them here. Is anything coming down the pipeline for me and those like me?

I was going to suggest something Audi, which is great, like an A3 wagon. But that gets you close to$40,000 equipped right. So, i'd look at something such as the CR-V or Escape and forget the business about "toned-down sucv". They are wagons.

Looking for car related Christmas gift suggestions for son at college. He has a tire pressure gauge, good flashlight, ice scraper/snow brush, and folding shovel. What else would you put in the "should have" or "would be really nice to have" category for him? Car was bought new (due to high used car prices + great year end deal) so in good shape to begin with. Thanks - and Happy Thanksgiving for you all!

A trip to a racing school class :) 

Battery cable charger for dummies - the ones you can hook up and not worry if it is positive or negative. 

seal a flat tire instantly 

seat belt cutter 

gel seat 

Which is the better overall value? Thanks

I don't know what you're paying for either

On Monday, I went to the dealer that sold me my new car in July to get my first oil change. It was free and included rotating the tires. Tuesday morning, as I drove into work, I noticed a vibration whenever I got above 45mph. It isn't easy getting above 45mph during a commute in this area, but it seemed consistent the few times I managed to go about 50mph. Tuesday evening, I drove back to the dealer to see what was wrong. They took a look and said it was out of balance. The guy said it was shaking pretty good when they put it on the rack and got above 35mph. The first oil change was already free and they didn't charge for the fix. I left feeling like they should have offered more. I shouldn't have to return to the shop the very next day to get something fixed that they should have done right the first time. I sort of think they should have given me a credit towards my next visit or something to make up for the two hours I lost having to go back the second time. How would other places handle the mistake?

Did you notice it shaking at 35mph or 45 mph BEFORE YOU TOOK IT IN? If not, you are right to suspect a ruse. Sounds like someone was trying to make money on "Free."

Lou Ann, Warren, What are your 1) best in show; 2) best concept; 3) personal favorite and why?

I followed the show Online. I found the Range Rover Evoque convertible an exercise in overstatement and a contradiction of terms. I liked the MB SL roadster and the redesigned Mazda CX-9. Why? They make sense.

Last month I wrote in asking whether, with the advent of the Focus RS, Ford might be offering a version of the ST with anything other than a stickshift. I was advised "we haven't heard yet, but I will ask for you" -- for which I am grateful. Has there been any word?

My apologies - both Warren and I forgot to get this information. 

I've put an email out so watch this answer and I will update when I get some information. 


I am considering leasing a sports/luxury sedan. I have considered the 3 series BMW and am wondering what else to consider. The Audi A3 seems too small and I can't get comfortable in it. The Audi A4 is a possibility and my budget might stretch to a base A6, the Mercedes C class is also a possibility. Which other models would you recommend that I look at? If left to my own devices, I would probably go for the Mazda6 for the fun-to-drive factor, but my wife wants a luxury brand. I want to lease for three years so that it is still in warranty when I turn it in and I don't have to worry as much about reliability and the cost of repairs.


When writing a car review column would it be possible to rate the vehicle as to how well the driver can see out of the windows? I find many newer cars dangerous due to serious design flaws that limit visibility.

Good idea, but one I pay attention to only when forward or rear visibility is limited

What have you heard about the new CX9? I read that it has two HP ratings, one on premium gas and a lower rating on regular. Is this so? Thanks.

It is a well-crafted, well-redesigned vehicle. Two HP ratings? Yeah. That;s what is meant by "premium for best performance."

Have either of you had a chance to check out the new Chevy Volt? The claimed 50-mile electric range, along with the gas engine for longer trips, has this on my radar screen for my next vehicle.

get it. It just won green car of the year at the Los Angeles auto show 

We drove the last generation down pacific coast highway and the only thing we didn't like were the seats. I don't know if they changed them but the car itself is just so easy to drive and with a 50-mile electric range and an infrastructure coming on that is really nice. 

BMW and Nissan just announced that they will have some sort of card that allows you to access more car chargers. There will be an app in the next year - I was told - that will tell you where chargers are and if they are available. 


Driven one yet? Thoughts?

Not as long or the way I want to. Coming soon.

First find a good independent repair shop, join the BMWCCA or Mercedes Star club. Know what the maintenance costs are going to be on each. You might find BMW free maintenance on a new BMW outweighs any savings on a used. Never get an oil service at the dealership just get an oil change. Brake fluid needs flushing every two years in both. Transmissions, diffs, and radiators all need their fluids changed way before BMW says so or you will end up with major repair bills. My brother buys new 3 series and then buys anew one every 5 to 6 years before the maintenance costs kill him. Only use BMW OEM parts except for brake pads and certain fluids ie oil. Clifton, VA


Actually for everyone Micro Start PPS. this is battery charger, phone charger, personal power supply etc. Its about the size of a piece of paper 8x11. It holds charge for about 6mos. Amazon has them for around $110 give or take. I got everyone in my family one and girlfriend and her daughter and boyfriend. Lot easier than jumper cables. Clifton VA

You are a good man, Clifton.

Bought an XLE Venza last summer because it's the closest thing to a sedan with room for two bicycles and luggage. And bought the XLE because the boss wanted a 6. Perfect for us---more than enough space, more than enough power to flatten the grades going out 270, 70, & 68, and with more gadgets than this geezer can understand. Carmax had a bunch to choose from and their price was right. Anyone looking for something similar should check it out.

I like the Venza as well and am surprised there would be that many. 

thanks for the tip. 

What is your favorite car app (to look at when I am sitting on a couch or otherwise not driving of course)?

On my Facebook app there is a local yard sale with about 30,000 women selling everything you could ever imagine for ridiculous prices. 

Trying to "buy USA"...Cadillac, Ford Fiesta (Taurus?), Buick... are any of these cars that won't make me regret buying US? thanks.

There is no such thing as buying USA, or Germany, or anyplace else. All car companies use global suppliers. All build outside of their original countries. It is a global business.

So, what do you think of the styling of the Fiat 124? I think it's just okay. I was expecting a little more excitement.

The Fiat 124 Spider gets Fiat Chrysler Automotive in the market for dollars spent by young affluents. If they like it, and here's betting the will, that is all that matters.

Need to drive an easily recognized "USA" Brand. Even if manufactured in Canada, China, or Mexico, and despite the number of German and Japanese factories in the US. This is to make peace in the family, and just wondered if any of the old Detroit firms offer a decent sedan. If not, that's OK.

Yes, I would highly recommend quite a few of the American made products. The only US brands are General Motors group and Ford. I would look at a Buick LaCrosse

Is it really a Miata in Fiat sheet metal?

nothing is a miata in sheet metal, but it leans towards that billing 

If you can afford it a Caterham Super 7. Now it will be a little cold in the winter but once Spring comes the aural, sensual and tactile sensations cant be beat. No ABS and electronic nannies a drivers car. Put a real engine in it ie a old school detuned BMW Formula 2 engine and you have 300hp in a car that weighs less than 1700lbs.

Baloney. Let the "young adult" buy his own car. Presumably, he's going to want to go to college or something. If not, that kind of gift is inviting him to hang around your house forever. In which case, give him marching orders to find a job.

Are the Entry Level German cars (Audi A4, BMW 328i and Mercedes C300) really a lot more expensive to maintain over the long haul than a Acura TSX or Lexus IS?

Not really.

Is there such a thing as a newish used car that will rival my old Lexus RX300 for under $25,000? I liked the luxury ride but can't afford a new one.

It would have to be a Toyota - perhaps the RAV4? Not the luxury, but not the cost. 


2WD LE $24,350

2WD XLE $26,270

2WD SE $29,265

2WD LTD $31,510

AWD LE $25,750

AWD XLE $27,670

AWD SE $30,665

AWD LTD $32,910 

EPA Estimated Fuel Economy* 24/31/26 (FWD)

(city/highway/combined MPG)

22/29/25 (AWD)



AWD XLE $28,370

AWD LTD $33,610 

34 / 31  / 33 

(city/highway/combined MPG)

I've been in bad temper for two weeks--the bombing of the Russian Metro jet and the slaughter of 129 innocents in Paris. It makes no sense. I've searched through the Bible, Koran and Torah. In none of those religious texts did I find anything that says say  God wants us to hate and slaughter one another because we disagree about how other people choose to worship Him, or not. Very much the opposite, in fact. My condolences for friends in France.

Thank you all for joining us this week. Please return. Peace. 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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