Real Wheels Live (Feb. 12)

Feb 12, 2016

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,

There were a couple unanswered questions from last week, and I told you I would get back to you.

1. donating vs selling a clunker at what point does the value of a car get so low that t he tax deduction from donating it becomes more valuable than selling it? $500? $100?

Talk to your accountant. If you need a charitable tax deduction to reduce the amount of cash you pay the government for your taxes then donate. Remember, your deductions need to be more than the standardized deductions, otherwise it won't count. If you can't deduct it, sell it outright - that's my motto.

2. Tesla 3? How can you recommend a car that doesn't actually exist yet? Sure, if Tesla comes out with the Tesla 3 on time and on budget, with the specs that have been promised, then it might be a good car for the OP to look into. But right now it only exists in Elon Musk's head.

I was talking about two different hypothetical vehicles; the Tesla 3 and the Volvo XC 90 PHEV. Neither have come out yet.

3. Car Structural Safety As a structural engineering who has worked in the auto industry, the term "strength" has a very specific meaning in engineering, but a general meaning to the public. If a car structure is designed with too much "strength", it will be very stiff. The result will be that the energy of a collision gets transferred to the occupant, which is not a good thing. Think of the Dale Earnhart crash a few years back... stiff car meets stiff wall equals fatal crash. What manufacturers do is design a car that compromise between stiff (better handling, more robust) and compliance, where the structure deforms during a crash to absorb the energy. So the best way to gage the crash-worthiness of a car structure is to use the crash ratings from the NHSTA. But, as Warren would say, the safest car is the car with the safest driver.

I always appreciate when an expert gives us some sage wisdom. And yes, that is something I could hear Warren saying.

4. Jag XE Sat in the new Jaguar XE at the auto show. I thought it was a beautiful car. The interior felt quite cozy (and maybe a little cramped). I was impressed by how quiet it was inside the doors closed. You didn't hear any of the outside noise. If only I had $50K I didn't need...

me too. :)

This week I drove the new MINI Convertible around the hills of Los Angeles and the sunny oceanside Pacific Coast highway.

Today, after the chat, I will drive the BMW M2 at Laguna Seca Raceway, and the X4 M40i. I'll be able to tell you more about what I think next week, but I can tell you the pricesof the MINI convertible; 2016 MINI Convertible with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $25,950 for the Cooper model.

The Cooper S variant will start at $29,600. The John Cooper Works variant will start at $35,600

Let's chat about cars!

Like me on Facebook.

Follow me on Twitter.

Download this and list your car for free here and it goes here and here instantly.

Since I bought a Toyota Corona in 1971, my favorite brands to own have been Toyotas and Hondas. These brands have given me reliable service and have done well in handling, braking, and general performance. Based on the experiences of friends and family, I would also consider some Mazda and Subaru models. Unfortunately, these brands don't currently offer much in the types of cars I like to drive, sports cars, convertibles, and hot hatches (I don't quite fit in the Miata). Being even older than Warren (if you can imagine such a thing), I am considering going with what might be my last "fun to drive" car and leasing a BMW, maybe a 228 convertible. Leasing would allow me to say goodbye to the car before maintenance and repairs got to be too expensive. The most interesting new car for me is the Buick Cascada convertible. I have read that it uses regular gas (good) and that it is quite a porker at 3900+ pounds (very bad). Are these things true? My last experience with Buicks was when my parents bought a new 1949 Roadmaster, so they are doing something right to catch my interest.

Older than Warren? No Way! :) 

All accurate information about Cascada , aka Opel Cascada, but I would drive it first. 

I like the MINI convertible we just drove yesterday. I can't say anything about driving impressions till next week, but the pricing is decent

2016 MINI Convertible with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $25,950 for the Cooper model.


The Cooper S variant will start at $29,600.

The John Cooper Works variant will start at $35,600

It will give you plenty of head room. 

I haven't driven the 228 conv but most german companies seem to take into account long-legged people. 


just wanted to thank Lou Ann publicly on the forum for her private advice for my daughter and her husband shopping for a minivan with my #3 grandchild on the way. When Lou Ann says "email me," on this forum, she means it ... she responds, cares, and really helps! They have really narrowed down their choices as a result. Thanks!

Ahhh. thanks. 

What have they narrowed it down to? 

just curious. If I can help any further you've got my email. 

Several of my top choices for a new car have been ruled out because they contain Takata airbags under recall notices. To me, it's beginning to seem like there are more brands out there with these bags in their new vehicles than not? What brands do not use these airbags? Since Daicel, Autoliv and TRW manufacture them without the risky propellant, it seems logical that there must be SOME 2016 car brands I can feel confident don't have Takata propellants in them?

Try Honda, Subaru, GM, Volvo, Ford.

Any thoughts on a reliable, relative cheap commuter car that has AWD or 4WD? I drive about 70 miles a day but we will be moving to a more rural area soon and I need a car with AWD or 4WD for bad weather. Given the distance I drive something like a truck isn't feasible for fuel efficiency reasons but I do need 4 doors.

Check Hyundai, Kia, and Chevy Equinox.

Our 2007 CRV was just added to the Takata recall list. I called American Honda customer service; they conferenced in our dealer and arranged for us to pick up a free loaner to drive until the replacement parts come in. Since Honda is paying for that rental, they said we will be at the front of the line when the parts come in. In my view, it makes sense to be proactive on this issue.

And Honda is proactive. I suspect that Takata is on the way out.

Hi guys, I'd like to buy a used Audi A5 in seemingly good shape but no longer carries any warranty from the manufacturer. I've read that repairs can be high and so will still consider it if I can find a 3rd party warranty. Do you- or any readers- have any recommendations? Thanks!

One word: DON'T.

Our 10 year old Honda Odyssey had abrupt transmission failure and a repair would equal the vehicle's value. So we are now in the market for a 7-passenger SUV instead of a minivan. Safety and good MPG are priorities, as are reliability and price ($40-45K). On paper, we have narrowed the list down to the Acura MDX, Infiniti QX60, Nissan Pathfinder, and Mazda CX9 and the next step is to test drive them. The Lexus big-mouth grill is a turn off and my spouse finds Detroit's offerings to also be unattractive - she will be the primary driver. Are there any others that you would recommend? Thank you.

I'm on the bus with Alex from autoblog and Bengt from high gear media. 

Alex (and I) like the Mazda CX9 and the Honda Pilot (unless you're around curving roads - the suspension is not tight) 

Our next vote would be the Acura MDX. 

I read a review of the new BMW 340. It claimed that BMW has put back some of their edgy "driver" experiences into this new car. Have you had an opportunity to test drive?

I don't know what is meant by 'edgy," or where you can engage in "edgy" driving other than a track.

Lou Ann here: 

I am driving the 340 right now. msrp $58,000 getting 23mpg. I wouldn't use the word edgy; fun to drive, quiet, taut, but not edgy. 

The M series BMWs are edgy. 

Is he back today?

He never left. Verizon left him.

an appropriate question for this weekend: What is the preferred method for starting (and driving) a car from a cold start when temps are below freezing? I had read or heard that you shouldn't warm the car up more than a minute or two before taking off, and that you should drive slowly for the first few minutes/miles until the temperature gauge rises. It makes for a chilly start in the car, but you're not wasting gas by idling forever. Is that good, or is there a better way? Thanks!

Warm for a minute, two, no more. Go, slowly at first.

Don't forget Subaru Imprezza.

Thanks. You are right. Also, many dealers are proactively working with new-car customers on air bag fix. Check.

What do you think of Matt LeBlanc as the new co-host?

He's going to be fine, he was on top gear before. 

The question is - will people watch like they did the other 3. 

To take nothing away from what the structural engineer said, but the Dale Earnhardt fatality also occurred because the team ran a seatbelt over a frame rail. And in the wreck that frame member was a stress point on the belt; it acted like a knife and cut the belt.


I admit that I'm a fan of these reality car shows that overhaul older vehicles. I bought a used 2003 BMW 7series a few years ago and would like to have something similar done to it. The car is in very good shape both mechanically and in appearance. However, it could use some sprucing up but nothing as drastic as I've seen on these shows. I'd like any suggestions you might have on how to go about this, ideally at a one stop shop without getting ripped off. I live in the DC metro area. Thanks.

Know how much you can spend and want to spend before you start the sprucing. Period.

Perhaps edgy was the wrong word, better road feel?

Almost all BMW models have better road feel.

Lou Ann here:

BMW has always had great road feel. The 340 is a great, almost grand touring, feel to it. It's not edgy, but it is solid and beautiful interior design with a two tone finish. 


I have owned a few BMW and have had my eye on the Panamera used. Never having owned a Porsche before, I am still a little iffy about this purchase. What say you two car gurus?

The Panamera is ok. We assume you have a family. Same purchase rules apply. Thorough tech check before writing check.

as long it is not in black. I saw one the other day on the road and that color does nothing to show off the sculpted car shape. 

It's a 4 door sedan and has great head room for four actual adults. Great drive 

Warrne/Lou Ann Any thoughts on the new Ridgeline. Need a vehicle that can haul stuff (but not a full pickup like need for construction work) and pull a small trailer. Still needs to be driven around town and to and from the beach, etc. Your opinion of it would be appreciated. Thanks!

The new Ridgeline, finally, is a REAL compact pickup. But you would be wise to look at the GM compact truck offerings and the new Tacoma.

When I lived in Minneapolis, the news mentioned a study which recommend, in subzero temperatures, that you first turn on the headlights to warm up the battery before starting the car. No-one I knew took this advice because we weren't willing to risk one milliamp of charge when it was -20 Fahrenheit.

I have relatives that live in Newfoundland and Labrador. They all have remote start and let the car warm up. 

Clean windows are the key; you have to have all your mirrors and windows clean to look for all the people in a hurry. 


how do you like the "bargain basement" 3 series? Thank you.

It works. Look. The car companies all realize they can't sustain an average final transaction sales price of $33,566.

Wow! Wish the Mini got better ratings. Too many problems with the Minis. But maybe this one is different.

Maybe. We'll see. Too many problems in the past. For certain.

I am a empty Nester Just me and the Mrs. My daily ride will be a Avalon.

Rules still apply. Thorough tech check before writing check.

I have a Subaru Impreza hatchback and I totally love it. It has 4WD, a roof rack, heated seats, and I can get tons of stuff in it.

Understood. I love mine, too.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Welcome Tanya Sichynsky to the team. Thanks Lou Ann, Ria, Gene. Eat lunch. Drive safely.

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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: