Real Wheels Live (March 24)

Mar 24, 2017

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.

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Good Morning Warren and Friends,

How is everyone today? I hope you're ready for Spring because it is going to go from 40-50s to mid-70s in a matter of days. Make sure your windshield wipers are still in good shape because you're still getting rain on the East Coast.

We're still getting rain on the West Coast as well.

I drove the Chevy SS last week. I remember driving this car when it was being built in Australia by Holden. So much fun to drive. I call it the four-door sedan Corvette. I love the burble when I take my foot off the pedal.  The 6.2-liter V-8 EPA estimate is 14 city/22highway/17 combined. Out the door, it was $49,520. I got 17.1mpg while driving around Auburn, CA.

I am giving back the VW Golf R hatchback today. I love hatchbacks. I have only purchased four-door sedans before, but when I buy another car, it will probably be a plug-in hybrid hatchback. The Golf R is a 4-cylinder turbo that EPA says will get 23 city/30 highway/ 25 combined. Out the door, it was $37,575. I got 28.2 mpg driving the VW Golf R.

I was chatting with a couple of girlfriends in Europe the other day, and they asked how I was, and I said just lovely. They pressed the issue, so I told them and, while they were felt for me, they laughed hysterically, so I decided to share with you how lovely I have been.

I was getting ready to leave last Wednesday and noticed the refrigerator had died. Lovely. I had to quickly take everything over to Sheri's and then wait till we got back Saturday to get another one. Just Lovely.

We're having to dig a french drain in the back because the property is so saturated with water from all the California rain it won't roll down the hill and it is coagulating under the house. Lovely.

Our fireplace is leaking. We opened up the front above the brick because it had buckled and the whole thing was dry rotted. Insurance won't pay for it, so we're on our own. Lovely.

We updated our website last week and broke it - it has taken all week to get it back up and running. We'll spend the weekend tweaking it to get it right. Lovely.

Usually, I would tell you to have a lovely day, but maybe not so much right now..:)

Let's chat about cars

When there is a discussion about top luxury sports sedans it usually centers around BMW, Audi, or MB. Brands like Acura, Infiniti and even Lexus seem like second tier. Are the German cars that much better as driving machines and value?

They are not better, they are different. German cars are, historically, more of - as BMW says - the ultimate driving machine. They are meant to go 120 miles down the Autobahn, zip around the corners. My Lexus four-door luxury sedan was meant for touring the country side.

Today's Japanese brands are giving the German brands a run for their money, but the purist will still look only at German brands.

You should also include the Genesis brand, the Korean luxury spin-off of Hyundai. The Genesis G90 is a love to drive.

Warren and Lou, I currently own two Hyundai vehicles, a Sonata for myself and an Elantra for my wife. We both enjoy the cars immensely and find them to be a great vale. Do you have any opinions on Hyundai's new luxury brand, Genesis? I am contemplating buying the G90 in the next few years and wanted to hear your thoughts. Kenneth

LOL - if you read the post above you will see that I just mentioned the G90 as a luxury car worth its consideration. I loved the car, drove it for miles and miles in Canada and would buy it.

LouAnn, I read your comments about the Golf R, which I confess has caught my imagination. The notion of a hybrid Golf with a bit of get-up-and-go along with AWD is attractive, more so as the inevitable pendulum swing of fuel prices becomes evident. The hatch seems like the right size for a get around town vehicle, easy, even fun to drive, easy to park and all that.

Exactly! I hope they don't go hybrid, I hope they go plug-in. Anyone who hasn't been under a rock lately knows that VW has this little dieselgate issue they've been dealing with. Part of the penance will be bringing out more plug-in EV cars. This is great for the consumer because VW/Audi/Porsche are such kick-a$$ driving machines at such great prices that making them use less gasoline would be so cool, I would buy it.

I did a story the other day - a person driving 12,000 miles a year at the average 26.4 mpg uses 461 gallons of gasoline, or 38 gallons a month.

We found a Chevy Volt (plug-in) owner's group and they used 8 gallons of gasoline a month.

Everyone is talking about keeping jobs and money in America, what better way to do it then not importing 9.4 million barrels of oil a day.

Sorry, I got distracted - yes, there is a chance of a hybrid :)

As a BMW owner and an Infiniti G37 owner, I could hardly characterize the G37 as a loser. Great performance, less than average maintenance costs, comfortable riding. Less of a compromise than the BMW when driven, like most of us, at much less than 100% of the performance limits.

I loved the G35 and was impressed with the G37 as well.

Your most salient point - "like most of us, at much less than 100% of the performance limits"

I think Germans are more capable of using the cars at 100% because their Autobahn is set up for that.

I just drove the Toyota C-HR hatchback and that car had been tuned for driving on race tracks. great car - it was raced around the Nurburing race track in Germany. We even got to take it around the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) with the engineer that tuned it.

Yes, you are right.


Hi -- First a quick note to the producer: I don't know why, but this is the only WaPo chat that has horrific formatting for me (I use Internet Explorer) -- It has seemingly endless margins and all the photos posted at the beginning of the chat wash over type. Second, an automotive question: I'm looking for a car for my beloved spouse, who drove mommy-wagons for 19 years, and now wants something a bit luxe. I understand there's a glut of sedans lately, and I also believe there's a big number of lease-returns coming back. So I'm kind of shopping 2014s in that entry-level luxe class. Nothing too big, because she's got a challenging commute, and we don't want anything to suck gas. SO -- are there any cars you remember of that vintage (and think the usual suspects - A4, 3 Series, S60, ATS, IS 250, C class) that are an especially good value -- by the way, navigation and rear-view cameras are must haves. My job is to pick a couple of prime candidates and then give her veto power (she hates car shopping, and I kind of love it). I brought her a Lincoln MKZ hybrid, and she didn't care for it (didn't like the look).

1. I sent your thoughts to the producer. They are looking at it and will respond.

2. Can she use a plug-in hybrid? Or a hybrid?

3. I would go with the Audi A4 or BMW 3-Series of the ones you gave me.

If it were the new version I would go with the 530e because the plug-in is only $200 more than the gas version.

In 2014 rear back-up cameras were not mandated so we're going to have to find a car that would have that. Honda - maybe  Acura - were the only ones that put them on their cars as standard.

Narrow it down for all of us.

Hey -- Chat producer here. I'll try to resolve the issues on Internet Explorer. In the meantime, I would recommend changing your browser to Chrome or Firefox and seeing if that helps. Please feel free to email me directly with any other problems at

So the Golf Sportwagen I ordered last September to replace the Beetle TDI that's getting bought back finally came in a couple weeks ago. Really like the adaptive cruise control in rush hour traffic, the forward collision warning/emergency braking works (thanks Bambi for jumping out in front of the guy in front of me!) as advertised, the rear camera makes parallel parking much easier, and it gets a hair over 25 MPG. Haven't tried the Android Auto interface yet, maybe this weekend. Has much more room inside than the Beetle Convertible, and much better visibility. Well, better than when the Beetle had the top up. Has good enough acceleration for getting on the Beltway, too. Not TDI level, but good enough.

I love the Golf sportwagen, and yes, soooo much more functional room than the Beetle.

Yeah, unfortunately the TDI is gone, but VW will make it good and we will all be the better for it.

I think you got the better of the deal.

Could put electric trains on road and go 300mph with no gas or car.

9.45 million barrels of oil a day imported. Times that by 42 (gallons of gasoline for each barrel)

If it's costing $1 wholesale think of how much money we could keep in the United States instead of sending to other countries. I don't care if they are friendly or foe, I'd like to keep that money and upgrade our infrastructure.

I'll probably make someone angry with this comment, but I have observed many times over the last several decades how the exterior designs of cars from a large variety of makers seem to be clones of each other. The same general longitudinal lines, height, and so forth. Perhaps the only significant distinctions of brand are the front grille. It's as if there's single source for most of these design, they evolve in lock-step. Granted there are some notable exceptions.

The irony is that a Chinese company is now suing a German company because they say the German company copied their design.

Yes, if you took the marquee off the cars I wonder how many people would be able to tell the difference

I thought for a second about what I should not say in response. So instead of saying: “Because it never occurred to me to get a car”, I responded—and for added emphasis, I shrugged my shoulders and assumed a distracted look—“Because I never needed a car.” This answer seemed to put him in a good mood. “Is that so?”, he then exclaimed, almost with enthusiasm. I sensed that I had committed a second, even worse mistake. “And why don’t you need a car, sonnyboy?” Sonnyboy shrugged his shoulders, afraid. “Because I had more need of other things.” Could of bought food and beer. City is as bankrupt as Detroit with food stamp cases growing.

Haiku by millennial. I like it.

Love love love my 2014 E-class with rear camera, plus lane tracker warning system, purchased off-lease via Mercedes website. Had looked at new C-class first and so much happier with this choice.

You are so right - the E-Class is sweet, much nicer than C-Class, but the price point is different.

That's a good point though, the manufacturer certified pre-owned are a great buy.

The more luxury cars should have back-up cameras in 2014, but it was an option.

Completely agree! More and more - especially with SUVs, it's getting more difficult for me to tell the differences between them until I look at the branding. Sometimes even within the same brand it's difficult to tell which model you are looking at..for me an example is Ford Explorer and Ford Escape; unless I can get close enough to see the name on the back, it's hard for me to tell the difference.

Yep - a little too much inbreeding :)

The comment by the poster really gave me a chuckle. I'm nearly 60, and I can still identify probably 80% of cars from - oh 1960 or so to maybe 1974 - by only one tail light. That was probably more like 95% when those cars were new. And yet, my father, whose dream car his whole life was a 1932 Cord, and who would have been 93 this year, always complained that all those cars (in the 60s and 70s) looked exactly alike. So - are the cars really getting more homogenized, or is it something in the eye of the beholder?? Just wondering!! Lou Ann - here's to your weekend being MUCH better than the week has been...

Thanks - I would tell you to have a lovely weekend, but...:)

Maybe it is generational, like the older people talking about the music of today, but I think today's cars are so much more homogenized and the only thing that separates some of them are the headlights/taillights.

Is he here?

As most of the chatters know Warren has had kidney problems for years - he has had two kidney transplants. Both have failed and he is back on dialysis. He is usually through dialysis by now, but he called and said he was taking longer than normal today. He will be back with us next week.

Thanks for asking

My family is in the market for a full size three row SUV. We love the look and utility of the new Volkswagen Atlas. However, I had a bad experience with a 2002 Jetta, with unusually high maintenance costs and a check engine light that stubbornly would come on often after I had the car for two years. I'm also concerned about the recent troubles at Volkswagen. We need something that's reliable and are also looking at the Pilot and Highlander. Should we give that Atlas a closer look?

I am going to drive the Atlas apr5th. If you want to wait a bit I can tell you.

The Honda Pilot is a great vehicle and should be considered, but pin me in a couple weeks.

We have a pre-design plan. We'll design it before it's designed. With pre-owned you can own it before you own it and never pay for it.

car by committee

I would love a car I never pay for, but...

Considering a new car, considering better mileage and all, but I drive long distances, like down to the Outer Banks or to visit family in the Midwest. Given that driving pattern, I really don't want a plug-in, do I?

I drive from Auburn (Sacramento) to Los Angeles and/or Las Vegas a couple times a year.

In between those times I only drive around my area - less than 20 miles a day.

Out of the 325 days of the year I drive less than 20 miles I can use only electric - and maybe my office has a charger.

When I go to Las Vegas or Los Angeles we spend the night in a Best Western because they have a charger for free. It gives us our first 30-40 miles free. After that we can fill up with gas and get 40-50 mpg.

That's a plug-in

A hybrid you will get 35-50 mpg all the time (depending on the car) but you will always use gasoline.

I am a big fan of the Porche Panamera, what else should I be looking at in terms of styling and performance?

The BMW 7-series.

Please get well, Warren, we miss you.

WE - as in all of us.

He's my buddy of 30 years. I will pass along your good wishes

I have driven a few cars that will slow below the set cruise speed to maintain a minimum distance behind the car ahead. For one thing I found this took some of the stress out of the drive. Made me wonder if every car had such a feature it would improve the flow of traffic.

It's the start of autonomous driving. When we say parts of autonomous driving are already on vehicles, that is one part we are talking about.

Stretch loves adaptive cruise control, it will take me more time to get used to it. But I do love the full autonomous driving - I can't afford a chauffeur, so autonomous would be like my own little pod of privacy.

Whenever someone cuts in front of us or is on their phone and sways into our lane Stretch says, "they can't get self-driving cars fast enough"

Thanks everyone for coming to the chat today.

Teddy, thanks for filling in while Gene is off on vacation.

Warren, my buddy, take care of yourself. I look forward to chatting with you, and all the chatters next week.

And remember

Never drive faster than your Angel can fly.

much love,


Just wanted to respond about the Atlas. I do not own one, but I do own a 2011 Tiguan. We love it so much we would buy it again in a heartbeat. And we will, if VW is still making it or something similar when this one dies. I'm hoping that won't be for years. And btw, we've always joked that it looks like a Golf on steroids...

for my Atlas chatter... I will have to use that - Golf on steroids :)

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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