Real Wheels Live (March 18)

Mar 18, 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.

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Good Morning Warren and Friends,

Last week I told you I would be driving the Chrysler Pacifica, so today I am on the Pacific Ocean about to head off in the Pacifica. Next week I will have the driving impressions. 

I am in a Pacifica presentation as we speak, so if you have any questions ask now! 

You can watch my twitter feed today as well. At around 8:20 California time we are going to periscope the presentation, which will go on Twitter.

I am going to have the Chrysler Uconnect expert give a presentation on how to connect Uconnect. He is going to show my cousins, Abby (12) and Frankie (9) how to connect it. Too fun. 

I drove two different vehicles this week, both I would buy.

The first was the 2016 Chevy Volt, the reason the government saved General Motors. Seriously, I had seen some of the technology GM had. They were right on the crux of bringing this technology out and BAM! all heck broke lose. 

I love the 2nd generation Volt. I plug it in my circular driveway, the same place my fountain outlet is connected. I hop in the car, and I've got 47 miles before the gasoline kicks in. Heated seats, heated steering wheel. As any of you that follow me know, my next car will be a plug-in hybrid. I believe in that technology. My next big purchase will be solar panels, after that, a PHEV.

The second vehicle was the 2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV. The starting MSRP on the Altima SV is $25,460, but I would add in the cold weather package for the extra $500 for the heated front seats and heated steering wheel. 

Including the moonroof and the rest of the options the 2016 Altima 2.5 SV out the door was $28,935 - with a 39 mpg on the highway! 




We might be seeing an end to the silliness of car companies fighting governments over common-sense safety regulations. By 2017, most major automakers will install forward-collision mitigation--automatic braking to reduce/prevent rear-end collisions--on their cars. Voluntarily. Could save lots of lives. Thumbs-up for that!

What are you hearing about VW and selling into the diesel market in the US in the future? And do you know if they feel like their US sales of non-diesel have been stabilized now or still trending down? Any sense of them losing a lot of dealers because of the reduced sales numbers? Thanks - just curious to hear what the PTB are thinking now that this has gone one for a while....

Love my 2010 G37 sedan, and with only 80,000 I'm starting to look just for fun, and if something blows me away I might buy. I know the replacement Q50 does not live up to the G37's high standards, while the slightly larger Q70 is highly rated. Also looking at Audi A6, one of the Jags perhaps, even possibly the Hyundai Genesis though I'd rather pay for a top-notch solid platform than bells and whistles. I like "real" cars, not SUVs ... preferably a sporty sedan, preferably rear-wheel drive but AWD can work too. If you were going to spend $50k on a fun to drive, solid, long lasting sedan what would either of you do?

I'm with Jaime from ESPN and told him what car you have and - without telling him the options asked him what he would suggest. He said Audi A6.

Genesis and Jaguar XE will be fine, but Audi A6 is our first pick

My dealer recommended putting nitrogen in my tires (for $50). Is it a good idea to replace the air in your tires with nitrogen? What do you do if the tire is leaking and you are not near any nitrogen?

Keep using air and adhering to recommended inflation standards.

Lou Ann, what did you think of the Volt's construction quality? Warren will hate this question, but when I've rented recent-model Malibus and Impalas, they have seemed a lot less, well, solid than comparable Camrys (Camries?) and Altimas.


I like the construction of this generation Volt, the seats are way better. They should offer adaptive cruise control and emergency braking. I imagine that will come out in the 3rd generation but I'd like to see more safety features as standard in all cars instead of waiting to be told you have to have them.

And I should add that since the weather has warmed up I am getting closer to 65 miles of electric range....well over the EPA claimed 53.

That's science. Predictable.

We bought one about 6 weeks ago. 1400 miles later I still have 6 gallons from the original tank of gas. I love this feels more like a luxury car than it does an economy car, and can't believe the amount of smooth power it has in electric mode. We got the Premier model with all the safety options. I can't recommend this car any more highly....people need to drive it and they will be hooked.

Not stopping at a gas station is intoxicating isn't it? There is something about never using gas - but having it as a backup when needed that I just love!

Yes, Chevy did the second generation proper. I'm glad you got all the safety options. It will make the resell value higher as well.

I have been watching the story of Elio Motors for a few years and Arcimoto for a few months. Both have a smaller, three wheel "car" that they hope to build and sell. As someone who purchased a smart fortwo in 2008, I see logic in having a car that doesn't cost a fortune and gets good mileage for the long daily commute. Tesla is about the only new car company I have heard about that actually produced a car for sale, but their offering isn't cheap. Do you think there is a chance for someone new to enter the car market with a car at an entry level price? I don't see Ford, Chevy, or Toyota running for the mini car market.

Look for more of those with a focus on good quality and low costs. We can't keep asking people to spend $33,000+ in an era when few people are getting salary increases.

Have they said anything yet about an upcoming Pacifica plug-in hybrid?

I heard it was later this year, to next year.

I can answer that question in about 30 minutes :)

we're on our way to the presentation right now and we will be periscoping it live!

there is a hybrid coming out, but I would buy the plug-in hybrid

Cool -- but how will it know how quickly to stop? Is it a speed/conditions/distance thing? And wouldn't it be easier to install cell phone jammers in every car?

It is an algorithmic mix of speed and distance, usually operating at a speed of 20 mph and a distance of about 15 feet.

After being hit from behind five times in the past 10 years, every single one while I was stopped at a light (and once when I stopped in crowded stop-and-go traffic on East Capitol Street in DC)ic, I'm for it. Too bad we need it but there are many inattentive idiots out there. It's also the one and only reason I gave up owning a motorcycle.

Humans make mistakes. Let's not call them idiots for doing so. It happens.

Given VW's stumbling response and rumors of dissatisfaction among dealers, with ever diminishing market share .....etc etc what are the prospects of VW jumping ship and withdrawing from USA altogether

Our market is too big for VW to do that. They'll work something out.

How is the handling, braking, shifting, etc., on the Volt? Is it fun to drive? Thanks.

Stretch (my husband, homebuilt airplane pilot) says "nominal" everything is fine- great. it works.

Just like the other chatter, load up on the safety technology. Cars are getting technology so quickly yours will be out of date soon, which will affect your resale value.

Why is Lou Ann hanging out with someone from ESPN?

Because we are driving Chrysler Pacifica today and Jaime and I are old buddies

Warren, I'm mostly with you. But it seems like some of these requirements are extremely difficult for small volume manufacturers. And it would make tons of sense for Europe, the US, & Japan (at a minimum) to coordinate safety, emissions, and other regulations. But I've seen no evidence of that.

I agree that it would make tons of sense for American-European cooperation on safety rules. That is happening...slowly. Suppliers are pushing the changes more than original equipment manufacturers.

Can you get it without the giant VOLT! graphic on the doors? I see a couple every now and then on The Other West Coast and they look ridiculous. Also: does the electric range vary with stop-n-go driving, the way gas mileage does? We don't put on a lot of miles down here, but we spend a lot of time sitting.

Take it off - I always think it is funny when I see badges taken off and made into something else, like toyota becomes toy.


Electric varies depending on everything. If you turn the radio on you will use electricity. It's kind of cool to see because I never think of how much energy we're using to run things till you're faced with it. It's like when we have a black out and I run the generator andf can only use the microwave or hair dryer but not both

Who is he picking in the big basketball tournament?

Stretch is not a basketball fan. He will talk to you all day about gravitational pull, though.

That makes so much sense! Since so many parts are more or less identical, you can really see the benefits to running fewer lines of production. (And why so many cars look and act so similar.)

That is the way the car world works today. Someone had better tell Trump.

Warren, I asked you last week about comparison cars to replace my 2013 Equinox that is going to my daughter. You recommended another Equinox. After significant research of features and test drives of the Equinox, Escape, Rogue, Tuscon and CRV, the Equinox had far the best features and it came in exactly in the middle of Out the Door prices. Needless to say I bought a new 2016 Equinox. Even got the color I wanted.

That Warren, he never fails us :)


I will tell Jaime Flores. It was funny that the first car he suggested was the one you were leaning towards, without knowing it.

Don't mean to sound harsh Warren, but when someone is staring at their phone (or in one case laptop computer) and plows into my backside while I'm at a stop, it's not a mistake. It's idiocy. They're lucky no one was crossing the street behind me.

Ok. I prefer to call it human error. What can I say? Over 20 years of Catholic education.

Ok everyone - Stretch is periscoping the #chrysler #pacifica presentation.

You can go to and see it

Is approx 80% nitrogen. Nitrogen allegedly reduces corrosion. It also maintains a constant pressure despite temperature increases in the tire. It makes a difference in auto racing but never on the street. You tires will wear out long before corrosion becomes an issue. Pressure issued and temp are not an issue in street driving. $50 is a nice profit fro something that costs maybe a buck. My tire gut a former SCCA racer never recommends nitrogen. Clifton, VA

All arguments in favor of air. Thanks.

Now that Mazda is putting a turbo engine in the next generation CX-9, have you heard anything about that engine trickling into other Mazdas?


I understand VW should right their wrong (ie diesel engines) but I'm absolutely in love with my 2014 Passat SE (first VW/German auto owned, purchased new Nov '13) and I would go out and buy another VW tomorrow if need be. Hopefully there are many others like me out there that still believe in them.

Agreed. VW makes great cars. Their error was thinking they are smarter than everyone else and that they could violate rules with impunity. It is not good to piss people off.

So that means we should see a Mazda 3 Speed soon with the new turbo engine? Has Mazda officially confirmed?

Not confirmed. But it wouldn't surprise me.

Clifton is right, air is 78% nitrogen, so charging $50 for the other 12% is nonsense and a HUGE ripoff. When inflating your tires at a gas station, the biggest problem is moisture (you don't want water vapor in your tires). So when you use the hose at the gas station, air it out for a few seconds to dry the hose and tip. Also, use your own tire pressure gage (very cheap at any hardware store) as the little gage on those hose are wildly inaccurate. What I usually do is overinflate to ~40 psi or so, then let out the air manually by pressing on the valve and periodically checking with my gage, until the desired pressure is reached. This sounds like a pain, but it doesn't take that much time, and riding on correct tire pressure makes a big difference in ride quality, fuel efficiency, and tire longevity.

If you're going to do all that don't cheap out on the tire gauge, get a digital one. They're are some good ones that aren't expensive

Hey, Warren and Lou Ann, Would you please lobby the car manufacturers of sporty cars that many couples are composed of a driver who can drive a stick and one who cannot, so the cars they own have to be autos. I'm thinking Mazda 3 Speed, Ford Focus and Fiesta GT, Subaru WRX Sti, etc. I would probably have bought one by now except mt better half cannot drive a stick, and it's not practical for us to own a car she can't drive.

The car companies already know this. But I'll  push anyway. My much better half does not drive stick. You are preaching to the choir.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, I am about to purchase an Audi A4; they are pushing hard for me to buy the wheel protection plan; it's like $1200 and it covers damage to wheels and tires. What would you do?

Tires can be very expensive - like $400 a piece - but the biggest damage can be when soemeone is changing the tires. Bosch came out with a unit that takes care of that problem but if your dealer doesn't use it it could be a problem.

I wouldn't do it, only but it really depends on your roads and how hard you drive

Time to eat lunch, good people. Outside! It is a gloriously beautiful day here in the mid-Atlantic! Enjoy!!

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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