Real Wheels Live (May 27)

May 27, 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 wrote that the Volvo XC 90 will be the first plug-in hybrid SUV. I should have said in the United States. China already has plug-in SUVs and the BYD Tang SUV plug-in hybrid has sold more than 12,000 units so far this year. Warren Buffett owns 10% of BYD.

What's everyone going to do for the memorial weekend. Stretch will put the American flag out this weekend. Both his Mother and Father were in the military. His Mom was a Women's Army Corps (WAC), and his Dad landed at Omaha Beach. My Great Uncle, Fred Larson, was in the 13th Battalion SeaBee.

I drove the 2017 Kia Sportage SX FWD this week. The 2.0-liter turbo 4-cyl engine was $33,395 with an EPA fuel estimate of 21 city/26 highway/23 combined.

I also drove the 3-row Ford Explorer Platinum 4WD, $55,155 with a EPA fuel estimate of 16 city/22 highway/18 combined. It made me think of the chatter a couple weeks ago that wanted something other than a Chevy Suburban. If you are reading this, have you looked at the Ford Explorer?

Let's chat about cars.

The Sportage is one of the best and most enjoyable compact SUVs available.

Hi Lou Ann and Warren! Thanks for taking my question. We are a family that loves our Subarus. We're currently on our second Outback and may soon be looking to replace a Civic with another Subaru. Our local dealer has a 2012 Tribeca with low mileage on the lot. We would like a third row option, but wouldn't be using it all the time (really only when our kids--6 and 8--have friends with them or we have visitors). Would you recommend purchasing the Tribeca or holding out for the new 3rd row model they're getting ready to roll out? Thank you!

I'd stay away from the low-sale-value Tribeca and look at something like the Kia Sorento.

Looking to replace my 2007 Acura MDX which has served me well - but my kids are now both driving so don't need the third row of seats - suggestions for a new SUV for me?

I am high on the high-value-for-money Kia Sorento.

I currently own a 2010 VW Jetta SportWagen TDI with a manual transmission. I like the cargo space, the handling, the mileage, and the range on a full tank. I also like having a manual transmission. When there is a buyback offer from VW, what suggestions do you have for a replacement car? Thanks.

Keep your car and get as much from VW as possible.

Hi there. So it seems that after the middle of next year, having a hybrid won't get me on 66. I'm thinking about life after the hybrid. Instead of a practical car, I want to live a little. How do you feel about an entry Level lexus or BMW sedan? Do you REALLY have to use premium gas? And which one tends to be a better choice?

I love Lexus at almost any level. Toyota, which makes Lexus, makes a darned good car. Use premium if the owner's manual advises you to do so. Period.

There might be 18 million new vehicles sold in 2016 but there are 63 million vehicles subject to the Takata air bag recall according to recent news reports. Even many of the new vehicles contain experimental air bags containing a drying agent which it is hoped will eliminate the excessive explosive characteristics of ammonium nitrate due to humidity - but the jury is still out. How has this affected the sales of new vehicles made with the Takata air bags?

I have not asked that question specifically, but it is a good one.

I'm glad that you recognize that it is the Takata airbag that is the problem. Car dealers go through a rigorous vetting to try to ensure that they have the best, safest, technology they can. It is infuriating to them when they find out that a supplier intentionally, for pennies, short changes them. 

Car manufacturers are changing from Takata, but I am sure they have had to figure out what to do. I know Honda has spent millions trying to find every single Honda that has a Takata airbag and getting them replaced.

I recently rented a Nissan Versa with a CVT (continuously variable transmission?). I have never driven a car with a CVT before and found the experience disconcerting, as there seemed to be some lag in response when accelerating. Is this common in vehicles with a CVT or just this model? Thanks.

CVT trannies are a new wave of technologies to help save fuel by reducing gearing friction. Some are better than others. But lag-feel is a common complaint with CVTs.

Any thoughts on the new Jaguar SUV and sedan? I love my XJL Supercharged!

We'll see.

Two rows and best off road performance of any SUV when properly equipped the Grand Cherokee. Two rows and choice of V6, an old decrepit V8, and a diesel. I get 20 to 22mpg in all around driving. The new ones with the 8 spd should get a couple mpgs better. V6 is more than adequate Clifton, VA

The V-6 works fine. Agreed.

More room in the Burb and also it can tow more. Explorer is a CUV not an SUV like the Suburban and is front wheel drive based which means the Explorer isnt as strong or as rugged for real work and towing. Not sure if you can get a low range in a Suburban like you can in in a Tahoe which can be important at the boat slip when you are putting you boat in or going home and now traction control and terrain management arent the same. Jeep in their Grand Cherokee and Land Rover/Range Rover all offer a low range. I use it in my Grand Cherokee for climbing wet steep grassy hills at herding trials.

I'm not sure how much they towed (weight wise) I know the Explorer had select shift transmission and hill descent control and a class 3 trailer tow package and terrain management system. It was 4WD.

I can't remember why this person didn't like the suburban anymore, just thought it might be an option.

Thanks for the details. If they read this it might help.

Regarding your answer to my question, I suspect that for the older TDIs without urea capability, there will not be an option to fix the car because of the expense and technical difficulties of a retrofit and states and DC may not allow registration renewal of these polluting vehicles. In other words, I will likely have to replace the car. Any suggestions?

Wait. My hunch is that you won't have to replace it.

Yep -- that lag is especially common among Nissan CVT's. I've owned one for a while and driven a bunch of them, and they all like to go out for a cup of coffee when you step on the gas.


Pilot. Sorento, or CX-9?

Warren will tell you Sorento, I will tell you CX-9 because of the driveability and versatility.

Here's my review of the Honda Pilot

This may be a stupid question but the difference between regular and premium is now up to about 60 cents/gal here. It used to be closer to a 20-30 cent gap. Why - simple supply and demand? Are more cars requiring premium?

There are no stupid questions here. Can't say the same for answers.  Fuel pricing is an absolute mystery to me.

A friend had shared a concept video showing an elevated bus that drives over cars and can bypass traffic stopped at a light. The idea seems great, but I am not sure how well it would work in the real world. (Have you ever seen a picture of a truck that crashed into a bridge because the driver ignored the height requirements). I could come up with a dozen other ways to increase the capacity of our roads, but most would only work if everyone adopted the new standards. Make the cars narrower and your can squeeze in an extra lane of traffic (but only if all cars are equally narrow). Allow cars to dock together so that when traffic starts moving, the first and last car in the line start moving at the same time (also only works if everyone had a car that can dock into a larger unit.) Is there a way to improve transportation without requiring everyone to upgrade to the newest standards and technology.

no. it requires new technology - I was just in Sweden and Volvo talked about this - Eric Coelingh talked about Volvo's autonomous project in 2017 around Gothenburg, Sweden. He talked about how autonomous vehicles would allow for more vehicles on the road and for the lanes to not be as wide. Apparently, the road crews (caltrans in California) know to make the roads wider to allow for drivers indiscretions. Once vehicles are self-driving they won't need as much room.

I think the video you are referring to is in China. Yes, it would be interesting to see how that would work in China.

Most states have rules about allowing waivers for polluting cars as long as you make a reasonable attempt to fix the problem (it's a way to help the working poor, actually). If the problem can't be fixed, and you didn't cause the problem, I wouldn't want to be the attorney general of a state that, essentially, tries to confiscate your property.

MY point, exactly.

The two cars are similar. I have read many articles and compared...the only difference I really see is price. I want a white car but not a tan interior. I can only get that with a Rouge....what do you think? Which would you choose?

Rogue - I don't like the gearing going downhill in a CRV.

The dual clutch on my son's Focus is getting rougher, not that it's broken in (only 10K miles after 2 years). Is this just going to be the nature of the beast or are there some adjustments that can be made to help the situation? I know the dual clutch is somewhat controversial with supporters and detractors but so far this has been a good car for a college kid with good mpg and safety features (and the perfect size for college campus)

Check with AAMCO for possible adjustments. But I think its the nature of the beast.

Clifton's answer is baloney. It depends on why you buy what you buy and how you use.The CX9 works well. The  Pilot generally costs more than the others. The Sorento is an excellent value.

Go to dealer its a warranty issue Clifton, VA


Yeah, I can see them going a good block or so before they run right through the cable holding the stoplight. And speaking of China, have you seen those pictures of the wiring that looks like one of those rubber-band balls?

I haven't seen the rubber-band balls. send a url to me

China is crazy - 150,000-200,000 are killed a year in car accidents. I've been driven in Shanghai and Beijing and would not drive there myself. crazy.


Hey, Warren. Boyce Rensberger here. I'm considering a 2016 Hyundai Sonata hybrid to replace my 2005 Prius, which has 202,000 miles. Was going to get the 2016 Prius, but I couldn't stand the styling. Sonata efficiency is not quite as good, but it seems like a much more grown-up car. What do you think?

I can't wait till they bring the Prius V plug-in hybrid out (Toyota can you hear me?)

I like the Sonata - love the design and Hyundai gives a great value for the dollar. You won't get the same mpg, but I do like the "grown-up" sedan of the Sonata.

Hey, Boyce. Get the Sonata and load it with all of the advanced electronic safety stuff available. fuel prices should be low another 2 years.

Some cars require premium because it's a high-compression engine. Some cars (like the new Mazda CX-9) recommends premium to get the maximum HP, but can use regular just fine. Like Warren says, always refer to the owner's manual to see if it's required or recommended. I wouldn't trust what the dealers tell you. In my experience, they're often wrong, whether intentional or not.

and remember, it is your vehicle and you have to fix it if you break it against what the manufacturer says.

Thanks for the reminder

Happy Memorial Day to all. Thanks, Dad, Gramps, Danny. We love you for fighting when there seemingly was nothing to fight for.  You helped make America great. Drive carefully, folks.

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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