The Washington Post

Real Wheels Live (July 8)

Jul 08, 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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We are better than our hatreds. Much better. We are better than former Illinois Congressman  Joe Walsh. Much better. We are better than the Dallas madman who used tragedies in Louisiana and Illinois to vent his sick venom.

My prayers and condolences for the families of law enforcement officers in Dallas, and the fathers and husbands slaughtered in Louisiana and Minnesota. We are better than this.

Good Morning Warren and Friends,

Last week we were talking about Takata Airbags and one of you wrote me to tell about their experience. I am sharing it with all of you. It's so good to see someone so happy.

I read in your chat today on WaPo that you have a friend, Davis, at Honda... I wonder if I might impose on you to pass along my most sincere gratitude to Honda Motor Company for the amazing and classy treatment I was given during the recall of the Takata airbag on my 2009 Honda Fit Sport.

I was rented a car at no cost for 4 months, no questions asked. My car was towed in to my dealership at no charge when the parts arrived, no questions asked. At every stage of the process I was made to feel like a valuable customer. Several follow-up calls were made to make sure I was still satisfied with the rental car and to update me on the situation.

Thanks to Honda Motor Company and my dealer, Wilde Honda in Brookfield, WI. Truly great and considerate customer service like this will never be forgotten. It's a pleasure to do business with a company with such integrity and honor.

'Honda Customer For Life,'


This week I drove the BMW 330 E, a plug-in hybrid BMW! The first 20 miles are on electricity, combine that with the gasoline I used to get to Bodgea Bay, CA and back and my mpg was 38. You're talking a four door sedan with a large trunk and great drivability. The starting MSRP is $43,700.  The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder works with a 7.6 kWh lithium-ion battery to create 247 horsepower and low-end torque. I like the blue that lights up in the car and that when the car is charging you can look in the instrument panel and it will tell you what time the car is fully charged. This is a car I would recommend, but you already know I would pretty much recommend any plug-in hybrid to people that have the ability to charge their vehicle, especially if you have solar panels.

Let's chat about cars.

Hi Lou Ann - last week I asked you when the new Buick Enclave would be coming. I explained that I had recently seen the new GMC Acadia, but found it too small and its styling unimpressive. You asked me to look at an Encore instead. But why would I be interested in the Encore when the new Acadia is already too small? I never did get an answer to my question. Please let me know about the Enclave as I have to make a decision soon. Thank you.

My apologies. We are working on getting you Enclave info.

Lou Ann here:

My bad - It is the Enclave I like. Not the Encore. The Encore is the small one, the enclave the larger one. I like the larger one. All around nicer car, smooth ride, decent mpg. It is the best of the Buicks and the best of the three you mentioned last week.

We now have a new Audi A4, a relatively new MB C series and an updated BMW 3 series. How would you rank them overall? Thanks, Seattle

The A4-ist place.

BMW 3 series--second, because of crazy pricing.

MB C series--third.

What are some of the prettiest new vehicles?

not sure why this didn't go through

Any sports car Jaguar by Ian Callum, Audi A7, Hyundai Sonata.

3 series first more fun to drive and based on RWD platform. Best balanced chassis and best brakes C class based on RWD platform better balanced than A4 A4 based on FWD platform. Weight distribution is not as good as 3 series. Less fun to drive than the other 2. Clifton, VA

Ah, Clifton. "Fun to drive" does not top value in the real world. A4 is no. 1

What do you think about the new CX9? Any recent word about new MazdaSpeed vehicles? Thanks.

I am driving the CX9 right now and am enjoying it. The leather two-tone appointments are elegant. The 3-row seats are great. I put the back row down yesterday and picked up my lawn mower, so you can imagine the amount of room (with the handle down)

I want to say I'm getting about 28 mpg, which for a 3-row van is good. The remote opens either door as well.

Hi Lou Ann and Warren, I recently traded in my silver 2008 VW New Beetle and bought a 2016 VW Beetle Dune Edition in Sandstorm Yellow! It has a metallic paint job which sparkles in the sun. I also like the backup camera with sensor warnings, satellite radio with touch screen, heated side view mirrors, numerous air bags and turbo. I was surprised when my insurance hardly changed from my old 2008 VW New Beetle to the new car; I was told that this was due to the new safety features. I also got LoJack installed, which affected my insurance rates.

Change auto insurance companies. Seriously. Let your current insurer know why.

The longer all-electric range on the new Volt makes sense. It allows me to do daily all-electric commutes.

I have read that the next plug-in Prius will have a 22 mile electric range and Lou Ann listed 20 miles for the BMW she tested. These numbers sound good, but the 50+ mile electric range claimed for the Chevrolet Volt sounds much more attractive for the way I drive, as it would allow me to do most of my driving on electric power while having a 350 mile range on gasoline for the occasional trip. Are you expecting more plug-in hybrids with longer electric range in the next few years?

Yes! Car companies are going to lithium-ion batteries which will give a better range. I compare it to wood - if you have the same size of wood to burn and one is pine and the other is blue oak you would want the blue oak. It will burn longer and hotter. The same goes for batteries - you want the lithium-ion because the energy is denser, you can pack more punch into it, versus the nickel metal hydride battery.

It's not just battery though, it is components; carbon fiber or aluminum versus steel, etc. Power to weight ratio is a big deal in how far you can go on one gallon of gasoline. Use of electricity as well; how much energy you are using in the car and how much energy it takes to heat/cool the car, how much energy it takes to get up a hill.

All these things play a role in cars so we need more power up front and car companies are working on that technology.

All sound like great cars, but once you're spending $40K, the importance of value drops a bit for me. There's plenty of cases where value factors in, but is not primary. Say, iPad vs. Android tablet. In the case of luxury vehicles, even entry level, you've blown well past value.

The importance of value, at any price, never drops.

Being that heat and humidity have finally arrived, wondering if you have any tips for keeping cars cool during the torrid summer months....

Park in shade, if possible. Use sun-block screens in windows on 90+ days. When no rain, leave windows partially open to allow heat escape.  PLEASE, DO NOT LEAVE CHILDREN OR PETS IN HOT CARS!!!

Wondering if you both can put in a good word with the automakers you talk to to please consider putting parking sensors in their cars. Nothing worse than trying to avoid the dreaded parking lot scrape, only to have someone with a large vehicle without sensors really do a number on your vehicle in the parking lot because they try to fit their vehicle into the size of a space that is way too small.

next year back up cameras will be required. However, if you really want that camera to make a difference get the one with sensors that beep when something is behind you. There are cars that have better sensors than others. These sensors have saved my butt more than once, especially in parking lots.

Yes, will do. We also are urging car companies to increase standardization of advanced electronic safety equipment such as blind-side monitoring.

Warren's tips are consistent with what I learned while living in the desert, but I would add one thing. if you have a garage or carport, keep it cleared out enough to put your car in it. This tip also helps in the Winter, when it helps keep windows clear in the winter, and it protects your car from the occasional hailstorm.

It always amazed me that people who own garages don't put their cars in them. In Newfoundland, Canada, in the dead of winter, the cars are outside.

Good point, thank you

Besides the temperature benefits of sunblocking screens, the ones for the windshield/dashboard protect the materials from UV and damaging effects of the sun. I have a 13 year old BMW, that I faithfully use a sunscreen with whenever I am parked outside in the daytime. No cracking or drying, the dash looks like new.

Thanks. I agree.

Local laws vary, but down here on The Other West Coast (TM) we use window tint year-round to drop the inside temp by about 10 degrees. If you can't have the dark tint while you're driving (check with a couple of shops, because the laws vary by which window too), you can easily get removable stick-ons to put on your windows when you aren't. Every little bit helps, and I really notice the difference when I rent a car that doesn't have the tint.


Based on my experience, you might want to reconsider that stylish black interior. Man, I wish I had gotten the tan leather instead.

Exactly the reason I always go with the lighter interior though it means I have to usually put sheets down for everything and everyone. Too hot in the summer and if you have black leather you scorch yourself when you sit on the seats.

I agree with the poster about parking lots. Some of them are like obstacle courses -- between people, other cars/drivers, grocery carts and even small animals -- they can be worse than any interstate to navigate!

And we can all be a bit more patient and careful. I avoid shopping centers during rush hours. Control your speed in those environments.

Are there any plug-in hybrid convertibles, either currently available or planned? It seems like those of us who like fresh air might be favorably impressed by a convertible that helps reduce air pollution.

I haven't, but my thought would be BMW if one does come out

Also, check your tires at least every time you fuel up. Summer is notorious for pressure changes even as much as winter is.

Another good point. I usually check my tires at the change of each season.

With the recent crashes of auto-piloted Teslas, do you think that will impede the autonomous car movement? With the amount of cars on the road, the limitless variety of road and sign quality, and of course, the millions of drivers, making a truly autonomous vehicle seems very difficult. You can plan and idiot-proof the software for a million scenarios, and surely someone will find the million and one case. Unless we all commit to autonomous vehicles, it seems like this will remain a very limited application.

Those crashes were bound to happen. There will be some negative reaction to the development of such technology. But that development will continue because it is designed to limit highway carnage. A tragic bump in the road to better.

Hi, What are your thoughts on the Ford Connect Wagon? I am looking for a smaller minivan. Thanks!

I love it, especially for cities.

Was splurge and get the fully heated AND ventilated seats. Nice when you can flip a switch and have your seat hot or cold within a minute or two. Not available on all makes and models, but if you're buying a car, at least see if it's an option.

It is a luxury that makes sense.

I casually follow the car industry and your weekly chats so I think the answer is "no", but...are there any family size vehicles still made where a manual transmission is an option? We are about to have our 3rd kid with the other two still in boosters. Spouse drives an '09 Xterra manual, but there's no getting 3 car seats in the back. Spouse was saddened to have to give up the truck and also knowing finding another manual is unlikely.

VW, I think, still offers manuals in family-type Passats. Check there.

There are solar-powered auto vent fans that clip on to the top of a window that is cracked open and create a continuous stream of air that helps cool off the interior of a vehicle parked in the sun. I used one years ago and it made a small but noticeable difference in a car parked in a parking lot with no shade on 100+ degree days. I would imagine that these fans have improved over the years. (Note: you have to crack open at least one window on each side of the car for these to work.)

I googled it and they don't seem to be very effective - unless they have become more effective.

The best explanation, with warnings, I could find are here

I think the person with the new Beetle was saying it's a good and remarkable thing that the insurance rate for a new 2016 was about the same as the old 2008. Usually your insurance will jump when you buy a new car; this person's rates stayed about the same.

Still, shop your insurers. Some are better than others. Shop.

No doubt this is coming. But the idea, caveat, that the driver must be alert and ready to take over from the "autonomous driver" is pure baloney. Totally unrealistic. hard enough to keep real drivers alert, but once "George" is driving? Forget it. The autonomous system has to be very well designed to deal with any situation or condition. Just wait when the big money guys foist all the liability over on the owner, not the manufacturer.

hard enough to keep real drivers alert - It is amazing there are not more accidents on the road.

Auto pilot is different than autonomous though, and once it comes there will be lots of warnings and airbags inside and possibly outside the car.

Auto pilot works when no one else is around, like planes in the sky. But when you're landing or taking off auto pilot should be disengaged. When you're around other cars or on twisty roads I wouldn't use auto pilot

Talk without screaming. Listen without hating. Disagree without killing. Try love, forgiveness. They work. Peace.

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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