Real Wheels Live (July 29)

Jul 29, 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,

I am in a meeting with Nissan right now. They have already talked about the Titan, Armada. Now we are going to talk about Pathfinder. If you have questions ask it now, however driving impressions are embargoed till August 8.

Warren and I try to be as accurate as we can be as we answer all your questions. If we haven't been, I like to correct that misstep in the next week's chat.

A couple of weeks ago a chatter asked why the Subaru safety rating was going down. I didn't have an answer for them and asked them to send me the link (to lou at drivingthenation dot com). I would have to investigate this story; it just didn't seem right.

The chatter did email and let me know that they felt horrible; they had read the story wrong. Subaru had not lost its ratings. Issue corrected!

Monday and Tuesday I was at Toyota's manufacturing plant for the Tundra and Tacoma in San Antonio, TX. If you are looking for a welder or electrician job and are willing to move to San Antonio, TX Toyota may have a job for you.

Tundra and Tacoma are like most SUVs; hot in demand! They are less than two weeks on the dealer's lot. The Nissan Armada is going to switch to being made in Japan because the Titan is so hot Nissan needs all the production capacity they can get.

The rest of the week I have been chilling in Carmel, California with the Nissan adventure group. Auburn has been over 100 degrees for a week now. I am in a jacket in Carmel, and it feels so much better than being in a hermetically sealed air conditioned building. I will drive up Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco, CA. after this event, then on my way home to Stretch and the animals.

Yesterday I drove the Titan, Armada, and Pathfinder. Last week a chatter, John, asked if Warren or I had driven the Pathfinder. His wife has sciatica and John has back issues. John - the zero gravity seats (NASA seats) are available only on; Rogue, Altima, Murano, Maxima, and Titan. Would you do me a favor and drive the Volvo XC 90 and then drive the Murano with NASA seats to see the difference? 

I drove the Chevy Tahoe this week. Somehow it has escaped me as a great 3-row seat SUV that I got 16 miles per gallon while driving. It is back on the radar. The Armada, Sequoia, and Tundra are all competitors, and that segment is hot.

I also drove the $22,000 the Mitsubishi Lancer that got 20mpg. Truecar says you can get the sedan at $16,803. Many of you have asked about cars around $15,000. That price makes this car an option; I would change the tires, too much noise.

My sincere thanks to all the firefighters in California. We are at the height of fire season in California again, and these people are putting their lives on the line. As of this morning, California Fire website says that there are 29,877 acres on fire in Monterey CA (Soberanes - think Big Sur). All day we heard the helicopters overhead dipping their baskets into a pond and flying it over to help the guys on the front line. 

2016 Honda CR-V EX or EX-L or 2017 Ford Escape SE? Tend to keep cars awhile, likely becomes kids transportation in 7 years.

If you're going to get a car you keep through all the games the kids will be going to why not get a 3-row seat?

20/27/23 Pathfinder
explorer 17/24/20

or a chrysler pacifica minivan with stow and go seats?

If you want me to pick of the two above it would be the Escape

Hi Warren, I enjoy your weekly column in the Washington Post and appreciated your insights when asking you about cars. I last spoke to you a long time ago when I selected a 2002 GMC Envoy for me and a 2002 Lexus ES 300 for my wife. Recently, my wife upgraded to the ES 350 which seems like an excellent choice for her and I selected the 2016 Hyundai Tucson, after much research. Unfortunately, I didn't look at the NHTSA and websites as there are many documented issues related to the dual clutch transmission. I returned the car to the Dealer on July 12th and I'm striving for a resolution. Hyundai has not recalled the vehicle and hasn't issued a fix. I experienced some of the DCT issues and have lost confidence in the car. Do you have any insights as to how I might be able to proceed in pursuit of a complete refund? Thank you.

email me at lou at drivingthenation dot com

I'll send your email to the people I know at Hyundai

I had asked you last week about what I perceive to be a problem and Audi now, after at first saying it was, doesn't: the 2016 Audi A6 with nav that, when you hit the "traffic" button shows reports from miles and miles away. For example if I am driving from Baltimore to Annapolis and hit that button I get reports from Route 66 in Virginia, etc. Have to scroll through literally 50-100 to get anything that's close to my actual location, which is unsafe (eyes not on road) and stupid (the nav can figure out where I am, so why not the traffic reports?) This is not a SiriusXM traffic thing either, because I found out that the 2016 A6 can not run SiriusXM traffic, only the audio. So after a second visit to the dealer, who told me some new software or remap was available, I took it in Tuesday. While waiting the service guy came out and said it's working the way it should, that the only time the traffic shows nearby conditions is when there's a destination in the nav and it shows conditions on my route. And off I went. But it seems stupid. My Infiniti G37 showed me traffic conditions from my location and beyond, without a destination (I don't need the nav to guide me home from work, I just need to know how traffic is up ahead, not from 50-100 miles away). Makes zero sense. I love the car but if this is actually the way it is supposed to work I don't get it. First time I went to service for them to fix this (and they acknowledged at the time it didn't make sense) the loaner A4 worked perfectly ... with no destination in the nav I hit the traffic button and it gave me conditions nearby. So now I will go to the dealer and sit in one or two new A6s and see if they act the same. If not, I'm either being lied to or the service people have no clue. If so, then it's a stupid system. Love the car otherwise (other than its jukebox won't download CDs, which was a big attraction of my G37 which did). I'm venting but also asking other owners if they have experienced this or if you have heard of it. Because I'm thinking if this is how every new A6 acts a lot more people than me would be complaining. Thanks!

II don't know what the problem is. Apparently, Audi doen;t know, either. There have been lots of "chip" problems with many mobile GPS systems. This sounds like one of them. Use Garmin...or smart phone.


Thank you, Warren. My husband and I love the features and comforts of the cars we bought new - an '05 Dodge Magnum SXT with 49.000 miles and an '03 Matrix AWD with almost 99,000 miles. We both just turned 60, and his retirement from corporate America is soon. We were wondering about the feasibility of keeping the cars we have and repairing what needs to be repaired, provided Dodge and Toyota carry the parts for the next ten to twenty or so years. What do you think? Thanks!

They will most probably still carry them as they are used in the production of other cars.

Yesterday I received a recall notice for the passenger side Takata airbag in my 2011 Outback. No replacement parts are available yet and in the meantime the message said no one should ride in the front passenger side seat. This means my spouse will have to ride in the back seat. Can the passenger side airbag be switched off? P.S. Hell has a special place for makers of defective safety equipment who stall for years on admitting it.

Keep your recall letter. In fact, make two copies. Call dealer in interim to get replacement part schedule.  Keep her in back seat until schedule confirmed.

I have read that the BMW 228 is being replaced an updated 230 model with a new engine. Have you driven it yet? Do you think that it will be an improvement? Thank you.

Not yet. But I will let you know when I do.

The "upcoming" Faraday Future and Elio automobiles have received a fair amount of press/internet coverage lately. So far, I have not seen much beyond slick websites and press releases. Have you learned anything recently that indicates that there is much of a chance that either or both of these companies will actually go into volume production of automobiles in the foreseeable future?

I still have not, and I have been watching for it. I am pleased that they make strategic partnerships, but that happens all the time and still companies fold.

Let me know if you find anything and I will post it here if I do.

About a year ago, the Car Connection announced that Honda terminated Takata as its air bag supplier effective at the moment of the announcement.

I wouldn't blame them if they did, but there are very few air bag suppliers out there. What Toyota has done is put engineers into Takata plant to ensure that the airbags are to the specifications they are supposed to be buying

Hiya Warren and Lou Ann: Thank you for doing these chats. I always appreciate your take on "real-world" issues, not gear-head concerns like whether the new model defrost button knob is hexagonal or a rhombus. Having said that, I am confused by the Kia-Hyundai line of SUVs. Can you briefly characterize the differences between the Sportage, Sorento, Sedona, Tucson, Santa Fe? Between which price points is the jump "worth it?" Thanks very much!


Hyundai owns Kia--shared engineers, suppliers, designers, etc. Except, Hyundai is higher end. Kia is value. Go Kia.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann I'm having a hard time deciding between a Honda CRV and a Subaru Forester. Do you have a preference between them, and if so, why? I would also consider a Hyundai Tucson but I've read about problems with their automated manual transmission that has put me off. Are you familiar with that problem? Thank you!

Subaru Forester

Honda CRV had a funky feel going downhill

I haven't heard of the automated manual transmission problem, but I've got an email going to Hyundai so I will ask.

We keep hearing they're a few years out and others say it'll be quite some time before all issues are worked out and these vehicles will be allowed on the road. What's your take on the time line?

It will be quite some time before public infrastructure, legal issues are worked out. I say 2025.

Lou Ann here:

look at


It's been disgustingly gross this week on the East Coast. Perhaps the scenery on the West Coast makes up for it. Thanks for all that you do for us drivers!

Yep. It's summer! And you're welcome.

Lou Ann here:

It's a dry heat :) humidity kills me. 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity - yuck. come visit.

Needs to bring back the Xterra and make the Pathfinder a real SUV like it once was when it conquered the Baja 1000. Not some pathetic CUV that gets stuck on wet grass!

Nissan will do what the market demands.

Lou Ann here:

Try the Nissan Titan

Lou Ann, please mention to your Nissan friends (and Toyota, for that matter) that those groovy racing seats with the wings are only comfortable for narrow people...and we, as Americans, aren't getting much narrower. Thanks

LOL - That's what Warren and I were just saying - that 3-row vehicles are ridiculously big, but they will get bigger because of the growing girth of Americans.

I wouldn't buy the racing seats either

Admittedly I don't have an A6, or any other car with its own OEM installed navigation system, but it should be clear to anyone concerned for traffic safety that an intended function for driver use ought NOT be a driver distraction. I mean, look, the navigation system is meant to be used by the driver and the traffic function is meant to HELP the driver, but instead it is an unsafe distraction. Audi should know better - but I think the answers are coming from their lawyers and accountants, not their system engineers. As an aside, I doubt few multi-thousand dollar navigation options from car manufacturers are a good value for the money, and within a few years become obsolete. I have never opted for one, and wish manufacturers instead provided some standard accommodations for third party devices - like USB or Bluetooth connectivity from the device to the car's display. Or at least a decent and convenient place to safely mount and power the driver's device.


I wouldn't want to get in an accident with one. Big time not good. Also strong cross winds aren't this vehicles friend.

I agree, but most of these type cars are used on street roads

It's also important to note that Hyundai includes more options in its packages. Things that you'll pay extra for in a Kia. If you find yourself wanting lots of options, a Hyundai begins to be a better value. Price out the Kia you want and then compare that to the equivalent Hyundai. Go with whichever is cheaper.

Good advice. Thanks.

Lou Ann you mentioned in your intro that you are meeting with Nissan and discussing upcoming models. I had been searching for a new SUV and in my research learned that Nissan uses CVT in may of their SUV's. I also learned from owner forums that the CVT has been problematic for many. Can you ask Nissan if they plan to improve the functionality of their CVT's that, until now, are a sore item for many owners of several Nissan models?

The Nissan Pathfinder has an upgraded 3rd generation CVT in 2017 with improvements for reacceleration scenes (after slowdown) and shift rhythm

This addresses many of the issues that the owners have been expressing on the forums.

When you visit a big city for a few days. do you rent a car at the airport, use Zipcar, rely on Uber or Lyft, or hail regular taxis? Or use public transportation. Just curious. SpokaneMan

Rely on Uber, Lyft.

Hi Lou Ann, this is John of the seat question. I will try to test sit the XC90 and Murano in the next month or so and report back. The recent post in today's discussion about sport seats strikes a nerve -- pun intended. Our two regular vehicles, both SAABs, have relatively narrow sport seats, and my wife and I have wondered whether this was a contributing cause of our orthopaedic issues. Recently she inherited a gently-used, optioned out, Lincoln MKZ. The wide seats in the MKZ seem to partially alleviate her sciatica; she loves it. We will still be looking at SUVs because we will need a vehicle that can tow a small trailer. Despite its seat comfort, the MKZ has no towing capability.

Lou Ann is off diving Nissan vehicles. Strives a NERVE with me, too. Fellow sciatica sufferer.--Warren

How concerned should we be about the recent report that small SUVs failed the front headlight test? I was ready to get a Forester until I saw that.

I'd still go with a Forester. Want better lights? Try Chevy Equinox.

I'm considering buying a used Mazda Miata, but not sure how to find a mechanic to look it over first. Any advice?

Try Carmax for mechanical certification.

What happens to the "official" cars that are used at sporting events? Does the dealership offer these lightly driven vehicles at a steep discount?

Discount? Probably. Steep? Probably not.

I think that the choice of transportation when you visit a large city for a few days is so complicated that the only good answer is "It depends." I usually use public transportation, if possible. Based on recommendations from locals and the location of my hotel, the places I planned to visit, parking, etc., I went with a rental car on a recent rip to Seattle. One of the most difficult considerations is the relative total costs of parking, car rental, transit fares, cab fares, etc.

I advocate public transit, but never use it, especially in large cities. Uber, Lyft, or cab.

I have had good luck finding mechanics by relying on the advice of friends and neighbors.

You are lucky.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please come back next week. Thanks, Gene, Lou Ann, and Lady Ria. Eat lunch.

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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