Real Wheels Live (Sept. 16)

Sep 16, 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,

A week of traveling this great Nation of ours; Unveiled at the Miami auto show were the Nissan Rogue and Nissan Sentra RS Turbo. My favorite part of the show was meeting Duaiv, the artist that painted the ode to Picasso on a 2016 Chevy Corvette Z06.

For the chatter asking about the Fiat 124 Spider last week, there was a Fiat 124 Spider Abarth in two-tone, white on matte black, at the show. I was surprised to find out the vehicle was still under $30,000.

Ford unveiled its STX, and Lexus showed off its stunning LC 500h. The information sheet in front of the coupe gave the horsepower and 0-60 (less than 5 seconds), but not the EPA fuel economy for the hybrid, or the MSRP.

My next stop was Dearborn, Michigan for a further with Ford event that is a deep dive into the thought process of Ford's future trends. It's an interesting session, sort of a white paper or TED event created by Ford. It's good to see that Bill Ford Jr. still has a hand in the future of Ford. I credit him with the sustainability model of Ford; of Ford's renewable plans. Ford left CEO of Ford Motor Corporation but still invests heavily in sustainability with Ford and the United States. I see him and the late Edouard Michelin, the creator of Challenge Bibendum, as leaders that put their money where their beliefs are.

Ford's CEO, Mark Fields, made a statement that got my mind reeling, "The future will not be about the automobile, but about Vehicle Miles traveled. If a car is autonomous and electric in fifteen years, what would you do in the vehicle on your way to work? Would you shave, curl your hair, plug your computer in and work? What would you do that would allow you to sleep a little longer?

I am at the Volkswagen Golf All-Track event in Seattle right now. This Golf is such a great station wagon. For everyone asking about a station wagon, the Golf All-track is a serious contender.

Model Line-up
Destination on all Golf Alltrack models is $820

Alltrack S
$25,850 with manual transmission (late availability)
$26,950 with automatic transmission

Alltrack SE
$29,430 with manual transmission (late availability)
$30,530 with automatic transmission

Alltrack SEL
$32,890 with automatic transmission

Competitive Set
Subaru Outback
Subaru XV Crosstrek

Let's chat about cars

With shiny new pickup trucks seemingly everywhere in the U.S. why are there no comments or questions or answers about them featured in this column? They appear to be used coast to coast by many style and status-conscious owners just like sedans or SUV's. Pickups reportedly are very profitable and their sales growth has not plateaued like car sales have. Drivers of pickups literally look down on those of us in smaller vehicles. So why haven't I ever seen any references to them in your column?

What did you want to know? If someone has asked about the pickup they are thinking of buying we give our opinion. I have driven all of them (except the STX that was just unveiled at the Miami Auto show).

You are right, pickup owners look down on the rest of us. We are like little gnats in their way, especially at 4-5am. They are busting down the highway at 80mph.

Hello, I am trying to decide between 2017 Honda CRV and 2017 Subaru Forester. I am leaning towards the 2.0XT Touring Forester for the turbo engine and safety features. Are there other cars in that class that I should consider? What are your thoughts on the Forester? Thanks

I would really want you to try the new Volkswagen Golf All-track station wagon. I would recommend the Forester normally, but with VW bringing out this new Golf that is so reasonably priced look at it. See the monologue to see the prices

From the EPA website, it looks like stop/start features are not used when calculating MPG for gasoline-powered cars. It says the test assumes "18 minutes of idle time," not engine-off time. However, after talking to Roberts French with the EPA in Ann Arbor, it seems the feature was used to calculate MPG for Volvos with Drive-E. That is supposedly the reason the auto stop/start feature cannot be "permanently" disabled in a Volvo. It has to be turned off manually every time the car is driven. That's very interesting since the Audi A6's stop/start can be disabled on two of their models without opting out each time you drive. My question is why doesn't the EPA have to disclose this change in MPG? MPG is not consistent with MPG calculated several years ago for my other Volvos and it's "apples and oranges" when comparing to other gas-powered cars that don't have the feature today. (BTW my car gets great mileage with the engine off.) The whole thing is very deceptive. There is no mention of it on the sticker in regards to the MPG numbers. When is MPG not MPG? When the use of stop/start is not disclosed. Volvo USA won't return my phone calls. I really am irritated with Volvo and the EPA. Gimmicks like this should not be allowed in determining MPG. It's been so HOT here this summer that I haven't been able to use stop/start at all. So how was hot weather figured into MPG? Using stop/start in MPG calculation and not disclosing it on the sticker, EPA or Volvo websites in negligent at best and fraudulent at worst. Can you shed any light on this? Thanks.

LOL - BTW my car gets great mileage with the engine off.

If the start-stop can't be disengaged then the MPG for volvo should be accurate?

It is my understandging that the EPA is going to start calculating start-stop in their calculations, though they have not done that yet.

I would be more concerned if Audi were using start-stop to calculate their mpg and their cars technology can be diasbled.

I have a problem with cars that are using start/stop and turbo, especially if there is already turbo lag. It feels sluggish on the start up.

The impressive electric-only range of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid has been discussed here, and I just read that the upcoming Chevrolet Bolt battery-electric will have a range of 238 miles. Is Chevy going to be the electric car front runner for 2017? This looks like a very good cost/range combination.

My colleague from Navigant Research wrote about the Bolt in 2015

I drove the Bolt in 2015 and liked it and it's price. I am pleasantly surprised that the Bolt is coming to the market at the price they said at the auto show.

This will put a lot of pressure on Tesla to bring the model 3 out sooner at a more moderate $30,000 price range, though people who buy Teslas are not necessarily going to buy a Chevy

The difference will be when all Chevy dealers have solar paneled charging units that they offer to the public for free.
That is when Tesla will see the biggest kick back.

Any reactions to this recent NEWSHOUR segment?

Just the question I asked in the monologue;

Ford's CEO, Mark Fields, made a statement that got my mind reeling, "The future will not be about the automobile, but about Vehicle Miles traveled. If a car is autonomous and electric in fifteen years, what would you do in the vehicle on your way to work? Would you shave, curl your hair, plug your computer in and work? What would you do that would allow you to sleep a little longer?

Have always loved driving and cars. But now retired, on a budget, don't need a big, fancy car but looking for something smaller and fun. Suggestions? Thanks

Chevy Spark, Ford Fiesta ST, Honda Fit

Where does this vehicle fit in the VW/Audi spectrum? Is it based on the same platform and drivetrain as the Audi Alltrack? Thanks.

It's not the same platform and drivetrain as the Audi.

The seventh generation Golf platform is the underpinning for the VW Golf All-track

Might also look at Jeep Cherokee and Renegade. More off road ability than either and Jeep is offering smoking deals on them!

Different ride, different mindset/psychographic, but yes, great deals can be had.

Warren, I have always loved cars and driving. I am retired now and we are empty nestors. I have been fortunate in that our last three cars have been BMW 5s. But we don't need that level of car anymore (budget concerns also), What's a great handling, fun to drive car for old(er) folks that's a notch down from the five series? Thanks

Acura TLX, CAdillac ATS, Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti Q50, Lexus IS, Volvo S60 All great vehicles, smaller than the BMW 5 - more comparable to the BMW 3 size. The sleeper is the Cadillac ATS.

I had it explained to me that it that since Europe already has a unusually high percentage of diesel cars, it is good that the U.S. does not because gasoline and diesel uses somewhat different parts of a typical refined barrel of oil. This way, both continents are not competing for the same portion of refined oil.

That is accurate. Europe traditionally has sent the refined gasoline it doesn't use to the US and the US does the same for Europe with its refined diesel.


I was in England recently and my rental car was a small Peugeot, something like a Civic or Corolla. I drove almost 1000 miles in a couple of weeks, and liked the car very much -- comfortable to drive, pleasantly zippy, nice to look at, and reasonably economical. As far as I can tell, Peugeot sells cars around the world but not in North America. Have you ever driven one? Any idea why they aren't available over here?

Peugeot was here many years ago and would love to come back, but financial woes and the ability to sell in the US hampers its aspirations.

There just isn't enough demand for it here. Look at the limping along sales of cars versus SUVs/pickups and it's obvious we don't need another car company

Any intel on when we might expect the new Kia Niro Hybrid on the lots of our local Kia dealers? I'm hearing that they have a big Super Bowl advertising push, but that would be in February. Any chance before the end of this year?

Straight from Kia's website

Kia Niro 2017 release date

The new Niro hybrid is scheduled to go on sale in the second half of.

Here we have the list of official 2017 Kia Niro release dates and launching events:

  • USA release date for the Kia Niro: 4th quarter
  • Canada release date for the 2017 Niro: 4th quarter
  • Europe launch date: September

Niro hybrid specs

Kia has revealed it plans to launch the Niro a a hybrid car and a plug-in hybrid vehicle.

It is highly likely that in a not so distant future, model may also be released as an all-electric vehicle!

The vehicle sits on an all-new platform that has been developed specifically to accommodate next-generation gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain technologies.

Engine specs / mpg rating

The 2017 Niro will be powered by a 1.6L direct-injected “Kappa” gasoline engine which generates 103 horsepower and 108 pound-feet of torque.

Mated to the engine is a 6-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission -DCT.

Also included in the “mix” is the 32-kilowatt electric motor and a 1.56 kilowatt-hour lithium-polymer battery pack.

Official 2017 Kia Niro mpg numbers have yet to be announced, but Kia states that the vehicle to achieve a combined 50 mpg rating.

Do you hear anything about that from the powers that be or is that a subject not to be touched in any way?

There are people inside of Volkswagen that openly talk about it. They are mad at their company, but they also say that there have been major changes in corporate atmosphere.

Diesel is pretty much dead in California, and if you can't sell diesel in California (12% of the US market) you probably won't be selling new diesel vehicles anytime soon.

Have their been any changes to the interior of the Chevy Volt? I had really wanted to buy an electric car (the Tesla Model S was a bit pricy) but I couldn't get past the super-crowded interior of the Volt. Also, there seemed like there were 21,000 buttons or knobs or other controllers for the "normal" functions. I just want to drive comfortably past gas stations in it. I am not landing the Shuttle. Has the interior improved or changed? Thanks!

Ground control to major....

The biggest change in the Volt are the seats. I hated - yes hated - the first generation seats, but the second generation I could travel for hours and my back was fine.

I didn't have a problem with all the buttons etc.

Tell me though, if all Chevy car dealers offered free charging would you stop at them to charge up?

Hi. Can you list your preference from best to least liked for the small SUVs. CX3' HRV, Renegade, etc.?THANKS.

I am not a fan of SUVS, so take that into account when I am answering.

I like hatchbacks and station wagons.

I like both the HRV and CX3 for different reasons;

The HRV has more flexibility, the CX3 has more fun drivability.

I would also look at the Subaru Crosstrek and the MINI Cooper Country man

The Renegade and the Chevy Trax would be further down

I'm going to desperately miss my Jetta TDI when I'm forced to sell it back to VW. Just the other day I was marveling at its peppiness and fuel mileage. What do I get to replace it? Looking in the 40-50K range.

Do you still want a four-door sedan? If not I would look at the Golf All-track station wagon. Otherwise I guess the gasoline version of the Jetta or the BMW 328d

Does the Golf Alltrack have any towing capability?

I think it's 1500 but I can't find it published anywhere

Not often, it is too inconvenient and electricity is not that expensive. I am retired, so I have more time available. I can't imagine many employed folks having time to stop by for free charging very often

The reason I ask is because that is a selling point for Tesla and I wonder how many people use the charging points that are putting up all over the country

"Millenial Anti-Theft Device" That's hilarious!

Isn't that great! I said the same thing to the VW guys last night at dinner because the Golf All-track will come out in manual as well, and they agreed. Millennials don't know how to drive a stick shift

Future tense question! I love Warren's characterization of the Honda Civic as the car for "those who know better," and plan to buy a new one next year. I very much like the redesign, but am wondering whether the better strategy is to buy a "new" 2016 model, since the redesign has been done, OR to buy a 2017 model thinking that any kinks of the redesign have been worked out.

It depends on how much new safety and infotainment you want. 2017 has a whole new suite of safety and infotainment that 2016 doesn't offer.

In the EU and UK diesel is subsidized. Diesel also pollutes more even with the newest EU and US standards than gas when it comes to very fine particulants which have shown to cause cancer and lung disease etc. Diesel will be phased out in the EU because of this. And its why it isnt being pursued for passenger vehicles in the US. Current pollution controls and filters and even ones on the drawing board can't filter out this stuff.

California recently passed SB32, an extension of AB32 which says that most combustion engine vehicles will not be sold in California by 2050. After the VW debacle it was a great reason for California to be ever tougher on passing diesel cars in CAlifornia.

It's no secret that California wants only partial or near zero emission vehicles on their roads.

Now if they would stop allowing people to burn their greenery in their yards in Placer County!

My good friends, the hour is done. Thank you for chatting with me. Thanks, Gene, for all the help.

Warren, keep unpacking. I can't wait to see the new house.

We'll be back next week with more pictures and more new cars.

And remember

Never drive faster than your Angel can fly

much love,


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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