Real Wheels Live (Sept. 23)

Sep 23, 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'm in Chicago for the Chevy Equinox unveil. The big news? The Equinox is lighter and will come out with three turbocharged engines, one of them will be a turbo-diesel that gets 40 mpg. Chevrolet is also mating their new 9-speed transmission with the 2.0-liter.

Last week I drove the GMC Yukon XL Denali 3-row SUV. I love the 3-row vehicle even though two people said it looked like a hearse. Yes, the back end is squared off, but that didn't bother me. The starting MSRP is $71,000, out the door it was $80,650. The 2WD EPA fuel economy is 15 city/22 highway, 4WD 14 city/20 highway.  The 4WD I drove got 18.4-20 mpg.

I also drove the Volkswagen Jetta SEL. Great little car, easy to drive the TSI engine. The EPA fuel economy is 42 city / 48 highway and starts around $31,000.

Have any of you seen James Corden singing in cars with celebrities? Do any of you have a loved one that has dementia or Alzheimers? Click here if you would love to see a heartwarming story about a Son that loves his Father. If you would like to donate, or just watch the video (let the advertisement run all the way through so that part of the proceeds can go to the Alzheimer's Association.

If you have any friends in Louisiana, you know that Baton Rouge had a historic flood. A colleague's house was flooded. They didn't have flood insurance, and FEMA gave them pittance to take their house down to the studs to dry the house and try to put it back together. Steve has been writing a blog called the dry pillow diary. I've put some of the posts up. He has a long way to go, but he and his family are safe.

Let's chat about cars

No plug-in/Voltec Equinox? Disappointing.

I asked the same question. The equinox will be a global vehicle. Diesel sells a lot better in some of the countries that they will be exporting to than PHEV. So, putting a diesel engine in the SUV was probably more profitable than making another technology

I read two online articles that indicated that U.S. auto sales are expected to be a little slower than last year and that there may be an increase in rebates, discounts, etc., this model year. Do you expect this to be a good year to buy/lease a car? Thank you.

Sales will slow. They can't run at 16.5-17 nillion annually forever, with only 20 percent of the new-car-buy population supporting them, Yeah, Isee rebates and more favorable leases.

Good morning! I'm hoping to replace my beloved 2001 Civic sedan some time in the next several months. I was a little surprised by how much longer Civics have gotten since then. I've seen news that there will be a hatchback Civic in 2017, but what I haven't been able to determine is the length of the four-door Civic hatch. Any idea how long it is, and whether it will be shorter than the sedan? If it is shorter, it might be what I really want.

New hatches are coming from GM, Honda, and others. Honda will e competitive with hatches that placate that market.

Just FYI if Warren and Lou Ann could wave their magic wands and turn every vehicle in North America powered by an internal combustion engine or a diesel engine into a zero emission one it would have no effect on climate change and global warming. Now diesel engines have are serious issues with the very small particles they spew which can cause serious health issues and which offsets their lower carbon footprint.

I have no magic wand; and, apparently, the infustry has none, either.

Loving my 2016 A6 that you (Lou Ann) and some buddy of yours recommended to me a few months back as a replacement for my G37. Anyway, I was bummed that the A6's "jukebox" does not copy commercial music CDs. A few weeks ago I was playing one, and decided to hit the "copy to jukebox" button, and lo and behold it worked! I still haven't figured out how to organize them and it certainly didn't recognize all of them (album art and song titles, for example, pop up only on half of them) but what a nice surprise to not have to lug a bunch of CDs around! Also, love the car -- what a great driver and damned good looks. And on a recent trip to Pittsburgh (from Annapolis) I averaged 35 MPG.

35 mpg is stellar in such a beautiful car! I did a quick google for how to organize music on jukebox audi a6 and got

If you can't find it there google the same thing I did - lots came up

I'm asking the same question to Michelle Singletary this week b/c I think you both will have valid advice on this. I have a 2011 VW Jetta Sportwagon TDI. I live in an area where emissions are not checked, so I don't have to sell it back. From what I can gather online, they will give me approximately $22k to sell it back to them or $6k if I keep it. I love how my VW handles and with my work commute and around town driving, I usually average about 39-40 mpg. And, on average, diesel costs about the same as regular here. So do I sell back my car or keep it?

The environmentalists will hate me, but heck. The car works. It's safe and VW is paying you $6,000. Keep it and, if you can, drive it less.

Will the new Volt be a better commuter option than the Bolt?

Depends on how long your commute is and how much you need gasoline after that.

If you're going cross-country you might want to fill up, or you can buy a portable charger to charge at a friend's house.

For just commuting back and forth by yourself I think either car is going to be a winner. And at around $30,000!

I read recently that an senior level exec at Audi who oversaw tech was suspended because of Dieselgate. Will the promised buyout that supposed to take place in October still occur or will it keep getting pushed back? Also, is VW going to do anything special to try to keep existing customers, i.e. heavy discounts on new cars?

VW now is trying to keep customers. It probably will go through with a diesel compensation program. It won't be fast.

Will they still being selling cars in the good ole USA after two terms of the Donnie??? Seriously doubt it. Its hard to find a good reliable VW dealer in the DC area that isnt a "Stealer"

You mean Donald Trump? You're making an assumption there. Clinton has 260 electorates right now. He's got to take a couple states away from her to be able to garner that title. Monday will be very interesting.


Why do car manufactures build driver distracting devices into their products, like touch screens?

Because those devices aren't distractions for many drivers.

They are there as "driver assistance" aides in many cases.

I've noticed that Ads often obstruct some of the Text/Pictures posted by Lou Ann at the beginning of these chats. Perhaps someone from the Post's IT (Quality Assurance) department should monitor. I've tried both Internet Explorer and Firefox.

Thank you. We'll check.

What is the towing capacity of the new Equinox?

The last - current - generation is 1500, so I would assume it would be about the same. It might be a little better on the turbo-diesel.

Hold on a sec here Warren, the car might be safe but it's a polluting machine, exceeding regulations by 40X! And they have yet to come up with a solution to fix these dirty engines so it's still endangering health. It's why we can't smoke in restaurants anymore, thus cars should be taken off the road stat!

I understand. Mine was a selfish answer. I'd keep the car and the $6,000 and drive less. Real world answer.

Lou Ann, October surprise from Wikileaks is still out there? Plus her health. Say hello to 8 years of the Donnie and 4%+ GDP growth!

I don't conjecture, I just report the facts of the day.

Hooray! It's about time GM put the 2.0 turbo engine into the Equinox. Now for the really important questions: When will you be able to test one? Spring 2017? Has GM said anything about the design of the seats? No matter how nice the drivetrain, I can't sit very long in a vehicle that is a literal pain in the butt.

Lou Ann already has driven one in Chicago. I expect to have one in my driveway in two weeks.

Are seriously considering banning diesel powered vehicles??? Will diesel in passenger vehicles still be a viable option in 5 years. Cali is also looking at banning diesel passenger vehicles because of the very particulants they admit.

That was my premise last night when I asked them the question about diesel, but their response was that they are going global to either 115- or 195 countries. Diesel in the US is only 2-4% of their sales anyway in cars

260 electoral votes isn't enough to win :-(

Yes, I know. But it's closer than what Mr. Trump has by about 100 according to Nate 538 and Real Clear Politics.

How long will you keep your VW diesel? $22k for a 5 yo Jetta I would take the money and go buy something else. Currently according to Edmunds you can get around $7K if you sell it yourself. Take Vdubs money and run to something else. Clifton, VA

That is what you would do. I wouldn't. I hate shopping for almost anything. If I don't have to shop, I wouldn't.

Can I just say I recently bought this car used and am thoroughly enjoying it. Good pickup, lots of room--I hauled two chairs and five Ikea flat packs to my son in Raleigh from our home in Rockville--and fun to drive. My wife is lucky that my mid-life crisis car is a Kia Soul!

You are lucky, too. You still have your wife....and a good vehicle.

Has GM given any specs on the cargo capacity of the 2018 Equinox? I'm interested in the cargo capacity with the rear seat folded down.

Yes, but I can't remember them specifically. Its's competitive, as I recall.

Cillizza is on. I'd rather not read feeble attempts to troll Lou Ann and Warren. That much said, any thoughts on a reliable used car around $10K? Some upcoming orthodontics work for both of my sons has cut our car buying budget in half. I kinda like the idea of a used Fit or C-Max, to give you an idea of the kind of car I have in mind.

LOL - At this point I'd rather talk about Brad and Angelina. Soooo tired - just get to November and vote! 

The reliable used car under $10? Go with an almost new Kia or Hyundai. They start out less expensive with more standard equipment, so they will be less sooner than other cars.

Orthodontic work can cost as much as a car - I know. my condolences. I am having work done now.

Lou Ann, thanks for reviewing the new Jetta. My 2014 Passat lease is up in 2 months; despite the bad press, I love my VW. Would I be just as happy with the Jetta given new technology/features? Honestly, the Passat is a bit too large for me and I do a lot more city driving these days. Thanks.

Yes, the Jetta would be good for you. What mpg are you getting from your Passat? I think a Jetta is around 35mpg.

I like VWs as well; especially the Golf All-track they will be bringing out, but it is certainly to big for you. But that TSI engine is still hard at work. :)

Are there other manufacturers you would consider?

According to, the new Civic hatchback is arriving at US dealers this week. Your reader may be able to take his tape measure down to the lot and measure it him/herself. What are the new hatchbacks, other than the Honda, that are coming soon? As much as it surprises me, I agree with Clifton on selling back the VW diesel. I would take the money and run like a thief in the night. My concern is that as soon as I decided to keep a VW diesel, the government (state, local, or federal) would change the rules and I would be stuck with a car that I would note able to use or to sell. Warren is right, this is just a matter of personal preference.

There is a hatch Cruze from GM. I suspect something similar will come from Ford,

Hi Lou Ann and Warren, Mom currently owns a 2013 Buick Encore and truck. Until health issues arose she was a truck and Harley women. Now she doesn't use the truck as much. She's thinking of trading in the Encore and truck for a newer vehicle that has towing capacity for a trailer when Home Depot runs warrant the carrying capacity. Mom likes the ride height of a Subaru Forrester. Do you have any suggestions for vehicles she could give her a bit of ride height, modern electronics (i.e. bluetooth), and towing capacity. Not so much a fan of SUVs. Crossovers yes. Thanks so much. Enjoy your Friday.

Has she looked at the VW Golf All-track station wagon? Similar to the Subarus in price as well I believe. The Chevy Trax could be another one.

If she wants to wait the Chevy Equinox turbo-diesel would have great towing capacity and low-end torque.

What's she going to do with the Harley?

I prefer hot hatches, roadsters, etc., but my body is sending me messages indicating that I need to get a vehicle with a seat that is higher off the ground, so that I can get in and out of it easily. I am looking at the Mazda CX3/5 and the Audi Q3/5. Do you have any suggestions for something that has a relatively high seat height and handles, stops, etc., well? Thanks.

Mazda CX3 first, Honda HRV second

Yeah but the cost of the vehicle, your taxes and the cost of gas or diesel are all in play in the election. If you want to pay four bucks a gallon for regular vote for Hillary! if you want less choice in your vehicles vote for Hillary. If you think Cali should set policy for the rest of the good ole USA vote for Hillary.

There are issues with each energy beyond the price of the energy. California had the worse asthma of any state, they had to do something. (They still haven't outlawed/banned all leaf/green burning which is ridiculous)

You can pay less at the pump and more in health costs, or vice versa.

A mere babe! 16-year-old Passat V6 here. Most of it still works great, and that which doesn't is trivial compared to $40K plus insurance. (I have an engineer friend who *bought* his Jetta with 180K on the clock, and that was 5 years ago.)

Right! I'm with you. Run it till it dies.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week, Thank you Gene, Lou Anne, Ria and Michelle. Eat lunch.

That's the route I'm going. Total, VW is giving me $5000 more for my Beetle TDI Convertible than I paid for it. I'll miss it, though. Replacing it with a Golf Sportwagon because, well, the convertible isn't particularly practical as an only car. Ever done a Home Depot run in one of them? Or tried to help a friend move? The fun part is the timing. Because I want the driver assistance stuff I had to special order the new car. So now I'm hoping it gets in at the same time as the buyback, or that one end or the other of the transaction is flexible.


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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