The Washington Post

Real Wheels Live (Dec. 16)

Dec 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,

The first snow storms of the year always feel like we’re in for a Maunder Minimum, a small ice age. The body is not ready for it, and you need to switch from Summer driving to Winter driving. I've written a Top Ten Winter driving tips for snow and ice.

I have to show you this - can you see the fruitcake? This could be the best PR stunt yet; Nissan sent it. The top says, "Holiday Fruitcake The one food that might last longer that the 2017 Nissan Titan's industry leading five year/100,000 mile warranty." Too funny very timely - and effective.

I drove the Genesis G90 - Stretch loved the nightlights in the car and the way our friend's  Christmas lights looked on the hood of the G90. It's a $70,000 beauty that got 15 mpg.

The Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring CUV with skyactiv is very affordable at $41,370, and we got 25mpg.

I also drove the Dodge Challenger. Stretch loved the Challenger; the sound when it started up, the fun of driving 0-60. Me, I'm a luxury kind of girl. We're funny that way. He did agree that he would like the heated steering wheel and heated seats in the car. Total price was $43,575, EPA estimate of 15 city/ 25 highway/ 18 combined.

If you are interested in future alternative energies and alternative universes, perhaps multi-verses, you can check out the article Stretch wrote on EmDrive. Then you will know I call him Sheldon from the big bang theory. :)

Let's chat about cars

Any word on when the Washington Auto Show lands this year? Any surprise appearances from luxury/high-end carmakers who typically skip the show? As a car guy, I've looked forward to the show but over the years it does have a certain subdued sameness to it, which has led me to skip it. Any reason to go?

I'm asking but not getting any answers. I should ask Nissan if they are going to bring their Nismo brand GTR cars.


We have a question regarding a car purchase. At the present, we have a 2005 Lexus LS460 with ~135,000 miles. We have never had any out-of-the-norm problems. But, since we retired, we are looking for a reliable SUV the can last us about 10-20 years. Plus, we wanted something smaller. We are having some age-related problems. So, as a result, it has to have a good ingress and egress; and am more concerned with reliability and comfort. Our choices are the following: 1. Subaru Forester Touring 2. Subaru Forester XT - Would you recommend turbo? 3. Subaru Outback 3.6 4. Lexus RX 350 Out of the four, what is your opinion on each; and/or, which SUV would you recommend for us? Thank you. Patricia

You're looking for the smaller compact so I will go with the Subaru Forester. You don't need the turbo, but since you're used to a car with oomph I would test drive it and see what you think.

I would go with the most highly equipped Subaru your money can buy. You're older, this might be one of the last cars you buy. Get the most safety technology you can get on it.

Have a happy safe retirement

Hi Lou Ann, I love the idea of a heated steering wheel, and wish my new car had one. Meanwhile, I use a sheepskin steering wheel cover; it keeps the wheel warm in winter and cool in summer. Happy Holidays!

Stretch and I are wimps when it comes to cold. I was in Detroit the other day and it was 35 degrees and everyone was laughing at me because I was saying it was cold.

A heated Steering wheel is just one of the most brilliant inventions ever! Right up there with duct tape :)

Hi Warren- What are your thoughts on buying vs leasing a 2016 or 2017 Mini-Cooper Countryman?

Lease  and enjoy the heck out of it

Any thoughts on the 2017 Buick Lacrosse? By the way, just my opinion but seems like kind of an odd name for a car.

LOL - now that you mention it, yeah

What is it you like about the LaCrosse?

Hello, How is this auto for the 6'2" in me? it looks, without having sat in it, rather cramped. Do you like this car?

There are other cars that will fit your body frame better. I like the car but I am 5'5"

Hi, Warren & Lou Ann - I'm looking at the Mazda CX-5 (VW diesel replacement) and wondering if it's worth waiting for the 2017 model. Also: FWD or go for AWD? I do mostly suburban and highway driving. Thanks!

A FWD can be as good as an all-wheel-drive if you know how to drive in snow especially If you're going to do mainly suburban and highway.However, Mazda is one of the few that makes AWD affordable - less than $1,000 more.

I like the CX-5. It's affordable, gets decent gas mileage and is way fun to drive.

I'm undecided between these two models. I am replacing a 99 Saturn SL2. All the new features on cars is overwhelming. (I'm a senior citizen.) I want a small car that is reliable, easy to park, and with good cargo space for Home Depot runs. Thank you for your assistance.

I'm going with the HR-V on this one.

It's a great small hatchback that has tons of safety in it including a back up camera as standard. Trust me, you need those in the home depot lot. I also love the blindspot monitoring.


Hi Warren - I am car shopping. I plan to put 4 - 5K down on a new or used car. I am seeing the 2014 Mercedes - Benz C300 4Matic with less than 36K miles going for $25K to $29K, depending on the miles. Do you think this is a good price? Any thoughts on buying a pre-owned Benz, or should I take my cash elsewhere?

I would get a Hyundai Genesis AWD 3.8 maxed out luxury vehicle. You can get a newer version and it has a better warranty.

Trust me - just drive one first, okay?

I hear you - I know that I've softened over the years. I spent most of my 20s working in Fairbanks Alaska and remember thinking how "warm" it felt when the temperature reached Zero (F) after it had been 30 or 40 below for a few weeks. From there, we moved to Phoenix, thankfully in February. I remember "winter" days when it would be in the 50s. I'd have on a windbreaker and I'd see folks wearing parkas. In the end, it's all relative. :)

Have you seen the picture of the chair overturned with the caption - California, we will recover? Californians love being over the top. We laugh at ourselves when it comes to weather. Will okay, we laugh at all of the rest of the Nation more, but...:)

Just a quick note to say thanks for your chats! I learn something new every week - and love the personalities of the folks that chat too! Hope to see you at the Auto Show in early February - weather permitting this year!! (Will be traveling next week so sending this message today.)

Ahhh. Thanks I love my chatters too and love their personalities. I really like it when they chime in and help me with new information or additional information.

I'm not sure I'll be at the auto show, but I will be at the Consumer electronics show (which is fast becoming the first auto show of the year) and the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, so I'll have lots to report.

If there's anything you're interested in at either show let me know.

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: 35 F and feeling cold? Should have been in Ottawa last night: 4 degrees with a Real Feel temperature of -31 F. Now that's c-c-c-cold, and one reason why my next car will have heated seats and heated steering wheel if available. Garey, Ottawa

Garey! I was just thinking of you the other day. Seriously.

How have you been? I haven't heard from you in ages. I was in Toronto in November.

How is that Maunder Minimum up there?

Yes, if I lived in Ottawa I would have heated everything in my car and house. Really, I live in California and have heated floors and a heated toilet seat :)

...That pretty much sums it up. :-)

I'd love to say it was the Lexus LC 500 that my good buddy Dan Neil drove, but I didn't. AS far as luxury it was the Genesis G90. Gads, I'm drawing a blank on a really great performance car that I've driven this year.

I like the idea of a spacious, quiet car that has a luxury feel but not at Cadillac or Mercedes prices. Like the Audi poster, I am about 6'2". I am finding that with lower roof lines and sun roofs becoming standard, it is getting harder to find a car that has enough head room. (I feel sorry for anyone over 6'5" who is looking for a car). I have read some positive things about the Lacrosse but am a bit concerned by the description in C&D that the center console is so high it's like driving a bath tub. I'll go see it at the auto show.

Got it. I would also look at the Volkswagen Passat and the Hyundai Sonata. I like the Buick Verano better than the Lacrosse, but prefer the VW and Hyundai to either.

Let me know

Now THAT's an invention nobody should be without, especially for those middle of the night visits. :-)


I have a cat that sleeps on the bathroom floor at night because it's heated. I'm not sure what he would do if he knew the toilet seat was heated :)

Is it possible to buy a new or used car from a dealer without agreeing to an arbitration? Will dealers negotiate on this? Or will they refuse to budge? I may have to buy a car in the next year or so. I'm interested in new car in the Camry class, or a leased one returned on expiration. I HATE arbitration clauses.

Do you like lawsuits better? Isn't the arbitration clause saying you'll arbitrate before you sue?

Arbitration clauses are designed to shaft the consumer. It is biased, expensive, opaque, rigged, and useless. That is why dealers love them. BTW, I'm a lawyer. So could you answer the question?

Not as well as you. You're a lawyer. :)

I'll ask some friends in the auto business and find out

Thanks for chatting today.

I only have one question - the lawyer - to find out for next week.

Stay safe, stay warm.

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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