Real Wheels Live (April 7)

Apr 07, 2017

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,

This week I went to Boerne, Texas (think San Antonio) to drive the all new Volkswagen Atlas. Even though it has a Greek name (the third time VW has used a Greek mythology name), it is not a myth any longer.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas five models, prices, and specs:

2018 Volkswagen Atlas S 
$30,500 - 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque 2.0L I4 TSI

2018 Volkswagen Atlas S
$31,900 - 276 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque 3.6L V6 FWD
$33,700 - V6 AWD

2018 Volkswagen Atlas S Launch
V6 - adding a panoramic roof, 8-inch touchscreen instead of the standard 6.5-inch and XM/Sirius -
$33,500 in FWD - 18 city/25 highway/20 combined mpg
$35,300 in AWD - 17 city/23 highway/19 combined mpg

2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE
$33,590 in 2.0L I4 TSI FWD
$34,900 with the V6 FWD
$36,790 with the V6 AWD

2018 Volkswagen Atlas SE Technology
$35,690 in 2.0L I4 TSI FWD
$37,090 FWD
$38,890 AWD

2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL
$39,160 n 2.0L I4 TSI FWD
$40,890 with the V6 FWD
$42,690 with the V6 AWD

2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL Premium
includes Fender audio system 480W output and 12 speakers
$48,490 with the V6 AWD

If you happen to end up in Fredericksburg, Texas stop by the Vaudeville store and restaurant. Chic and delicious!

I also drove my beloved Chrysler Pacifica minivan plug-in hybrid this week at home. Benjamin, the owner of the gluten-free bakery, New Dawn, stopped me on the street. He ordered the exact minivan I was driving and was told it was on backorder. He wanted to know if they were starting to ship them yet. They already own a Nissan Leaf but need a bigger vehicle for bigger orders and their growing family. So quintessential California :)

Let's chat about cars

As I am starting my search for a new, or newer, car I have become interested in the possibility of buying a CPO vehicle. Are there any particular things I should know about buying a CPO vehicle? Am I right in assuming that the price of a CPO vehicle can be negotiated like the price of any other used vehicle? Thank you.

The biggest difference is whether you're buying a manufacturer CPO or a dealer CPO. Manufacturer allows you to go to any car dealer in that group and get your car worked on. A dealer's CPO is good for that dealership only.

Yes, everything is negotiable, including the financing.

After 50 years of buying cars, I am thinking of leasing one. Does leasing a car involve the same type of price "haggling" as buying a car? Thanks.

To some degree; you can also negotiate the miles you get to drive and how much you want to buy the car for if you decide to buy it after the lease is up.

A lot of people are leasing these days for the time that there is a full warranty on the vehicle. It makes sense.

What is low torque and is it advantageous to everyday driving? My driving is mostly urban and I get on a freeway a couple of times a week.

The way I like to test the torque of a vehicle is getting on the highway near my home. It's got a steep grade and I'm merging into traffic at the same time.

If the low-end torque doesn't kick in I can feel myself pushing  the pedal all the way to the floor. It's not a comfortable feeling when you know you've run out of room in an engine and there's an 18-wheeler coming up on your bumper.


See, has discussions on purchasing accessible vehicles/vans, you can also pose your own questions

PERFECT! We've had that question for the past couple of weeks.

Thank you

A political statement in a car review? Did Warren Brown interject politics into a car review when Obama was president? I noticed in today's Warren Brown review of the Suburu Forrester some Trump digs about his veracity regarding jobs. Did Brown manage to get in a dig or two about Obama's veracity concerning keeping your plan and doctor, or how consumer costs would go down with Obamacare? Or did Brown get a "thrill up his leg when Obama spoke" like Chris Matthews?

My very good buddy Warren has put his two cents in about politics where he felt needed and he was usually accurate.

Politics play a great deal in the building of cars; at this moment our ability to breath is being questioned because some politicians have decided that America doesn't need all those regulations.

If it weren't for regulations and people/groups enforcing them we wouldn't have seat belts in cars.

If the California Air Resources Board (CARB) didn't legislate clean air and plug-in hybrids and electric cars (or fuel cell) we would have hardly any, if at all, of those cars on the road.

The only reason gasoline is the elected President of energy is because the people and corporations in place help the politicians that allow this to happen to stay in power.

Any thoughts on what's a better deal. I read your article but that was comparing 2 new cars. I do want good handling on the car and not feel like driving a van.

I'm going to assume you will want the highest trim level of either the 2017 Pilot or the 2016 MDX. Since we know Honda and Acura are the same company we know they will use the same engine and get almost the same horsepower and torque (within 10 hp and torque of the other)

The difference is in price and drivability. The price will be higher on the MDX, the drive a little sportier. You will also need premium fuel on the MDX, not so on the Pilot. The warranty is a little better on the higher level SUV, which will increase the cost of ownership.

Those are the things you should consider.

I have driven the BMW x1 as a loaner. Zippy little car but not very BMW-like, almost crude by their standards. Plan on testing the Audi. Have you driven both? Your take for the better value and ride? Thanks

Maybe what you are feeling is a different power-to-weight ratio. More of a MINI feeling? Almost go-kart like? Zippy to me is a good thing, but to some they want a more solid feel. If that is the case you should go with the Q3.

You're not going to go wrong with Audi or BMW, but the difference is how much you like driving either one.

LouAnn, I agree with your answer, but the original poster might not understand the what is meant. "Low torque" is not desirable, because it means the ability of the engine to accelerate the vehicle, tow, or make a steep grade is "low". "Low End torque", on the other hand, means that the engine is particularly good, at low engine speed (RPM), to accelerate the vehicle and is highly desirable when the engine is at low RPM - such as towing something from a stop. Diesels (perhaps not all) are noted for having low-end torque, but not necessarily "high horsepower".

Thanks for the friendly clarification.

Hybrids/PHEV/EV are noted for have low-end torque as well.

Lou Ann, in what way does leasing make sens?

For someone that uses it as a business write-off or for a person that doesn't keep their car for more than a couple years. The cost of ownership goes up as the car ages and if you want to maximize your benefit you get one for as long as the full-warranty is on the car.

I was thinking of a Honda Crosstour (used). Any opinions on the car? Family guy with new teen &tween girls in urban setting. reliability most important followed by use on family trips

I like the crosstour, I think it is stylish.

Check how many people you want to put in it with how much luggage. I think it should fit it all, just thinking ahead.

New around here, huh? Yes, when there's a Republican president Warren interjects his politics into every review -- been that way for decades. To be fair, they aren't really reviews of cars so much as op-ed columns with cars as a sort of literary construct.

LOL When I first read your statement I thought it said President Warren.

To be fair - When Ray LaHood was at NHTSA I railed on him because he was more concerned with jobs than what I thought he was elected by President Obama to do, which was be the head of safety and transportation.

Millennials buy products, in part, because of what corporations do or don't do. Part of what they consider important is the way a corporation treats our Nation; our land and our air. 

If Warren and I know that those issues are important to the people buying products we have a duty to expose those that don't meet their standards.

This current administration is not, in my opinion, meeting the expectation of clean air for future generations and domestic dollars for the United States. If we created our own energy - electricity or hydrogen - it would be cleaner and we would keep more dollars in the United States. More dollars than any other industry I can think of.

I was having a fun discussion with friends about autonomous cars, their pros & cons, and the reason why people want them or not. It occurred to me that there is a bit of a parallel between today's political environment and the advent of autonomous cars. By that I mean that many (a majority?) citizens have opted for "autonomous politics", hands off, very little involvement, leaving the heavy lifting to others - hence, eventually, the dysfunction of our political parties, including the "awful, awful" choice of presidential candidates in the latest election. Considering what our world might be like when autonomous cars become the norm, will Americans have as much authority over how the go, when they go and where they go? Will autonomy and regulation replace independence and freedom? Perhaps not, but for me it would diminish my "pursuit of happiness."

You had me at autonomous but lost me with the analogy.

I believe that you are right about the politics - there was not only autonomy but apathy. Electing President Trump has made everyone relive their high school political classes and they are getting more involved than they ever thought they would do again.

Autonomous vehicles are just the opposite; think about a  80-year or  90-year old person who can't drive. They have lost their freedom not because they were apathetic. In order to keep that freedom they have to be thinking now, and acting now.

I've been a Volvo owner a couple times in my life, and I'd like my next car to be one, too. The XC90 got all sorts of awards with the redesign in 2016. Do you think the new XC60 inherited all that greatness? I haven't had a chance to look at one, but maybe I should.

I am one of those journalists that voted for the Volvo XC 90 as North American car of the year and as Women's World car of the year.

I love the Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid.

I have not driven the XC60 yet. I plan to. My friend Frank Washington has and here is his review

Fair enough, LouAnn I can see advantages of autonomous vehicles, particularly for the elderly and disabled and hope this comes to pass. The "connection" I was thinking of is the "hands off" part that means less involvement and oversight in what our political system is doing, and almost certainly less occupant oversight and involvement in how the autonomous vehicle operates.

I saw your point. It just didn't connect with me.

Serious question: how can young 'uns be expected to drive electric cars when -- in the unlikely event they can afford to buy a car -- they very likely don't have a garage to plug it in?

And we don't have the infrastructure outside of the home complete.

It is why I think we need to start with plug-in hybrids. 30-40 miles of driving range on electricity and then fill up.A regular 26mpg car takes about 36gallons of gas a month if you drive 12,000 miles. The Chevy Volt user - according to January volt stats - uses 8 gallons of gasoline.

Having said that there are plenty of people that have homes and can afford EVs and more people - including me - are getting solar panels.

Not the govt. If you want hybrid or EV then buy it. The govt should not force high mileage standards on us. If Lou Ann could wave her magic wand and make every vehicle sold in North America a ZEV it would have no effect on climate change. Numerous well sources studies have bene written on this. ANd its a fact.

But if Lou Ann (speaking in the third person) could wave her magic wand and make every car a plug-in hybrid  we wouldn't be importing oil to refine into gasoline for cars that use almost 40 gallons a month. We would be keeping that money in the United States instead of sending to people that hate our way of life; instead of calling certain countries allies and fighting on their behalf because they have oil; or building pipelines through our country so that we can refine oil in Texas and sell it to China.

Those facts are irrefutable.

Thanks everyone for chatting today, whether about cars or politics.

Gene, thanks for all the help. Warren, take care my friend.

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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