Real Wheels Live (June 9)

Jun 09, 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,


I'm back in the United States of America! Did I miss anything? 


The last of my month-long European trip was spent in Barcelona, Spain driving the new 2018 Volvo XC 60. A great two-seater SUV that handles nicely looks spectacular and has a plug-in hybrid coming out in September. 


Last year Volvo designer Thomas Ingenlath talked about brand design using their new architecture, using shoes as examples. It was simple and brilliant. 

The great news is that Volvo is bringing out an XC 60 plug-in hybrid in September. The difference in price between the petrol version and the PHEV (after the $5,000 Federal Tax Credit) is only $3,000. I just love that Volvo is bringing out a PHEV version of all their vehicles. 

Volvo is not committing to one battery maker right now, even though they are using LG Lithium-ion batteries in the current cars. In the first drive for the 2018 Volvo XC 60, I spoke with Olle Fast, Volvo’s Project Leader for propulsion power systems, about Volvo’s plug-in hybrid battery system and goals for the future.

This week I drove the Infiniti QX30 Sport. It's a compact SUV, any shorter and I could call it a station wagon. Lots of room with the seats down for Stretch to go to Costco before he picked me up at the airport. I like the purple color. It's dark purple and looks good in the daytime or dusk. 

Out the door, the QX30 Sport was $43,735 (base was $38,500) with an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 24 city/33 highway/27 combined. We got 26.4mpg.

Let's chat about cars 

Seems to me Infiniti and Acura always seem to play second fiddle to the German cars. Are the German cars as a whole that much better than Infiniti and Acura....and any thoughts on the TLX and the Q50? Thanks

They do play second fiddle; part of it is marketing part of it is longevity and part of it is what type of SUV you want to drive. 

I still have the Infiniti QX30 in my driveway and really liked the compact SUV. If you need that much more room than I would go with the Q50. I say this because I had forgotten there was a QX30 sport. Stretch - my husband - drove it as well as thought it was competent,  no lag great vehicle. 


FYI, turns out there's still a SAAB dealership in the US. See In Portland, OR, of course. Where else?

Yeah, the only other place would be UC Davis in California :) there is an actual hashtag #keepportlandweird :) 

Hi - Any recommendations for a used SUV with great reliability and good MPG? We're a family of 3 that usually takes long road trips with our small dog and looking to break into the SUV market.

What is good MPG to you? The Infiniti QX30 is more than ample room for what you are saying, with a base price of $38K and I got 26.4 mpg. 

What other criteria are you looking for in your SUV? 

Warren, you seem recently to be touting the Korean manufacturers. I recently bought a new car and in the process tested both Honda and Toyota against Kia and Hyundai. I felt that both Honda and Toyota cars felt more substantial, appeared to use more solid interior materials, had a better connection to the road, quieter ride and better suspension. Except for a lower price and warranty, I'm unclear why you seem so found of Hyundai and Kia.

Because Hyundai and Kia offer more as standard on the whole. It used to be that Toyota was only known for reliability but with the new vehicles coming out that is changing. I drive the new Camry next week and can't wait to see the difference in styling and performance. 

Which vehicles did you drive? 

I recently leased this car and am bothered by a reflex ion in the windshield. The curved area on the dash above the speedometer has black piping in a semi circle. Because of the piping and the slant of the windshield. This is reflected constantly in the windshield. It is more troubling driving into the sun and with sun on the driver's side. The dealer cannot fix it and I am about ready to return it.

I have noticed this on more current vehicles than before. I think it is either a push to aerodynamics or the passenger regulation that car manufacturers have to meet. 

One car I remember had chrome in that area, so feel lucky you didn't get that car. 

Is there something you can put over that area that deadens it? I agree the reflection is an issue for me too. Not sure what I would do if I liked the car otherwise and yet had to deal with that. 

Do you see enough of a positive difference between the Subaru's 2017 to 2018 Foresters to warrant purchasing an '18 this summer? Is there an upcoming seminal year with significant changes to look forward to? Thx

It depends on your budget. Subaru is such a hot car, they are on such a role that getting an incentive spending on a 2018 will be tough. 

I would wait for the 2018 to come out and get the 2017. 

Hi Warren and Lou Ann. I'm in the market for an SUV with a Diesel engine. I've been trying to hold out for Mercedes GL series diesel version but my understanding is that it is postponed indefinitely due to concerns about meeting EPA regulations. Any word regarding the series? Also, any diesel SUV recommendations? Thanks, have a great weekend!

If it is a BMW look for the d in the model - such as X3 xdrive28d or X5 xdrive35d

I'm not sure if the Jaguar F-Pace diesel is coming to the American market but if it is the F-Pace just won Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY). Look at the sister of Jaguar, Land Rover Range Rover and see if they will bring any diesels to the U.S. 

For a different class of diesel SUV look at the

Chevy Equinox diesel or 

The Jeep Grand Cherokee has a diesel 

I recently went through the grueling process of buying two new cars for my wife and daughter. A few observations. The process has actually become more difficult. The majority of dealers refused to provide a price over the Internet and the ones that do purposely provide a misleading price that includes discounts that applies only to a minority of consumers. For those dealers that state they will provide an "e-quote", a phone number is required. Despite stating that I prefer to negotiate via e-mail, I received a barrage of calls. When visiting a dealership, one must still face the gauntlet of sales people waiting to pounce. Several dealerships wanted me to sign a piece of people with a handwritten commitment that I would buy today if I received an acceptable price. Fortunately their is substantial information on the Internet to ascertain if you a receiving a reasonable price after all the work. The good news is that my wife and daughter are happy with their new cars! What do suggest is the best way to car shop?

I amr sorry you had those problems, and am happy that your wife ans daughter are happy with their purchases. The world is changing-rapidly. The dealers you dealt with are behind the times and are setting themselves up for eventual failure,-

Hi Lou Ann and Warren. Warren … you gave a great review of the new 2017 Honda Civic Sport Touring hatchback in your column on May 14th. I own a 2013 Mazda 3 hatchback and just love it. So how would you compare the 2017 Mazda 3 Grand Touring hatchback with the new Civic? The Civic has a turbocharged 1.5L engine and 174 hp where the Mazda can come with a 2.4L and 184 hp engine but they get comparable highway mileage. The Civic has a CVT where the Mazda has the SKYACTIV 6-speed automatic. Both top of the line models with all possible options are similarly priced. What would be your tie breaker?

The drivability. I have long said that Mazda is a quiet sleeper on drivability. You have to test drive them both to know which you would want to drive the most. 


LOL - Liked that did you? 

I recently stumbled upon the fact that the 17 inch wheels on my new Honda Civic are actually 18 inches in diameter. The service tech at the dealership was puzzled when I showed him using a tape measure. It finally occurred to me that the wheel overlaps the 17 inch tire by a half inch at each point for a total of one inch in diameter. Interesting.

yep. The rubber circumvents the metal whee;s.

BMW, Audi and Mercedes have all been around longer than Infiniti, Lexus, and Acura. They also have extensive race histories at Le Mans, in Formula 1 and most import ant in the UE and the UK in touring car racing. Also BMW and Mercedes arent the Luxury arm of a mass market auto maker ie Toyota, VW, and Honda. Also look at the AMG and M models by both. No not todays but when the M badge and AMG badge meant something. Also Mercedes and BMW all have the sneeze factor engineered into them ie when you sneeze at 140mph your bimmer doesn't end up in the next lane or the guard rail. See the Hans Stuck video. Clifton, VA

And they are great vehicles in general, but so are Infiniti, Lexus and Acura which is why they climb in the ratings. Getting past that hurdle of legacy is the biggest challenge, but you said it yourself, "Also look at the AMG and M models by both. No not todays but when the M badge and AMG badge meant something." It can be done

About the 2017 Hyundai Sport. Polarized sunglasses help with those reflections

Yes, but why has this all of a sudden become a thing? I don't like it any more than the first chatter; it gives me a headache. 


Just be aware the a class-action suit has just been won against Subaru for excessive oil consumption. Give them time to address that issue...

Suits won and money actually paid are different things.

I believe the car went on sale in Korea in May as a "Stinger." Yet I have seen no published road tests, despite considerable interest in the vehicle. Any explanation?

It doesn't come to the US till later this year, maybe next. Watch this page for the first reviews you can get - maybe Sept/Oct? 

I love my current XC60, and am really taken by the tweaks in styling and features shown in the 2018 model. The platform unification that Volvo is undertaking is probably expensive, but will pay HUGE dividends down the road. However, the one feature on the new XC60 I was curious about was whether it had sliding rear seats (adjust legroom and rear cargo area size). Competitors have had this feature for a number of years, and my one gripe about my XC60 is that rear passengers don't have much legroom unless the front seats are all the way forward. Did Volvo add adjustable rear seats to the 2018 XC60? Sadly from the photos and reports I've seen, that has not been mentioned as a feature. Having seen one in person, could you confirm?

Check with Volvo.

Lou Ann here: 

I drove it, but don't remember the XC60 seats going forward since there is no reason for it to do so; it's a two-row vehicle. You would get everything from the back, and wouldn't need to have the rows go forward. 

Why would you want that? 

I just confirmed with Volvo - they do not slide back and forth, but Volvo wants me to tell you there is more legroom in the rear. Is that why you wanted the sliding? 

And BMW, Mercedes, and Audi race under their own name and use their own name on their engines. McLaren's current F1 car has a Honda engine not Acura. Red Bull uses a Renault engine not an Infiniti engine. Toyota's at Lemans are Toyotas not Lexus.

The only things that matters are sales.

Not a big deal on the street but on the race track polarized sun glasses dont allow to ascertain if the fluid on the track is water, oil, lube, or most scary anti freeze. Clifton, VA

Ever heard of First walking the track?

I suspect my brilliant wife would apply a matte-finish nail polish to the trim in the same color as your dashboard.

brilliant! or at least --- matte :) 

After buying a used Ford Focus wagon 2005, I am looking for my next car. I am thinking about a 2015 Prius, Camry Hybrid, Honda Accord. Then I think about a small crossover. Problem is that I don't feel like spending 25 to 30K. Thoughts? Rhonda

The Camry hybrid might offer a better deal. Check.

Our son recently got his license, and he needs to buy a car so he can drive to his job. We are super happy that he is inclined to work at 16 and wish we could get a nice car for him, but that is not in the cards for now. Do you have any used car suggestions that can be had for less than $10k? Thank you!

Congratulations on raising a child with such initiative. I am happy to say that my Godson, Jasper, did the same - got a summer job while off from College. 

I would look at the base Ford, Kia, Hyundai and Chevy. Some can be only 1 year old.

Start with a place like carmax to get the retail value; go to the classifieds to get an idea of the consumer selling to buyer price. 


I like the new teen driver monitoring technology on the 2018 Chevrolet Equinox. Check it out.

Thank you for all the questions and for welcoming me back. I have to say, after a month in Europe, it is good to be home. Next week I will check out the new Toyota Camry - if you have any questions email me at lou at drivingthenation dot com

As always - 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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