Real Wheels Live (July 7)

Jul 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,


I promised you I would have the 2018 Toyota Camry new car review written for your viewing pleasure, and it is here. The first paragraph starts, "My husband, Stretch, owned the ugliest vehicle Toyota has ever made. Inside Toyota, the vehicle was referred to as the pig but was sold as the Chinook to the rest of us. It was a 1973 Toyota pickup with a camper. It was Stretch’s pride and joy; he could go cross-country in that vehicle. Stretch was probably the first person to use his camper as a home in Silicon Valley."

I finally drove the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio RWD four-door sedan this week, and if I had $80,000, I would buy it. What a dream of a car! The handling, the engine mated to the transmission, the design, the interior. It's a delight to drive, and I only wish I had more time in it. The price, out the door, was $79,195, the EPA estimated fuel economy was 17 city/24 highway/20 combined. 

We just got the 2017 Infiniti Q60 red sport 400 yesterday. I love the design of this little coupe. It's so sleek looking. The Q60, out the door, is $60,355 and the EPA estimated fuel economy is 20 city/27 highway/ 22 combined. So far I have gotten 17.5 mpg combined. 

What do you think of a car without speakers? Continental AG, an auto supplier, has created a sound system without speakers. Why? Because it is lightweight, takes less electricity and can be situated in parts of the car (pillars, seats, etc.) that speakers aren't put in today. You could use the sounds to hear music or vibrate warnings. It's an interesting concept that will have a world premiere at the Frankfurt auto show, but you can see it here first. 

Let's chat about cars 

Of course I have to ask, what did you think of Volvo's announcement of only producing/selling hybrid and electric vehicles in the near future? Does this increase their admittedly small presence in the US car market? Will that play better in the world auto market? Or did this further assure they'll continue to be a rather small bit player.....

My take is that China will lead the world in electric cars. Volvo is now a company of China, which has long promised to lead the next genere\ation of automobility.

What is your take on Volvo's announcement that starting in the 2019 model year, all Volvo vehicles will include some form of electric propulsion?

It is great! They are playing to their base. First, Volvo has gotten their electrification - hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and eventually EVs - to a point that it is feasible to make them almost as cheap as a gasoline version. California buys a lot of Volvos and California is 12% of the Nation's sales. California has already said that by 2050 they will not have gasoline only cars for sell in California. While EVs only make up 1% of the world sales they will start seeing a climb because of California and companies and Countries that want to give oil/gasoline a competition. 

Hello, We just spent time in England, where we were pleasantly surprised to be assigned a hybrid mini-SUV as our car rental. Similar size to the Honda CRV. The mileage was amazing. It ran on diesel. It was such a thrill to drive on so little fuel, for both economic and environmental reasons. We were wondering if diesel is more efficient than regular gas, and why aren't hybrid cars more affordable here? And why is diesel used more in the UK than here? If hybrids were that much more expensive in England, I doubt we would be been assigned one as our rental, for we paid for the lowest price vehicle. Anyway, interested in your thoughts...we'd love to afford a hybrid, though I also hear the cost of repairs is insanely high.

Makes sense. Was it a Ford? Diesel remains important in Europe, and Ford is a major player.

Hi Warren/Lou Ann, I wonder if you could give me a recommendation. I’m looking for an SUV with a 3rd row seat. I like the Suburban/Yukon XL but I don’t really need that much space and with a price starting over 50K it’s tough to justify that with so many options 20k less.

Consider the Chevrolet Equinox.

Lou Ann here: 

I'll give you a list of 3-row SUVS under $50K 

Toyota Highlander

Kia Sorento 

Hyundai Santa Fe 

Mazda CX-9 

Ford Explorer 

Dodge Durango 

Nissan Pathfinder 

All seem to be V6 (can't remember if the Nissan is or not, but I think so) 

The Toyota Highlander gets the highest points but don't rule out the Kia or Hyundai 

Mazda has a great drivability. Nissan has great functionality. 


I've noticed some newer vehicles (Audi comes to mind) with daytime running lights, that the DRL (on the turning side) turns off when the turn signal is on. Do you know: is this simply a design/aesthetics decision, or are there studies indicating that the DRL being off when the turn signal is on provides other drivers higher visibility of the turn signal? To me, the latter doesn't make sense -- in years of driving, I've never 'missed' a blinking yellow turn signal co-existing with a white DRL. (Heck, many drivers -- including me -- sometimes FORGET their own turn signals! Those I miss.) As for design/aesthetics, I don't believe the DRL/turn signal is one multi-color capable LED, I believe the DRL and turn signal are separate bulbs/lamps. Maybe it's just me, but for some reason, I really don't like the 'look' of the DRL turning off.

I would think - like you are - that it gives other drivers higher visibility. Since it is during the day when the Sun is shining right on it that would make sense. 

Last week I had an orange button on the side mirror telling me there was someone in my blind spot but I couldn't see it because the Sun was so bright. 

Night time you can see better. 

We have a second kid on the way, which will mean two car seats for a while. I'd love a crossover vehicle that is wide enough to accommodate an adult with the two car seats, for occasions when we have a visitor and don't want to to take two cars. Are some cars wider than others?

Congratulations. The vehicle choices are many. I'd start with the Honda Cr-V.

Any reaction to this recent news item on Volvo?:

Yes. Makes sense. Volvo is now a Chinese company. China wants to lead the world in the next generation of automobility.

Regardless of price - what's the best ragtop on the market right now? Heading out to buy a lottery ticket for lunch!

Jaguar XE. Good luck.

Lou Ann here:

If you don't win buy a VW Beetle turbo dune soft top - so fun to drive

Is there any practical reason other than mpg to pay a premium for a hybrid instead of the comparable gasoline vehicle? Better performance, better reliability, lower maintenance costs, safer? Anything?

Because fuel efficiency is such a hot topic among buyers yes, they get a premium. There is also better low-end torque for better performance. 

Having said that, hybrids should be coming in line with gasoline versions. The Toyota Camry is only slightly higher than the gasoline version and yet it gets the same mpg as a Toyota Prius. 

Using structural elements of the vehicle as speakers is very interesting as a proof of concept. What are the implications for maintenance and repair? As an example, would auto body shops have to source acoustically tuned structural pieces exclusively from the manufacturer?

The implications for maintenance and repair are expensive, period.

I'm curious: doesn't it seem that for 80 grand you could get a comparable car with a better reputation? Alfa isn't exactly known for trouble-free motoring...or is the likelihood that these will all be leased so the real challenge will be for the guy who buys one three years in?

I thought the same thing as you and then I drove it. What a dream to drive. 

It doesn't have a great reputation, probably about the same as the old Jaguars, where you were told to by 2 because one would always be in the garage being worked on. And people did buy two. 

I was in Italy for two weeks in May and drove one, but the one I drove last week in the US was even better! 

Just for the fun of it - go drive one. You will see. 

What's the latest on the 2018 Buick Regal?

Buick is producing really great cars, including the Regal. It is a favorably different company.

Following up on the earlier was a Nissan. Why don't we have more affordable hybrids here?

They are coming.Volvo just announced that they are going to have nothing but electrified cars by 2019. Toyota just brought out a hybrid that is a couple thousand more than a gasoline version but gets twice the mpg. 

California and CARB will be spearheading the change over from gasoline powered to electric powered.

I am going to Spain Sunday to see the new Audi electric car. I will let you know what it is like when I come back. 

Hi guys! Lou Ann, I asked you a few weeks ago if the redesigned 2018 Buick Enclave will have a heads up display. In your reply, I believe you were responding to the current Enclave which does NOT have HUD. Can you confirm with Buick if the 2018 (and I'm told comes out this fall) will have HUD? I need to potentially make a purchase decision next week based on that information. Thanks.

I would make the decision you need to thinking that they won't have a HUD. They were pretty certain in not saying they wouldn't talk about future product --- read between the lines. 

Here in Florida, the only turn signals we see are on for miles and miles, mainly during snowbird season. Which bring me to my question: we're beginning to see more roundabouts in lieu of stoplights, but people who are turning off of them rarely signal. Is there a protocol? It seems as though signaling that you're turning gives the next entrant a heads-up that you're making room.

Yes, there is a protocol. Same everywhere, really. Please signal when turnig.

Hello, I looked at and drove a well-maintained, preowned 2016 Cadillac CTS V-Sport (Not the V) at a Caddy dealership recently. Because it is a major expense, I needed time to think about the purchase. Still interested, I called the salesguy back and asked him to give me the absolute lowest price for the car. He said I would have to come into the dealership for that and meet with his sales manager. I have a lot going on at work and home for the next couple of weeks, and driving back to the dealership to negotiate a price is not a good use of my time right now. I asked him to email me a buyer's order with the bottom-of-the-line price, but he never did. Was my request unreasonable? I don't need the car, I just want it, but the process needs to be easy for me. Thoughts?

Find another dealership, one that can work with you on you terms.

These are the two that we are trying to decide between - major factors are simple: (1) we have to fit 2 car seats (one is rear facing so takes up a lot of space) and (2) Must have AWD because we visit family in the mountains in winter. Our other car is an Outback (at the time we were deciding between the older version of the Mazda and the Outback and the Outback was the clear winner with a bigger engine and smoother drive). What would you recommend? Any other cars we should look at similar to these two?

You are a family of car lovers. Those are two really good choices and I hesitate 

The Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester are both hot on the market so you won't have much wiggle room. 

The CX-5 is a great car to drive

I think where you need it - the rear - the Mazda has a couple more inches. 

Both can be AWD 

I would go with the Mazda just because it has a little better horsepower and torque and you are carrying precious cargo. 

Clifton - Buy a plug-in hybrid; you can still fill up with gas, you will have low-end torque - the best of both worlds 

Many major EU cities like Paris and Rome are banning diesels so diesels hybrids will disappear. Problem with EVs is unlike if you get up in the morning and find your teenager came home late last night and now your car is showing 20 miles to empty you know you can drive to the local gas station and in less than 10 minutes fill up. Not so with an EV which can take 5+ hours to reach a full charge. Also hybrids and EVs don't work well when hauling a trailer since the electric motors overheat and batteries discharge quickly. Also vehicles powered by internal combustion engines in North America aren't the problem. if Warren could wave his magic wand and make them all ZEVs it would have no effect on climate change. Clifton VA

China is serious about EVs. Thus Volvo. And diesels will be around for a long while.

Not the best way to get your name in the papers, but I was told today by a TV station in Germany that the First Volkswagen Manager Zaccheo Giovanni Pamio, who was Audi's former department manager of thermodynamics is going to jail. Here he is in 2008 talking to me about Audi A5 clean diesel 


Ahh, so Clifton is the one who wrote that electric motors overheat when towing trailers. Clifton, I'd like to rad more about this. Got any URLs that you can send?


Thank you all for joining us, today. Come back next week. It is a rapidly changing world. Open minds are welcome here.

Considering a new convertible, and was surprised to see that neither the Buick Cascada nor Audi A3 have Homelink. Such a small thing, but it's nearly a deal-breaker for me. Can HL be installed by a dealer if it's not a normal option? I hate the idea of going back to driving around with a clunky garage door opener pinned to the visor.

Do you own a Subaru? If not, they have it. Hyundai too. I'm not sure if you can install after market. 

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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