Real Wheels Live (Oct. 27)

Oct 27, 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, 


Last week there was a discussion about CVTs and performance. Both Warren and I said that CVTs are used for fuel economy, not performance in all the cars we know and love. I was sitting next to Josef Newgarden, Indy Champion for 2017. He said they did not use CVTs in their race cars. 


One chatter was insistent, so I did my homework. All the colleagues I talked to agreed that CVTs are used for fuel economy by manufacturers, not performance. One colleague wrote, "I think there's a performance, longevity, and complexity matrix that doesn't generally favor CVT for larger automotive applications."


I sent emails to many manufacturers, and BMW responded, "BMW doesn’t currently offer CVT transmissions in its vehicle portfolio as testing has shown that this type of transmission to date does not provide the kind of performance, efficiency, and driver experience that is expected by our customers."


Another colleague pointed out, "This seems like an apples & oranges conversation. The use cases and design and durability requirements between Powersports/motorsports and passenger cars are very different. Can you make a high-performance CVT for those use cases? Sure. Is it the best choice for high-performance street cars? Debatable." He also pointed out, "Specifically in regard to a car like the Miata, I would think a well-executed DCT would get a much warmer reception among enthusiasts than a CVT."


If you read last week's chat you know, I was out on a Shell Oil rig, 150 miles off the Gulf, where thirty percent of your oil comes from to be refined into gasoline for your car. We're still getting the story done, but it was an incredible experience. The ability and technology on that oil rig shows me that, as Americans, we can create anything we put our minds to, as long as we have the will. 


There was a question about the Toyota Camry versus the Honda Accord. I have the Camry hybrid in my driveway right now and love it. It gets the same mpg as the Toyota Prius. But the pricing and mpg on the Camry hybrid versus the top-of-the-line Honda Accord tells the story. 


2018 Toyota Camry hybrid pricing and mpg


2018 Toyota Camry HV LE $27,800 51/53/52 mpg

2018 Toyota Camry HV SE $29,500 44/47/46 mpg

2018 Toyota Camry HV XLE $32,250 44/47/46 mpg


2018 Honda Accord pricing and mpg


2018 Honda Accord EX CVT $27,470 30/38/33 mpg

2018 Honda Accord EX-L CVT $29,970 30/38/33 mpg

2018 Honda Accord EX-L CVT w/ Navi $30,970 30/38/33 mpg


Finally, this week Stretch and I drove the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia. It's a four-door sedan 4-cylinder direct-injection turbo AWD. The base price is $41,995, the one I test drove was $51,995. EPA estimated fuel economy was 23 city/31 highway/ 26 combined. We got around 26 mpg. 

Let's chat about cars


we haven't been looking for a new car in more than 10 years, and it's now time. I'm impressed with all the safety features, but I do have one question - one of the things we've noticed on the SUV's/crossovers we've looked at is that most have addt'l brake lights on the rear bumper. I see the utility, but aren't they in a prime spot to be dinged or broken with even a minor bump, resulting in the need for a bumper replacement?

Good Morning

I've been driving SUVs and CUVs for years and never bumped the rear bumper. I am less likely to do so now because those cars also have sensors and back up cameras so that you don't bump them. 

Try driving one with all the new technology, you will be impressed. 

My car can report the remaining oil life. What is the number based on? Is it strictly based on the number of miles I have driven or is it based on a sensor that checks the oil itself?

Algorithms, a combination of use factors measured in mathmatics, When oil was installed, vehicle mileage and average vehicle speed, oil grade, equals oil life remaining.

So now that you have researched the CVT, will Warren continue to be cantankerously and ignorantly dismissive of the posts from last week?

Yes. Facts are facts. CVTs make sense in economy cars and others used by most of us.

Why is this Mercedes so expensive?!

LOL - for some reason we get people from Asia that will list their used car for sale. Instead of realizing that they can't list their car because the country isn't there, they put in a fake zip code and how much they want to sell it for in their country. You would have to convert it to $$ to find out the price. thanks - we will delete it. 


Hi, I would love an opinion on whether we should buy a 2007 Honda Odyssey with 45,000 miles. It has new tires. I would prefer to buy a newer, used minivan but have not found anything with low miles. Thank you, in advance, for your valued opinion.

Have you had the van inspected? Do you know why the miles are so low? 

I have a 1993 Lexus LS 400 with 88,000 miles on it, so it's not unheard of, I just want you to do due diligence before you buy the car. Have you seen a carfax report on it? If it set for long periods of time that is worse than using it. 

All that being said, if it is a great deal (you didn't say the price, but I figure you've already done that research) then buy it. The Honda Odyssey has a good track record, Honda is well known for reliability and I love minivans. 

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, Someone wrote in last week asking about the new Kia Niro, and I wanted to share my experience with it. I bought one four months ago and love it. The car is fun to drive and peppier than I expected from a hybrid, but not as peppy as my old sporty Corolla. The other reader mentioned that they were a senior, so I wanted to mention that getting in and out of the Niro is easy. It is a little higher than a sedan, but not so high you feel that you have to climb into it and my dog can easily jump in the back seat.. The gas mileage is great, I have been averaging 51 mpg around town, and averaged 46 mpg on the highway on a recent trip to Florida. My car has the blind spot detector which I appreciate more and more as I drive it. I would recommend it to anyone. I had written in to your chat asking about it when it was first released and Warren gave it a thumbs up. I am so happy that I made the purchase.

Thank you for writing.s pretty much was my experience. Ingress and egress was easy, and I have a bad back. Did you think the car was a tad heavy in feel? I did, but I liked it.

Lou Ann here: 

Same experience! It was pleasant to drive, good gas mileage and functional. 

Last week's writer was correct that some specialized performance vehicles use CVTs, including the Formula 500 race series that he cited. That took me less than 30 seconds of Googling to look up. I couldn't find mentions of use in other performance cars, especially for street use, but that still isn't sufficient to treat his very specific and factually-based claim as delusional ravings.

It wasn't the intention. He and I have had some conversations via email and like I said in the monologue, except for the Formula 500 people don't really think of performance and CVT. 

Subaru does use CVT in all their cars and they say that they have found a way to make performance part of the package for the WRX, but I didn't have time to investigate the prior engine compared to the CVT engine. 

And just because a car is selling well doesn't mean the CVT is the reason. I have a friend that owns a Nissan Altima and he didn't realize he had a CVT and didn't care as long as he got decent gas mileage. 


"We get people from Asia that will list their used car for sale" - the MB has Jersey tags!

I didn't look - I just know that was the case last time we looked. 

It could have been a mistake in listing the dollar amount - one too many zeros? 

It is removed. 

If you want to list your car for sale for free you can do so at 

But the car has New Jersey plates. Are you saying the pictures are fake?

I didn't look - I just know that was the case last time we looked. 

It could have been a mistake in listing the dollar amount - one too many zeros? 

It is removed. 

If you want to list your car for sale for free you can do so at 

Companies like Honda and Hyundai as well as Chevy (and I think VW) are including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in most of their vehicles (if not all). Do you think Toyota will join them any time soon? Speaking for myself having Android Auto was extremely important to me and one of the reasons I bought an Elantra. But I don't know if I'm an outlier or representative of consumers at large. I know some manufacturers like BMW and MINI have balked at these systems for some reason. It was among the reasons I didn't buy another MINI (along with the bloated price tag)

I believe Toyota is going to use an open-source Linux based system, and opt out of Android/Google and Apple/iPhone

I haven't talked to anyone at Toyota but I would think there are royalty rights/fees involved if they collaborate and IT systems that need to be developed. Toyota likes to keep their technology closer to the vest. 

This listing looks like it should be removed:

LOL - I think we are going to have to go through our script and rewrite some parameters. 


BTW - each of the listings that go on go on as well. If you are on twitter like carlistdotcom and they will show up in your feed. 

I'm not an Apple fanboy, but I'm finding it hard to do without CarPlay when I'm in our older car. It's a really nice technology, and it almost makes up for the laggy performance of my Sport CVT (kidding).

Just had to get that CVT jab in there, didn't you? :) (I would have done the same) 

I don't use carplay as much as I should. I got turned off to it because I have to plug it into the car to use it and then it takes the function of the car away. I like to have bluetooth on but listen to sirius. 


So why hasn't the USA just used the EU standards which are superior to NHTSA and DOT's. They haven't been updated in decades. back in the bad ole days you could just replace a 7 inch or 5 3/4 inch round headlight with a non sealed beam Euro headlight and get substantially better lighting at a reasonable cost. With current HID and LED tech you can't do this. And I still have cars with non sealed beam headlights that don't have any issues.

I would make some political joke but...

Things were so much simpler back in the day. You could bore out a couple holes and put a whole new 22r engine in a 1973 Toyota. Now, you have to buy a whole new car. 

Just for a headlight! :) 

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Ill try to be in good humor. Still, if your interest is in high performance, shop high performance, not CVT. Thanks Gene, Lou Ann and Ria.

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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