Real Wheels Live

Jan 31, 2014

The Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown and guest Lou Ann Hammond will discuss the auto industry. Plus, they'll give purchase advice to readers.

Good morning Warren and Friends

I've been to two events since last Friday and they couldn't be more different. From the MINIest of cars to the most heavy duty trucks.

I drove the GMC Sierra heavy duty and towed 10,000 pounds behind a Chevy Silverado heavy duty while going down a hill at 55 mph, with cruise control on, while not touching the brakes. The second competition was going up the hill,towing 10,000 pounds.

Chevy and GMC offer the regular, double or crew cab, 2WD or 4X4, gas, diesel or CNG in a 6.5 or 8 foot bed length. Biggest deal to me - 19,600 pounds towing capacity!

One of these trucks could tow almost 6 new MINIs!

Speaking of which, Today I am in San Juan, Puerto Rico with MINI. The new MINI (the name of the car) Cooper has the smallest engine BMW produces; it is a 3-cylinder. The new MINI Cooper has a 3-cylinder engine with a peak output of 134 hp. The 4-cylinder engine of the MINI Cooper S mobilizes 189 hp. Another new feature: the standard 6-speed manual transmission, along with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Cooper Automatic/Cooper Manual/Cooper S Automatic/Cooper S Manual

Fuel Consumption - City (ESTIMATED)MPG: 30/ 30/ 28/ 23
Fuel Consumption - Highway (ESTIMATED) MPG: 42/ 41/ 40/ 37
Fuel Consumption - Combined (ESTIMATED) MPG: 34/ 34/ 32/ 28


Here is one of the coolest unveils of a car I've seen in a long time

Unveiling the new MINI in San Juan, Puerto Rico

BTW - next week is the Chicago auto show. Is there anything you want Warren and I to look at for you?

Let's chat about cars

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Lou Ann Hammond



Car is in the shop, so I have a loaner today. I couldn't help but notice that the speedometer goes from 0 to 160mph. I can only wonder, why? The car will likely never have a chance to get above 80mph. I have no way of knowing if the car can really top 150mph, but if it can, is it efficient to build a car that is able to go 150mph knowing that its typical use will be 30% of the maximum speed?

It's marketing. Many consuers wantmore than they need just in case they need it.

OH - and thank you mango's village = the only place in San Juan Puerto Rico airport that has wifi.

The check engine light came on the other day. I took it to the dealer yesterday on my way home from work. The read the codes and said it might be the purge valve. But, they also said that since the car has close to 95k miles and some of the other readings were off, they wanted to do an engine compression test. They didn't say what else might be wrong that is causing the problem. Not knowing much about engines, I feel like all I can do is go along with their suggestions. Hopefully, they will call before noon so I will know more and they can get things fixed today. I haven't had any performance issues with the car, but had noticed I was not getting the same mileage as before. With the cold weather, I suspected maybe the tire pressure was low or other weather issues causing it to use more gas.

First, check the gasoline cap to make sure it is securely connected. A loose or missing cap is the mosr common cause ofcheck-engine light illumination.

Several others: Kia Sorento (good sFETY RATING AND BEST VALUE); Nissan Rogue; Chevrolet Equinox

In 2010 we upgraded from a Corolla/Civic to a Civic/and CRV for the extra space. Now we are expecting our third child, and need a more spacious cross-over to comfortably fit two car seats and a booster. Hoping to stay clear of a mini-van. Any suggestions?

I"m going to be an Auntie! :)

Congratulations on the new protege. Here are some of your choices

Subaru Forester (they have a crosstek that I haven't driven)
Mazda CX5
Landrover Evoque
Volkswagen Tiguan
Buick Encore
Chevy Equinox
Nissan Rogue
Hyundai Tucson (Santa Fe if you want a little bigger)
Kia Sportage
Toyota RAV4
Ford escape
Toyota 4runner
Jeep Patriot

I would go with the Mazda CX-5 or Hyundai Santa Fe. The Mazda CX5 is a gorgeous piece of art with lots of room and great drivability.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann - I love the Buick Enclave, but I'm about a year away from being in a place to buy new car. Do you think the Enclave will undergo a major redesign in the 2015 or 2016 model years?

Not soon. It is still being shown at the car shows.

Go with the Honda CR-Z. Best reliabiity rating of those you cited.

I have a choice of three used cars as zippy commuter cars; a 2012 Fiat 500 sport (5 sp manual) with 13 k, a 2011 Honda cr-z (6 sp manual) with 15k and a 2009 Mini Cooper (6 sp manual) with 19 k, Which would you choose ?

The 2009 Mini Cooper with the manual is great. The 2005 with CVT wasn't. Fiat 500 sport is okay but it depends on how little room you like in a car. The Fiat Lounge is the same size as the Chrysler 300 interior and I prefer that one. The Honda CRZ is the second generation and much better than the first. Look at the maintenance track record on all of these and Honda maybe the best.

Thank you for these chats. Around September 2013, Warren Brown mentioned he would be driving and writing an article on the Lexus GS 350. I was wondering if you had an opportunity to do either, and if so would you share your thoughts on the GS 350. I am currently in the market for a 2013 Lexus GS 350 and would appreciate your thoughts on this car, or if you think there are other cars in the same segment and price range as the Lexus GS 350 that I should be taking a look at. Thanks again.

Not yet. But I highly recommend that you check out the Kia Optima or new Hyundai Genesis before you spend your money.

Warren, any plans to drive the new BMW 4 series soon? I was very disappointed with the new 3 series, especially the loosey-goosey steering and stop-start shuddering. Everything I have read so far says the 4 is more of a driver's car. Thanks

Yes, assuming BMW isn't p-o'd with me because the company is driving me crazy with its expensive options packages.

Happy to hear that you enjoyed the show.

Just posting to say "thank you" to both you and Lou Ann for the tickets to the Auto Show. We went last weekend and greatly enjoyed seeing the variety of vehicles in one place. It gave us the opportunity to narrow down our choices!

Yeah!!! So glad all of you guys could make it. There were 10 of you that got tickets.

Thanks to Barbara Pomerance and Warren Brown for giving up the tickets.

...for staff members of Davita Dialysis of Arlington. I literally cannot live without those people. Here's hoping that my friends at WANADA set aside 14 for I.D's Davita techs.

Hi Lou Ann / Warren, I have had 2 HPFP failures in a span of 1000 miles. So far VW has repaired under warranty twice. 2 weeks ago when I commented, someone replied that it was not that common and VW TDIs were doing fine in Canada and EU. But, we are in the US and get our diesel here. Seems that the dealer got a spate of HPFP failures in the last few weeks. Common thread was that all fueled at the same station. Still, it was diesel, probably made to federal standards, so why is the HPFP failing? How will VW restore our faith in their product? Extended warranties? Would be good to know what VW thinks of this issue. They have redesigned the HPFP a few times, but even late model cars have the issue. Right now it is looking bad for diesel and bad for US (less adoption of diesel = less fuel efficiency). BTW, there is a thread running on a forum regarding HPFP failures: Thank you Lou Ann for your response by email!

I'll post this. Can't figure out why you are experiencing such failures. Most U.S. filling stations offer ultra-low-sulfur diesel (15 parts sulfur per million) required by new diesel engines. Is someone monkeying with fuel?

I got a chance to sit in the Fiesta ST at the Auto show last weekend. Are the seats really that narrow, or is there an adjustment I didn't find? The Focus ST seats were quite comfortable.

The Fiesta ST is aimed at younger bodies with smaller butts. The Focus has a slightly older, wider-butt clientele. That's my take, anyway.

If a speedometers shows speeds from 0 to 160mph is replaced with one that goes from 0 to 100mph, the numbers can be spaced further apart making it easier to tell the difference between 46 and 48mph.

Perhaos. But 0 to 160 sells better than 0 to 100 or, God forbid, 0 to 80.

Does the Baltimore Auto Show offer anything worth going to if you've already been to the Washington Auto Show?

Probably not. But I'd go anyway, just in case I'm wrong.

I actually liked the ST seats. Snug! Might be nice at the autocross too (which I do on a regular basis). And that new Corvette.... wow! New Mustang left me cold, unfortunately. And no Porsche? DC's a wealthy area, we have to be a big market for them.

Blame Porsche for no Porsche. I don't understand that company's auto show policy.

I always said no minivan too. But for a family gathering when I really didn't want Mom and Dad driving themselves, I rented a minivan. It was great -- drove like a car, comfortable, plenty of room. Since the gathering was for college graduation I don't have a need for one anymore, but they are very practical. Before you say "never!" try a couple out.

I'd still take a serious look at The Kia Sorento. Feels more like a car than a minivan.

Have either of you driven this new small SUV? Is it worth the extra money (surprisingly not that much) compared to the Ford Escape?

Yes, I love Lincoln's new products.

You had some comments last week about seat belts on school buses and you sneered reflexively at anyone who would have reservations about them. That issue has actually been studied extensively and multiple authorities, including NHTSA and the NEA, have concluded that belts would cause more problems than they could solve. First, school buses can weigh 30,000 pounds or more. In a collision with almost anything, the other guy loses. Secondly, the buses sit much higher off the ground than most vehicles. Most of the force of any impact will be absorbed by the lowest part of the bus, not the passenger compartment. And in an emergency, the time it would take to get 60 kids, especially younger ones, unbuckled and out the door could be life-threatening. And of course, there is the problem of enforcement. What's the driver supposed to do if a kid doesn't buckle up? Strap him in forcibly? Refuse to move if he doesn't comply? Kick him off the bus and leave him by the side of the road? Call the cops? School bus seats are designed with high padded backs that prevent kids from being thrown forward. When is the last time you read about a school bus accident with injuries that seat belts could have prevented? When is the last time you rode a Metrobus or subway car with seat belts? (I can answer that one: never.) From one of the below sources: "Numerous federal and academic studies have concluded that school buses are the safest form of ground transportation of all, in fact. The National Safety Council says they're about 40 times safer than the family car." So your kid is 40 TIMES more likely to be killed while you're driving him to school wearing a seat belt than while he's riding a bus to school without one. Please get some facts before you encourage hysteria.

I think you make very good points, but I would also like to know how many lives could have been saved if they were wearing seatbelts.

Warren, With another baby on the way and my elderly parents coming to live with us, I'm in the market for something that can hold nine people. That seems to rule out most of the large SUVs and minivans I have driven in the past. What should I look at that could hold that many people? I'm not picky on style, but I'd like something my parents can climb into without too much struggle. Any guidance you might have is greatly appreciated!

You very seldom are likely to be carrying nine people at a time, especially on a regular basis. Check out something that carries seven comfortably. ...Chevrolet Traverese, Buick Enclave, or GMC Acadia. Or the Honda Pilot or Ford Flex. Don't over-buy.

My '87 T-Bird had a digital-only speedo that only went to 85. I switched it to metric to freak out passengers...


Hi guys, I saw the beautiful Volvo Crossover concept unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show & am wondering if you have an idea when the production version will be coming out?

I was just at an event with Volvo and will have my interviews up soon. They have a new USA president, Ms. Bodil Erickson, that I interviewed and she talked about bringing a lot of new product out quickly. Volvo needs it.

I generally enjoyed the car show. I liked seeing the new models and the few concepts that were there. But I was disturbed by the car manufacturer with the "zombie apocalypse" display. I get it, zombies are hip right now. And it was a bit tongue in cheek, and fake enough to be "really cool" to some people. But a lot of people go to the show with small kids. Some of which, like mine, might be disturbed by it. We did our best to shelter him from it, but he still saw the severed "hand" on the side of the car - and it gave him nightmares. There's a time and a place for everything, but that was NOT the time and place for that advertising schtick.

I thought the "zombie apocalypse" display was appalling. But it did attract many eyes.

Saw it a the Auto Show, took a test drive last has a 9 speed auto! Pretty nice little SUV - any thoughts? Does anyone else make a 9 speed transmission?

More and more car companies are offering 8 and 9-speed automatics in a quest to improve fuel economy. I've got to drive that new jeep.

But at 45 I've only bought two cars in my life - a 1989 Chevy Cavalier, which was meh, and a 1999 Saturn SL2, which I love with all my heart. At 140,000 miles it still runs like a dream, but it's started burning oil, the parts are after-market, and I could use some bells and whistles like power windows and doors, navigation system, satellite radio, cruise control. So what are the best small sedans to start looking at? The VW Beetle is just the cutest car I've ever seen, but is it reliable over the long haul since I keep cars forever? Always heard good things about Corollas and Civics as well.

The Beetle is reliable over the long haul. But the most valuable quest for bells, whistle, decent fuel economy, eexcellent active and passive safety woud leead you to the Hyundai Sonata, kia Optima, Chevrolet Cruze, and Buick Regal GS.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please eturn next week. Many thanks to producer Matthew Monahan, West Coast contributors Lou Ann Hammond and Stretch, car wrangler Ria Manglapus, and dealer representative Michelle Dawson. Michelle and I will be at the Washington Auto Show Saturday and Sunday from 9 AM to 1 PM. Come on by!

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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