Real Wheels Live

Feb 07, 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

Warren is finishing up the Washington Auto show while I am at the Chicago auto show.

There were quite a few unveils, including

Nissan announced that Fedex would start using the NV200 as one of their fleet vehicles to deliver packages.
There was a world unveil of the Electric-powered Kia Soul, which plans to go head-to-head with the Nissan Leaf in driving range and price.
Subaru introduced its all-new Legacy sedan
2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad was unveiled
I talked to Elaine Bannon, the Chief nameplate engineer for the new Lincoln Navigator
I interviewed Ralph Gilles, President of design and the SRT brand in front of a brilliant green 2014 Dodge Viper that will only be sold for a limited time.
The Kia Niro concept made its U.S. debut as a possible rival to Nissan Juke.
Volvo V60 Polestar was another unveil - Polestar is the racing version for Volvo.
Volkswagen showed off their new Beetle racing car and
Toyota announced they would get into the Daytona racing starting in 2016.
Chevy showed Chevy Express Van competing with the Ford Transit
Nissan showed
Lexus was a sea of white - nothing but white cars throughout
The Hyundai Genesis was split in half so that you could see the whole car
Honda has a beautiful FCEV (fuel cell) that they were showing again
Acura showed  their 2015 TLX prototype

Our favorite though was the Nissan NV200 that Nissan had set up as a kegger at their pre-party. Ingenious.

Let's chat about cars

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Lou Ann Hammond

Dealers are desperate. Sales slipped 3-4% in December-January wintry mix. If you don't mind the cold, snow, and ice, now is a good time to buy anything except all-wheel-drive.

If you have a car with 95k miles and a blue book value of about $5,000 and a quote for repairs that top $3,500 is it better to pay for the repairs or look to replace.

Look to replace. sell the car to someone - with full disclosure of the issues - as is. There are people that can work on cars themselves that can do it cheaper.

Put that money down on a car and get something more reliable, safer.

Good question.

My husband recently had his beloved 08 Acura TL declared a total loss due to an accident. We are now having to replace it. He doesn't like the new body design of the TL and is struggling to find a car that he 'loves'. I think (hope) we've narrowed the search to two cars... the Acura RLX and the Lexus ES. Would you recommend one over the other? Why? We've looked at the BMW, Mercedes, Nissan, Infinity and none fit what he's looking for... is there something we've over looked? He won't buy American or Korean. Thanks!

I'd go with the Acura RLX, an excellent car that seems to be selling slower than expected, maybe because it is too big for most Acura tastes. To bad he won't buy Korean or American. He's chesting himself, holding on to conventional wisdom no longer true...or conventional.

Good morning, Warren and Lou Ann. The Washington Auto Show was a fun chance to test fit my very long legs in a number of cars. The one that felt the most "me" was the VW Tiguan. I am probably six months to a year from a purchase. Is there hope that a diesel version is on the horizon in the U.S.?

Yes. Try this. Visit a VW dealer. Preorder a Tiguan. Specify diesel. Or try Audi with a Q5 diesel.

Is that appropriate when drunk driving is such a big problem?

We weren't driving. All the manufacturers - and journalists - are very conscientious of drinking and driving. It is our livelihood and we don't take it for granted. It was just a cute idea and would be great at a tailgate party.

After a ton of research and test drives, I just bought a (ever so slightly used) 2013 Impreza. It was the most comfortable, small, fuel-efficient, family car I found. I thought I wanted the Mazda3, but as a short woman, the low, sports car feel was uncomfortable for me. I felt like I couldn't see over the dash.

You made a good choice, especially considering the crazy winter we've been having in the Midwest and on the East Coast.

Recently I have been researching altruistic kidney donation and came across your WP chat with Martha Hamilton on Dec. 12, 2001. I hope everything is going great with you and Martha. If I decide to donate, I would hope to remain anonymous. How would you as a recipient feel if you had never met your donor? I have personally decided to donate to whomever the doctors choose, but unfortunately I am still trying to convince the rest of my family that I'm not crazy. Thanks for all your work and God bless you and Martha.

Martha is fine, so am I, although I remain on dialysis. Transplants don't last forever. Neither do we. If you want to do a transplant, go forth and donate.  You can do it anonymously. No problem there. All of us who live with kidney failure thank you.

Did the potential buyer sit in the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee? Take a look at the Trailhawk Which hopefully will have a diesel. For Q5 money I take a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a diesel any day. More capable in the snow and a Q5 just cant go that far offroad. Clifton, VA

Both are great vehicles but since they were looking at a VW it would make sense to suggest the sister brand, Audi. I did drive the Jeep Liberty diesel and didn't like it. The Audi Q5 has a great reputation and is already in the market.

The same question (with a few more details) was posed on yesterday's Color of Money chat (car worth $5,000, needing $3,000 in engine repairs, has 95,000 miles on it). In that case, Michelle advised in favor of repairing the car. Interesting how people with different perspectives handle the question. Now I wonder if Has will get it next.

Good repair generally makes more sense than new full-price finance with taxes and insurance fees.

Have you driven the new Subaru WRX yet? Seems like Subaru has done a lot of work to improve the gas mileage on that car.

No. But, yes, Subaru is a global company under global pressure to improve gas mileage and reduce CO2 emissions. It does not surprise me that it has also improved the gas mileage of the WRX.

Prefer its looks to Nissan NV200. Chevy Express with windows will appeal to a lot of dog people. Auto makers are missing a big market if their vehicles dont have seats that fold flat ad provide a flat floor. There are a few million do owners who do conformation shows, agility, flyball, lure coursing, rally, obedience, frisbee, and of course herding. Best way to find a great dealer ask if you can bring your dogs and crates to see if hey fit and work. Many Land Rover and Jeep dealers love it. Clifton, VA

Thanks, Clifton.

Love these chats and love having Lou Ann here. I am in the market for a car and am struggling with the new vs. used dilemma. I am looking for something with comfortable seats (preferably leather) for a 6' 4", 200 lbs. person, a quiet ride, V-6 power, and great crash test results so that I can feel confident driving children. The problem is, if you put these features in a new car like a Honda Accord (or comparable sedans that I believe Warren refers to as the "usual suspects") the price approaches 30k. So, I feel like I might as well buy a used Hyundai Genesis or an Audi A6. Any thoughts?

Thanks for the kind words.

Have you looked at the Buick Verano? I ask because you mention quiet and the Buick Verano is supposed to be the quietest car in its segment. I would get the 2.0 lter turbo engine for more ummph and the Choccachino interior.

Starting price for a 2014 is $23,700 but you can get a used one as well.

But when our vehicles are all driving themselves we are going to be bored to tears so my advice is have a full stocked bar when this day comes and make sure you are riding with ladies who could star in ZZ Top music videos. Clifton, VA

Those are called limousines, Clifton. Something many of the celebrities, such as Lindsay Lohan and Justin Bieber, should be riding in.

Something I wish my late brother-in-law would have done.

Warren, you've been bullish lately on the Forester, less so on Outlook than you have been. I live in the country in Idaho with a driveway that maxes at 12% pitch. Put front-wheel VW into a ditch this week. Looking for AWD for my wife and me this spring. Thoughts?

Either the Forester or the Outback would suffice for a new ride. I like the Forrester because of its smart, family-oriented redesign. But we're not selling our Outback in Cornwall, N.Y. We're repairing the brakes (too much downhill-steep uphil under load) and keeping it. Will probably replace it, when that time comes, with another.

Is it worth it to get the AWD version in this area?

Yes, and it's worth it to get the Mazda CX-5. love the car.

Has there been any more info about the new Miata?

Not that I've noticed, and I'm constantly looking and asking. Probably in the spring, if anything. You, Lou Ann?

hasnt been sold in what 5 years. Have you driven the 2014 Grand Cherokee with the diesel 700+ mile range 8spd trannie and with the Offroad Adventure package II it can go anywhere it wants offroad and rivals the Jeep Wrangler in its capabilities. It can also hang with a Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and LR 4. No VW, Audi or Porsche can. Clifton, VA

You made your point last time, but when the chatter asked Warren said Audi Q5 because the person had asked about the VW Tiguan.

Any thoughts on why Honda went CVT for the automatic in its 2015 Fit, considering the reliability / repair issues that Nissan and others have had with them? Will they ever offer a "conventional" 6 speed automatic in the Fit?

CVT (continuously variable transmission) technology and reliability have improved markedly, especially in the matter of saving fuel. The industry does not make progress by looking rearward. It looks forward and finds ways to fix what is broken, which is what happened here.

Thanks for the advice I got the Cr-z, but after driving the car in city traffic , I felt it was too low and did not have great visibility particularly out the back and the ride was terrible ...I returned it.... I am leaning toward the mini cooper 6 sp manual. not the cooper s.Thoughts on your reliability issues ?

It depends on the generation you get. I would get the newest version since there were reliability issues with the R56. The new mini, the f56, is just coming out.

The new MINI Cooper has the smallest engine BMW produced; it is a 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine. The new MINI Cooper has a 3-cylinder engine with a peak output of 134 horsepower and a starting MSRP of $19,950 (plus $795 for destination). The 4-cylinder engine of the MINI Cooper S mobilizes 189 horsepower and has a starting price of $23,600, just $300 more than last year’s model (plus $795 for destination). Another new feature is 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

The new mini was just introduced last week and we caught the unveil

I'm sure I'm like most people who are interested in an SUV-type vehicle. I have a little extra trouble, given long legs, with the center consoles in many sedans. The Tiguan sits high but not too high, has plenty of headroom and has an understated interior. Going off road--or even in unusually deep snow--won't factor in. The Tiguan (or A5) would be for me, as Warren says, a station wagon by another name.

My husband is 6'4", and as I say, worth the climb :)

He also has trouble with the center console and his long legs.

Do you also have feet that hit the gas pedal but can also hit the brake?

I understand Toyota is rolling out a new Highlander. Have you had a chance to take a look? Any thoughts? I'm looking for something with an optional third row with AWD. Thanks.

Highlander has a third row and is all-wheel drive. They are also coming out with a hybrid.

You can see a cute rendition of the Highlander - pet edition is what I called it - in this video

Hi there, love your chats! I am going to need to replace my (yes) 1996 Honda Accord sometime in this next year. Obviously I'm not big on new vehicles :-) While on the one hand I do need a vehicle that can go off-road and can haul stuff (so am thinking, Tacoma), if I didn't go the truck route I was thinking an older (but newer to me) Audi (have a 4 hr commute on weekends, so mileage and comfort are important). Your suggestions?

An old Audi-allroad would be great if  you could find one.

You say Tacoma

1. Are you the only occupant?

2. What are you hauling? Or are you towing? What kind of weight?

I would also look at the new Honda Accord or a Mazda3.

If I could talk him into American or Korean, what would you suggest? thanks!!

Don't try to talk him into anything. Show him. Take him to a Hyundai or Kia dealership. Let him drive something such as a Cadillac CTS-V or, for that matter, a Buick Regal GS. If none of that changes his mind, let him live with and pay for his biases.

I'm looking at a 2007 mini cooper 6 speed with 20 k

Don't. Look elsewhere. Frankly, I think a Honda Civic of similar vintage offers much better service, reliability, value.

Lou Ann here;

I agree. If you look at that generation had issues.

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: Lou Ann, you've raved many times about your 1993 Lexus that has cost you only a few thousand dollars in repairs. That's excellent for a car 20+ years old, but how many miles does it have? Thanks! Garey, Ottawa

Hi Garey,

It must be crazy cold in Ottawa right now. I'm in Chicago and it's colddd here. Sunny, but cold.

MY 1993 Lexus has 90,000 miles on it and has always been garaged. Clearly we have other cars to drive, but she is my baby.

I used to have a 1991 Lexus but it was gray and made me feel cold so I traded it in for a 1993 gold one.

Have a good day.

We thank you all for visiting today. Please return next week. We'll beef up social media outreach, following Lou Ann's lead, to get more questions. Thanks to Matthew Monahan and Lou Ann for their production efforts. Thanks to field assistants Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson. We need all of you. Eat Lunch.

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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