Real Wheels Live

Feb 08, 2013

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.

Sales of pickup trucks are growing steadily, possibly reflecting a solid uptick in construction activity. Trucks will hold the spotlight at the Chicago Auto Show. Which gets underway this weekend. If you can't get to Chicago, check out the latest pickup truck offerings at the Washington Auto Show, which continues through this weekend.

I'm at the Chicago auto show where Toyota has brought out the new Tundra. It looks huge in comparison to the new vehicles other car companies are bringing out. Small, contented, more horsepower, more torque. Chevy is bringing out the Cruze diesel, the first diesel car since the '80s, VW is bringing out the VW Beetle GSR (which means yellow, black racer in German). Nissan is bringing out a Juke Nismo and 370Z Nismo. All of these vehicles are small, but with a racing type component to them. This is what that segment needs. Some of these cars I get into I feel like Betty Flintstone on a hill, peddling with her feet to get the car up the hill. It's not safe and it's not fun, two components I have to have in my car. At the Buick stand there were 300 children getting their feet washed and new shoes, all to help 's goal of putting 75,000 new shoes on needy children worldwide. Now, let's talk cars. Like me on facebook Drivingthenation follow me on twitter @drvingthenation

I have been a fan and follower of many other WaPo chats for a few years now. Only just in the past few months became a devotee of yours, Warren and Lou Ann. Can't tell you how much I enjoy your chats. I was just catching up on the most recent chat. And I found this from Warren: >> You are suffering from Congressionalitis--needing one thing, wanting another, but basically unwilling to compromise. Get over it. if you are stuck in a snowdrift, the least of your concerns will be fuel economy. You just want to be unstuck, or not get stuck in the first place. That means all-wheel-drive, or dedicated four-wheel-drive, both of which means burning more fuel. Choose. << OMG. Thank you! Wish I could send you to Congress. But I live in PA, so not likely. I drive a 2006 Infiniti 35MX, bought new. (Yeah, I know, dumb, and I'll never buy a luxury sedan new again.) It has everything I could ever want. 77,000 miles on it, about the time I have always traded in, but almost always because I started to have "problems." This car just keeps on chuggin'; no problems. I'm thinking (barring something significantly wrong) it will be my first 100,000 mile car. I have the oil changed every 3500 miles, like the dealer wants. (Got free oil changes for life when I bought the car.) There's another big service coming in the low 80s -- but that's next year. Anything I should be aware of with this model? It's truly been a dream car . . . except that the exterior styling is SO d**n boring! The interior is stunning, and that's how I chose it over an Audi A 6 all those many years ago. But OK, here I am, with maybe another 3-4 years to go (10k miles a year) and recently I find myself having whiplash looking at some of the really cool cars out there -- FINALLY! It's been a Wasteland for 4-door large sedans in the past few years (except maybe for Cadillac and Hyundai, and what an odd couple that is!) I am a sucker for fabulous styling. Couldn't find anything that spoke to me in 2006/7 (when I *needed* a car and it had to be AWD), so I settled for the M35, but I sure would like to be in love with my car's exterior next time around. I'm pretty old. So along the line, to give you an idea of my taste, I've owned a Jag XJ6, a Subaru SVX, a couple of Celicas and a Supra (not in that order). My first car, after college, was a red Karmann Ghia. I am SO SORRY I couldn't afford to keep it when I needed the next car! Oh wow, what I'd give to still have that sweet little coupe!!


BTW, enjoyed your analysis of the "buy a different car or not' decision. But it was based on monthly payments. Since forever ago, we buy cars for cash. Sometimes new, sometimes used. Is there a handy formula for deciding when an older car should be traded in? I'm appalled at the low value of my car . . . but I actually anticipated that all those many years ago, when I looked at edmunds and saw the residual value was SO bad for an Infiniti!, I just hoped Infiniti's reality would begin to match its perceived value -- never did! Bottom line: I guess my question is, if I start to see AWD sedans that turn my head, should I consider trading in/selling my 2006 Infiniti M35x or am I better off driving it for another three or four years, when it will be worth probably $5k or less? Whatever i do next -- new or used (more likely) will be for cash -- we hate finance charges and can afford up to $80k cash for a new or used car. My dream car is the Mercedes CLS sedan, but even used it seems pretty much out of reach. Thanks for your insights and for the very informative chat.

Whether your purchase decision is financed or a cash purchase all relates to your honest assessment of your personal finances. Be real about that,then assess your needs (first0 and wants. If you can afford both of them, finance or cash, go for it. We mortals can't afford the Congressional game of having our ake and eating it, too.

Warren: Did you buy the Sonic; and, if so, what do you think of it so far? Respectfully, Russell in Morgantown

No. Instead, I'm trying to persuade Mary Anne, my lovely wife, to okay a purchase of the new Subaru Forester 2.0XT wagon, which is everything that we want, need and can easily afford.

Hi Warren, We own a home with a steep mountain driveway. My ideal next vehicle would be a smaller SUV with diesel power and real 4WD including a center differential so I have a low range gear option. Is there anything on the market or on the horizon?

I have 5 guys sitting around me and they are all saying you don't need a real 4wd with a center differential to get up a steep hill. They said a decent set of tires and all-wheel drive will get you on  - Subaru, Jeep, BMW X5, Touareg, Cayenne

Warren, have you driven the Audi S4 or the S6. How would you rate them against BMW 335xi and the 535xi. Thanks

I've driven both and love both. But my heart beats especially fast for the S6--a performance car with modesty. Excellent handling. Great interior. But at a base price of $42,200, it comes in about $20,000 over the new Forester.

This came out at the Chicago auto show and I have a list of all the winners.Courtesy of Kelly Blue book










COMPACT CAR:  Hyundai Veloster

MID-SIZE SUV/CROSSOVER:  Mitsubishi Outlander  

SPORTY COMPACT CAR: Hyundai Veloster Turbo


MID-SIZE CAR:  Hyundai Sonata


FULL-SIZE CAR: Chevrolet Impala





MID-SIZE PICKUP TRUCK:  Toyota Tacoma Double Cab

HIGH-END LUXURY CAR: Porsche Panamera

FULL-SIZE PICKUP TRUCK:  Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Regular Cab

SPORTS CAR:  Ford Mustang



HYBRID SUV/CROSSOVER: Toyota Highlander Hybrid






Hi Warren - with all due respect, while the points you're making in your weekly car reviews concerning industry and government trends are very insightful and educational, it seems that these are starting to overwhelm the excellent opinions, praise/criticsm we've come to expect in the vehicles being reviewed. Nuts and bolts aside, it's good to have more substance about the vehicle itself - please.

My dear fan: I understand your complaint. But I don't want to do a column that caters to brochure bits at the expense of context. I will tryy to insert more brochure bits with a lot more context. It is the challenge of writing something meaningful.

Do you know if companies will allow you to pick up cars in europe and then have them shipped to the US if they don't sell the particular models here? I am wanting to get a Passat/A6/BMW 5 series sized station wagon with a manual transmission but none of these station wagons are imported at all these days, let alone with a manual. Any suggestions? Thanks,

I've done a couple of stories on European delivery and the one thing I remember is that they can't let you buy a car that is not for the U.S. market because they may not meet safety or emission regulations.

This may have changed, so check it out. If it has changed email me at lou at carlist dot com

I'm trying to decide the best SAFETY compromise between small cars like Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris etc and full size cars like Ford Taurus. What are some examples of cars of middle or compact size that carry EXCELLENT best safety ratings? And also, is a sedan inherently safer than a hatchback?

You can look at something such as the Ford Fusion or new  Honda Civic. But keep in mind that safety is relative. A Ford Taurus running into a big SUV changes the safety equation for the driver of the Taurus, just as a Honda Fit smashing into a Taurus changes the safety equation for the driver of the Fit. Buckle up. Drive carefully.

Warren: Maybe you can pass this along to the car show guys. I'm a car guy. I go every year. It's like a pilgrimage. But I'm thinking about quitting next year. I really wanted to see the C7. They didn't have it. (Apparently they knew it was a problem because they had a huge sign out front saying that the C7 wasn't there. Points for being stand-up about it, but still a fail.) Porsche's second consecutive absence? Really? The bigger problem (from the car mfr's POV, anyway) is that I didn't see anything that made me want to open my wallet. And ask my wife - I *always* want a new car. If you can't get me interested in a new car, then you have a problem.

This is not the auto show's fault, it is the manufacturers. I wrote Chevy 2 weeks before the show and asked if they were going to bring it because I was going to tweet about it (yes, Warren and I were at the show). They said no, they were taking it to the Chicago auto show. Chicago is a bigger market for them.

Read last week's chat - we gave Porsche a hard time for not being there. DC is the 4th largest luxury market (according to Scott Keogh, President of Audi), so why wouldn't they be there.

I think there should be more congressional types there;; kudos to the mayor for showing up, and Sec Chu and Mayor Ballard from Indianapolis. But VP Biden was supposed to walk the show and didn't. None of Congress did. Mary Nichols from CARB was there and Gina McCarthy from EPA.

The show is for all of you, the consumers. I will send this to Porsche and Chevy again, so please don't give up on them.

See you there next year.

I'm looking at VW Jetta TDI. Is there any reason why diesel fuel prices are so much more expensive than gasoline besides taxes per gallon? Because my rough calculation is that any savings from improved mileage gets lost to increased diesel prices. I'm guessing that Washington decided to tax truckers through diesel fuel. Unfortunately it really hurts commuters who want to buy a good MPG diesel commuter car.

Your guess is close to right. Add this: We don't have a real energy policy in this country. We also tend to substitute politics for science. Fact: Diesel is 30 percent more efficient than gasoline in terms of work done per unit of fuel burned. Fact: Advanced diesel engines and fuel (15 ppm sulfur in diesel) burn quietly and cleanly. Fact: None of thopse facts seem to make sense to politicians beholden to the petroleum industry.

I was interested in the Acura RDX (size, features, comfort, a bit of luxury) until I noted that it requires premium gas. That's a deal-breaker for me. Will I be happy with a CR-V or is there another comparable to the RDX?

Seriously, take a look at the 2014 Subaru Forester. Both the 2.5-liter flat four and the turbocharged 2.0XT run on regular, although I personally would run only premium in the higher compression turbo model.

Only thing that may meet posters requirements is the 2014 Jeep Grand Cheroke diesel. Not sure what OP means by center differential. GC had a transfer case and low range. And Warren 5 guys you are talking to maybe wrong since all dont know the % of grade or if its a paved driveway. A dirt driveway with a serious pitch and you might just need a SUV with a locking rear diff. Poster should consider a Wrangler Rubicon. It's not a diesel and probably never will be but it will get you anywhere. Clifton VA  (P.S. Sorry, I'll come to DC Auto Show when they move it to the Dulles Expo Center.)

Clifton, Warren and I missed you at the auto show. We were so hoping to meet you in person.

The pitch  of the hill - You are right and the guys have bowed their heads.

I talked to Mike Manly, Pres and CEO of Jeep yesterday and he said the 2014 Jeep GC would be coming out in diesel, so you are right again. Now I bow my head.

We don't know if any other vehicle that has a center differential, we're not sure if the Cayenne has it or not.

Thanks for keeping us real, Clifton.

Drive them on a long test drive. You have to make the decision. Audi and BMWs are two totally different driving experiences. BMW is more RWD biased etc. Audi is more FWD biased. Yes both are AWD but the chassis for the Audi was FWD and the BMWs are RWD. Just remember the BMWs have run flats. Clifton VA

I'd put it another way: If you have no Walter Mitty racetrack fantasies, buy the Audi. If you are more concerened about power and handling, buy the BMW. Keep in mind that you both will move at the same speed, or not move at all, in the typical U.S. traffic jam.

According to a rep at the Kia display, the newest version of the Forte is just a couple of months away from dealers, yet there wasn't one on display at the Washington auto show, which makes no sense to me. For comparison, Fiat had a 500L on display, and that model isn't due in dealerships till this summer. Guess which manufacturer has earned more of my goodwill?

Unfortunately, the same answer applies to this email as the person asking about the C7, the Chicago auto show has more press coming to the show than the DC auto show.

This is changing, but slowly.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, I am looking to replace my car that is getting too costly to repair. I have my eyes on the following siblings: Acura RDX/Honda CRV, Audi Q5/Volkswagen Tiguan, and Infiniti EX37/Nissan Rogue. In your estimation, since I can get leather/sunroof/electronic toys that I pine for in the non-luxury marques at a significantly lower cost than their luxury brethren, should I go this route or should I really give the luxury brands a second thought? Thanks for your feedback!

If you really want a less-luxury marque in the compact crossover/wagon category, that a look at the 2014 Subaru Forester which, I think, is the best of the lot in your selected category.

Warren, Had a major warranty issue with my 2012 Grand Cherokee. Manassas Jeep and their service manager Margaret handled is very professional manner. She was able to expedite the part delivery from sometime in late March to less than 10 days. Jeep picked up the rental car tab. Best dealer warranty repair claim I have ever experienced in over 30 years of buying new cars. Manassas Chrysler and Jeep is one of the few small family owned dealerships left in the DC area. They now have a customer for life. Clifton, VA

Smart dealer. How are you doing, Clifton?

My 2004 Matrix is on its last breath and I am ready to trade it in for a new (used) car. Ive narrowed it down to either a 2008 Mazda 3 hatchback or a 2010 Rav 4. The Mazda 3 has less miles despite being an older car, and has more upgrades, leather seats, bose souds, sunrood, etc. But the Rav 4 has more space an, in my simple mind, the brand recognition and stability. Do you have suggestions or reviews that can help ,me tip the scales one way or another? BTW, the price difference is $1000 and the Mazda 3 is manual. Thanks!

You sit inside the car, you will wish you had all the amenities, buy the Mazda3.

I would want a manual in a Mazda3.

My recollection is that Lou Ann once posted a list of convertibles that started under $50,000. Do you have a current list? Thanks.

Lou Ann? Help, please.

Wrong. Diesel fuel is also home heating oil one reason for high cost. In the US diesel fuel is not a high priority for refineries because of low demand. Another reason for high cost.  Also in the US unlike the EU and UK our govt doesnt give tax breaks to diesel fuel and diesel powered cars. Now if we had a rational energy plan in this country we would encourage long haul truckers to convert from diesel to natural gas maybe with tax breaks but we have an energy plan based on the Obama's daughter's wanting to save polar bears. Clifton VA

I disaagree, Clifton. Diesel fuel is used for home heating oil, yes. But it remains at least 30 percent more efficient than gasoline in over the road transportation, which is why so many truckers use it. Diesel should be made a major part of our national effort to reduce concumption of petroleum.

The lease on my current car is up in September, and I'm already thinking about the next car. I was seriously considering a Buick Verano, but I'm starting to think that even an entry-level luxury car might be beyond my means. So, I'm thinking Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra or Nissan Sentra, all of which would be the top trim, with bells and whistles. Do Warren or Lou Ann think that one is heads and shoulders over the others or can suggest another car to consider? Thanks.

I put your car to the test of 2 car and driver guys that are sitting in front of me in the media center at the chicago auto show (thanks, mike simari and alexander stoklosa). Alex agrees with me that we would choose the Buick Verano. The inside is lush (I love the chicochianno?  color) and it is sooo quiet. Mike thinks the Focus or Elantra. His girlfriend has an Elantra and she loves it.

Here's a link to the 2012 Buick Verano I wrote

What are the chances that the new Nissan Versa Note hatchback will get the same or better EPA ratings as the sedan? With greater interior space, it could give the Fit some serious competition.

I would assume that the new Versa Note (as its called in Japan) will get close to the mileage of the Japanese model. But that is a risky assumption, because cars tested in Japan use a different test protocol.

Sorry Warren its not as simple as boy racer vs real world. I grew up driving FWD cars like Rabbits and GTIs and then I got a BMW. I test drove a lot of SUVS before I purchased my Grand Cherokee. Ford Explorer is based on a FWD chassis and Grand Cherokee is RWD. I prefer the handling and feel of a RWD others might not. and yes you can feel the difference in AWD. Its the transverse engine and weight distribution. Clifton VA

Well, we disagree again. I'vc driven Audi automobiles all over the world and have loved practically every one of them. They just make sense--good performance, great intyerior, reasonable fuel economy, excellent overall safety. What else do I need? At what price?

How am I doing? Not to bad. Worried about Sequestration since I am a Fed. Question would attendance improve if the DC Auto show moved out to the Dulles Expo Center? I think it would. Clifton, VA

Sebastian Blanco from autoblog and I went to the DC auto show. Neither of us think it has anything to do with where the show is. Sebastian (who is one of the six guys sitting around me) said, "you can't get much easier to get to than the DC auto show."

The LA, Detroit, NY, Chicago auto shows are more manufacture based. DC, SF are more dealer based. If DC can get the manufacturers more involved there will be more top vehicles there and more consumers will come see the cars.


Subaru did have a 2014 Forester at the Washington auto show (though not an XT and it could be touched only by Subaru reps (who were very gracious about showing the car, opening doors, etc.)). So, Warren, I see that the 2014 Forester XT is at the top of your list -- it's at the top of mine, too! Have you driven one yet?

Yes, which is why I'm ready to open my wallet (assuming my resident Republican, when it comes to spending money, approves). I don't want to return it to Subaru, especially with a winter storm approaching. It's a well-built, easy driver. The rear suspension has been revised to give it a softer overall ride. But handling is controlled, precise. More of a wagon than anything else, which I love. Here's hoping that Mary Anne relents.

Mustang either V6 or V8 or Camaro V6 or V8. Both produce more grins than anything from Audi, Mini, or BMW and you get out the door for around $30K CLifton VA

The guys (journalists sitting with me at the chicago auto show media table) want a harder one than that.

The answer was in stereo - Mustang V8.

What else do I need? RELIABILITY. That's what.

Safety and Reliability are givens. Are you suggesting that BMW cars don't break down? Really?

If your high-performance luxury car is shod with low-aspect ratio tires, please keep it parked somewhere safe. Those narrow tire are no good in the snow, even worse with ice. Park it. Wait for spring.

This is more of a repair question than a purchase question, but here goes: When it recently got really cold (20 degrees) , the low-pressure tire light came on in our Honda Civic. The light went off when the outdoor temperature warmed up. Is this a common glitch, or a warning that we should check the air pressure?

Common problem, because air volume responds to ambient temperature. It shrinks in the cold and expands in the heat. Consult your owner's manual for suggestions of  inflation in given climates.

Hiya Warren and Lou Ann--Thanks for doing these chats. When comparing the Subaru Outback versus the Subaru Forester, what are the major points of distinction? I typically like station wagon body styles, but the new Forester is appealing. Is one more car-like and the other more SUV-like? I will drive them both, but I wanted to get a little smarter before doing that. Thanks!

The Outback is the consensus.  Steve Ewing from autoblog said he likes it because It's more car-like, more like a tall wagon.

Chris from autoblog was a contrarian and said Jeep Wrangler.

No one said Forester.

Warren, Since its dealer based I am willing to bet attendance would increase 30% if they moved it to Chantilly. Yeah no Metro but parkings free and its just off Rt 28 and I66.

I'm tempted to agree with that one, Clifton, although the attendance numbers at the Washington Auto Show at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center remains quite high. But it probably could be higher if DC officials did something about parking--providing more legal parking , poerhaps on a weighted basis, higher prices for larger vehicles ands lower prices for smaller models.

Warren, have you given thought to just turning the chat over to the Clifton dude, and you and Lou Ann send in snarky answers? I mean, as long as he tells Ria to eat lunch!!!


I tried the link from a few weeks ago about adjusting the side-mirrors so there aren't any blind spots. It works! Wish I'd known about this years ago.

You are welcome.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, We have a second little one on the way, a dog, and make frequent trips from VA to NJ and NY to visit family and friends. We're looking to upgrade from our fun, but impractical Toyota FJ Cruiser. Something true 4x4 or excellent AWD. We like the idea of a 3rd row seat, but not at the expense of someone's head resting against the rear window. We're considering a 2010 or 2011 Tahoe or Q7. Any thoughts would be most appreciated. Thank you!

Mary Anne? This is why we should at least look at the new Forester. Miss Parks loves it--hops right in, stretches out on rear seats. No paw marks. And she stays back there with no barking. Let's do this, honey.

The rule of thumb I've always heard is that tire PSI goes up or down roughly 1 PSI per 10F of temperature change. Seems roughly accurate in my experience. If the reader's tire pressure light is going off and on depending upon the temperature, it might be a good time to check their tire pressures generally. - Autocrosser


Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: WSJ had a story last May about long-haul truckers converting to engines running on natural gas. Apparently, while the engines cost $30,000 more, truckers are getting back $27,000 in savings the first year. Keep up the great work pushing for a more sensible energy strategy. Garey in Ottawa

People need to think about the long-term use of fuel. We can't keep all our truckers on diesel if the price of diesel is going to be volatile. Almost Everything you own is trucked around the states. Truckers profits depend on stability of fuel price.

Natural gas heats our homes. Do we want to switch to natural gas on vehicles? Will we be able to figure out clean coal before natural gas runs out, or will there be another solution?

As more third world nations become more dependent on energy to bring them our of poverty the U.S. needs to become less dependent on other countries for its needs.



It's not either/or. It's both. Natural gas, for commercial carriers and private transportation, will require filling stations, such as the one Honda makes available for its natural gas models.

We thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thank you Lou Ann, Dominique Vu, and Ria Manglapus. Thank you, Michelle Dawson, for all of the work you are doing contacting our local dealers.  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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