Real Wheels Live

Feb 15, 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.

Warren - I'm interested to hear your opinion on the Tesla-NYTimes bruhaha this week. If the Telsa logs are correct (ie. not fabricated) then it seems that the reporter did go somewhat out of his way to push the car beyond standard usage. I drive on the interstate a lot, and can't imagine changing speed as much as those logs show he did. If anything though, this incident has further convinced me that science education in this country is completely terrible. How the reporter could have possibly thought that regenerative braking could reclaim more energy than went into speeding up the car in the first place is beyond my comprehension. In the presence of friction (ie. the real world) there is always energy leaking out of a system.

Good Morning,

I read Mr. Broder's review of the car, and his subsequent blogs. I was surprised to find out that the article wasn't supposed to be about the car, but about the Superchargers that Elon Musk is spearheading. According to the blogs, the NY Times has already written an article on the Tesla.

Having said all that

I drive cars everyday, usually 3 new cars a week. Sometimes I take the path the car manufacturer lays out for me, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I get lost. Sometimes I speed. All of these things are a normal part of out lives that we don't think about.

I have driven many Electric Vehicles and have gotten use to some of the nuiances of an EV. Regenerative braking is a great thing, capturing that lost energy.

Cold and heat are real energy zappers. It's a real thing.

If Mr. Broker had written the article siting these things as real the article would have been fine. He didn't.

The good thing that comes out of this article is that an Electric Vehicle, and the energy infrastructure, isn't ready to be a cross-country mode of transportation.

It doesn't mean we should stop trying, in fact, just the opposite.

At the Washington auto show I talked to a Verizon executive and he said that Workers at 4 verizon offices were asked if they would buy an EV if Verizon put charging units in to charge their cars while they were at work. 80% of people who work at four offices said yes.

Secretary Chu says we're spending $1 billion a day on imported oil. I'd like to see that money stay in the United States, personally. I'd invest in a hybrid, extended range or EV just for that reason.

That is what the story should have been about. IMO.

In his 2/14 column, The Post's Eric Wemple reported on a dispute between NYT reviewer Broder of his test of the 85w Tesler S, in which he claimed he was forced to limp along at 54 mph and finally 45 mph and froze from turning off the heater to conserve power. Elon Musk revealed that in-car monitoring showed Broder drove from 60 to 85 mph and maintained a average temperature of 72 degrees. What has been your experience with the Tesla?

Neither Warren, nor myself have driven the Tesla S. We are in talks with Tesla to do so now. We will report, as journalists who write about cars all the time, and have driven EVs before, on it's performance and lack of infrastructure.


Warren, have you driven the BMW one series? (whether 128, 135) They look like fun but seem expensive. What do they offer over the three series? Thanks

I have. They are fun and they are expensive. I can have fun with any number of manufacturers at a lower cost.

Hey Warren and Lou Ann... what is it about a car's engine that some require (or recommend) premium gasoline? What's the penalty for using "regular" octane if the owner's manual recommends premium? I want to make an informed decision at the pump! :-) Thanks!

As a rule, turbocharged engines usually require premium grade fuel because they are high compression engines. Other high compressioun gasoline engines also require premiumgrade. Respect the advice ofyour owner's manual.

Hiya Warren and Lou Ann. What do you make of this whole Tesla brouhaha? Is it a case of "your mileage may vary" or do you think something is amiss with the Times article/reporting? It is curious to see how one reporter can get such widely different results than others.

It is one journalist's opinion. I expect to drive the Model S in three weeks.I will give you my take.

Thanks for taking my question. My husband and I are looking for a family car that will be primarily used for short commutes, but needs to be comfortable for occasional long road trips. We're considering the 2012 Prius and 2013 Matrix. We like the high mpg and safety of the Prius, but the comfort and traditional styling/handling of the Matrix. What would you choose?

I find the Prius to be quite comfortable, so I would stick with the Prius. At 50 mpg I find the Prius even more comfortable.

You could also consider the plug-in Prius. Since you say you have short commutes, if you have a place to plug-in at night you could energize the first 15 miles with electricity, saving a bundle of money.

A few weeks ago someone wrote in about a parasite draw and how their hands free was causing the battery to drain. I thought it was odd but last week the same thing happened to me and I have a 2009 Acura. I got no explanation from the dealer (not a warrenty issue) and when I talked to my trust mechanic he didn't know how this could happen either. What exactly causes this drain and is there any recourse I can take with Acura?

All electronic devices are subject tomicrowave interruption, which sometimes appear to be parasitic drwas fromlocal devices. It would be nice if the manufacturers would make that clear.

I'm driving my late husband's 2007 ML 330 diesel w/ 36k miles (I have a 4 mile roundtrip commute). The ML is starting to require very expensive maintenance (just replaced the oil cooler for $2k and that was a deal). I typically keep my cars for a very long time (last car, a Lexus SC400, for 14 years). My wonderful mechanic has convinced me to get top of the line extended warranty costing $5,400 for 4 years but there will continue to be additional cost and inconvenience for repairs and I'm wondering if I would be better off replacing the ML with something that will require less maintenance. If not for my dog and for hauling gardening supplies, I could drive a fairly small sedan. And I need something half way nice for clients. We had a Lexus RX before the ML but I'm resisting going back to it because I think they cut corners on the late models - seems cheap inside. I love German cars but get sticker shock w/ the maintenance. What do you recommend: get the extended warranty or suck it up and get a Lexus? Or is there a low maintenance luxury German SUV? And I know, this is a "first world" problem but a hard decision to make w/out my husband. Many thanks.

 My condolences on your loss. Keep and maintain the ML diesel as long as it is technically feasible to do so. Lots of people want to get their hands on that car.

Is it possible to install an aftermarket roof rack that will be able to safely carry the load that a factory installed rack could handle? I would like to carry up to 75 pounds. To clarify I mean the permanent rails that you can use to attach a bike or kayak carrier.

Yes, it is. Go to dealer. Dealer's usuallyhave aftermarket shops that do that sort of thing.

I have a 1992 Toyota SR5 6cyl. ext. cab pickup with 205,000 miles (original clutch) that runs well and has passed a fairly recent inspection. I also have a 2003 RAVIV with 165,000 in fairly good condition. Would it make financial sense to sell both and buy a used (if one can be found) Toyota 4x4 or a new Tacoma or keep the older cars. I'm semi-retired and financially stable but I live on a 20 acre farm in the middle of nowhere in Stafford County (my driveway is 1/2 mile long, steep and winding, with a creek to cross that sometimes washes out the road.

You're semi-retired and live out in the middle of nowhere on a long steep driveway that is sometimes washed out.

You have two old (or seasoned, as my husband would say) vehicles.

You have the money.

At this point in your life you need to spend money on your saftey. Buy a vehicle that has good ground clearance, one that  instantly hooks up to your phone when you get in the car.

If you do have a washout and you get stuck you can call someone to come haul you out.

This is the time of your life that you have saved for, invest in you.

I have a 2006 Acura TL with about 78k miles on it. I went in for a flat tire and told I need to think about replacing my timing belt, to me that seems a little early to replace don't you think? Also, I have heated mirrors which are great in winter however the heating element has caused my side mirrors to have "burn" marks all along with bottom and sides. This is a safety feature for sure but how do I get something like that covered? I've talked to others with Acura's and they've had the same issues. I mentioned this to them when my car was still under warrenty but nothing got done. Now that it's out of warrently they're quick to say I need to replace the mirrors. Knowing my luck it'll happen again. Have you heard of this and is there anything I can do about it?

It's not a conspiracy. It's just an opprtunity for fix-it shops, and they are keento take advantage. Best bet is to check with several shops.

Warren, My rough collie girl Kate wants to tell Ms Rosa Parks she should check out the Jeep Grand Cherokee. More room and quitier than the Forester.  Real 4wd with a low range if the select the right options and I am averaging between 18 to 22mpg in every day driving. Kate believes Ms Parks would really like the Overalnd edition. No need for the so called hemi though.   Clifton, VA

MissParks and Kate agree. Lots of room she can claim as herown. Funny how that works.

Hi, I know Mr. Brown has a lab. When she rides in your car, where does she sit or lay down? We have a goldendoodle (half golden retriever and half poodle), and he likes to sit in the front passenger seat. That isn't so safe, is it?

I usually confine Miss Parks to the rear seat, which is ironic, given her name. But I do it for her safety and mine. I don't need her nuzzling or kissing me in rear traffic. But now, she happily jumps to the rear, especially in luxury models. She thinks that I'm her Chauffeur.

Build the Keystone pipeleine and allow more drilling off our coasts. Sorry state govs cant prohibit and also allow expanded drill in the US. Both with appropriate safeguards to prtect the environment and water that are cost effective. And we wouldnt need to import any oil from overseas. We could even export oil and the govt could tax the exports etc like the UK and Norway do. BTW despite the Damon movie there ae no confirmed instances were fracking polluted any source of water. Clifton, VA


You should get a job as an oil lobbyist. :)

There are many ways that we could stop using as much energy as we do, there are many ways to solve our trade deficit. Yours is not the way I would do it.

Did you know that Brazil charges a 90% import tariff on some of the vehicles that are imported into Brazil (the tax depends on how production in the country etc)? That is why about 95-99% of the cars sold in Brazil are produced in Brazil.There are many things that could change if America wanted them to, if big companies didn't own Congress.

Warren, Warren, No they arent high compression. You actually reduce engine compression for turbo charging. Premium gas should be used in anything from AMG or BMW's M division and all Porsches. I would also sue premium in a Vette, Viper, Boss 302, Shelby and anything from Chrysler from their SRT division. Audi S's need it to as do VWs GTIs. Clifton VA

Okay, smarty, why? Certainly not because of the badge. Kindly elucidate.

That's why some manufacturers like Jeep offer battery safer which shuts these devices off before they drain battery to a point where the vehicle wont start. Another reason to get Grand Cherokee over the Subie,  Warren.  Clifton, VA

I like the Grand Cherokee and the Subie. But electro-magnetic interference is a real thing, which is why so many manufacturers spend so much money testing for it.

Hi Warren, you mentioned the 2013 or 2014 Subaru Forrester as the car you want to get if Marriane says yes? Does it work if you have two dogs- 50 & 70 lbs each?


What would be your vote Prius V (III) or Ford C-Max Hybrid? Plse thingk of Driving dynamics, space, features.

uhhh, good question. I might go with the Ford C-Max hybrid. Great little car.

You have two varieties: a plug-in version, called the C-Max Energi, and a standard gas-electric C-Max hybrid. I think the  C-Max is a little smaller than the Prius, but check that.

Thanks for reminding me, the C-Max has great fuel effieciency as well.

I'dgo for the C-Max...more utility and better styling.

Just some info for folks who say diesel cars are expensive to dry. Over 15K miles, with diesel averaging 3.60/gallon in Missouri. Cost to drive VW Jetta TDI, 9 cents/mile. Overall average 40mpg.   By comparison my 2011 Elantra cost 11 cents a mile to drive.

I love real world numbers, thanks for sharing. What year was the VW Jetta TDI? Were there any additional costs, breakdowns in either car?

Last week we published the Kelly Blue Book's cars that were the least to own over 5 years.

When Warren and I were at the auto show one chatter (one of you) told us that his cost to own was about 8 cents a mile on his Subaru.


The life of a timing belt is determined by mileage and age. If my car was a 2006 with its original timing belt I'd go ahead and get it replaced, especially on an interference engine. On an interference engine a timing belt break causes massive damage. I'm pretty sure Honda/Acura are interference engines.

Ah, Clifton, thank you. But keep in mind that we ordinary people need clear explanations, which usually means accompanying clear definitions. Try it. They'll like it. Thanks, again.

Poster needs check out Thule.  Clifton, VA

Thanks for the tip Clifton.

Well, when I say to my 99-pound Boxer "Go to the car" he runs out the door, pees in the yard, then stands by the rear driver's door waiting for me to open it. Of course, when he was young, he once went to the front passenger seat when my wife was joining us, which caused a little Alpha Dog conversation between the two of them.

Miss Parks  has better manners. And I never tell her,"Go to the car." I simply head in the directionof the car. She follows and politely waits for me to open the rear door. She then jumps into the rear seat and sits down, or reclines, depending on her mood. She knows and I know that I will stop at a rest stop after 40 minutes of driving. I stop and open the rear door. She gets out and does her business, but not befor nuzzling my pocket to make sure she smells the plastic of a poop bag. Smart dog. Lady Dog.

I am going out to by my first Apple laptop. Something light and tight and easy to use. No more delays after this week. Please rejoin us next week. Thanks to Matt Monahan for his wonderful production. And thanks to Lou Ann for her participation, and all of the behind the scenes work being done by Victoria Manglapus and the witty Michelle Dawson, our new dealer representative. Have a great weekend, everybody. Ria,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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