Real Wheels Live

Feb 24, 2012

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

We get a lot of questions about Minis, so many of you must own them.

If you own a MINI and want to take a vacation from july 4-15 MINI will have a country-wide jamboree of MINI motorheads rallying from the East coast to the west coast.

That's all the details I have so far.

Let's start chatting.

Have you heard anything lately about the upcoming new Miata?

I understand that Mazda has sent the Miata to the Biggest Loser Ranch. It is lifting weights and eating better and will be smaller and more powerful by 2013.

Hello. I've been reading about the new smaller Cadillac ATS due out this summer. Real deal or Cimarron redux? Thanks.

hmmm. no.

Ed Welburn, the chief designer for General Motors, is working with a bunch of young, hip kids. Some of them would only know what a Cimarron is from the history books.

Cadillac has to reinvent itself. Given the opportunity to design cars that are edgy, not full of chrome and worthy of being called luxury is what is needed for Cadillac.


Recently a local auto repair shop gave me a fraudulent diagnosis and estimate. The estimate was for $1650 and when I had another shop do the diagnosis and work it cost $110. Does consumer protection have any interest in fraud and attempts to cheat when the fraud is not consummated? Or, does consumer protection only apply to fraud cases where money has changed hands. I know that there are laws against attempted robbery, but are there similar sanctions for auto mechanics who attempt to defraud?

Do you have written estimates and diagnosis from both places? Were either of the places car dealers or independent?

I don't know if you have legal recourse, but you can complain up the heirarchy if it's a car dealership and you had written proof.

Service and parts are a big part of a car dealership. I would hate to see a car dealer being fraudulent. It gives other car dealers a bad name.


Right now I drive a Sienna minivan. Although perfect for traveling on weekends when I show my dog, it's silly to be driving that large a vehicle for my usual 10-mile daily commute to work. Although most anything reliable and gas efficient would work then, the trick for weekends is twofold. One, my dogs are Alaskan malamutes, which means a young 100 pound dog plus a crate, grooming table, and assorted grooming suppies when I travel to dog shows. Not easy to fit into most small SUVs. The reason we've opted against some of the larger SUVs is that the load height in the back is too high for the ramp my older 100 pound malamute needs to get into the vehicle. Two aspects of the RAV4 seem ideal--the load height in the back is significantly lower than, for example, the CRV or Santa Fe or Highlander, and the wheel well covers are flat, meaning I can put the folded crate and grooming table flat on them, forming a kind of shelt, and put my other supplies under that, leaving the back seat up so the dog can go there. All that said, I've not seen a lot written about the RAV4 so I don't know if, other than its function as a dog-mobile, it's a good deal. Is it? Is there another small SUV that would fit my two admittedly unique requirements?

A Honda Element, dog edition. It has a dog ramp built in and the seats flip up towards the windows out of the way.

You could also try a Chrysler minivan with stow away seats.

I have a 13-year old dog and we look at all the cars for dog-friendliness. Young dogs are easier, older dogs not so much.

Let me know if you find anything else. This is a reoccuring question on this chat.


Concerned that you have no recent road test results on Lexus models. In today's Washington Post Business section we learned the Lexus was the top performer and winner of a new dependability survey conducted by JD Power. JD polled 31,000 owners rating brands by the number of problems owners experienced in the last 12 months. Lexus was top performer. Will we get Lexus luxury car road test results soon?

I have some Lexus reviews on The new cars are just coming out, so Warren will be reviewing Lexus in the Wasington Post.

I drove the GS and loved it.

I own a 1993 Lexus and have had only one problem with it, the circuit board for the instrument panel. It's a cherry of a car.


Electric cars are getting a lot of news about their poor performance. Do you see their demise, unless its technology improves?

EVs, BEVs, PHEVs (plug-ins) are going to get more prevalent in the future. The corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) regulation says car companies have to get 54.5 mpg on average. Some of that is going to come from electric.

Batteries are in their infancy. They are big and heavy. I just drove a Fisker Karma that I loved, and would have loved more if the technology were more miniaturized, and lighter.

Give this technology another twenty years and you are going to see some serious break throughs.

I've heard car prices have gone up quite a bit, both for new and used cars. For Toyota, could it be blamed on that country's earthquake/tusuami? And here in the US, when clunkers were destroyed, thus reducing the supply of used cars?

Yes and yes, and no.

Yes on both the questions, but other interests prevail.

Hyundais cars are going up because they are in demand. So is the Chevy Cruze, in demand. Car companies don't offer the incentives to purchase a car if the car is selling well. That pushes the price of a car up.

In 2011 the average price of a car was over $30,000. People are looking for all the comforts of home in a car: technology, infotainment and fuel economy. Those things cost money.


Hi Warren, I've been looking for a small used car that is fun to drive. I've been thinking about the Impreza wagon because I like the AWD feature (I like to go into the mountains about once a month). I'm worried that I probably can't afford a used Impreza as they all seem pretty pricey. Any recommendations for a fun, sporty small car in the 8k to 12k range, ideally with less than 60k miles? Thanks!

You may not have to go that far back to find a car. I just put together a list of brand new cars under $15,000. If I remember correctly a couple of them had all-wheel drive.

Having said that, a Subaru all-wheel drive is hard to beat. Especially if you can find a decent one in that price range.

I currently own an E39 M5 with 113k miles. Sould I keep it or trade it? What Current BMW would you trade the E39 m5 for? Merci beaucoup!

Is there anything wrong with it? It's completely paid off, it only has 113,000 miles on it. Gas is only going up. Do you need a car payment plus gas plus higher DMV and insurance rates?

Keep it. If not get a 335i with an 8-speed automatic or a diesel

I really like this vehicle, but can't seem to figure out why the Quattro isn't offered with a manual tranny. BTW, should I hold my breath for the A4 with the 3.0L supercharged engine? I just don't want the 2.0L turbo.

That's interesting since the Audi TT RS only comes as a quattro with manual transmission in the United States.

America seems to get the turbo charged. Warren and I will be in Geneva in a couple weeks and we can ask them if the supercharged will be coming to America.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, Which of these three is the best all-around 5-door sport hatch on the market: Ford Focus, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza, or something else? I'm 48 and like a sporty ride, but don't want to get beat up. I currently drive a 2002 Honda Civic Si. Thanks for your sage opinion.

Ford a sporty ride I would go with the mazda 3.

I have 2 teenagers that are now both driving. They currently share at 2002 Buick (passed down from their grandfather), but by this summer they will both need to have their own wheels. I have a 2005 Trailblazer that I will pass to one of them. To replace it I am looking for a smaller used SUV. We have a full sized Ford E150 Van for hauling quantity of people and/or cargo on long trips etc. So I need something that will haul some stuff and/or people locally. I want the usual basic amenities, but don't need tons of whistles and bells. I don't care if it is sporty or super fun to drive, as I have a Corvette for fun. Looking to spend <20K. What are your suggestions that give me my best bang for the buck?

I will give you a list of suvs to drive. Narrow it down to three, come back and let's talk:

Kia Sportage

Hyundai Tucson

Chevy Equinox

Honda CRV

Toyota RAV4

Come back in two weeks, I will be here.

Good Morning, My wife and I test drove the Jeep Grand Cherokee and loved the feel, Pentastar engine and how it looked. We also test drove the Jeep Liberty which did not have the Pentastar but was a little smaller which we liked. I am still driving a 1999 Chevy Blazer and can afford to wait for the 2013 Jeep Liberty. What have you heard or seen about it regarding the size, looks and if it will have four wheel drive? In addition, what is the real difference between four wheel drive and all wheel drive?

I would get the Jeep Grand Cherokee. I love that car.

four-wheel drive versus all-wheel drive: my understanding is the ability to lock differentials that distinguishes the four-wheel drive from the all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive typically means you have four-wheel drive all the time. 

It is now between these two. I need rare but important snow/ice climbing power; distance travel twice a year (<2k round trip); and upkeep economy. Otherwise it will be a knockaround town, garden stuff hauling car. Thanks for your suggestion, or a third option if you have one.

In snow I am going with the Subaru Forester.

Good afternoon! I'm considering two vehicles, the Camaro 2LT and the 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe. I test drove the 2012 Genesis Coupe, liked it, but like the Camaro better. After seeing the 2013 Genesis Coupe at the DC auto show, I was very much impressed, and decided to hold off until it was available. Right now, I'm without a vehicle as I moved from Manhattan to DC, so this period of being with transportation is a little rough. The release date for the Hyundai seems to be getting pushed off from March to June, and after calling some dealerships, I'm getting guesstimates of June to October. Do you have any idea or educated guess when we will be seeing this vehicle hit the market? Appreciate any input! Mike Watson (mikeinnyc at verizon dot net)


I just drove the 2013 Hyunda Genesis and liked it a lot. The Camaro and Genesis are such different cars my mind doesn't compute the two.

What is it you liked about the Camaro that you see as similar to the Genesis?

I did not hear that the 2013 is getting pushed back but have a call in to find out. I have your email and will let you know as soon as I hear.

Warren, I've read your column for years - thanks for all the info. Now need advice re: my 2005 Outback, LLBean w/ 85K miles. For the last 2 yrs, the AC quits while driving. AC works on start up, works for a random amount of time, maybe an hour or so, then blows hot air. Not good on a trip, or when it's raining! Dealer has done everything they know to do and no longer charges us for attempted repairs. Internet search shows this is a common problem, but no real fixes given. I will never buy another Subaru, but need this one to last at least another 85K miles. Please advise. Thanks.

call 1-800-subaru-3 and ask them. I have a 1993 lexus and my air conditioning works fine.

Any word on availability and pricing for the coming Fusion Plug-in hybrid?  Iit seems like it will take most of the faint wind from the Volt's sails.

It's like someone that wants to go to a movie. You don't know which one you want to see, so you look at all of them. Having more options for plug-in hybrids let's people see it's not a novelty item, but a real world car that is coming on in full-force across all car lines.

Same for the Fisker Karma, the Toyota plug-in Prius.

They're here folks. just in time for the $5  a gallon gas.

My webmaster, the great Matt Magician, tells me we have dozens more questions in the que, but we have no more time.

Thanks for all the questions. Warren will be back next week.

And remember -

Never drive faster than your angel can fly.

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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