Real Wheels Live

Mar 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

I'm just back from the Geneva Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland. All types of wonderful art that can drive were shown. There was a whole hall dedicated to the 24 hours of Lemans. Volkswagen Group brought out a new Lamborghini, Audi A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid, Volkswagen Golf GTE, Bentley, Skoda, Seat. Some of these brands you may not have heard of but they are owned by Volkswagen. We all now Porsche and they showed the 919.

Jeep and Fiat were out in force, showing the new Renegade. People were divided - they either loved it or hated it. Maserati brought out the Alfieri that was, of course, beautiful.

The events in Russia and Ukraine did seep into the show. I did a piece on it to show how many cars are sold in Russia and by whom. I was also on the John Batchelor radio show talking about it. You can find that on the same link.

Let's chat about cars

Like me on facebook

follow me on twitter

Lou Ann Hammond

We have been saving for a long time, and now would like to indulge. Porsche Cayman (can't afford the 911) , Audi TT, BMW M3 or another suggestion? We have test driven them all and all have their good points. I personally like the Cayman and the wife likes the M3. But we are open as this is a big purchase for us. Thanks for any help, suggestions, and any other things to consider.

Get the Cayman. Or the Toureg, the Vw equivalent. Actually,from the standpoint of cost and value, the Touareg makes moe sense. Pretty much the same vehicle.

Lou Ann here:

I like the Cayman or the Audi TT. That TT is a beautiful ride.

The replacement costs will decrease. LEDs are Not bling. They make perfect common sense--mre candle power using less energy.

I just wanted to add a tidbit about last week's discussion on LEDs. My life Mon-Thurs is spent inside rental cars and I've noticed that this technology is now very much mainstream, no longer a "wow" or "bling" feature. It is prevalent on some rental mainstays like the Chevy Impala, and I've had LEDs on my last couple rentals- the new Corolla (which is surprisingly nice) and a new base model Jeep Cherokee. So I imagine the replacement costs for the LEDs should see be headed downward in the near future.  (P.S. I think someone on this thread always talks up the Jeep GCs.) I would say that the Cherokee is nice, but I couldn't get over how ugly the front is — it brings back memories of the Pontiac Aztec, one of the worst looking cars in recent memory.

Good Morning weary traveler :)

I bet you have stories to tell about rentals.

I talked to Audi's Research and Development guru, Dr. Hackenberg while I was in Geneva this week for the Geneva auto show. He agrees with you that there will be more LEDs and that the price for replacement will come down.

The big thing now is lasers. Audi will come out with laser lights on cars, but they will first be on racing cars, so watch out for them.


Warren/Lou Ann, I notice that you frequently make the general comment that BMW charges you for every little option while Audi represents a much better value. In my experience cross shopping the two brands for 2 different purchases over the years I haven't found that to be necessarily true. I shopped the X3 vs the Q5 (bought the X3) and the 328i vs the A4 (bought an Infiniti G37). I found that when it is time to buy and look at the specific options and numbers, both BMW and Audi are equally guilty of some outrageous gouging. There are extra charges for basics that you expect should be standard for an entry level luxury vehicle — metallic paint (!!), leather, heated seats come to mind. Most of the popular options are grouped together in fancy sounding packages like "premium" and "prestige" which pad the sticker by thousands. For both our purchases, when comparing equally (fully) loaded versions of BMW and Audi, the BMW X3 and 328 were cheaper than the Q5 and A4. I think another factor not mentioned very much in your chats in cost of ownership. Resources like Edmunds allow you to project your costs beyond just your car payment. That seems to be an overlooked aspect of car buying. Compare things like BMWs free maintenance for 4 years/50K miles vs. Audi's one free service at 5k miles, then it's all out of pocket. Same for Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti. Of course, Acura, Infiniti, and Lexus are much better about providing standard options at a much lower price point than either of the German brands and I am quite happy with the Infiniti G37 we have as well.

I use the resources you mention. And I insist that BMW charges for too many options, espcially when compared with rivals. My choice woulf be Audi for better value.

My only hesitation in buying an Audi is that I would just be buying a dressed up VW. And the new Porsche Macon looks like a dressed up Audi Q5. Am I way off base on these views?

Witness my answer to day on Porsche Cayman versus VW Touareg. Lots of joint-venturing going on in this industry.

Hi Warren, Thanks for your helpful advice over the years. We are looking at a MB GL. Between the GL 450 and the 350 Bluetec, which would you recommend? Do diesel engines require extra maintenance? And in your estimation, does the higher cost of diesel offset the mileage gains? While we will be carting around a family, we won't be towing anything. Thanks for your thoughts.

I'd go with the Bluetec diesel, about 30 percent more fuel efficient than gasoline model. And I like the favorable torque difference. You'' be using low-sulfur diesesel, which is qidely available nowadays.

Morning all. Just a couple thoughts on whether it is worth it to spend extra to get a diesel and whether you will make up the premium difference. My 2012 Jetta Premium TDI is at 30K. Total MPG overall since acquisition is 39.7mpg in all conditions. Total Cost per mile is $0.90. (only costs to date were 20 bucks for some bulbs, and the cost to patch a tire.) When compared to a standard gasoline engine Hyundai Elantra (0.11 or higher cost per mile) or similar car getting around 30 MPG overall, even with a difference of 40 cents between unleaded and diesel on average, gas costs are $500 less annually with the diesel. For those like me who plan on retaining a car for a while (past 5-6 years) the premium works out in my favor, besides the great torque and driveability. If you retain cars for a shorter length of time, then you will break even or lose some money by going for the more expensive diesel. Also to get a pretty realistic sense of what real world drivers are getting on average, take a look at, which allows users to post all their fillups and track mileage. Good sense of what real world drivers are getting rather than what the car company brochures tell you you'll get (Yeah, talking to you, Hyundai.) Thanks all, safe and happy driving from St. Louis.

There is nothing I love more than real world knowledge. Thank you for all this information. I have not heard of but I will take a look, thank you.

I love diesel for their torque. I had a Volkswagen Passat TDI and a Honda civic at the same time and once you drive the two engines back to back you realize how much more power you have and how much safer you feel going up a hill with another car powering up behind you.

Yes, there is a premium on diesel fuel because that is what trucks use on the highways and they are big and heavy and that tax helps fix the roads that go bad quicker because of their weight, but diesel gets better mileage, so it helps.

Thanks for the real world data

Your answer to the first post seems odd. The Touareg is an SUV, whereas the Cayman is a sports car. You must be thinking of the Cayenne <->Touareg.

Yes, I was thining of the Catenne. My apologies. Yes, the Cayman is a sports car.

Porsche Cayman is 2 seater sports car. VW Touareg is a pretty large SUV. You probably meant to say Cayenne, which is the Porsche SUV.

Yes, my apologies. I was thinking Cayenne. But Porsche and Vw, acros the board, are a lot closer than you might think.

Unless my eyes decieved me, I did not see any Jaguar models in the lastest issue of Consumer Reports--Annula car issue, Too few sold? Has Jaguar improved their quality, fit and finish?

Doesn't surprise me. Jaguar buyers are a breed apart from the Consumer Reports crowd. They tend not to be as "practical." I measure Jaguar by talking to actual owners--long term and newbies. They still love the marque.

I'm looking to buy a new car and trade in/sell my old one. Current car is a 2007 Honda Fit, manual transmission, low mileage. Great condition performance-wise, but has a few little scrapes and dings from parking in my office garage. Nothing major, just cosmetic blemishes. Two questions: 1) Should I trade it in at the dealer where I buy my new car (likely not a Honda), or sell it independently or through CarMax or something? 2) Should I invest in some bodywork to get it prettier for selling, or am I likely not to recover the cost of such an investment?

Sell it independently through CarMax. fix those blemishes, if you man. Makes for a better price to you.

Lou Ann here:

You can also list it for free on

What's your opinion on the new Legacy? Is it a great improvement on the previous version? How good are the safety features? How does it compare with other cars in its category?

Subaru is going directly after the Toyota Camry market. Remember, that subaru is an all-wheel drive and they say the new 2015 will get 30 mpg.

I love Subaru's new and improved optional EyeSight system with new camera technology. We were going down the road with cruise control/distronic on and it was really sunny and the system warning light came on told us that it was too bright to be accurate.  TtheLegacy I drove had blind-spot detection, lane-change assist, and rear cross-traffic alert systems. You can get those on the Premium trim level, and they are standard on Limited models. Good car.

Forget the M3, the Cayman and TT and do yourself a favor and test drive the 2014 Corvette. Its the best of the bunch by far. M3 has gotten way to fat and big and lost its soul. The best M3 was the 1988 to 1991 M3. Its still the best handling BMW ever produced and that includes the M1. Clifton, VA

I, at least, agree with the Corvette part.

Lou Ann here:

I agree. I love the Corvette. Thanks for the reminder.

Since you brought lasers up, any word from Audi on why a defocused laser is a good thing?

Actually, I asked the President of Audi that at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January in Las Vegas, NV. Audi is on the cutting edge, they like to be the first in technology and they see lasers as the next best thing.

You to add DEF fluid every 6000 to 10000 miles. If you dont the vehicle goes into limp home mode and then refuses to operate. They dont have spark plugs but spark plugs now go a 100K miles. Oil changes are slightly more expensive and you still have to change the engine air filter as required by Mercedes. Clifton, VA

Really, Clifton. The add-blue exhaust treatment, based on extant reports, seems to be working quite well while at the same time reducing particulate diesel emissions. I'm reasonably certain that the people buying Bluetec diesel technology are intelligent enough to follow add-blue (chemical urea to reduce nitroxides) instructions.

Considered buying till Consumer Reports gave it a negative review. Went to Edmonds and read horror stories about the V6 VCM engine. What's your take on it? Roy S.

I never liked the Crosstour and would not consider it even if CR gave it a glowing review. It's a vehicle without much of an audience which weakens its resale value. It is one of the few Honda mistakes.

Huge exception, Porsche's flat six engines are not in VW. Audi and VW are much more "twinned," and share more engine and drivetrain and chassis similarities, overall.

Ok, and?

Well CFL have been out for a while, and the cost has dropped, but they still aren't cheap when compared to the lights we grew up with. Yeah they last longer but its the up-front cost when you go and purchase 6 of them that counts. I have driven various cars with LEDs and still haven't found any that are better than a good set of after-market Hella halogen headlights, driving lights, fog lights, and pencil beams. Hella makes everything, but the headlights in LED at 3 to 5 times the cost, and the good ole halogens still light the road better and easier to wire in. LEDs may require ballast and resistors to work without flickering. Clifton, VA

Nothing is cheap when measured agianst what we were reared with. Still, LEDs make sense.

I have driven them all on the street and the track. BMWs best chassis ever from a handling perspective was the E30. The newer M3s have stability control and traction control but nothing beats an educated right foot and limited slip diff for driving fun. Electronic and computer controlled nannies take all the fun out of driving and can be dangerous in the snow. ABS actually gives you longer braking distances in deep snow. Clifton, VA

Fine, for people who have time to visit the track on a regular basis and who have the money to do it. But for the rest of us. we're looking for something more affordable.

I'm looking at the 2014 Nissan Rogue - would you recommend it? I'm specifically considering the SL + premium package. The one thing I want that isn't even offered for it is a remote starter. Salesman said I could add an after-market version, no problem. I've no experience with after-market anything, particularly something so integral to the car's performance, like starting it up. Any insights into the Rogue in general? And any insights into the reliability/advisability of an after-market remote starter?

I have to look at my sheet to remind me of all the compact suvs in the market. The ones I have listed are

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

GMC Terrain.

They're not in any logical format, just as I remember them.

Nissan is a value for its money car. I also like the Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5. I like the Buick Enclave better than the Encore, so I would look at the any of those 3.

The reason I like the CX-5 better than the Rogue is the powertrain and drivabiity of a Mazda. just better zoom-zoom.

Check both of the other vehicles out and see if they have a remote starter as optional. If not, aftermarket is good  but sometimes when it is put on by the manufacturer they offer more enhancements.

let me know next week what you think or send me an email at lou at

Honda showed a Civic Type-R Hatchback at Geneva's auto show. Any chance we'd see a Civic Hatchback in the US (of any type)?

What say you, Lou Ann? Honda people answer that one in Geneva?

I enjoy listening to books on CD in the car. From time to time, when I buy a book on CD, the CDs get stuck when I try to eject them from the CD player. This never happens for the books I get from the library. I can only assume the store bought CDs are a fraction of an inch bigger. So far, I have always managed to eventually get the CD to eject. Sometimes, it takes several attempts and a quick hand to grab the edge of the CD before it slides back into the player. Any easy fixes? Other than not buying CDs and only going with the ones from the library.

Not that I know of, but I'm putting this out there for the many commuters that love to listen to audio books.


Was a comment on your comment that "...Porsche and VW, acros the board, are a lot closer than you might think."

I'm just saying that both companies work together on a anumber of projects, often use he same suppliers, and conflate their corporate relationship in other ways.

I am having issues with a 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5. The control systems for the transmission, keys and bluetooth are not working. Do you have any knowledge about these issues from your experience? The dealer service techs cannot reproduce the issues each time it has been in and am at a loss for an explanation. Thanks.

Yes, In fact, check out the latest annual CR car issue. Nissan has fallen to 18 in Rankings, largely because of consumer complaints about those problems. Nissan is working hard to fix things. You ought to be able to catch a price break on repairs. nissan is aware of the difficulties.

Often questions come in regarding repair/maintenance of existing vehicles. Warren and Lou Ann are focused on the new car market, covering new car shows, new models, manufacturer announcements, etc., and that's fine. But have you considered adding a person (mechanic/garage owner etc) who can really address the questions about how and when to keep a car? There's a built in tendency for Warren and Lou Ann to suggest replacing cars, to get the latest technologies/features, but annually only about 1 in 10 owners can replace their car.

Yes. But we're also sskeptical about taking consumer complaints online and then trying to "fix" the problem without actually seeing the car.

I like hatchbacks and small wagons. Is anything new on the horizon?

Small wagons from Audi (based on A4) and Subaru. Harchbacks all over the place.

I'm skeptical there's a difference in size between store-bought and library CDs!

I don't know. Perhaps it is only this person's CD player? There are plenty of commuters and some of you have to do the same thing - some from the library, some purchased.


Any idea if the Golf convertible is going to make it across the pond? We need a 4 seat, manual transmission convertible that is bigger than the Mini; kids are getting big, but as short as possible for parking. Not many choices out there. Thanks.

Depends on how the Golfs that are here will do. Volkswagen is trying to figure it out.

There was even a question by one of the board members if I thought they should bring Skoda to the US market.

Bought my first domestic vehicle this year - 2014 Ford Focus. Love the drive but am stumped - the recycle air turns off after 5 minutes. I've timed it several times and called Ford. They said this is a feature so my windshield doesn't fog. In the 30 years I've been driving — I've always used recycle when using AC. Is it not more efficient?

I always use recycle when I'm going by something that stinks. Why would Ford turn it off after 5 minutes? In China people drive with their recycle on because the air outside is so bad.

Who in Ford told you this?

Warren and Lou Ann, what are your thoughts on CVTs? I've driven several and have yet to find one that I'd be willing to buy. They just feel strange to me. If I can't have a manual, I'd rather have a good regular automatic than a CVT any day.

CVTs, continuously variable transmission, which used no fixed gears, haelp to save fuel.I've yet to run into a throttle jockey who likes them. But I've driven a number of CVTs and find them much to my liking in the matter of fuel economy.

Any reaction to this recent article?:

he article does not surprise me. Even global cacompanies are preparing for a "leveling" of sales. We'''ll see.

Lou Ann, have you had the good fortune to drive one? If so, what was it like? I have seen several on the road now, and I have to say that is is a breathtaking piece of machinery.

I have not had the good fortune yet. At the Geneva auto show they were there in force along with other beautiful mobile art forms. One, a Gumpter Apollo. Watch - I have videos of all of them and will be putting them up in the next couple days.

Morning, folks. Any update on the possibility that VW will bring the TDI version of the Tiguan to the U.S.? Many thanks.

Yes. I'm looking at 2016.

I'm looking into buying a small crossover and have been told that I can get an after-market roof rack installed later. Is that a good idea? And would cross bars be a good idea while I'm at it?

Please, if you are thinking about installing a roof rack, DO Not get your intended vehicle with a panoramic glass roof.  Makes no sense to me.

My 2003 Subaru turns off the recirculate after a period of time. So did my prior cars, a Mitsubishi and an Oldsmobile. Maybe there are fresh-air fiends at the A/C plants?

I'll have to check this.

Gotta say I am LOVING my experience with them so far. The search functions on their website are so easy to use (SO much better than the manufacturers' websites), the email alerts work perfectly, and the idea of just paying the price that's on the car takes all the pain out of it for me. Plus knowing that I can get absolutely exactly what I want if I'm patient, it all makes the!

The internet has made all of our lives so much easier. You can also find good cars on and Keep your options open

Hi, I read your column and respect your knowledge of the auto industry. That said, we are looking to buy our son a new or newer car to replace the older model he's driving and I would like your help. As a fairly recent college grad he's grateful for the gift and is looking for great gas mileage (at least 35 MPG), but doesn't seem to have much preference beyond that. I'm looking for safety features to include one that actually has Bluetooth compatibility with an iPhone 5 (My cars says it has it, but even the dealer can't make it connect all the time). We've tested the Honda Accord, and the new Hybrid seems to be a good choice for both safety and MPG. We've also looked at other vehicles both new and used to include the Kia Optima Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, and Nissan Altima. Along with makes/models, what are some buying tips you'd suggest and things to consider when buying for younger drivers. Thanks!

You are looking in the right direction. Check out the new Civic. Also take a look at the new Subaru Forester, not exaftly hip for a fresh college graduate, but a darned good, safe vehicle.

Service where I bought it told me. They also forwarded my concern to regional who said the same thing and claims to have a call in to tech for further clarification. Also, recycle does NOT work on windshield vents without AC and, again, they said this is intentional.

send me an email at lou at telling me the names of the dealerships. I will follow-up with Ford Motor co. and find out why.

Just doesn't make sense to me either.

Obviously they've never been stuck on the Beltway.....behind a truck. Or driven through New Jersey.

exactly! This doesn't make sense and I want to find out why.

Any chance you know how much this will cost?

Not yet.

Is there a new Ford Edge coming? The existing model is the right size for my needs, but the engine/drive-trains need an update, IMHO.


Just like Lou Ann, I'm in love with the TT..have been for years, bought another nice car, 10K cheaper but I can't get my mind off of the TT. So, I'm thinking of waiting for the new 2015 model and lease it. I drive less than 5,000 miles a year, so it may make more sense to me. Leasing never did to me before, but I'm 50 and think that, after a few years, I'll either decide to get another car or just keep the TT for the long haul. What do you think? About waiting for the newer model and leasing it? I'd sell my current car for about 20k, and I can afford the payments.

You will love the new video I shot at the Volkswagen Group  nightof the TT and tTS. Trust me, if that car were a man, I would be pregnant. :)

I'm with you, leasing is like having a parent that tells you what to do with the car and how long you stay out at night. Buy the bloody thing, keep it till you can't get in it and enjoy the H**L out of it.

Thank you all for dropping buy today. Please return next week. Thanks to Angela Wong for a fine production. And to Lou Ann Hammond for her always welcome contributions. And to Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson for all they do. Eat lunch. Have a great weekend.

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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: