Real Wheels Live

Mar 14, 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 checked with car manufacturers around the world and suppliers. The suppliers (like Bosch) supply the air recirc devices to the auto manufacturers. They do not limit the amount of time it can be on, the auto manufacturers do.
When I was in China the chinese cars (BYD) do not limit the amount of time the recirc can be on. The smog is so bad there they let the customer decide when to recirc or not.

I asked American manufacturers and the time differs as to how long they allow the recirc to stay on, Ford is 5 minutes, Audi is 10 minutes. Audi says it's not only because of fog, but because the oxygen in the car gets stale.

By the way, I am in Sebring at the 12 hours of Sebring this weekend. I picked up the Cayman at Hertz (did you know Hertz rents Porsches? They call them dream cars :) just to drive it again. As much as I love the Audi TT, the Cayman runs a very close second. I just found out Hertz Dream Cars includes models from the following luxury car manufacturers:
Aston Martin

I've got my eye on two guys at Sebring, Scott Pruett with the Ford Performance group (and he makes a great bottle of wine) and a new guy, Sloan Urry. Sloan is driving #20 in the GT# cup challenge. He's so new that he's not even listed in the 62nd annual twelve hours of sebring catalog they give you! But Jeremy Dale, co-owner of JDX, liked this young man so I'm waiting to see what he does this weekend.

I've got videos of the qualifying race and the paddocks up on youtube. go to

Let's chat about cars

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Lou Ann Hammond

Can you recommend a sedan that has a quiet cab and engine, something that doesn't pick up a lot of road noise, for a budget up to 25k? I've developed a hearing problem and need a low decibel car...on a budget. I can't seem to find any sound/decibel ratings for new cars. Any suggestions? Thanks so much.

Buick &Regal), Toyota (Camry). Mazda 6.

Have you an experience with this? I recently joined Costco. Costco's flyers for this service say they have negotiated "prearranged pricing." But when I called the support center, I was told dealers can still add on "fees" such as "added dealer markup" that we know represent nothing but an increase in the "prearranged pricing." I do not refer to real fees, such as for dealer-added options. I recently went through this helping my sister buy a used car. The dealer's website listed a "sales price" that turned out to not be the sales price. The dealer added "fees" that the really were part of the sales price. The dealer refused to budge, and basically told us that if we were dumb enough to think that we could believe the what we saw on its website, that was our problem.

I a member of costco as well. I would use their service only if it proved to be the way it was advertised. Don't sign anything till you have the bottom figure. The best part about Costco's deal is if they give you the $500 gift certificate to spend afterwards. Then you've made the best deal on the car and you get to shop afterwards.

The pricing ultimately is up to the dealer. The dealer can use  a finder service with the promise/arrangement that the dealership will stick within an agreed price range for a certain product. But the price ultimately depends on the local market, dealer's inventory of a given model, and local demand.

I was amazed that Consumer Reports gave the redesigned Impala one of its top ratings, tied with 3 or 4 much more expensive luxury cars. Have you tried it out yet? What do you think of it?

Yeah, I was pretty amazed as well. I have tried it out, I like the car but maybe it's just my sense of a Buick still being an old person's car  - maybe I have to change the way I think of Buick. China has. China loves Buick, it's the reason GM kept Buick was because it sold so well outside of America. Who knew?

Warren, just checking to see if you have driven BMW 4 series, wondering if it is worth the price jump over the 3 series. Thanks.

InJune. Stay tuned.

I'm considering buying a new Forester and wondering if it's worth waiting until the 2015s come out. I have no idea of when they'll be out and I know the 2014 was completely redone so I'm wondering what you'd recommend. Thanks!

Funny. I think I will buy a 2014 Outback Limited. Go on and get the Forester--one of the best compact crossover utility wagons available.

Hi Warren! Thanks for taking my early submission. I just got back from a trip to Cape Town, South Africa (my hometown), where I had no choice but to rent (and learn to drive) a stick shift. (Nothing like a little pressure to learn something new.) Anyway, I fell for all the small stickshift cars that zip around that small town, many of which are not available here (think Mercedes and BMWs the size of Honda Fits; gas being about $8 a gallon, most of the cars AND TRUCKS marketed there are tiny), and now I want to replace my 2001 honda civic EX with a fun, basic, reliable, gas sipping, bare bones, inexpensive stick shifter as a good urban runabout -- four doors would be best. Suggestions? Thanks.

Welcome back. I love Cape Town and look forward to returnng with my wife sometime soon. Frankly, the Honda Fit would be perfect as an urban runabout, assuming you are running about Stateside. SA's roads are good in many places but, in many places, challenging. The Fit will serve you well Stateside.

Do you know of any driving courses that train you to drive a manual transmission more efficiently (to improve fuel economy and performance)? All of the driving courses I've seen offered are geared toward new drivers, bad drivers (who are court ordered), or people who want to drive fantasy cars (Lamborghinis, Ferraris, etc.) on a special course. I already know how to drive a manual, but haven't owned one for over 20 years. I purchased a VW Passat TDI SE three months ago and would like to be able to occasionally drive it in the manual mode without compromising fuel economy.

I'd check eith Triple A, or something like one of the BMW clubs.

Tesla versus NADA: Who wins? Rather, how long before NADA wins? And is there ever a chance that the dealership model might change?

Life is changing too fast for that dealership model not to change. How much it changes is the question. Dealers bought the franchises years ago and then had to have regulations put into place to make sure the manufacturers didn't come in and put a dealer next door to them. But what happens when a manufacturer  wants to own all dealerships? What happens when you don't have a middleman creating more cost to you  when you could order online? You look at the amount of internet sales now and you know something will change.

It is a silly fight; and I wish the dealers would relent. They are doing nothing except making Elon Musk look bigger than he is. The simple truth is that the traditional manufacturers have considerably more capital to rapitdly advance electric cars. Witness Honda and Nissan. Traditional dealers will have enough electrified cars soon enough. Were I in there shoes, and I'm not, I simply would crush Tesla in the marketplace with better, more reasonably priced products.

Hello LouAnn and Warren, if you had to choose a truck for durability, comfort (!), reliability, longevity, and value (not so worried about towing), would you have a preference? Thanks!

Are you talking a pickup truck or SUV?

Do you have animals or do a lot of hauling of equipment in the back?

I'd go with a Ford F-150. But if you do become concerned about yowing, choose a Ram 1500.

Which is more fun to drive: the Focus ST or the Fiesta ST?

It all depoends on where you are driving it. Neither one is fun in a Beltway traffic jam.

You picked a great time to be here -- and if you get a couple spare hours, run that Cayman southwest through the orange groves and take in a sunset on Captiva Island -- the best sunsets on The Other West Coast.

:) I've heard the west side of Florida be referred to as the other west coast :)

I have been in Florida many time but never to Captiva Island. Thanks for the tip.

Lou Ann didn't answer the earlier chatter's question about the redesigned Impala; she replied with something about Buicks still being an "old person's car." The Impala is a Chevy, as far as I know.

Buick, an "old person's car." Sounds like Lou Ann, if she said that, is sipping too many Cuba libres in a Florida afternoon. The simple truth, and it is one now respected worldwide, is that Buick is making some of the best designed, best engineered passenger cars in the world. That's not an opinion. That is a market fact.

Beyond the recent discussion about "blingy" headlight technology, how about the question of universal adoption by automakers of an automatic setting for night running lights? I don't know if it's just me, but I've noticed an increasing number of clueless drivers going around in post-dusk conditions with NO headlights at all, or maybe just daytime running lights (which in many cases, means no tail lights). Most but not all of these vehicles seem to be pretty modern Asian brands, mostly Japanese. Do they not have an "Auto" setting on their light switches, like other cars, which automatically engage the lights when dusk conditions are detected? BTW, one method that dealt with this question on older cars like our Saabs was that the lights were connected through the ignition switch, so you just left your light switch "On" all the time (they also functioned as DRLs), but they would shut down when you turned the car off, hence no dead batteries. I think some other Euro manufacturers adopted this too.

The newer cars have an auto setting, but not the old ones. and some people just naturally get in their car and switch the lights on even if they do have an auto setting.

Isn't it a law that you have to switch your lights on at dusk?

I suspect that the earlier chatter who posted his/her desire to "occasionally drive [the VW Passat TDI SE] in the manual mode without compromising fuel economy" actually has a DSG transmission, which as far as I know is an automatic that can be shifted manually. If it's a true manual transmission, there is no way to drive it "occasionally ... in manual mode."

It is all wive's-tale stuff now obsoleted by technological progress. TDI diesel is 30 percent more fuel-efficient than gasoline. But it hardly matters nowadays if you are driving stick or manual largely thanks to advances in computer-controlled drivetrains.

Lou Ann said "my sense of a Buick still being an old person's car."

My sense of Lou A,n, smart, stunningloy beautiful, lovely woman, is that she's been in California too long.

Lou Ann here:

First, Buick used to have an older age group than other car companies.

Second: The chatter said they were amazed, so I answered as to why they might have been amazed.

Buick has come down in age, and as I stated in the chat, is a raging success in China and other places. Sometime the US gets stuck thinking about a car a certain way and doesn't realize it has changed.

I'm open to either SUV or pick-up. Yes, I do have animals that will need to be transported, BUT, would end up getting a truck with a regular back seat because of my son, so the SUV part is not so critical. I hate to pay for all of the "extras" in SUV's. My thinking is that a truck may be more of a value — but maybe I'm wrong here. Either way, the vehicle has to be a non-unibody vehicle (which rules out Honda's Ridgeline, which I was beginning to look at). Thanks for your suggestions!

Get an SUV. Animals, especially dogs, have the same safety rights as people as far as I am concerned. Put 'em inside. Check with,, et cetera, to whittle down options/extras.

You're both right! I see ten Park Avenues a day down here in The Wang, but the new stuff pops up every now and then with one of those 60-year-old whippersnappers behind the wheel. Texting.

I'm a 66-year-old whipper snapper still whipping and snapping. Watch your mouth!

Okay, Warren, let's discount situations like a Beltway traffic jam. Given the context of 90% of the miles being driven in the DC metro area, and 10% being driven either on Interstates or on back country roads, do you think that the Fiesta or the Focus ST would be more fun to drive? Not necessarily faster. More fun, as in more responsive.

the ST is a sportier version so the suspension should be set differently. The lighter the car the better power-to-weight ratio the more fun driving. I light the Focus ST because it combines all of it and has the room I would need.

I have "auto" headlights on my 2013 Hyundai Sonata. You can't adjust the sensitivity of the sensor, which should be required. I find that the sensor doesn't trigger the headlights until well after I see non-auto headlight cars turning their headlights on. The only really good feature is that the headlights turn off after a few minutes when the car is shut off, so you never have to worry about draining the battery.

Thank you.

Lou Ann, You need to drive the track at speed in the Cayman. Sebring is a great track that has been emasculated over the years. It was much more challenging and fun back when Porsche 917 and 908 ran there and you could catch as glimpse of Steve. Clifton VA


Lou Ann here

I was just reading about those times last night, Clifton. I am leaving in a few minutes because I have been invited to take a "hot lap" on the track in an SRT and  a Porsche. I'll let you know next week how it was.

The chatter said he sees 10 Park Avenues a day in "The Wang" -- where is that?

You don't know where the Wang is? It's East of T'Wang.

If you join for 3 years offers 1% under invoice on Jeep products and I believe Subies. Not sure what other automakers this applies to. Most times you dont have to be a member for 30 days to get the 1%. Also check Internet email groups for the car brand you are looking for; sometimes they have group buys. There is one for Jeep in the DC area at 6% to 7% under invoice for 2014 Grand Cherokees. Always check the bottom line to make sure it is a good deal with no added fees, etc. Clifton, VA


One of my co-workers who's a VW devotee tells me that today's auto transmission cars get better car mileage and are more efficient than any manual transmission because of the quality of the computer chips that control the auto transmission, that is, they are better than humans in changing gears. Agree or disagree?

Your co-worker is correct. Technology changes.

I took my Jeep GC (2005, automatic) into the dealership because while I was waiting at a light, because it "stalled." It slipped into neutral though the engine was still running. The dealership couldn't find anything wrong with the transmission (which is what we determined the problem to be), but there was a software update. Any clue if this update will fix this problem? Have you heard of others having this problem?

No. Go to www,, click on "service bulletins." See if anything is mentioned.

Florida is sometimes unofficially described as America's Wang. Started with the Simpsons, and we're trying to get it onto the state flag.

As I said, east of T'Wang.

Thanks, Warren for your suggestions. Do you know which SUV's are full frame?

By full frame, I assume you mean traditional ladder-frame body-on- frame? I'll have to check. But I'm thinking Xterra.

My complaint in the manual vs. auto debate is that since 90% or more of the cars are auto, the additional transmission charge should be on the manual since that one is more limited. But the car companies have kept the charge on the auto as another way to jack up the price from the "base price."

Some manufacturers put at additional charge on the manual. It all depends on existing marketing needs.

Nothing is fun in a Beltway traffic jam. Except a bicycle along side the main road.

It redefines the "romance of driving." Makes me wonder how much actual space is left in the world for more cars and trucks.

Thank you all for joining us today. Thanks to Angela Wong, our producer, and to the intrepid Lou Ann Hammond; and yo our loyal crew--Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson Powell. Eat lunch. I have another book date with Hemingway.

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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