Real Wheels Live

Mar 23, 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.

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A couple of weeks ago one of you asked

Hi Warren and Lou Ann -- Any idea when the new Acura ILX will actually show up in dealers? My mom desperately wants to drive one (try finding any other 4-dr sedan with stick and leather/sunroof for under $30K) and see the real-world pricing. I've heard it was coming in the spring, and my flowers seem to think that spring has arrived. . . .

I talked to Acura today and they said the Acura ILX will be at the dealership on May 25. By the way, did you know that the Acura TL, ILX, MDX and RDX are made in America? Some of those vehicles are exported to other countries, helping our trade deficit.

Another person asked

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.

Audi gave me the answer;
The FWD A3 TDI was configured that way to boost fuel economy rating. The A4 with a 3.0T supercharged is otherwise known as the S4.

And about that Chevy Sonic eco

Chevy Sonic
Hey, Warren and Lou Ann - Hope all is well with you both. Question(s) - Does Chevy plan to (or do they already) offer an 'ECO' trim version of the Sonic, as with the Cruze? Also regarding the Sonic, can one get one of the upper-level trims with a manual? (Please don't tell me how today's automatics get just as good mileage, etc--plenty of us just enjoy driving a manual, and are sorry to see it on the decline). Thanks, Tim in B'more

Chevy sent back this answer;

There is currently no Eco version of the Sonic available or planned. The shorter the vehicle, the more difficult it is to achieve aerodynamic improvements.

The Sonic has manual transmissions available on all trim levels. The 1.4L turbo is available with both a manual and automatic transmission starting on the LT (mid-range) trim level.

I've been reading about the new, smaller Cadillac ATS. What have you heard? Thanks.

It's an all-new model with a base 2-liter, four-cylinder engine. Six-speed manual transmission, if I recall correctly. looks like a lot of GM Europe (Opel) input. Looks cute. Haven't driven it, yet.

Curious to know if you know of any convertibles that seat 2 adults and 3 children? Open to any new or older models that you'd recommend. Would love to have one that we can take the whole family out in, but it's been difficult finding one, thanks!

I'm thinking Ford Mustang, Chrysler Sebring.

Do you view wireless EV charging's impact on electric car adoption by consumers similar to how automatic windows and climate control improved car sales?

I interviewed Rebecca Hough awhile back

I think it's a great idea. In my piece I said:

What if it’s raining outside and you don’t feel comfortable putting a plug in a car that has been rained on?

Plugless Power is the world’s first “hands-free” proximity charging system for electric vehicles, requiring no cord, and no plug. Oh so cool.

Rebecca Hough, plugless power spokesperson, says this is the same inductive power transfer that has been used in electrical transformers for over 100 years.

There are three levels of charging, and plugless power starts at level two, which allows you to charge in 3-5 hours instead of 18-20 hours.

Hough said they to expect to start seeing these power units within a year and she is good on her word.

Hi Warren - What are your thoughts on the 2012 Rav4? I'd love something with 4wd, decent fuel economy (I currently have a corolla and am a bit spoiled with the gas mileage), and good, long-term reliability. I've been happy with my corolla but would like the next car to be a step up. Consumer Reports really likes the Rav4, but I'd appreciate your take, as well as any thoughts you have on anything else I should consider (Subaru?). Would like the next car to last a good ten years/150k miles, and be $25k and under, though the closer to $15k the better. 4wd is not a deal breaker, but good handling overall is. Thank you!

I'd choose the new Honda CR-V over the Rav-4, albeit the CR-V just had a recall for some welding problems. It's an overall cleaner piece of work than the Toyota model. But I'd take the new Mazda CX-5 over both of them for all of the reasons you cited. I'd also give serious consideration to the quite worthy Chevrolet Equinox.

Browsing for a replacement tor a '99 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport. Solid, reliable, good winter handling. Hatchback. Not interested in the 'BoyToy' image. Good fuel economy, reasonably priced. Any suggestions?

In which case, inasmuch as you are not looking for a "Boy To" replacement, I'd take a serious look at the new Impreza. Also consider a gasoline-powered VW Jetta with all-wheel-drive.

Will we see a greater horsepower ratio for smaller cars in coming years? Will smaller cars be able to overcome camaro and mustang through superchargers or turbos?

It's a question that is being asked by all of us. Some of the technology that will get us to the new CAFE/fuel economy numbers we like, some make the car feel gutless.

Mazda has a great compression ratio, Acura just took their turbocharger out of their RDX and went back to a V6. Most people aren't in love with a CVT, but if you're not a car enthusiast can you tell the difference.

You will see more small displacement engines with direct injection and turbocharging.

You write: "Head-turning quotient: Put the CX-5 and a CR-V side by side in a shopping-center parking lot. Step back and watch. Here's betting the CR-V will draw more curious onlookers every time. Swagger sells." Based on your compliments of the CX-5's swagger in your full review, didn't you mean to write that the the CX-5 will draw more curious onlookers every time?

Yes. And I apologize for the error. The CX-5 has much more swagger and visual appeal than the CR-V. My problem is that, sometimes, I'm writing so fast, things like CX-5 and CR-V get mixed up in my little brain. So sorry.

Looking for used 2010 SUVs with low mileage. Which one would you recommend? Choices are: BMW X5, Lexus GX460 and Audi Q7, Range Rover Sport, Mercedes ML/GL models.

Did you leave the Acura MDX off for a reason? I just drove an Acura RDX yesterday and the ride was so much smoother and quieter than a BMW. I think Audi has both of them beat, though.

A couple of weeks ago someone mentioned that a Lexus SUV made funny whirring sounds when it started up, but that is normal says Lexus.

By the way, have you seen the Range Rover Evoque as well?

Of the choices I would go with the Lexus, Audi or Range Rover, not in that order.

I am in the market for a new vehicle. I do not like the Ford electronics setup or anything like it. I do not want an auto that does not have radio buttons. I want a spare tire. Still looking for one that has a battery amp or volt gage. I do not need Internet, emails, etc. Just give me electronics that gives me feedback on the operation of my auto, etc. Why can't you get engine codes spelled out in English on your dashboard instead of having to pay a dealer to clear them. Was hoping to buy a new Chevy small pickup but they killed that thought with their 2 year delay. So in the market for a mid size SUV. A good HP 4 or a V6 engine and auto. No 3rd row seat. Any suggestions? Always enjoy your chats.

Nearly all cars nowadays have some of the electronics you dislike. But you can get something like the Jeep Patriot which shares your sense of dashboard ergonomics--actual radio dial and such. But the  Patriot is computer-laden, too.

Warren: I'm not old, nor will I ever be (!), but that does not mean I want to be confused with my daughter, or for people to think I'm trying to be my daughter. I'm finally retiring the minivan, but I've still got some moves and speed. I need a car to suit my style, but that can still transport 3-4 people. $25,000, new or used, is a good number. The Mazda 3 is a little too zoom-zoom for me (plus the teen in the house would covet it too much). On the other hand, I fear those more reserved German machines are out of my price league. What should I test drive? Thanks.

Or you can try one of the many compact crossovers: Honda Cr-V, Toyota Rav-4, Mazda CX-5. But to me, there's a flame about your texting aura. So, I'm recommending the Volkswagen CC sedan--hot, yet practical; sensuous, which means it embraces beauty and sex without objectification. I think you'll love the CC. But it starts at about $30,250.

I think this is the first time I can remember that diesel is cheaper than unleaded. Here in the St Louis area, it's anywhere from 5 to 15 cents cheaper per gallon. Is it a demand issue? Or something to do with refineries? Thanks

The oil business is all about supply and demand. This time around we are looking at the global supply and demand. I was on KCRA in Sacramento a couple weeks ago

talking about sticker shock. Our gas prices have gone up, but Korea's gas price has gone up 72 cents a gallon since the beginning of the year!Why? China and India, emerging countries, have more cars on the road.

China already uses coal and diesel so my guess is that is why diesel isn't going up as quickly. Americans are finally getting great diesel cars on their roads.

However, if diesel goes up in the United States you will see retail prices go up. All our trucks that carry retail products use diesel (okay, not all, but a big majority). If the price of diesel goes up the truckers will have to pass it on. Truckers work on very narrow profit margins, they can't afford to take those prices in.

Which reminds me, if you're driving around a trucker give them plenty of room to see you. They only get 5-6 miles per gallon. Everytime they have to use their brakes for a sudden stop you are costing them fuel. Fuel equals a higher price at the retail price.

Good morning Ms. Hammond and Mr, Brown. Back in the fall, Cadillac made a big production about the spring release of the new XTS. When will the car be in showrooms and when will reviewers be able to give a thorough review of the car? The ATS was showcased after the XTS, but there is a lot more information available about the ATS than the XTS. What's up? 

The XTS is replacing the STS and DTS full-boat sedans and is being marketed as a 2013 model. It will have a new V-6 engine--one of those power plus fuel-economy combinations. It should hit the market this spring. I may be in one in the next two weeks and will tell you more.

Hi, Warren: Saw an article in LAT about automakers bringing in 3-cylinder cars to market, ones that are more fuel-efficient, peppy and fun to drive.,0,4405998.story Any thoughts? I mean, we don't want another Geo Metro, do we? Garey in Ottawa

NO, we don't want another Geo Metro. Car manufacturers are working with suppliers like Continental AG. Yes, they own the tire company, but they are a 32 Euro Billion supply company (I think 32 is right)

Continental AG is supplying Ford their turbocharger that will go on the Ford C-Max 3 cylinder.

Turbochargers are going to help the performance of cars and the fuel economy. You will see small cars, but they will be peppy.

Wondering if either of you has had a drive in this vehicle yet. Among other apparent positives, it seems have cavernous front legroom for someone with cavern-filling legs.

Just drove the Hyundai Genesis coupe and the Azera. Love the Azera interior cabin and the exterior design.

My husband, Stretch, is 6'4" and he had no problem in the car.

Drive it and let me know what you think. I think you will love it.

I would love your thoughts. We have TDI sportwagon and 2003 Passat, the latter will be replaced in a year or so. Thank you!

I would not trade a Jetta TDI SportWagen for anybody's gas-electric hybrid. The SportWagen delivers about 30 mpg city and 42 mpg highway. It does that  with one powertrain, not two-which is the case with a hybrid.

Good Morning, Now that we have a baby, I need to trade in/sell my 3 door Yaris as it's too small and hard to access the car seat without breaking my back. We plan on having another baby in a year or so and probably a third within the next 5-6 years. Should I buy a car now that would fit just a four-person family or go ahead and invest in something like a Mazda 5 or (eek!) a mini-van. My husband recently bought a Sonata so we wouldn't need to be replacing his car anytime soon. Based on your answer - Any good family cars you could recommend for us? I have a short work commute 3 days a week (and will probably not work after baby #2). We would also use the car for errands and a yearly beach trip with a few other small trips (so trunk space is important, too). The more economic the car the better. Thanks!

First, congratulations on your newborn. He or she? Invest in a Mazda 5 or something similar. It certainly can carry you to and through Baby Two. By the time you get to  Baby Three, you'll need a vehicle with a demilitarized zone. That means a larger crossover, wagon, or minivan. Don't sweat the image thing. The older you get, the less important the silly image stuff becomes.

No, I meant replacing the Passat eventually. I love my TDI!!

Alright, then! Check out the incoming Chevrolet Cruze diesel (2013). Compare the Jetta hybrid with the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the new Prius Hybrid wagon from Toyota.

Good morning Warren and Lou Ann: With so many foreign and domestic automobile manufacturers competing for our attention in these economically challenging times, who do you believe is the most innovative in terms of creative design, being green and offering affordability?

Tough question.

The obvious ones are Hyundai and Kia. I know the Kia Rio just beat out the Hyundai Accent and Chevy Sonic in Consumer Reports sub-compact sedans.

Being green could have so many companies vying for that title - Honda and Toyota have been green for a long time, bringing the first hybrids out a long time ago.

Nissan has the Leaf, Chevy has the Volt.

Then, of course, you have to look at how many of those cars are being sold. Ford says they will have millions of ecoboost cars on the road soon.

BMW has electric vehicles in play. Mercedes has fuel cell vehicles on the road.Volkswagen has championed diesel.

Chrysler group is the one I think is furthest behind, or has the most potential :) All the other companies I can think of have design, green and affordability (or two out of three) already in place.

I'm loving the look of the new Acura - more sporty car. Any idea on pricing yet? I haven't seen it at any of the dealers around here. We had a 2006 RsX, do you know this is going to compare? Currently driving a Honda Civic SI.

Which Acura? The ILX?

The 2013 Acura ILX 2.0 will go for around $27,000

(150hp, 24/35mpg)

The 2.4 will go for around $30,000

(201 hp, 22/31)

The hybrid version will go for around $30,000

(111hp, 39/38)


I've been reading this thread for a couple of weeks now, including its first incarnation as a question about baby seats. I have yet to see the Toyota Solara mentioned. Is it no longer made?

I think you're right. Let me add it to the list.


Audi A5 convertible
BMW 3- Series convertible
BMW     650i 6 Series Convertible
Chrysler Sebring Conv
FIAT     500c     Softtop
Ford Mustang Convertible    
MINI convertible
Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder Softtop
Toyota Camry Solara Conv
Volkswagen Beetle Convertible
Volkswagen Eos
Volvo C70

Warren, I am a long time reader of these great chats you put on. I have a question: what's with the fascination people here in DC have with 4WD and 4x4 vehicles when most likely they will never drive off-road in their entire lives? Is it all about the image of being "outdoorsy"? I laugh pretty hard when someone wants to buy a glorified station wagon like the CR-V and they're asking for 4WD. Full disclaimer: I drive a 4x4 GMC truck, but I tear up peanut fields in NC on a regular basis.

It is the American Theory of Power--having more than you'll ever really need just in case you need it. The theory carries with it its on stream of excess and waste. To wit: Off-road capability in a vehicle that seldom, if ever, leaves the suburbs; bold brush grilles to defend against shirt-sleeved pedestrians; wenching ability in case a neighbor needs to be pulled out of his driveway in a six-inch snowstorm. Many of those drivers wouldn't know how to find your NC peanut fields. It doesn't matter. If your peanuts can't be found in a shopping center, they won't look for them. I once was a bold defender of all things SUV. No longer. In my new life, I spend nearly half-a-year at family residences in NYC and Cornwall, N.Y. There is nothing sillier, nor more annoying than a full-size, 4WD SUV on a congested NYC street. Nor on a DC street. It makes no sense.

But won't all those turbo's require more expensive premium gas?

Even some cars that aren't turbo'd are asking for premium gasoline these days. The Fiat 500 requires premium.

Yesterday Acura said the RDX "requested" premium but would work fine on regular. I asked Mr. Sasaki what the difference would be. He said if the temperatures are really high (like in Arizona) or high altitudes if you want to get the stated horsepower and fuel economy you should use premium. Otherwise regular for that car would be fine.

Most cars today have knock sensors so you don't get the backfire that you used to get. However, if you're buying a high performance car that requires premium you're going to want to put premium in that car for that performance.

I have a big sedan (Jag XJR) for long trips and/or hauling multiple people, so I can have a commuting car that is small, gets relatively good mileage and is fun to drive. I currently commute in a GTI, which I really like but am about ready to replace. I was thinking about the Fiat 500 Abarth? Reaction? Any other suggestions? Or should I just go with another GTI? Thanks.

Yeah, I'd go with a Fiat 500 Abarth, or another GTI. Probably the Abarth for its Italian sex appeal and decent driving manners.

Hi Warren, as the proud owner of a 1966 Plymouth Barracuda, I was pleased to see that Chrysler is considering bringing back the Barracuda name. Not that I have anything against the venerable Charger, but come on, the Barracuda is cool!

Chrysler - just letting you know you're making your peeps happy

Friend totaled her car and needs a replacement. She's willing to do used or new but wants to stick to $8,000 or less. Wants small, Japanese or Korean car with low mileage and not too old. Is it really doable or should she just go to $12,000 and get something like a new Versa?

First, here's hoping that your friend was not injured in that accident--that no one was injured. Second, put the friend in a new or recently used (2010) Hyundai Elantra, or Chevrolet Sonic. Something like that.

If your friend wants a new car look at this list.

She can get a newish car (maybe a year or two old) for under $8,000 if it is one of these, or buy a new car under $15,000.

I have a 2000 Lexus GS 300 with less than 100,000 miles on it. It's a great car. For various reasons, getting a new car/small SUV has been on my list of things to do this spring. Unfortunately, yesterday, I tore the front bumper off the Lexus. Now I am faced with repairing a car that I am just going to get rid of within the next month. Do I 1. repair it? 2. Try and sell it as is? 3. Trade it in as is? repaired? While I had thought about keeping it as an extra car, that seems kind of crazy. Unfortunately, I don't live in a place that has a very active craigslist community or I'd try to sell it on there. it's a wonderful car, it just needs someone to put the bumper back on it.

You need to sit down and examine your reasons for getting rid of a perfectly good car in the first place. The current economic "recovery" is similar to a post-surgery patient taking his or her first steps after being in bed all week. I wouldn't go hog-wild with discretionary spending just yet. Put the bumper back on your Lexus and drive. Think: What if that accident had happened to the car you bought after dumping the Lexus?

My wife really likes the Toyota Avalon. She owned one before and would like to buy another in a year or two. I am certain she doesn't need or use all the horsepower in the Avalon's V6, and I would like her to get better MPG. Two questions for you: 1 - How nice is the interior of the new Camry if you get a top of the line model with leather and all the niceties, in comparison with the Avalon? and 2 - Will Toyota rethink only offering a V6 in the Avalon? In regards to question 2, are car companies retooling to offer better fuel economy in mid- and upper-end cars without decreasing interior quality and refinement?

I was surprised when Acura took their 4 cylinder turbo out of the RDX and put a V6 back in. Interestingly, we got really good mileage with the V6, like high 20s at 4,000 feet elevation.

My understanding is the EPA numbers on the window sticker are based on the model of the car that sells the best. So, if the Camry base model sells the best the mpg numbers might be better because that car is less contented. Remember, weight will cost you fuel. The more stuff you put in a car the less mpg you will get.

Car companies are quite aware of this, but they are also very aware that you want luxury too. It's a trade-ff

What's happening with this company? They are pushing the sedan S60 but not much else.

Volvo seems to be in the warm financial embrace of Geely, its China-based owner. That mens Geely is pouring lots of money into Volvo's product development. Look for slicker designed Volvo cars in the future with an even greater emphasis on safety. Also, look for Volvo electrics.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please come back next week. Everyone is welcome in this community. No one looks suspicious here.

Thanks, Dominique Vu, for another fine production. Thank you, Lou Ann Hammond, for your thoughtful contributions. And, as always, to my overworked and underpaid Washington assistant, Ria Manglapus, thanks  for keeping the cars running. I do appreciate your services. 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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