Real Wheels Live

Mar 28, 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

WHAT: Public Citizen will argue on Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, on behalf of safety advocates who have sued the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), challenging DOT's failure to issue an auto safety rule mandated by Congress in 2008. The rule, which would set a federal safety standard for vehicle rear visibility, would prevent crashes in which a vehicle moving backward strikes a person behind the vehicle. According to DOT, such crashes kill more than 200 people each year, almost half of them children under five, and injure 14,000.
Congress mandated that DOT issue the rule by 2011, and DOT proposed a rule in 2010. The Obama administration, however, has repeatedly delayed the rule, which it now says will be delayed until 2015. DOT estimated that the rule it proposed in 2010 but failed to finalize would prevent 95 to 112 deaths and 7,072 to 8,374 injuries each year.

WHEN: 10 a.m. EDT, Tuesday, April 1
WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 40 Foley Square, New York, NY

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Lou Ann Hammond

When is the 2015 going to be available? Are you likely to do a 'review' drive? If so, when? Is there any chance that some of the safety features will be standard than being 'packaged' as options?

It should be available in late spring or summer 2014. And, yes, I will drive it.

Is there any way to buy withhout being a captive for three hours at a dealership? Is there a way to know and get a fair(lower) price, or is the conspiracy within a BRAND solid?

There is no conspiracy. Yes, you can buy without being held captive in the dealership. Knpw what you want before you go to the dealer. Know your finances--your credit rating and what you can afford. Do the research on your chosen,,,, etc. Research the dealer, also available online. Many dealerships allow you to :seal the del" online before entering the store.

Big news! According to Bloomberg, General Motors will pull its Opel brand from China next year after failing to gain traction in the market over the last two decades.

Warren, have you tested the Lexus GS series? Has it really improved its driving experience to the point it can compete with the Germans? Thanks

Lexus has a completely different drive but their cars are appealing to more people than before, so either Lexus has improved or people have changed what they want in a car or how they want a car to feel and Lexus is listening. The Germans still have a strong foothold in the market, however.

Lexus, in general, has a higher relaibility rating than its German models, according to Consumer Reports and others.

Any update on your test drive of this vehicle, Mr. Brown? If you have not had a chance to test drive it, could you give me your impression on the 2013 Lexus AWD GS 350? Thanks

It runs as wwell as anything in its price class...and better than many things that are higher priced. But I've become a bit jade on supposed performance comparisons. Performance, the way I see and experience it, is modified by circumstance--congestion, road condition, et cetera. Given those things, the Lexus GS 35 does competively well.

Toyota just announced a major mid-cycle refresh to the Camry. Any guesses on what those changes will be/should be? Thanks

They have to do something, the competition in that segment is fierce!

You either have to upgrade or offer incentives. Incentives decrease your resale value, upgrading increases the content, and most times, your resale value.

The Camry competes against the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion. Waren and I will see it at the New York International auto show.

Jeep Grand Cherokee (2014 in a year or two when they're used and less expensive) or VW Touareg (2013 or 2014 used)? I realize that purchasing a vehicle in its first or second model year is a bigger risk than one that has been around a little longer to address any engineering glitches. Diesel is NOT the most expensive fuel in my area, it's more efficient than gasoline, I actually do have a need to tow regularly (class III) and I have to be at work no matter what the weather has thrown at us so AWD is something I must have. Between yourself and your readers I'm confident I'll receive good advice. Thank you all.

Forget what now is a wives tale about products automatically being risky in their first year. They mostly are not thanks to myriad changes in product development and engineering. I'm driving a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee right now and find it quite lieable, even with a four-cylinder engine. Interior comfort/ergonomics are everything I want them to be in a nearly $36,ooo vehicle, along with all of the options I want at that price. Overall quuality is excellent. I could use a bit more power. But the four works quite well on long runs (400 miles roundtrip).

Warren, do you think these new stop-start systems will cause long term damage to car batteries and ignition systems?

No, I don't. These systems have been in development for years and are now needed to stop wasting fuel and polluting the air during idle. Most work perfectly, some smoother than others. But my guess is that they are here to stay.

Lou Ann here:

I don't either but look for start-stop systems that can change halfway in the stop. Some start-stop systems have to stop all the way otherwise there is a lag. Chevy showed us their start-stop and you could stop halfway and then start up again with the lag.

Lou Ann, since you mentioned the upcoming show, it would be great if your or Warren could pass along any news you hear about availability of the Mazda 6 diesel. Many thanks.

I will ask. We've all been waiting for the diesel skyactive technology from Mazda. I was told it was because of the performance aspect that it's still not here.

Here is a video of Mazda's race car at the twleve hours of sebring with a diesel race car.

Good Morning: We're planning on getting a new car for my wife this year, and she is interested in the Mini Cooper Countryman. I've read a bit about it, however I'd be curious to know your thoughts on this model and any comparable vehicles that you may recommend. Thank you.

Don't make the mistake of comparing a Mini Cooper Countryman with something such as a Fiat 500L. The 500L is okay. The Countryman is demonstrably better, and more expensive. We're still driving our 2001 Mini Cooper. We've had a few problems, easily remedied, albeit not inexpensively. We're now looking at Subaru.

I know in the past there were lots of quality issues with Jaguar. But the current models sure look sweet. Are they worth a look?

If I had the money they would be worth more than a look. Sweet design by Ian Callum, love the sound, love the drive

is worth a look, particularly the new XF model. But the marque is surrounded by worthy competitors.

Warren, you have expressed your doubts about Consumer Reports' reliability ratings. How do you feel about their cost=per-mile ratings?

CR does a lot of good work. My concern is that they work from a self-selected base which may influence a lot of their reprts including the very personal "cost per mile." I can materially affect CPM simply by changing the way I use and maintain my vehicle.

Has there been a decrease in the popularity and/or reliability of the Hyundai Sonata? I've noticed that it seems to have been dropped from a lot of "best buys" lists in favor of other intermediate-sized cars, such as the relatively new Fusion. Thanks.

That tends to happen when a new car comes out, the hype for it begins.

The Hyundai Sonata is still popular, still reliable and still has a great warranty. I see it on the road and I still like the design

The Sonat has run into a few quality problems (check bulletins and recalls). Hyundai is working to fix them. Popularity of almost any given model, with the exception of the wonderful 3-Series Bimmer, tends to decline with length in market.

What does the future of Opel hold after the China pull-out?

At last report. Opel was well on the way toward getting its house in order with elp from its longtime parner. GM. Credit improvements, albeit slight, in the European car market.

Warren I believe you said in a previous chat that you would be buying an Outback. Do you plan on buying a 2014 or would you suggest waiting for the 2015 model?

I'm leaning toward he 2014, which I and Mary Anne love.

How do start-stop systems work with heating, A/C, bluetooth, and radio (including Satellite)? I just don't see a lot of people agreeing to drive a car where the A/C and the music constantly cut off. We're not really into such spartan living. Is there a battery that powers such accessories when the engine is off?

The start-stop works with a diesel/gasoline engine, an electric starter/generator and a battery. It uses regenerative energy in a hybrid, but does not shut down the A/C etc. The only car I can remember that happening on was the first generation Prius but they changed that early on.

Warren and Lou Ann, Good rainy morning from the Shenandoah Valley: If you had to pick one new: Corolla Mazda 3 Veloster Civic Thanks.

Mazda 3, an easy choice. Great driver, good quality, well-equipped for the price, lacking all of the silly pretense of the ill-named Veloster. Second on my list woul be the well-equipped-for-the-money Honda Civic.

Ten years ago this month I browsed, found the car I wanted, and called with a credit card number to reserve it; later in the month I went in with a check from my credit union's financing department. Total time spent at the dealership could not have been more than forty five minutes. Zero pressure. The car still runs like a top 103,XXX miles later. Good brand representation, too, as long as you aren't after a Honda.

Point made. Thank you. And, yes, old man Fitz is one of the best.

Hello: I'm interested in the 2015 VW Golf R coming out next year, however I'm somewhat hesitant based on my experience with my 2001 Jetta GLX. Unfortunately I have experienced several problems with this car, some quite expensive to repair. Any thoughts on VW quality these days?

The 2015 Golf R is a completely different beast than the 2001 Jetta. I would always recommend the Golf R, it's so fun. Jetta was known for having problems, but VW has set about changing that and their customer stisfaction has gone up.

Just so you know that I'm not a total crackpot, here's a GAO report that started examining the issue: Car & Driver has been harping on it too.

I never thought you were a crackpot. Vehicle quality, or the lack thereof, or lapses in thereof, of which their remain too many, is an evergreen issue. Not to mention the quality in or veracity of Government Accounting Office reports.

Warren & Lou Ann: Is there any hope for those of us that enjoy their privacy? I keep reading about the more sophisticated electronic systems and their willingness to collect data on the car, where it's going, etc. OnStar collecting location data after the subscriber cancels service. Mercedes Benz's plan to collect information on everything from the music you play to how you set up your seat, and then porting it to the next Benz you drive. Tesla's freakish data collection on....everything. Almost everybody trying to figure out if they can sell ads that will be delivered on your nav screen. Help!

The worst part is that almost all of us voluntarily carry tracking devices known as telephones. If you have a smartphone and you go into a store the store can track your every move.

If we had been told to give up our privacy we would have revolted but we have willingly given it up.

No, this is the new normal.

Why have US consumers largely rejected station wagons and hatchbacks in favor of sedans and SUVs? Unless you're racing around a track, I don't see any advantage at all to a sedan. And the few advantages of SUVs -- clearance, slightly better lines of sight -- are of negligible significance when weighed against the disadvantages -- gas mileage, size, weight, handling. So why do I have so few options when it comes to hatchbacks and station wagons?

You are getting more options, it is just taking time for the generation that grew up going cross-country with their entire family, the dog and all the camping gear to get over not wanting a station wagon.Audi has a station wagon but they call it all-road. Station wagon, the name, doesn't sell.


Has a lot changed since 1997?:

more asphalt

Is it really worth it to get one that's installed in the car as opposed to using your iPhone via bluetooth? It just seems like any system that comes with the car could be rendered obsolete before too long.

A continuing debate on which I come down on the side of buying a portable, Garmin or something similar, which can be used anywhere and more easily updated than onboard systems.

Warren If I may ask, what is your reasoning in your family's decision to buy the 2014 Outback and not wait for the 2015 model? I don't mean to pry, I am on the fence about waiting for the new model and would like to hear your reasoning for not waiting. Thank you

We like what is offered at the price it is offeredand we don't think the 2015 model will be all that terribly different.

I'm going around and around with the dealer where I bought my car on a problem (brake pedal is very hard when the car sits for several days) that never seems to occur when the car is in the dealership, but which reliably happens to me. I'm beginning to think that the dealer is simply reluctant to make a warranty repair. I'm going to take the car to another dealer, but I'm wondering if there's someway that I can just get the problem fixed and ask the dealer to pick up the cost.

You have the solution: Take it to another dealer.

Are you planning to review the Audi A3 or S3? I'd love to check this car out but I've read Audi has no plans to offer an manual transmission with this car - what gives? Are sales of manual transmission cars that bad?

Yes, when I get them.

Lou Ann here

Just drove the A3 and loved it. Great car, great value for the car. I didn't ask about a manual but will look into it.

any thoughts here? positives? negatives? our family of four (two little kids) is contemplating getting a wagon. any advice greatly appreciated.

I love a wagon and the Subaru is the rugged wagon one thinks of when you think all-wheel drive wagon. I believe the Outback is less money than the Venza all-wheel drive as well.

No real comparison, as far as I'm concerned. The Outback has a superior all-wheel-drive system and its boxer 4-cylinder engine is hard to beat in terms of performance and optimum distribution of the vehicle's center of gravity.

Isn't it easier to update the map on your iPhone than a portable device like Garmin?

yes, the update is pushed to you.

I like using my google maps on my iphone - for the most part I use it over most of the maps in most of the cars, except audi which has google maps as well.

WE THANK YOU ALL FOR JOINING US TODAY. Please return next week. Thanks to Angela Wong, Lou Annd Hammond, Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson. 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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