Real Wheels Live

Mar 29, 2013

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

The city that never sleeps was in rare form this week. On Tuesday there were parties from morning to past midnight!, and that was BEFORE the auto show.

Game changers at the New York auto show: BMW will introduce an i8, 3-cylinder, carbon-fiber, plug-in hybrid that gets around 350hp and over 50 miles per gallon! Love it. They also announced they would bring out the 328 diesel.

Audi showed the press the A3 sedan and sportback that will be show at the Shanghai auto show in a couple of weeks. The A3 is about the same size the A4 was 10 years ago, lots of great content, A8 leather, new technology. There will be 3 turbo engines, one diesel engine and the plug-in hybrid will come out late 2014.

Bentley brought out the new Flying spur and had their craftsman show us the wood and leather they use. (I had them make me a coaster out of the wood, and a bookmark out of the leather!) They also had Salonge, Beyonce's Sister singing at the event. I loved her voice!

Cadillac brought out their flagship CTS and it will take some sales from Mercedes. Chevy surprised everyone by bringing out - unannounced- the Camaro Z28!

2014 Mercedes Benz has a B-Class Electric Drive coming in the first quarter of next year.

Rolls-Royce brought out the Wraith, which means menacing Ghost in Scottish. Since the Rolls-Royce Ghost is a sedan it only makes sense the Wrath would be more sports car like.

The Kia party had cars designed/created to be like the Justice League marble comic book characters. There was Aquaman, Batman, Superman and Kia unveiled the Kia Sorento as Wonder Woman. One of the cars - they wouldn't tell us which - will be raffled off at Comicon for the Charity "We can be heros".

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Have you heard any recent information on the rumored Toyota/Subaru convertible or the new Miata?

No.Nor was any expressed at the New York show.

Hi guys, love the chats, keep up the great work! At the NY Auto Show BMW unveiled their new 4-cylinder turbo diesel in their 3 series sedan. Any hope that they will also place this in their 3 series wagon? Also, saw that Volvo is now bringing their V60 wagon over here, looks nice, any thoughts on this?

I asked BMW that question. They will indeed. The BMW 328d xDrive Sports Wagon will arrive in US showrooms in late summer 2013, featuring the same 2.0-liter TwinPower four cylinder diesel and 8-speed automatic transmission.

Warren, the BMW 1 series are lots of fun to drive but very expensive. What are less expensive alternatives that have similar driving attributes? Thanks

BMW is planningto introduce a 2-liter, inline 4 turbo diesel. The 328D. It will cost near $40k.But it's a beautiful ride.

Have narrowed down a new car decision to a Honda Accord & VW Passat. I like driving the Passat much more, but my inner wallet says Accord for long term reliability. I plan to keep the car for at least 10 years, maybe 15. Your vote?

Listen to your inner wallet. I like the Passat, too. But my career-long experience (now 35 years) says you will have fewer overall problems with the Accord, which has now been refreshed in a way that is bound to continue that reputation.

Hi, So I have my Dad telling me to buy a hybrid because of the increasing gas costs, but I really like the 2013 X3 28i that I drove earlier this week. Sweet! The 2013 Highlander Hybrid is boring to me, but I see for 2014 a new look is coming. And then the new 2014 Infinity QX60 will be out this summer. Are BMWs really worth the high cost (I know a loaded question!)? And any thoughts on the new Infinity SUV hybrid?? Thanks!

Your Dad is right, gas can go up. Think of gasoline as the variable expense on a mortgage loan. I would always go for the fixed interest rate, that way I know my monthly cost will stay the same. There is no way to know whether gasoline will stay about the same, in fact most people think it will go higher.

Having said that, there is nothing worse than driving a car that you don't like. Why go to work to pay for something that you hate?

I like the new design Infiniti is coming out with, but you could also look at Audi for a diesel or a hybrid.

Have you ever had a car catch fire when you were testing it, like the car columnist for the Dallas Morning News?

Yes, but it wasn't the fault of the manufacturer. Whoever serviced the Jaguar XJ I was driving at the time forgot to replace the oil cap. Oil all over the hot engine. A disaster.

Hi, I am deciding between the Toyota Sienna vs. the Honda Odyssey. I like both for different reasons - the car-like ride of the Odyssey, the more horsepower of the Sienna, and the safety options I can get in a mid-level Sienna vs. the highest level of the Odyssey. Do you have ANY thoughts or comments that would help me make my decision?? Thanks and take care.

I'd go with the Odyssey.Reasons: More expressly built for families. Honda's ACE body construction probably best in business for safety. I'd take Honda safety over the Toyota model's any day.

General Motors is in the mist of the second largest new product introduction since the seventies where the donwnsizing program took place under the secret "Project 77" Program. Are either of you familar with the "Project 77" Program? If so, do you expect any similarities between the massive corporate-wide short term produkct developement programs to develope and have similar consequences as General Motors experienced back in the seventies and eighties?

You can find information about Project 77 on Wikipedia, but I don't know how accurate it is. All car companies are downsizing without giving up content or technology. They have to. CAFE requirements are going to go up and car companies want to be in the game without paying fines.

Car companies, not just GM, as bringing out cars faster than they ever have. It is the new norm.

Good morning! Have you had a chance to see the new Cherokee? What are they smoking over at Jeep?! I had been waiting for the body style to come back (gave up and bought the 2013 Grand Cherokee last fall with your help - love it) and can't for the life of me figure out the thoughts behind this. Is it as bad in person as in pictures? Part of the brand loyalty is to the styling and though that has changed over the years, this new Cherokee seems to be a huge departure. Thank you!

What are you smoking? Something with strong retro vapors? The new Jeep design is a winner. It won't please traditionalists. To me, that is a good thing. Theentire auto industry is moving in a new direction in terms of styling and effifiency. The new Jeep is moving there, too.

I don't really know what Project 77 is. But the global industry is moving in the direction of lighter-weight vehicles requiring smaller engines (cylinder displacement and number of cylinders). New gasoline and diesel engines with lower friction. More turbocharging and supercharging. No discernible loss of performance for most of us. All of this requires lots of expensive engineering and materials changes. Many companies are working together to move forward in this direction. That means at least a few joint-venture products.

Kia's new model of the Soul seems to be mainly sheet metal change. Is there any hint of under-the-skin changes to increase in its fuel economy to be closer to the Accent's?

Let's call the Soul "refreshed" as in an increase in quality materials used in the cabin, more ergonomic and (to me) likable cabin design, lighter weight materials. The Accent is hyundai's smallest car and, as such,probably always will have a tad better fuel economy than the larger Kia produced by Hyundai's corporate sibling, Kia.

I heard that Mazda is going to introduce a diesel for the 3. Is this true and when will we see it?

The diesels are finally coming to the US and Mazda is bringing skyactive diesel technology. Watch for it.

Thank you so much for this forum and answering a variety of questions. I have posted questions in the last month because I am in the market for a new vehicle, and I greatly appreciate your point of view.

We get as much 0ut of these forums as you guys do. We base some of the questions we ask the car companies on questions you have asked us.

Some of the stories we are doing right now are because of the questions you have asked.

Thank you.

Aluminum is being used more extensively in making automobile frames in order to obtain weight savings. Isn't aluminun more prone to metal fatigue from stress than steel?

Not any more. There's too little space and time here todescribe the engineering and metallurgical improvement. It's sufficient to say that enough progresss has made to envourage Audi, BMW, Cadillac and others to build aluminum-bodied cars with confidence.

What the heck is going on at Lotus? Are they going to survive? I hoped punting Danny Bahar would give them a fighting chance.

Corporate intrigue mostly centered around money, or, in the case of Lotus, the relative lack of it. We'll see about the future of the seemingly always struggling Lotus.

car companies are also using a lot of carbon fiber now. Look to BMW to start using carbon fiber on all their cars.

Any details on the new 2014 Volvo XC90? I hear it will be completely redesigned and much like the smaller XC60.

You are right. The XC90, around for 10 years as I write this, is verrry lonngg in the tooth in an automobile industry that is now changing models every four years or so. The new XC90, or its replacement, will be smaller and lighter in keeping with the overall trend in the industry.

My daughter rented one to drive down for a visit. Have been in it twice. The seats are really uncomfortable. Which cars (Cross-over SUVs and large sedans) have the most comfortable seats?

Most comfortable crossover seats? I'dpick the Buick Enclave and Nazda CX 9.

check out Nissan Altima. They have seats that were nasa-inspired zero gravity seats.

Resubmitting on behalf of the earlier contributor whose question you ignored in favor of talking about a $40k 3-series: Warren, the BMW 1 series are lots of fun to drive but very expensive. What are LESS EXPENSIVE ALTERNATIVES that have SIMILAR DRIVING ATTRIBUTES? Thanks

When I hear you I hear you want something that is meant for an active driver. Check out a MINI Cooper S, Mazda Speed 3.

Thanks for that exciting information! The end of that sentence about audi said 'late 2014', but it wasn't clear - was that for all A3's, or just the plug-in hybrid? If the diesel is a separate date, will that be released earlier than 'late 2014'?

I don't know when Audi isplanning to bringforth its 3-cylinder cars. But BMw's timetable is about 2014 for Europe and probably around the same time for North America. I'm really looking forward to the new BMW 328D--2-liter, perfectly balanced four cylinder diesel. I could drive that one all day anywhere!

late 2014 was for the PHEV. I think they said the diesel was coming earlier than that.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return, and bring friends, next week. Thank you Matt Monahan for another fine production. Thank you, Lou Ann Hammond, Victoria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson for all you do to make this program work. Blessed Passover. Happy Easter. Happy spring greetings to all of you.

The automobile industry is busy nowadays kicking out old  outside advertising help and bringing in the new.  I think I could save them some trouble and money.

First, know who the heck you are talking too. This has long been the trouble with Chevrolet and, lately, with Lincoln, which is having trouble getting its new MkZ on the road.

The Chevy adds seem to speak to some imaginary American who doesn't exist. The Lincoln MkZ ads, at least the ones I've seen, apparently believe that the Americans in its target group all voted for Romney, or some how aspire to be Romney in dark face. Not!

2. Tout the  tangible merits of your product. Ford is doing that quite well. The Ford ads all make me feel that I'm getting value, solid value, for money.

3. Understand Hyundai/Kia's success. Thos two South Korean companies have rewritten the definition of luxuery...and value for dollar. Hint; Inexpensive no longer means "Cheap."

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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