Real Wheels Live

Apr 27, 2012

Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown will discuss the auto industry. Plus, he'll give purchase advice to readers.

Good morning Warren, should the cruise control mechanism be turned off when not in use? Thanks!

I always turn off the cruise control when it is not in use. it simplifies things and reduces the chance of mistakes.

I looking at buying a 2012 Mini Cooper Countryman. I wanted to know if Mini Coopers are a reliable car? Thanks!

Yes, they are quite reliable. But my personal experience is that they areexpensive to repair when something does go wrong.

Hi Warren, need a three-row crossover to haul around the new twins. Since they will ride in the second-row, comfort is needed for adults who will sit in the third row. I like the GM products (Traverse, Enclave, Acadia), but the interiors seem dated. What do you think about third-row space for adults in the Ford Explorer? The Ford Flex? Thanks.

I'd go with the Ford Flex in which third-row seating has relatively easy access plus adult-sized seating space.

Warren- We're in the market for a good cargo hauler that will also comfortably haul our family on road trips. We are not SUV people and don't want a minivan. We're looking to stay around the 20k pricepoint. We read your review of the 2008 XC70 written in 2007. Do you still recommend the 2008 XC70? By the way, the line you wrote in the review... 'Volvo's designers figured out that muted expressions of luxury need not be odes to automotive celibacy' is our very most favorite line ever written about a vehicle.....automotive poetry.

Take a look at the new XC60, which is more of a wagon than it is a SUV, minivan, or anything else. Cargo bay is exceptionally useful. But the price point is about $13K north of where you want to start. That being the case, take a look at the new Kia Sorento, lots of utility and style at a lower price. Good safety rating, too.

My Grandfather (just turned 83) has enlisted my help in finding a car to replace his aging '96 Toyota Avalon. His main concerns are comfort and visibility, especially when parking, so a high seating position is preferable but he is not interested in anything that is NOT a sedan. He's considering new or gently used Toyota Camrys and Avalons, and I have suggested adding the Hyundai Azera and Genesis as well. Anything else you can think of that might fit the bill?

The new Toyota Avalon will make him happy. Completely updated, but still mindful and respectful of the senior citizenry it serves. For that matter, both you and he will be delighted by the new Chevrolet Impala. You'd be cheating yourselves not to take a close look at it.

Can you figure out why Audi doesn't offer a manual option for any version of their TT, nor their S5 convertible? It seems that Audi is angling too much to satisfy the masses with the automatic trannies, while moving away from the focus on overall driving experience.

My hunch is that Audi hasn't found a business case for selling traditional manual transmission cars in a market where less than 11 percent of ALL new vehicles sold are bought with traditional manual gearboxes. But I'm sure there are automated manuals--automatic gearboxes that can be operated manually--in both the TT and the S5 convertible. Automated manuals rapidly are displacing traditional manuals because consumers are demanding them. They are two-in-one transmissions designed to please people who want automatic convenience in the same household where another driver prefers shifting./

Hi Warren, keep up the great work, always love your reviews and chats! Unlike our European brethren who embrace wagons like we do our SUVs and crossovers, we Americans generally seem to be "wagonphobic". There does seem to be a curious outlier to this and that is the success of Subaru Outbacks and Foresters. These are certifiably wagons but because they're marketed as outdoorsy and being sure-footed thanks to their AWD capabilities, seem to escape the wagon label. Perhaps other manufacturers need to rethink their marketing strategies ala Subaru as there are some incredible wagons out there that we'll never see. Your thoughts?

We are "wagonphobic" in this country. It's absolutely silly. Has something to do with self-image and illusions of perpetual youth. The silly part is that most of the things we're buying in substitution of wagons essentially are wagons. "Crossover utility vehicles," the silliest of product nomenclatures, essentially are wagons. SUVs routinely are used the way we use wagons. Vehicles such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav-4, Chevrolet Equinox, Volkswagen Tiguan et al essentially are wagons, which is why I call them wagons in my reviews. This silliness of calling them something else to placate consumers who are clinging to notions of eternal youth is not something I can go along with. They are wagons. Get over it, America!

Hi Warren, just finished reading your review of the VW Passat - have you or Lou Ann driven the diesel version yet? Thank you!

Yes, in Europe. And we're looking forward to their eventual appearance in the United States. Why do I believe that will happen? VW aggressively is pursuing a strategy to become the world's largest car company. That includes building new plants in North America, improving product quality, and giving consumers the drivetrains they want. Look for a diesel Passat in the U.S., soon.

Hi there, I live in California and own two SUVs. Paying $180 per week for gas is killing us. Would be it be hard for us to downsize to a sedan after owning only SUVs? Especially with kids? If you think we can do it, what would you recommend for a family of four (kids still in car seats) in the $30k price range?

Here's the deal: If you don't downsize, living with two gas-guzzling SUVs will kill you. In fact, if you don't need one SUV (look at how you actually use the thing), get rid of that one, too. SUVs are nothing but wagon substitutes for most of their owners. Are you one of them? If so, ditch the SUVs, buy any one of the substantially more fuel-efficient (aka "crossovers") available and be happy. As for sedans, our product cup runneth over with foreign and domestic models, all of them worthy of consideration. Most mid-size sedans adequately address the transportation needs of a family of five. Full-size models, such as the new Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon, certainly do.

For a lot of reasons, most having to do with the width of things we need to haul to dog shows, our decision has come down to two cars that one normally doesn't find compared to each other. And truly, it has to be one of these--trust me, we've done the measurements on every model you'll be tempted to suggest instead, and we don't want to go the minivan route either. (In fact, it's what we're replacing.) So if you had to choose between a new RAV4 at $25,000 or a 2010 Volvo XC60 with 50,000 miles at $30,000, which would you choose?

That's easy. I'd go with the Volvo XC60. It has a well-deserved reputation for safety. It also has one of the best designed cargo bays in the business. It's no star when it comes to fuel economy. But it's no demon, either.

Hi Warren. Are there any plans to introduce the VW Passat TDI diesel in a station wagon body in the U.S.? The new Passat is a great car, but a station wagon body would be even better.

You heard it here, first. VW has one of the smartest marketing departments in the world, meaning it actually listens to consumers. Expect a diesel Passat wagon in the United States, or its equivalent, by model-year 2014, if not earlier.

Mr Brown, your thoughts on the 2013 Ford Escape EcoBoost? Buy at release or wait a bit. And while this is your "live" on line, I do not know how to listen to it or see it in print. Please assist. fjnwk at yahoo dot com Thank you.

Just check out the transcript of today's show. Here's your answer:

EcoBoost engine technology makes perfect sense. The idea is to give you maximum power with minimum fuel consumption and tailpipe pollution. EcoBoost does this by maximizing air-fuel mixture in engine combustion chambers, via forcing more air into those chambers through turbocharging, and burining the mixture as thoroughly as possible before sending the spent gasses through emissions treatment on to exhaust. Translation: You can get the power of a V-6 in a four-cylinder engine without V-6 fuel consumption and emissions. A pretty good deal all around.

Do you know why Volvo stopped producing the S-40 for the US market? I was really close to buying one, but wasn't truly ready to purchase one until now. I went back through my research I've been compiling for over a year to decide that this was the car I wanted. I went to a dealer to do a confirmatory test drive and negotiate a price only to find out the model is no longer available in the US. Do you know if Volvo is realeasing a similar 4-door small sedan for 2013 or if I'm going to have to shell out more money to get a BMW 3-series or Audi A4? Also, if I can get one in Mexico, why can't I get one in the US?

The short answer is the Toyota Corolla, which offers everything offered by the similar-sized Volvo S40 for substantially less money. Most consumers are rational economists, which means they go for the best deal. Volvo simply accepted the truth that the S40, when compared with models such as the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3, was not the best deal. It acted accordingly.

Please accep my apologies for not being able to figure out the URL for this week's show. For security reasons, on this end, we chang the weekly. But my man, Matthew the Monahan, figured it out. Thanks, Matt. Thank you all for joining us this week. Please come back next week. Thanks, Lou Ann, for telling me to call Matt. And thank you, Ria Manglapus, for keeping things running. Have a good, safe weekend everybody.

In This Chat
Warren Brown
Warren Brown has covered the cars industry for The Washington Post since 1982.

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