Real Wheels Live

May 03, 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.

I was talking to June, the owner of Second Act in Auburn, CA. She was pleased that she had just filled her tank and it didn’t go above the price that in her head was too much to bear. She stopped, looked at me and said, “I can’t believe it. I’ve fallen for it. They’ve kept the prices so high for so long that I feel good about paying $3.70 a gallon.”

Is that the way you feel about gasoline? Are you feeling like you could buy a car that was as fuel efficient because the price of gasoline is at a price that you think is bearable?

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On April 19th Warren stated that when choosing between "the Rav4 and Cr-V. I'd put the CR-V first because of overall craftsmanship and design. And I wouldn't give a pahooty about the fact that it only, I think, comes with four cylinders. Four cylinders are all that is needed" Then on April 26th Lou Ann said, "I like the CRV but think it is under powered. Go with the RAV4". So which one should I buy or should I say , which expert should I listen to? Love the blog!

We are both right, but we address two different subjects on the same vehicle.

Warren addressed craftsmanship and design, and he is right. The Honda CRV has a nice style and design, good fit and finish.

The underpowered that I was addressing is the torque needed to go up a hill as you get on an on-ramp. Remember, I live in the Sierra Nevada foothills. In order for me to get on the highway I have to merge with traffic going at least 65 miles per hour, up a hill. If there is not enough torque to propel the car (I'm usually around 45 miles per hour and gunning it to get up to the speed of traffic) around a curve, up the hill and into traffic then I have a moment of concern. Especially when an 18-wheeler is on my backside.

I don't know how parents with children do it. I would always be worried that a car was going to crush me and my children.

It's why I'm not concerned with 4-cylinders or 6-cylinders, but more about the torque one can get out of a car in real-world challenges.

It's why I like plug-in hybrids, they give the vehicle more torque and create better fuel effieciency.

Overall, you should drive the car, preferably on the route you drive most frequently and then make a decision.

Warren, have you driven the new Infiniti Q 50? Thanks

I haven't but I am looking forward to it.

There are two versions, the Q50 and Q50 hybrid. It starts at $36,450 and should be on sale soon.

I like the design, it will be interesting to see how it drives.

I am intrigued by a diesel Mazda. Your hint last week got me looking at the Mazda website, which is coy about what may be coming to the US. Do you have more details? I was looking at the 3 hatchback, and am wondering if they will bring just sedans, or any hatches??

Just like the website, Mazda has been coy about diesel. They have said they will bring it but "they won't talk about future product."

Mazda's cars are so much fun to drive, they will be great with even more low-end torque and 25% more fuel efficiency.

Trying to decide if it's worth waiting until the new model year. Do you know when it will be in dealerships? Are they only modifying all the versions or just the top of the line? Don't want/need entertainment bells and whistles or vacuum but would like perimeter key and best safety features like blind spot monitoring and back up sensors. Thanks.

Wait for the newest one you can get.

My husband and I save our money so that we can buy the best we can buy of anything we need to buy.

We will fix it till (whatever the product is) the product becomes more expensive to fix than to buy again. Then we buy the best we can again.

If there are items on the 2014 that you know you want, after a year or so you will be tired of the old model.

Buy the new one, take care of it. Enjoy it knowing you will enjoy it longer because you got exactly what you wanted.


The just received June 2013 edition of Consumer Reports ranks the new Mazda CX-5 and the new Mazda 6 sedan very highly. Have you driven either? Any observations about performance, reliability, service, comfort?

I have driven both and love both. The CX-5 just got the new engine, the same one as the Mazda 6, so it has the power it needs. I love the new design.


Hi Warren & Lou Ann, thanks for these chats! I am thinking of purchasing an plug-in/electric car and the Volt would be at the top of the list were it not for the fact that it only sits 4 and we are a family of 5. As I drive less than 12 mi/day, I am hoping to find a car that I can get around on electric propulsion the great majority of the time and am wondering if you have a clear cut favorite?

I did a piece for KCRA-TV in Sacramento about alternative vehicles by price of fuel.

You can now add the Ford C-Max energi to the list, as well as the Ford Fusion energi

What is the best online source for how to negotiate the price of a new car? is a good source. Tara Baukus Mello writes some good articles on the subject.

I'm writing one now that basically says know your FICO score, if you belong to a club (such as Costco or Sams) check if they have a deal. If you are getting your own financing then you only have to negotiate the price of the car.

If I were to buy a car I would get my own financing from my credit union, put the car (alrady negotiated price) on my visa for 30 days, pay off the visa with the loan I got. That way I get airline points for the car and I get a 30-day free ride on my loan.


I have two cars and would like to have just one. I love my smart fortwo because it gets great miles and fits in my garage (along with the bike, lawn mower, and tons of other items). I need my smart fortwo on the weekends to haul tents, tables, and other items to craft fairs and festivals. Is there a car that could combine the small size and good mileage of the smart car while still having a good size trunk for storage?

A Ford C-max or Mini Paceman come to mind.

I was at the Shell station today and noticed a little sticker on the pump under the diesel handle. It is poorly written gibberish, but it appears to say that the diesel that they sell is 500 ppm sulfur and SHOULD NOT be used in any car manufactured after 2007. What is the requirement for a new diesel car, like a VW TDI? Is it safe to use this fuel or not, and if not, why would anyone sell this product if it is likely to damage the new diesel engines?

Is the sticker new? Low sulfur diesel, 15 ppm, was phased in starting around 2006, but could have gotten to that station around 2010. I thought all diesel had been changed as the new cars won't run well, if at all, on 500 ppm. Ask if that stick is old. If you think it is still 500ppm check with the EPA and let me know. Thanks

My BMW is now out of warranty and maintenance plan, so I've been looking around for a good independent mechanic to use for my service and repairs. You would not believe how difficult it is to get ANY response from these places to emails with simple requests about service. Anyway, emails sent to 4-5 shops, one week passes, no responses, second round of emails, one response, estimate of 5% less than the dealership. I give up, I guess independent shops don't need my business, they're too busy to even answer email!

You might be right. With people holding onto their cars the longest they have - around 11 years - mechanics would be in higher demand.

I remember during the 08-09 depression, during the summer. the only people that were thriving were hvac mechanics because no one was buying a new air conditioner if they could get the old one fixed.

I also think you might want to change your thinking. 10 years ago dealerships were so expensive versus an independent mechanic that few people used them. Service has become part of the butter of a dealership and they are fighting for your business.

I would go back to your dealership and negotiate down the 5% and stick with them.

Oh yeah!! Prices have been so high that I feel good about the current price of $3.70 in my neck of the woods for regular gas. I really wanted to buy a snazzy car that took premium gas, but I don't want to pay over $4 a gallon!

I was impressed that June had that moment of realization that she had bought into liking the "low" price. It's a mindset.

I always say, if you can't afford the variable price of the premium gasoline, don't buy the premium car.

I so agree with this, especially with cars. I currently have a 2002 Hyundai Elantra that came to me used. I've had it for about 3 years and love it. I'll drive it until it's no longer financially smart for me to keep fixing it. At that point, I'll go for a crossover SUV. Maybe a Santa Fe, depending on what the current model is like.


I read a cartoon the other day. It was a couple. The woman said, "you ask how we have stayed married for so long? Because we grew up in the generation that you didn't throw things away. You fixed what was broken."

Hi, Last Friday someone inquired about an AWD Sienna vs. the Odyssey. I too asked myself that question, test drove both vehicles (and even rented the Sienna for a week), and decided I wanted the better MPG in the Odyssey Touring Elite. And when one of you emphasized the excellent safety features of the Odyssey as compared to the Sienna, I too decided that safety is paramount with my loved ones. Good luck on your decision!


Did you get the entertainment system that is available in the touring elite but not in the Acura?

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: The Mazda 6 diesel is arriving sometime this year. I haven't read anything about a Mazda 3 for North American buyers, though. With Chevy bringing the Cruze Diesel this year, VW will have more competition for buyers. On fuel prices, I think American prices are way too low. Until recently we were paying the equivalent of almost $5/US gallon in Canada. (It's dropped a bit recently.) Politicians aren't doing voters any favors promising $2 gasoline if elected. Those days should be gone forever. Prices should be higher so people would make better decisions when buying vehicles. I'm not advocating Euro prices that are at least $8/US gallon, but something closer to Canadian prices makes sense. A recent study that showed Canadian fuel taxes average about $1.47/US gallon versus American fuel taxes of only 41.6¢/US gallon. How do you pay for infrastructure with so little taxation of fuel? Garey in Ottawa

Hey Garey,

Here's an article I wrote about the Mazda6

It is political suicide for Congress to talk about raising the taxes on gasoline. They are talking about adding a miles driven tax since some cars don't use gasoline, but they use the roads.

It would be simpler if there were a flat price for gasoline, but that won't happen either.

Is the price of gasoline/diesel in Canada lower because the Canadian politicians want you to feel better about the tar sands and the emissions in Canada?

Is Warren not participating in the chat this week?

Warren will be back next week. His internet has a virus:)

Consumer Reports says a real strength of the new RAV 4 is its much shorter turning radius compared to CR-V. Having experienced both I'd give the nod to the new RAV 4

I do love a shorter turning radius. I just saw a new technology that may allow cars wheels to turn sideways, allowing you to parallel park without going backwards and forwards.

How cool would that be? The technology is already there to tell us if there is room to park a car (no more guesstimating). It's an interesting world we live in.

I'm trying to decide between the Odyssey and Sienna. I currently have a 2004 Odyssey with over 232,000 miles on it. I like the Sienna but would prefer darker seats and carpet. I'll keep the van for a long time and I'm afraid the light color will show wear. The interior of the Odyssey is perfect, but I feel a vibration in the seat while test driving. Thoughts? Have you heard anyone mention feeling vibration in the Odyssey? Thanks!

Are you going over a white line in the road at the same time it vibrates? Without using your blinker? That might be the cause. If not, Have you tried another Odyssey and its done the same thing?

Are you saying you like the Sienna but you can't get a dark interior color?

I also own a older BMW, I take it for service at the dealor, if they find something that needs to be fixed, I take the list to my mechanic and let them take care of it. E-mail is nice, but I will say go to their shops see what kind of work they do, then ask around about the reputation. My service guy picks my car up and drops it off at the house. Happy in Waldorf...

I used to do the same with my Lexus but I found that Roseville Lexus gives me as good a deal as an independent mechanic, will give me a loaner and washes my car. It's all about negotiating and loyalty with any service.

Lou Ann, I tried to do exactly what you outlined. The dealer (Fitzgerald) would not take a credit card for a new car.

oh, that's interesting. Did they say why? I will look into it before I finish the story.


I currently drive a 2000 BMW 328i with a manual transmission and it is approaching 200,000 miles. It has been a fantastic car and a blast to drive but it is time to start thinking about a replacement. I am considering a volkswagen TDI with a manual transmission and have two questions for you. 1. I owned a volkswagen sirocco in the late 1980s and it was one of the least reliable cars I have ever owned. Has Volkswagen turned the corner as far as reliability? 2. Given a choice between the Sportswagen TDI with manual transmission versus the Passat TDI manual transmission, which one would you recommend and why?

Warren and I talked to Jonathan Browning about Volkswagen's reliability issues in 2011.

VW was, and is, cognizant that they had problems and have made great strides in getting rid of the issues.I would buy a wagen TDi because my lifestyle is active and I haul stuff all the time.

Our prices aren't lower; they're much higher than in the USA. The recent dip is just the usual free market working its magic. I'll email you the link if I can find it, but I read a piece recently that said greenhouse gas emissions from the Alberta tar sands is a fraction of 1% of the worldwide total, but that figure can from EnergyTomorrow, a group promoting the Keystone XL project, which I also support. Garey in Ottawa

I'm doing a study right now that shows that men are more attracted to women my age, height and weight than any other segment of the female population.

Thanks for all the questions and chatting. Matt, you did a great job fielding the questions as they came in. Warren, tell your computer to get well.

And remember, never drive faster than your Angel can fly.

chat with you next week.

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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