The Washington Post

Real Wheels Live

May 16, 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

Sorry about the early stop on the chat last weekend. We all serve at the pleasure of the internet and correct settings. :)

I drove the Golf, GTI, TDI, e-golf and Golf S with sunroof this week. I also drove the Ford Focus ST, which Volkswagen says is one of its main competitors  - that and the Subaru WRX and Honda Civic.

The GTI comes out in June
The TSI comes out in August
The TDI comes out in August
The e-golf comes out in November
In the first quarter of 2015 the Golf R and sportwagen come out.
There is no confirmation that they are bringing out the GTD in 2017 but there are rumors.
They did confirm the B0-class suv would be coming to the United States.

There is a launch edition for $17,995 (I believe that does NOT include the $820 destination and handling charge, which for the life of me I can't understand how they get away with not including that) but check it out - it's limited and only for 2014.

Let's chat about cars

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Lou Ann Hammond

What happened in last week's chat? It lasted only about 15 minutes.

Last week, there was an issue that came up during the chat's production that led us to end early. We apologize. We'll run a smooth run cars chat today though!

Hi Warren and Lou Ann: Love your chats and learn so much! I am an aging, sedan driving (same TL since 1999) boomer who will soon be driving my also aging husband more. He is tall with bad knees and loves his Honda minivan partly because of his comfort sitting and getting in and out, but I am very uncomfortable driving that big tank (to me). I am hoping a compact SUV will help us both. I want comfort for him but also safety with me driving a bigger vehicle, and don't want to miss my near-luxury quiet and comfort too much. I like the RDX but it doesn't have blind spot monitoring or pre collision braking. The Q 5 and RX 350 are beyond my budget. I am thinking Forester or CX 5' with CR V, Encore and Rogue as secondary options. Do you have advice on choosing among them or other thoughts for me? Thanks!

Good Morning.

Thanks for the kind words. I am pleased that you are thinking ahead and thinking safety.

Can I also ask that you put a backup camera on your list of safety items? I know I harp on this but if you are grandparents you will have little ones running around and you won't be able to turn your head far enough or look down low enough to see them. Two children every week die because they are backed over by a car.

I like both the Forester and the CX-5 and think you should concentrate on those two. They are so comparable in price and features that it does come down to drivability for you. Since you would be trading in a Honda ask the car dealer if there is more money because it is a conquest deal (you're giving subaru or mazda more marketshare/more bragging rights :)

Warren, I have noticed that Lexus has been plugging the driving capabilities of their newer GS and IS models. Have they improved in that department, are they a "driver's" car now? Thanks.

Lexus has to advertise the driving capabilities of their cars. They are wonderfully luxurious cars, well contented but are known for the older set. If Lexus wants to break into the younger market they have to get the younger group to drive the car to see that it has upped the sportiness of their cars and they have. 

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, I have the opportunity to buy a used 2005 Honda Odyssey minivan with only 24,000 miles for significantly less than blue book value. The seller is a private party, not a dealer. I haven't inquired yet to find out the specific model (EX vs. LX, etc). I've done some research and read some of the owner commentary on Edmunds and Odyclub. It does seem like there were some problems with that model year. I've seen complaints on the AC, the transmission, and possibly also a high rate of oil usage (needing new oil every 2,000 miles, which is something my handy hubby could do, but it seems that no low oil light was coming on, which would be an issue.) But, Honda being Honda, would it be worth it? It would hopefully allow us a few years to save money to buy our next car in cash (we'd still make car payments to ourselves). I'd take to the owner more about it to find out details, but I'd appreciate whatever gut reaction you have based on this limited information! Thanks!! Near Clifton, but not Clifton ;-)

Very funny :-)

Do you ever wonder who Clifton is? What he does in real life?

Gut reaction - yes. do you know if it has been in any accidents? it sounds like you know this person and can find these things out, but take it to a mechanic and get it checked out.


Warren, you may ave addressed this before but I don't always get a chance to read your chats. Among us, my wife and I, our 3 children and their spouses have 5 cars that are subject to the GM recall. We've each received the same form letter saying parts are on order and they'll let us know when they arrive Our local paper, the Annapolis Capitol, recently had an article saying this may take months or even years. All of this makes us wonder if they even know what needs to be done to fix this, People have died from this defect! Shouldn't fixing it be made a top priority?

I remember as a kind my Dad had a ring full of keys on his ignition switch. They would dangle and everytime we turned a sharp corner they would hit the steering column. To think that could have been something that killed him is unconscionable. It's not because they don't know what to fix, it's because making new parts, gearing up the factory to fix that many units is time consuming. 

Here is Mark Reuss talking about gearing up to fix the ignition switch part

Do what they say, only use the one key.

Also, GM has recently announced five new recalls  affecting another 2.7 million vehicles, for taillamps and other problems. Go to and make sure you get those issues fixed.

Looking for a relatively new used mid size or smaller SUV or crossover (tow 4x6 LT trailer, but do not need 3 rows) as I'm driving on the highway for 90 miles, four days a week. The EcoBoost feature sounds good. Is it present in 2012 vehicles, or are there any like the discontinued? Escape Hybrid 2011, or would service be a problem? Last question: Is it better to buy used on holiday weekend?

It is best to buy when you find the best deal you can get.

I liked the Escape hybrid and it would be good for towing because of the low-end torque that the NiMH battery provides. There would be no service problems that I am aware of because Ford is still in business and, I think, has a good reputation of consumer service.

Ecoboost is gasoline direct injection which is the way many companies are doing it (Audi had ecoboost before Ford, they just called it FSI). You can also look at a plug-in hybrid such as the Ford Fusion energi, depending on how heavy the trailer is you tow. Since you're giving up some mpg because of the aerodynamics of towing you would make it back by getting the first 20 miles or so on electricity but wouldn't have the range anxiety of an electric car.

It is interesting that car manufacturers have been able to produce mufflers/exhaust systems that last the life of the car. Are there other items that they can produce that will never need replacing? Things like headlights, tires and batteries all have "human elements" to them that lead to the need for replacement--forgetting to turn off the lights, improperly inflated tires, so those might not be possible. What do you see? Warren, I'm your age and can remember replacing tires every 20,000 miles and mufflers, not just glasspacks, every 2 years.

The life average of all vehicles has gone up every year for many years. We now have an average over 11 years for a vehicle. Car companies are making more reliable cars and giving better warranties than ever before.

That means you will spend less money on your cars, you will buy fewer cars, but it is the cost of the initial car that makes the difference. It is also going up because we know that if we are going to be living in that car longer we want the best with the newest technology and the best safety we can get.

Thanks for the question.

Is there any new info about the next Miata/Alfa? Are there any other reasonably priced new roadsters expected in the next few years?

The Alfa Romeo 4C is coming to the United States, I want to say 2015. Fiat Chrysler Auto is on a major rollout, they have had an increase in sales for the past 49 months and are planning to bring out an IPO soon.

I am impressed that the Miata (oh, the MX-5) has been on the road since 1989 and it is still one of the most sought after convertibles around. At the New York auto show they had a 25th anniversary celebration on the floor of the Jacob javits center of lots of classic cars, but I don't have any more info than that.

Hi there Lou Ann and Warren, my sister is looking for a used car for my niece to drive. Reliability and safety are of course two huge issues; they want something that doesn't necessarily (purposely!) have all the "bells and whistles" that newer cars might have, that might be distracting to a new teen driver. Any thoughts as to what she should look at?

nearly 2.6 million cars are coming off lease, as we chat. That means you probably will be able to find some favorable prices this spring/summer. Most reliable buys will be Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and Kia. Also shop Ford, especially Fusion.

Oh my! I am driving a 2010 Honda Element after years in a stick-shift hatchback. I keep on buying...tons of gas. It's expensive. Now what?

Look for something used.

My understanding is that the Volkswagen group is going to use a common platform (MQB?) across several brands. Does this mean that we will have the privilege of paying a premium ($5-$15K?) for an Audi that has the same mechanical bits as the corresponding VW model? Good luck on taming the electronic gremlins of the last two weeks.

When you use a common platform you build more and can amortize the cost faster. It is very common these days to do that. The Chrysler 200 has the same architecture as the Alfa Romeo Guilietta.

Good morning, Warren and Lou Ann. I saw a picture recently of the VW Scirroco. It looks intriguing. Do you think there's any chance we will see it in this country?

Not soon. Just spent a few days with VW in San Francisco. The company's current North American emphasis is on the seventh generation Golf/GTI--available this June as TSI and TDI diesel. Also as a gas-electric hybrid and all-electric E-Golf, which is pretty cool.

Thanks for your response! And yes, I do wonder who Clifton is and wonder what he does... When I pass Jeeps, I wonder if it's him! Also about the 2005 Honda Odyssey, would it be possible to add an after-market back-up camera to it? We have two kids and well, I don't need to explain...! ;-)


Yes, I just did a quick search on the internet and there is a plethora of cameras and youtube do-it-yourself videos.

I thank you, your children thank you.

Is he having technical problems?

Just arrived from trip.

I never understood why more manufacturers didn't steal Saab's idea of putting the ignition switch in the center console. My keys never rattle, and it doesn't really matter how many of them I have.

While I agree with you, GM knew of this problem and should have resolved it sooner instead of covering it up. That was the old GM and the new GM is having to pay the price.

I also wonder where our federal tax dollars were - where was NHTSA and why weren't they doing anything, because they knew as well.

Mar 31, 2014 ... But General Motors, and NHTSA, had known about the issue with the ignition switch ... Where was Secretary Ray LaHood from 2009-2013?

Have you had a chance to drive the Plug-in Prius?

Yeah, not impressed with that one. Barely 25 miles on plug-in juice. Much prefer the Ford Fusion Energi in that iteration, which delivers nearly 40 on plug-in juice. VW also has a plug-in Golf coming.

Lou Ann How did you like the GTI? How did it compare to the Ford Focus ST and the WRX?

Loved the GTI - the one I drove was the GTI SE for $30,910 (starting cost of $29,095). I think the Focus St is tinny, shut the hatchback and it sounds like metal on metal. Not so with the Golf.

VW's Marc Trahan says that is their number one cross-shopper and I am perplexed why it wouldn't be the WRX. It would be for me.

Actually, it is June for both. The E-Golf and hybrid a little later. VW is planning  a slew of Golf/GTI models, including a compressed natural gas edition.

Lou Ann, Just wondering if you ever heard something from Mazda about devices connected to the USB on the 2014 CX-5's stereo playing the same song (the first on the device) every time the car is started.

no, I haven't heard that. It seems every infotainment has an anamoly. I'm in the Ford Fusion energi and if I am connected to the car via the cable (not Bluetooth) and I mess with my music I have to unplug the cable and replug it in to get the music to play again.

Aren't USBs becoming the cupholders of today? We used to have to have 8 cupholders in the car now people want to know how many charging devices are in the car :)

How different is it from the last generation?

Longer, wider, more cargo space than the average mid-size family sedan. More drivetrain options. Heck of a nice interior.

You don't want tires that last a lifetime. Tires that typically last 80,000 or more don't handle very well and have awful braking distances. They also don't perform well in wet conditions and snow. A good winter tire because of soft tread compounds may last 40,000 miles. A very high performance summer tire may last only 20,000 miles. A ultra high performance DOT-approved track day tire may only last a weekend at the track and maybe 500 miles. The other problem with tires is dry rot, which is why tires older than 6 years from date of manufacture are now a big issue. Good brake pads and tires will need to be replaced. Lifetime tires and pads may cost you your life! CLifton, VA

Thank you.

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren, so what's the new Golf like — especially the TDI? Pluses/minuses? When are the two of you reviewing them? Thanks! Garey (Let's go, Rangers!), Ottawa

VW obviously is pouring a lot of money/talent into the compact car aegment. Long list of Golf/GTI models, including a performance edition GTI. TDI supposedly will get nearly 45 mpg. Clean diesel, as expected. Qiet, for a diesel, as expected. Abut 15o hp and 232 pound-feet torque. Excellent interior.

Which would you buy if you were focused on the fun-to-drive factor? I know the GTI is bigger and more versatile, but we have another car that can haul people/stuff.

Not a contest. I'd go with VW over anything Fist.

Many new vehicles have push button start, so your keys stay in your pocket or purse. Clifton,VA, who now does herding trials, I used to crew for SCCA and IMSA race cars. I have worked for the federal government for almost 30 years. I am a native Washingtonian born and raised here. Since I am fed, I am an independent who leans right, sometimes left, and sometimes down the middle. I hate the government telling me what to do. The government should not be setting fuel mileage for vehicles or the percentage of ethanol in gas. Let the free market rule. And I want the option on traction control and ABS brakes. ABS is scary when you spin and unpredictable.

Clifton! There you are.

If there weren't some government involvement we wouldn't even have seat belts. My problem is when there is federal money spent for individuals and they are too busy lining their own pockets for their next campaign or their buddies campaign to bother to do the job they were put in the position to do.

Back in the mid '90's, I ran the driver education and high performance driving school for a local car club chapter. Program was a disaster, and I turned it around, so it made a profit and had a waiting list and was recognized as being one, if not the best in the country. I had a great chief instructor and instructors that made the program.


My husband did this long before this issue came to light. he said the heavy key ring would pull on the lock works and wear it out faster. He's precise car lover.

He was right. I never overload my key rings. Still, that is one that GM should have caught early.

You can get a double key ring that easily snaps the one key off while you drive, then snap back into the key ring.

Or, you can just save money and not put anything on the ignition key.

I thank you all for joining us this morning. My apologies for late start. California to DC not the easiest commute. Pleas join us next week. Thanks to Angela Wong, Lou Ann Hammond, Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson. Have a great weekend everybody. 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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