Real Wheels Live

May 23, 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.

Memorial Day usually heralds great deals on new-car sales. But this year's holiday comes with a retail twist, largely thanks to nearly 3 million cars coming off lease at this time.  That means you might be able to find some good deals on the used-car lot. Think about it.

Good morning Warren and Friends

Last week I was asked about a problem in Mazdas 2014 CX-5 with Tech package. The chatter said, "Any device connected to the USB on the stereo plays the same song (the first on the device) everytime the car is started. After start-up, other songs or shuffle can be chosen, and the device plays properly.

I got an answer from Mazda and wanted to share it with you:

Mazda is aware of this playback issue and is currently working on a software update for 2013 and 2014 model-year vehicles (both years have the same software). While I do not have a timetable that I am able to present to you, I can assure you that our teams are working on a solution.

This week I drove the new 2015 Mazda 6 which I loved. The MSRP was $29,895. My ride was $33,045 with the biggest addition being sirius radio.

I also drove the 2014 VW Beetle R-line with the mesh sunroof (I would never buy a car with a mesh sunroof) MSRP was $31,095 but topped out at $32,020. I could forgo the emergency aid kit for $35 and buy my own. :)

Let's chat about cars

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Lou Ann Hammond

I did not see the segment in question. But I've closely followed the development of the technology. The South Koreans are taking it very seriously and are close to launching a sale-able product. Ditto the Germans. We'll see.

Do you have any reactions to this recent NEWSHOUR segment?:

When the California hydrogen highway started it was supposed to be both the car companies and the state providing cars and the infrastructure. California didn't keep their part of the deal.

Toyota disbanded their partnership with Tesla because they are going to spend more time and money with hydrogen.

Catherine Dunwoody has been working on the hydrogen project for as long as I can remember and it's a great idea. I hope we finally get an alternative that can be produced domestically and has less emissions. Just like electric cars, they are better on a well-to-wheel if produced by solar/renewable.

It's a good watch, thanks for bringing it to us.

Hi Warren/Lou Ann: I listen to your chat each week and hope you can help us even though the part is a minor one. The sun visor on our 2009 Civic broke--no accident or anything just one day it was fine the next it came apart and couldn't be completely closed. I searched online as I do with most problems and found that Honda had a settlement with a lot of Honda owners over the defective visor--some people had to replace the visor more than once yet Honda kept using the same part in later models than ours. As I read the settlement, Honda not only paid for the repairs for many owners but also extended the warranty on the visor for two years. When we took the car in to replace the visor, we were charged more than $100 and the dealer said it wasn't under warranty as our vin number wasn't listed. Who should we appeal our case to at Honda? I don't think we should have to pay for a defective part. Any advice you can give will be appreciated. Thanks.


Go back to the Honda dealer armed with a service bulletin from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration--visor not really a safety issue--but NHTSA racks those consumer complaints. Just  insist that the dealer replace it.

Last week Lou Ann shared that VW will be selling the e-Golf in November. Once my lease is up in Oct I'm looking to get into an electric car & recently test drove the i3, which was the coolest car I've ever driven. What more info can you share about the e-Golf, such as price & if they are planning a big roll out like BMW did with the i3? Thanks!

The e-Golf is a good commuter and, based on some talks with VW execs, very well might be available before November. 

Lou Ann here:

We didn't get to drive it so I can't comment on the drivability but it's competing with the nissan leaf in specs - 80 to 100 miles of driving range. If you use the Bosch 30 amp charger you can charge quickly. I'll have more to share on the subject in about 2 weeks.

Hi, I'm considering buying either an Audi SQ5 or a Porsche Macan S. I need a little help making my decision. I would appreciate your input. Thanks, Bob H.

I see no need to pay $12,000 more for the new Porsche Macan, which exists  primarily because the Audi Q5 is selling so well--with good reason. The Q5 starts at $37,300 and, with options, has everything available in the Porsche Macan for about $45.000. The Macan starts at $49,900..without options. Other thsn the Porsche badge, I don't see the point.

You mentioned the new GTI last week. Did you get a chance to drive the dual-clutch transmission version? If so, how well did it work? Thanks

Yes, I drove the GTI. Car worked fine. But I prefer the TDI--great torque (236 pound-feet), reasonably good fuel economy at 42 mpg highway, under $30,000 with fully loaded SEL package.

What's soon to be available (2015 or 2016 models) in the way of an AWD diesel (non-truck!) vehicle? I need AWD in winter and fuel economy is very important to me. Thank you both for sharing your time and insight with us!

  I have put together a list of all AWD that I can think of that are not super SUVs or trucks. It looks like only Audi and Mercedes offer a sedan that is AWD and diesel. 

I left the other AWD cars in there in case you see something you hadn't thought of (like a hybrid) that might give good fuel economy.


  2014 BMW 328d xDrive
    2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec 4matic

    2014 Infiniti Q50 & Q50S Hybrid AWD
    2014 Subaru Impreza - Sedan & Wagon AWD

    2014 BMW 535d xDrive

2014 Audi A6 TDI quattro
    2014 Audi A7 TDI quattro

    2014 Audi A8 TDI

    2014 MINI Cooper S Countryman All4 / JCW Countryman All4
    2014 MINI Cooper S Paceman All4 / JCW Paceman All4
    2014 Nissan Juke AWD
    2014 Subaru Forester AWD
    2014 Subaru Legacy AWD

Warren and LouAnn, my 2013 Audi Q5 nav system is on the automatic setting where it switches between day (lighter) and night (darker) for the screen display. This morning after I left my underground apartment parking garage it stayed in the darker setting. I checked it and it was in automatic mode. I switched it to day and it did get lighter but when i switched it back to automatic it went darker again. It was a bright sunny morning - any ideas what could be causing this?

No. That's completely odd.

What do you mean mesh sunroof? Our VW has a sunroof and a mesh sunshade that keeps the car cool with all of that glass on top.

The sun penetrates the glass, goes through the mesh and you can feel the heat. Remember, I live in California where it can get 113 in the summer. I don't want to feel the sun at all in the summer. It means I have to use the air conditioning more.

That EVs are not zero emission or anywhere close to this pie in the sky idea. To make a EV vehicle usually means the process generates more pollution and environmental damage than a similar sized conventionally powered vehicle. Not just slightly more but significantly more. The power plants you use to recharge are not zero emission. When an EV reaches the end of its life the salvage process is also much dirtier. Last the batteries dont last forever and come nowhere close to average lifespan of a good internal combustion engine that with proper maintenance can go 250K miles before needing a rebuild. So before you buy check the real facts. Same holds true for hybrids and diesels. Todays diesels produce very fine particulate matter which causes cancer and is not trapped by the vehicles emission system. There are no free lunches. Plus it really doesnt matter when billions of Chinese and Indians are polluting to max does it! Looking for a vintage Grand Wagoneer to performance tune with 3%+ CO levels. CLifton, VA

Baloney. EV's make perfect sense in controlling mobile-source pollution and cutting down petroleum consumption. Of course, pollution is generated by power plants. But that is changing for many reasons--not the least of which is increased reliance on natural gas. Nothing at all "pie-in-the-sky" about Ev models.

Lou Ann here:

And my friend Shad's Mom has solar panels and hasn't used gas for her house or car in years. I love her. I want to be her.

Is the mesh filling in where there would normally be open skies? I'm asking because it kind of makes sense to me: here on The Other West Coast(tm) we use the moon roof at night, but giant Florida skeeters can come in. There is also a huge German population here, and I bet they complained to Cousin Deiter about bugs getting in.

LOLThat makes sense. It's just like heated seats. You and I (because of where we live - DC and Sierra Nevada foothills) think every car should have heated seats as standard. But places like Forida don't sell many heated seats.

Thanks for the reminder.


Not impressed try 103 degrees in the DC area in July with dew points near 80. I have been to Vegas with temps near 119 degrees on the strip and it still isn't as hot as DC. At least you sweat in Vegas. Clifton, VA

Yeah, okay.

Do you plan to review the BMW i3 REx? It sounds pretty intriguing; an electric car with a 70+ mile electric range plus a gas extender. I almost bought an electric car last fall, but a 70-mile range car with a 60-mile round-trip commute was too scary, especially on cold winter days when range is sharply reduced.

Yes, the i3 and I8 are on the schedule. EV models won't supercede petrol runners anytime soon. But they will get better and increase in number.

Lou Ann here:

I agree with you, the chatter, I love plug-in hybrids, the part electric part gas. I wouldn't buy a full EV unless it was a Tesla because I travel more than 100 miles and don't want two cars or range anxiety. The Volt, prius plug-in fusion energi are all great vehicles that allow one to see how electric cars work without the range anxiety.

Hi Warren & Lou Ann, What are your thoughts on purchasing a Lexus RX 450h with around 30,000 miles on it? Lexus warranties the battery for 10/100,000, I believe. I'd be using this for dropping off and picking up the kids from daycare, and my daily commute. Thanks!

Are you concerned because it's a nickel metal hydride (NIMH) battery? These batteries are tried and true and have been on the market for years now. Toyota has had very few replacements for them.

I would not be worried about the battery at all.

Same rukes apply. Have a technician check it out with extra attention paid to the battery pack. There should be at least 3 years  left on that battery to make it a worthwhile purchase--more, if possible.

When we moved here from the freezing Midwest, I turned off the heated seats in my Passat midway through Georgia and thought "Never gonna use them again." Now when it gets down in the 50's in January, we crank up the heat and roll down the windows. It's awesome.

I do the same in a convertible! Nighttime, to me, is the best time to drive in a convertible because of the beautiful stars you see. cruising along, heated seats on, heat on the floor - love it.


Is not emission free, Warren. Also natural gas has less BTUs than pump gas. Do some research and you see how much dirtier making EV is than that 2015 Chevy Suburban. Making batteries is not zero emission and there is a reason its done in 4th world nations. So you want to jack up the price of gallon of regular destroying economic growth and knock a couple of points off of GDP. Current internal combustion vehicles over there lifespan from mining the raw materials to salvage arent that much dirtier than EVs. And where is lithium mined??? Adn the batteries made? So we will destroy this nation's economy and become a 4th rate economic power all in the name of clean air while China and India are polluting to max so it really doesnt matter. Do you know how clean the modern internal combustion engine is? You might to watch something besides MSNBC and drink the Jerry Brown Kool aid folks . Clifton, VA

I did not say it was emission free. No one says that. Emissions will come from somewhere. You can't use any form of energy without creating some kind of pollution. The question involves amount, control, and reduction of petroleum, which most people agree has a limited future.

Lou Ann here:

and don't forget jobs created locally when we create our own energy here.


Check the cost to include parts and labor. Most independent garages even ones that specialize in Lexi don't have the skill set and parts to do this. Check the price now since it isn't cheap.

I agree, check the cost to include parts and labor. Disagree: Lexi garages don't have the skill set to handle Lexus hybrids. More baloney.

Thinking about buying a 2013 (it's new; just a model year old) Hyundai Elantra hatchback. Thoughts? Are there any common problems I should be aware of?

None. great little car. Hyundai's are well contented and have a great warranty.

Once you get to the office how are you going to charge them? The mall? The airport? Who is going to pay for the electricity used? Metered spots for recharging work for me. Now to invest in companies that provide the technology for this. It shouldnt be free. Clifton, VA

Really, Clifton? Charging technology has changed tremendously, lower charging times and increased power density. Also, where have you been? Union Station, increasingly office and other buildings are putting in charging stations.

We can produce enough petroleum in the US and off our shores to supply our needs and for export. We can tell the Saudis to kiss off. We need a rational balanced energy policy not some pie in the sky Jerry Brown fantasy. Warren you really need to read how much pollution is created during the manufacture of batteries for EVs. Clifton, VA

Good luck with that, Clifton.

I said independent garages specializing in Lexi. Reading fundamental even my collies can read that Clifton, VA

Reading "is" fundamental. Are your collies dyslexic?

We want to thank all veterans, all military for protecting this country. This weekend is yours. We thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thank you Angela, Lou Ann, Ria and Michelle. Eat lunch.

Hi, 2 weeks ago I asked about a fun-to-drive, zippy “hot hatchback” alternative to VW Golf or VW GTI, for a friend who wants a Japanese (not German) car, and BIGGER than the smallest subcompacts. Warren recommended Audi (German), and LouAnn replied with a list of the smallest subcompacts, some of which were not hatchbacks, and most are not zippy (e.g., the Versa, I drove that and it’s slow and un-fun). Can I ask again?

you can - and if I don't get it right this time, ask again

The only one I can think of is a honda fit - automatic not manual.

Is that too small still? send me an email lou at and be more specific and I'll have an answer next week.

I suppose at the time the wheel was invented, there were a few guys who ran around saying, "Nah, I'd rather drag a rock up the hill. That thing'll never work." No, vehicles that run on something other than internal combustion engines aren't angels with wheels. There is a cost--in this case environmental--to everything we manufacture. Maybe we should stop denying and spend more time trying.

100 years ago when we started putting a steel straw in the earth and extracting dinosaur guts out of the cracks in rocks, barging across the ocean and refining it the emissions were abysmal. Give us 100 years of tax subsidies on alternative/renewable energies and then let's talk.

His thoughts on cars are interesting, but perhaps one comment on emissions per chat? This chat is like going out to dinner with friends when one couple gets in an extended argument.


Large scale power plants are signicantly more efficent that small engines. Much less polution from buring coal in a plant than gas. And, in Va, much of our electricity comes from Nuclear which is very low emmision (waste particles are easy to contain).

I am in such disagreement - we have uranium stored all over the place because we can't get an agreement on yucca mountain. there is not one single energy that doesn't have a problem, don't fool yourself.

Mazda 3 Speed. Though, I have a GTI and love it. Much nicer car.

OMG! of course, thank you. Sometimes the obvious becomes obscured.

I am sorry folding down the top and unplugging your EV for a spirited drive just doesnt have the same romance and isnt the same aural experience. I want to feel the lope of the camshafts, I want to feel the choke work, and I want to put the clutch in and work through the gearbox. I want to match shifts and heel and toe. I want to hear the engine bark, gurgle and burble on the overurn. I want to smell the brakes and the Castrol. If EVs are the rule you might as well have them drive me to to my funeral. Life just became a lot less fun. Warren Lou Ann go to Monterrey for historic races this August. A 12cylinder Ferrari TR at song or a RS60 coming down the corkscrew is what makes life worth living. Clifton, VA

Clifton, you are a dying breed. The younger people don't care about this. They want their smartphones and don't know the difference between a camshaft and a CVT.

If they did the manufacturers wouldn't be spending so much time on infotainment.

To my Father, and Father-in-law, I miss you and will think of you this weekend, memorial weekend. To all other military, I appreciate your service and will think of your loved ones that fought for the freedom we have today. 

Enjoy your three day weekend. Thank you Angela for all your help in producing the show.

And remember -

Never drive faster than your Angel can fly.

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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