Real Wheels Live

May 24, 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.

Please explain "....3.6 liter, 14-valve V-6....." How are 14 valves divided among 6 cylinders?

My apologies. That was a typographical error---obviously. That's 6 times four. You do the math.

Hi. My husband and I finally decided to upgrade the size of our car after our last attempt to fit all our camping gear in our car. We're looking at the small SUVs, so like the Escape or RAV4 (or any other in that class). It seems that every different list we check has a different top pick. What can you suggest? Thanks!

Thereare so many "usual suspects," including those you mentioned and the Honda Cr-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Chevrolet Equinox. All have their virtues. Shop for best deal.

Lou Ann here:

Here are a couple more:

Subaru Forester, GMC Terrain, Buick Encore, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Juke, Nissan Rogue, VW Tiguan


After driving 17 years in 1996 Geo Prizm, I am ready to get a newer car for commuting/short trips. Here is what I want : -- Great maneuverability so I can get into tight parking spaces -- Comfortable drivers seat for people who are 6 foot tall (+ I have a bad back so it needs to be firm/ergonomic) -- Room for tall kids in the back -- Trunk space can be small -- we have a SUV for hauling stuff Thanks.

Check out the Honda Fit--surprisingly roomy for a small, agile city car. Reasonably affordable, too.

Lou Ann here:

My husbandis 6'4" - check out the MINI. Amazing amount of room. Or the Porsche Panamera. It has room for 4 people over 6 feet tall!

Warren, I'm about to retire so there is just me, wife and dog. Have had five BMWs in a row. I like driving very much, but I have noticed the newer the model, the less driving excitement you get from BMW and more useless luxury items. I WAS thinking of the 335 xi at first but now also looking at an Audi 4/s. Any other suggestions. I really want a car that I drive and is not driving me. Thanks

I'd keep looking at the Audi A4 especially if you are ready for something other than BMW. The A4 is a surprising package in terms of drivability and comfort. "Entry'level luxury."

Lou ann here:

Do you like a sportscar? I love the Audi TT RS.

Our Mini just went out of warranty and I'm starting to feel your pain regarding the cost. Simple oil change at the dealer ended being $700. Any suggestions for an independent repair shop that would specialize in Minis, or do they share enough parts that somebody who specializes in BMWs would be a good choice? Thanks

No. The fix seems to be in on the Mini. Every "specialist" repair shop I go to seems to have a high cost. Maybe, that's just the price we pay for specialists.

Just curious Warren and Lou Ann ... I know the focus on new cars and what's happening in the industry keeps you both busy, but have either of you owned or ever been interested in owning classic cars? I love watching the shows (Chasing Classic Cars etc) and love looking at them but can't bring myself to spring for one since it'd be nothing but a luxury purchase, almost no practicality. But they can be so beautiful!

That's a "no" for me probably because I'm hopelessly cynical about some things, such as the word "classic," easily translatable to "outdated." I know many classic cars are beautiful. But there aren't many that I'dactually want to live with.

Lou Ann here:

I do agree with you that they can be beautiful and they certainly hold a lot of nostalgia, but no, to me they are money pits. Keeping them in mint condition, garaged etc is time consuming and expensive.

I'll visit the museums or Jay Leno's garage. Leave it to the people who have the money and enthusiasm to do it right.

I would like to purchase a new Honda Fit in the next year or so. I've read a lot of complaints about the road noise in the Fit. That while it has improved in the last couple years, it is still bad. But can it be as bad as the road noise in my 1998 Civic sedan? (By the way, I'm sure you will recommend a test drive, but it always seems like the test drive feels great, and then after you have the car for a while you really start to notice the flaws.)

Yes, but there seems to be more noise in that class of car. I am driving the Kia Forte right now and compared to the Optima and Cadenza there is a huge amount of road and wind noise.

Some of the road noise is caused by the tires. Tires are being made to increase fuel economy but it also increases road noise.

Warren, I'm not sure who else to ask since Pat Goss doesn't have a chat anymore. A friend of mine is buying a car and a VW is one of the top choices. According to the dealer, both the gas and diesel powered cars only need their oil changed once a year or every 10,000 miles. I was bowled over. Is their technology really that great? Does VW have a special synthetic blend of oil? I was brought up on the every 3 months or 3,000 miles model and have always followed it.

Actually, most manufacturers are trending toward longer oil-change intervals--thanks to rapid advances on low-friction engine technology and improvements in lubricants. Best to check your owner's manual for oil change intervals and act accordingly.

Lou Ann here:

I emailed your questions to VW and as always got a prompt reply. Thanks Scott at VW. He says no magic involved, just synthetic oil.

I've never had a AWD vehicle before but am now moving to upstate NY and am looking at a used Subaru. Do any of your chatters know how expensive these AWD systems are to fix if something happens? I usually keep my cars till the end and don't know if I should budget an extra 3-4000 dollars for repairs just to feel safer in a AWD wagon.

It isn't theAWD system you have to worry about in Upstate NY. It's the brakes--lots of uphill, downhill driving. Repair costs depends on service station--really.

Warren/Lou Ann - I had the opportunity to drive a Volvo XC70 AWD rental the last two days. Had one on another rental ten years ago and really liked it. This one seems to be even better, incorporating newer technology, etc. Very solid. If I was looking to buy, what would you recommend I look at to compare? (Live in LA, but get up to the snow once/twice a year but don't have to worry about it like when I lived in Reston...) Thanks!

I wouldn't buy unless, for whatever reason, you have to buy. You are only dealing with snow at most twice yearly. Why go through the hassle and expense of buying for that? Rent. Return. Repeat as needed.

Lou Ann here:

Drive the Audi All-road. I would buy that in a heartbeat.

Warren & Lou Ann: My current car is reaching the end of its mechanical life. I drive less than 5 miles to work on city streets, which is hard on the car. I need something with 4 doors (our other vehicle is a coupe), but I would like to have something that can haul stuff from Home Depot on the weekends. I don't have off-street parking, so an electric vehicle isn't practical. I would consider a crew-cab pickup or SUV, but anything like a Chevy Avalanche wouldn't be practical for where I live and drive. What would you (or other chatters) suggest?

You sound like a crossover/wagon candidate. The list is long, too long to list here. How much can you, are you willing to spend? Why? You've listed your general needs--four doors, something that routinely can be parked on the street, which suggests something reasonably small and 0k-to-be-vulnerable. Check out the Kia Soprento.

Lou Ann here:

The Kia Sorento is good. Sounds like you want a small SUV for the 4 doors, but also for the cargo room. Look at a Buick Enclave or Chevy Traverse as well.

If it's going to be on the street think about a used Jeep Grand Cherokee as well. I hate spending that kind of money on something new and have it all dinged up.

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: Always love the chats! Saw a story this week that VW is retrofitting almost 210,000 cars to prevent gas from being put in diesel engines. (2013 VWs have this barrier.) Question: Why isn't there one standard for fuel nozzles/gas tanks worldwide so there's no way regular fuel can be put in a diesel or vice-versa? Misfueling will void a warranty and cost thousands of dollars to repair. Garey in Ottawa

I've asked question many times. The general answer: National chauvinism, one country thinking its system is better than another. Also, the iPhone effect. One company trying to maintain a retail edge through some slight, but costly alteration of the charging port. Makes no consumer sense.

Are the chats going to start early from now on?

More than likely not. Sometimes Warren and Lou Ann just show up early and we try to get a jump on the questions, which often have queued up over the course of the week.

Since you're coming out of a Geo Prizm, I bet you're cheap like me. You might like the VW Golf as a replacement. I'm very tall and had one as a loaner when my Passat was under the weather. Very good headroom/legroom with the adjustable wheel and column, and the seats are outstanding if you aren't fat like me.

We thank you.

It is a heavy driving weekend. Law enforcement officials nationwide are ready.Drive and ride belted..and sober. Save lives. Save money.

My 2003 Camry LE was totaled and I replaced it with 2004 Camry XLE. The problem is, it's loud! My mechanic suggested replacing the Bridgestone tires with Michelin MXV4s, but that's about $900 I don't have. Are there comparable but less expensive tires that could help?

Michelin Pilots.

An unfortunate incident with a deer led to my tiny Scion xB being totaled, and I took the opportunity to accept the fact that we are a growing family and get a 2005 Honda Odyssey. I can't believe it took me so long to get a minivan! This car is a dream, despite its age. I love that I can actully have a rear-facing car seat without the fron passenger having to sit with their knees in the glovebox. However, it has a few minor electrical quirks - like sometimes the rear windshield wiper comes on when the car is put in reverse, and sometimes the sliding doors don't unlock with the remote. Are these signs there could be something seriously wrong with the electrical system and should be investigated by a mechanic? Or should I just live with them? (A more serious quirk was that sometimes the alarm would go off in the middle of the night, but we've disabled the hood latch sensor and that seems to have solved that problem).

I'd have a certified technician check the minivan's electrical system. No need to waste time guessing or worrying about these things. Have a qualified person check it out.

Hello Warren and Lou Ann: I have an elderly acquaintance who just traded in a BMW for an 2011 Infiniti G37. He's driven BMWs for many years, but thought a change was in order. He did not notice anything during the test drive, but now that he's purchased the can and has driven it on the highway he notices that the car seems to drift to the left at speed. He's taken it back to the dealer, and they've checked the alignment and tires, to no avail. Is this something "normal" for Infinitis? He is suffering from buyer's remorse now, and the dealership won't do anything to help him. Any insights?

I just got out of a G37 and didn't notice a problem with drifting at all. Loved the car.

I have sent an email to Infiniti. If I hear anything before the end of the show I will let you know. otherwise email me at lou at and I will send your info to them.

A week or two ago someone wrote in asking about hard-tops vs. soft-top convertibles. I faced that decision a few years back and after looking at several models, went with the soft-top Nissan 350Z. I had also been considering the new Volvo C70 (just out that year). Very different cars. For me, the soft-top made the most sense because you still have a usable trunk with the top down, as the top did not infringe on trunk space at all. The hard-top Volvo had almost no trunk room as the hard-top took up nearly all the space. I wanted enough space for weekend luggage, a week's worth of groceries, the usual stuff people need to haul around, even in a convertible. Even in a car that's mostly for fun, utility still makes a difference.

You make a good point. I love the Audi/VW hard top convertibles but with the top down there is very little room in the trunk.

As a counterpoint I remember soft tops in San Francisco and people would complain that they had been slit open. No other reason then because someone could.

sad, but that might be the reason so many cars have gone hard top.

I am done with our ten year old car. Another repair for $400. We have the cash to buy. Trying to decide between Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic, Mazda3. Planning for a new baby as well. Anything I should be aware of?

My Bias favors the Mazda3, one of the all-around best small cars available. But you are going to need more space. Check out the Mazda 6--still a good drive, reasonably affordable, high safety rating, more space. Congrats on your new baby.

Headphones work great. Put on a podcast (hey, do Warren and Lou Ann do a podcast?) and don't worry about it.

I don't like the idea of noise cancelling headphones in a car. You need to hear the noise around you in order to know if there is a collision, a fire truck an ambulance or police coming up behind/side of you.

We don't do podcasts, but I own (you can like my on facebook) and do video interviews. I also guest on the John Batchelor radio show. All of those are on If you want to hear just the audio portion you can find them under drivingthenation on aha radio.

Back in 1969 my dad was offered a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO for $10K. he probably could have talked the guy down to $8000. However, he ahd 3 kids and a mortage. He wrote down the serial number. Car had a race history at Le Mans, Spa, Silverstone etc. Car recently sold in last 36mos for over $14million dollars. So the investment would ahve beaten just about anything in real estate and most if not all stocks and other investment vehicles. There are no other engines or music that compares with a Ferrari V12 from that era. Sorry Coltrane, Miles, Waters, Guy and Shirley Horn just dont put out music as beautiful as a 250GTO Clifton, VA


Lou Ann here:

Which is why Maserati uses Ferrari engines. Smart.

I wrote in last week and asked about your driving impressions of the Quattroporte. Warren responded that you can't drive it any faster than anything else in heavy traffic. I guess that is true, but fortunately traffic isn't always heavy. Lou Ann, have you driven it, and what did you think compared to comparable sedans? I would definitely buy used. Thanks.

I have driven it. I do love it. I would buy the Maserati Gran Turismo S. It - to me - is the answer to luxury and sports car. The CEO of Maserati drives a Gran Tursimo S and he could drive a Quattroporte if he wanted.

I will be in Italy in June visiting the factory. I will take video and put up on

For many new cars, if you have the wipers turned on, and switch to the reverse gear, the rear wipers will automatically turn on for one cycle. This is so you can see better when reversing. I don't think this is an electrical glitch.

Thanks for the info.

Hi, another repair question. I have an Audi Q5 and the brakes started squeaking at about 10,000 miles. Dealer service says that is the price to pay for great brakes - they go early and often. Really? Is this something you have discovered?

Usuage is the reason brakes go. Do you do a lot of hard braking? I have sent your question to Audi. I will let you know what they say.

One of you wags last week wrote a missive accusing me, Warren, of "not loving cars." I was more than flippant in response. Mea Culpa, mea maxima culpa. Truth is, I dearly love cars. But all love exists in context. Otherwise, it's not love. It's fantasy. The context here involves fuel sourcing an availability, fuel types, governmental regulations, safety, actual physical space. All of those things affect the car. I simply try to reflect that. Hope that's a better, non-churlish answer.

I've been driving a Fit for 4 years, and while I agree it's roomy and pretty comfortable for a city car, it has one big flaw, IMO: because of the shape of the windshield and the frame pieces at the sides, it has big blind spots on either side that mean you have to be careful at 4-way intersections. I have to bob my head a little to make sure I see pedestrians and even other cars.

Keep bobbing that head--regardless of what you are driving!

Lou Ann here:

It's why both Warren and I are for blind spot detection notification. That little yellow light that flashes in your side mirror when there is a car next to you means don't move over. I know there have been studies that say they're useless but I disagree. In real world driving I get more dependent on them the closer/faster the traffic. Especially if it is linked to my blinker and when I put my blinker on and there is a car in the way a beep goes off.

Audi Q5 is notorius for eating brakes. I put over 100,000 miles on my 2006 Element and didnt need brakes when I sold it last May. My 2012 Grand Cherokee has 19000 miles on it and doesnt need brakes. But then over a weekend at Summit Point and less than 500 miles I would go through pads and rotors front and rear at BMWCCA drivers schools. If its a new Q5 complain Audi big time and tell them you are going to complain on all social media. Clifton, VA

Going through brake pads at Summit Point has more to do with Summit Point than it does with the manufacturer.

Hey, I love my wife more than life itself. Doesn't mean I won't notice if Christina Hendricks walks by in one of those dresses.

If you loved ice cream before you were married, you are likely to love it afterwards. You just have to be very careful about what and when you eat.  Best way to live in peace is to wait until your wife serves something, even if its vanilla. But we probabl;y should let Lou Ann handle this one.

Try using the shiftronic to slow down gently instead of the "hammer the gas-hammer the brakes" routine. With 160,000 miles, I'm only on my third set of shoes. Better mileage too.

Braking is an art form:)

Lou Ann, Arrange a test drive in Aston Martin Vantage or Vanquish. AM is a far suprior ride to any Maser. Clifton, VA

Oh, Clifton. Lou Ann and I often have such test drives.  But, then, we think about the actual audience for such cars. Very, very small. Fun. But not enough takers to make a living or keep a company solvent, which is why exotics often need a Volkswagen or some similar mass marketer to keep them gpoing.

Lou Ann here:

Clifton. I love the Aston Martin, but if I won the lottery I would buy the Maserati Gran Turismo S. It's a stunning car inside and out. I like it better than the Ghibli that was just shown in Shanghai. Sorry, I am a Maserati girl. Well, okay, I'm not sorry :)

hello, thank you for the chat. Hope you can give me some advice here. I have a 2013 VW Jetta GLI. I have been the only owner and it now has close to 80k miles on it. Lately, I have been keeping up with the oil changes and regular maintenance, however it is now needing extra care. AC just went out, engine coolant hose needs to be replaced, power steering fluid needs to be replaced, and a few other minor things. My question is, should I make the repairs and continue to drive the car, or is it time to put the repair money into a new 2013 Honda Accord? I have some cash saved up for a new, so it is a matter of when I should pull the plug on the Jetta. Thank you!!

Make the repairs and continue to drive the car. Your repair costs are bound to be less than the cost of financing something new. But, it sounds as if you are more concerened about something else. Sounds like you've fallen out of love with your car. If so, find another lover and try to be happy.

Lou Ann here:

Warren is right, you might have fallen out of love with your car. 10 years is less than the norm to own a car these days. More like 11-12. But it also sounds like you're getting into some expenses. How much will these cost you? get an estimate of the cost first. if it's as much as a down payment on a car you might consider opting for the Accord now.

Good on you for having money saved for this time.

Hello -- My parents' 1999 Jeep just gave out. I'd like to get them a reliable car that might last a year or two, until they can save up for another one. They live in the midwest, so something safe for winter, and able to hold two car seats, is a must. The budget is approximately $5k. What would you recommend? Thanks!

What is your definition of a "reliable car" for your parents? How much are you willing to spend? Would you want to own the car you buy for them? Forgive me. I'm one of those parents. I get awfully suspicious about children making plans for me and my wife. Awfully suspicious.

Lou Ann here:

I am the child of parents and if my parents were still alive and I had the money I would want to do the same as you. Warren has driven his whole life so he knows more about cars than most people.

Look at this link:

Both ar new cars under $15,000

Look for them now as used variants.

Good luck. Your parents are lucky they have you.

Thank you all for joing us this week. Please return next week. Thank you, Matt and Lou Ann. And thanks to all of you Members of the U.S. Armed Services for fighting on our behalf. To the reest of us: We have a moral obligation to help Our Veterans readjust to civilian life. We owe them Let's pay up.

Thank you, Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson. 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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: