Real Wheels Live

May 30, 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

Pricing for the all-new 2015 Golf GTI has been announced and it starts at $24,395 for the entry-level S trim in two-door form with six-speed manual transmission, an increase of just $195 over the base price of the previous model.

I drove the Subaru WRX, base $31,195 total $31,990. The tuning is definitely male and I even had a guy stop me at Starbucks (he was in an old beat up truck) and rave about the deign of the car.

I also drove the Kia Cadenza and loved everything about it except the smell. Kia/Hyundai must use a different glue than the other manufacturers because I have gotten in their cars and they don't have that new car smell. Have you noticed that?

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Lou Ann Hammond

Lincoln has a new small SUV - the MKC. I saw it at the Washington Auto Show and now it's appearing at local dealers. Have you driven it? Thoughts? It's based on the new Escape which seems to have had some problems since it's 2013 introduction.

I have not driven the MKC, though I like the look of it.

Does anyone own a Ford Escape or Mercury Mariner? 915,216 , from the 2008 to 2011 model years, Ford Escapes and the discontinued Mercury Mariner have been recalled for loss of power steering. If you own these years of that car please call your dealer immediately.

So I'm looking at the 2014 Chevy Traverse; Chevy is offering some pretty good rebates on them right now, especially the 0% for 60 months that ends 2 June. But I know that once the 2015s hit the showroom, the deals get better. Given the popularity of the Traverse, should I just go ahead and get one now, or should I wait until the 2015s are about to hit? And when will the 2015's be available? Thanks!

Chevy is offering some great deals right now, they have also been in the news for some major recalls. It makes me think that might be part of the reason they are offering the great financing - they have not had a big slip in their numbers - I read an article  - I think it was by ALG the copany that watches redisual resale value, that said the cars that GM has on the recall have only lost $300 in residual value.

My thought is to buy the car now because of the 0% till 6/2. That deal may not come around and you are ready for a car now. Do you have a trade-in? if it is not a GM car you might be able to get more out of the dealer. Ask. That is considered a conquest deal - you are giving GM more marketshare by trading in another manufacturer's car.

Lou Ann, you mentioned the VW e-Golf recently and I'm wondering if you have a sense by how much it will undercut the price of the BMW i3? I test drove an i3 recently and came away impressed with everything but the price.

The VW e-golf was on display but we were not able to drive it. The e-golf looks like a VW.

I have driven the i3 and it's a great drive, but it doesn't look like a BMW to me.

VW has not announced a price yet, to my knowledge.

Your take on Consumer Reports testing of MPG claims for hybrids? Real world MPG according to CR seems to be a lot different from what manufacturers might be advertising for some vehicles.

Another place to check is Wayne is meticulous in his reporting and will report the best mileage he can get doing everything he can to get that mileage.

I like to drive hybrids the way I drive an internal combustion engine (ICE), to give them both the same test. There are certain hybrids that don't get the numbers I would like to see. Some of the manufacturers are making the ICE so good with their eco-boost functions and start-stop, cylinder de-activation that they are bringing the mpg close to the hybrid numbers.

Wondering whether or not automakers are slowly heading into one of two camps on safety features for new cars. First camp: Sell a lot of safety features as add-ons kind of like the airlines do, a fee for everything you want a la carte; or second camp, raise the prices of the vehicle but include safety features as standard.

Honda is definitely number 2 - 96% of Honda cars have backup cameras on them as standard, backup cameras are not going to be mandated till 2018 - thank you Ray LaHood for that lapse in judgement.

Yes, there are certain car companies that know that people will buy a new stereo system before they will buy safety. It is the reason NHTSA has to mandate certain safety items.

It's a price war out there and car companies have to sell at the lowest price they can while trying to keep their customers safe.


By fall 2014

When will we see Subaru diesels stateside? I'm tired of waiting! Thanks, Warren and Lou Ann.

There is a facebook page for subaru fans that want subaru to bring diesel to the US.

Currently, Subaru has not announced any plans to bring diesel to the US.

I've got a bit of a crush on the Mini Countryman but I keep reading things about how unreliable it is long term, and can't decide what to do. I've currently got a 2007 Mazda 3, and have enjoyed it but am ready for something new, and don't like the latest design of the 3 (too sporty for my tastes). I do love a hatchback and am considering other options beyond what my heart is wanting. What's your latest thinking on the Countryman, should I go for it despite what my more sensible brain says? Or are there other fun hatchbacks that you'd recommend considering? I generally put low miles on cars, as I don't commute in them...

My Mini crutch has ended, done in by repair costs, which I think are too much. Instead, I've fallen in love with the 2015 Honda Fit, which I would take over the Mini anyday.

The backup camera is fine and dandy, but how about a camera on a pole that can give the driver a bird's eye view of the car and the surrounding area. Maybe even look around the parking lot to locate the empty spaces a few rows away.

I live in the country, in the Sierra Nevadas in Northern California. We have a turn on the way to our house that is blind. Someone bought a big ole circular mirror and put it up so that people can see beyond the blind spot.:)

Good afternoon! I have a 2000 BMW 328 with 170K miles---it's a great car, and I've made sure that it's been well maintained. I purchased it used in 2001 with about 50K miles on it. Recently there was an odd little noise from the rear, so I too it into my BMW authorized mechanic and they informed me that my subframe was separating from my frame, and that this was a known issue but not subject to a recall. I was shocked that such a dangerous thing could happen with so little warning on a car that should be better built. I did a bit of research online and discovered that there had been a class action some years ago for just this issue, but the books have been apparenly closed on that. My question to you is, do I have any recourse with BMW for compensation? If I do, what's the best way to go about asking for it? I'm out about $1800 for the repair bill. Thanks!! I love your column.

How could it not be subject to recall? And if it is a "known issue," why isn't BMW doing something about it? Sounds fishy to me.

Do you have an opinion on the 3 wheeled vehicle to be produced by Elio Motors? They plan to sell this personal commuter car for $6,800 and it will achieve 84 MPG. Do you think it will be a success?

If you think of all the golf carts, the motorcycles etc that are in the world it could have a go. Elio could be a huge success in third world countries that have more bicycles than cars.


How does the current crop of American cars compare to those from Japan and Germany?

Cars globally are competitive, regardless of country of origin, with the possible exception of China. All car companies have recalls. All have had to fix errors. No country necessarily makes "better" cars. Look at the recall lists. Everybody is represented.

I understand you recently tested the Fit. How was the drive? Is the magic seat comfortable for a couple of passengers (ages 89 and 18)?

I love the new Fit. It makes perfect sense as an urban car. Best overall packaging in the subcompact arena. The drive is fine, assuming you know what you bought when you bought the Fit. Perfect urban commuter, as far as I am concerned

Liked driving it, loved the seat extenders (for us moderately tall folks), but wish it got better gas mileage. Wondering too, why don't more companies offer a different seating option (like better lumbar support, seat extenders, etc.) in their cars?

Good question. My educated hunch is production costs.

Warren, a couple of weeks ago, I asked you a question about day-to-day driveability of diesels. Specifically I said that I wasn't interested in off-the-line speed, but more interested in things like the ability to maintain speed up a long grade (driving in the mountains, etc) and passing on the freeway (I don't want to have to do too much planning...pull out and punch it). You really didn't answer the question; you said that you weren't interested in off-the-line response time, and were more interested in longevity. OK...I guess that's interesting, but could you answer the question? I will certainly test drive any car I'm interested in (VW turbo-diesels currently, but may expand), but I was hoping to get input from somebody who drives a lot of cars in a lot of different circumstances.

I'm right there with you. I rarely even think about instant thrust, I am always looking for the car that can merge into traffic on the highway, while going up a hill, while a truck is trying to get into my lane because there is an exit 1,000 feet in front of me. I have such a place in my town and that is how I measure the success of a car.

You can find that success in many cars but you are specifically asking about diesel. I don't know of any diesel that can't do it. One of the things I like about diesels, one of the reasons they are sought after, is the combination of horsepower with low-end torque.

The VW turbo-diesel you are talking about is sweet and I would recommend it.

I've driven diesels allover the world under all kinds of conditions. No problem at all with daily driveability.

Thanks for taking my question! I just feel like with only 3 days left in the financing deal, it's a 'rush' buy, if that makes sense. Not that we haven't been researching cars for MONTHS now, but we were planning on waiting until August-ish, so I'm not mentally prepared, I guess and worry that I won't get the best deal. Aside from my general HATE of going to a car dealership. Anyway, thanks for the deciding vote! :-)

Don't rush, period. If you are worried about financing,or about any other aspect of the deal, wait it out and think about it. There almost always is a better deal. Time is on your side.

Driven it yet? Hearing Subaru might pick off some sales from Toyota and Honda with the updates they've made.

not surprising, Subaru is hot, their resale value is hot, they're design turns head. I drove the WRX this week and had people stopping me to look at it. My 13-year old neighbor, Tim, is saving his birthday money to buy a WRX STi.

Watch out Toyota and Honda and any other competitor.

Hi Lou Ann and Warren. I have a 2013 Ford Focus ST and am amazed at how poorly it estimates my average miles per gallon. It knows the mileage driven and should be able to calculate the fuel use, so I don't know why the AMPG estimate is so far off on each tank from my manual calculation at refill. My 2004 Dodge Ram does a much better job? Could it be a bad sensor somewhere? It is pretty good at estimated how many miles I have left to drive on a tank.

Yes, it could be, and probably is, a bad sensor.

Warren and Lou Ann, I'm curious about how frequently automakers respond to your criticisms of their vehicles, and whether they ever "punish" you by holding back on the delivery of new test cars. Of late, Warren, I can't help wondering if BMW is a little touchy, given your repeat (and accurate) comments about pricing.

BMW does not like what I have to say about its approach to the luxury market. Neither do other manufacturers. too bad. It is what it is--advances in technology render obsolete the practice of attaching an options fee to everything. New entries into that market, I am thinking the Kia K 900, have the same effect. Brand power simply is not what it once was in the world of the Internet.  

Warren and Lou Ann, I'm curious about how frequently automakers respond to your criticisms of their vehicles, and whether they ever "punish" you by holding back on the delivery of new test cars. Of late, Warren, I can't help wondering if BMW is a little touchy, given your repeat (and accurate) comments about pricing.

Frequently. If I am technically wrong, I make a correction. If not, I don't. But I always listen.

I am slowly beginning to shop for a new vehicle. Last week, I went to a local Mazda dealer, just to test sit a couple of cars. I spent the better part of 15 minutes in the showroom. Although there was just one other customer in the place and plenty of salespeople at their desks, not one person greeted me or even acknowledged my presence. Is this the surest sign of a salaried staff or do I just emit the wrong vibe?

Well, you kind of set yourself up on that question didn't you? :)

I have never heard of such a thing. Did you see people just sitting at their desks?

There is a new way of addressing customers, taught by Paul Webb, that takes into account whether a person wants to just shop, wants to talk, or is a kinetic personality. But all of these types have to have at least an introduction.

No, people should still be talking to you. (are you old enough to remember the old dial soap commercial :)

Can you elaborate on your comments about the 2015 Fit, i.e., "as long as you know what you're buying?" I've been slowly and casually looking for a tiny car, and test drove a 2013 Fit last fall. My impression was that it felt boxy and a bit sluggish. I admit that I've been jonesing for a Fiat. However, as long as the 1999 CRV with 240000 miles keeps humming along, no new car for me!

It makes no sense to buy what is designed and engineered to be an economy car and expect to get a high-performance machine in the offing. The Fit is a well-made economy car designed to offer premium fuel economy and utility at an affordable price.

Lou Ann here:

Why are you not buying a Fiat if that is what you want? I love the Fiat 500L - it has as much room as the Chrysler 300 and a great A-pillar.

Back up cameras won't save lives unless the driver is paying attention. Also some back up cameras don't show if there is an object or a child close to rear bumper, etc.

Back-up cameras do save lives and injury. Of course, as indicated by warnings on every backup camera, you are strongly urged to check the entire vehicle area before taking off.

My old Pontiac Grand Am died a sudden and tragic death two weekends ago (death by seized engine), so we found ourselves unexpectedly car shopping. Since my husband just finished grad school, we were looking for cheap, safe, great gas mileage. And, of course, used. At the recommendation of a very savvy sales manager, we ended up with a lime green 2014 Chevy Spark with only 3300 miles on it (original owner changed her mind). We have been very pleasantly surprised at the amount of room in this little runner-- my 6' 6" brother-in-law even fits! My question: Why haven't we ever heard of this vehicle? Chevrolet doesn't seem to marketing the Spark or the new all-electric Spark at all, and it's a really nice little car! Much cheaper than many comparable subcompacts, and comes standard with 10 airbags and a great safety rating.

I don't know why you haven't heard of it. It has received lots of media attention and is a good global seller.

Known problem for E36, E46 and newer 3 series which may include current models. BMWNA will fix if you contact them. Make sure you use a reliable dealer (i.e., avoid BMW of Sterling who did a half baked job to try to scam NA and pocket all the money on my bro's 3 series). Clifton, VA

Thank you.

Seems like there is a lot of debate about which AWD systems work the best, although I've heard a lot of people like systems that can send more power and grip front or rear depending upon when and where it's needed. Is there a good place to make sense of all the different options?

Drive them yourself. Take each car that you want up the same hill around the same time of day, preferably with traffic, and access it.

Test drives are the most important part of buying a car that ensures you will be the happiest for the longest amount of time.

Thanks for the advice! I'll look at the 2015 Fit - any idea when it will be out in dealerships?

Entering U.S. dealerships, now.

My neighbor has WRX STI with a performance exhaust. Exhaust sounds like an old VW bug with the plug wires crossed. A hotted up old VW Baja Bug sounds better than his STI.


Actually testing costs and not the cost of the optional seat. vehicles have to be crash tested and each seating option would have to undergo new tests. If you dont like seats you can go aftermarket with Recaros. Clifton, VA


Any pros/cons? PS. I don't mind the lower powered 138HP engine. I don't need to go 0-60 in 3 seconds. Thanks.

great little car, great content for the price. functional. you can look at the mazda3 and the honda fit, but the accent hatchback is great.

Do yourself a favor and take a look at the Chevy Spark. It has a lot more room than some of the other subcompacts because it is taller, and comes standard with 10 airbags and a great safety rating. The automatic transmission is a CVT, which takes a little getting used to if you haven't driven one before (don't stomp on the gas, basically), but has plenty of power. We have been averaging 32-34 mpg combined real world driving. (There's also an all-electric version)

I like the Spark--a good urban commuter.

In reply to the Focus ST owner, I have a 2013 Fusion Hybrid that consistently underestimates the fuel consumed, therefore making the computer generated MPG much better than reality. Don't get me wrong, I am very happy with my real MPG, which I calculate each time I refill my tank, but the amount that I put into the tank each time vs the amount the computer tells me averages about 2.3 gallons difference. I put in 11.5 gallons to fill the tank back up, but the computer tells me I've only used about 9.3 or so. Irritating, and Ford says that they can tweak the computer to get it back in line.

Accurate MPG actualy depends on so many variables, it is hard to get it exactly right.

Close to pulling the trigger on a Supercharged Jag XJL. Love the looks, handling, power, and the Bentleyesque interior. Are you going to dissuade me? Anything else in the class I should consider?

Maserati Gran Turismo S, otherwise Jag is it

If car companies were as unreliable as certain Internet providers, we all would be unhappy. We thank you all for visiting with us today. Please return next weeks. Thank you, Angela, Lou Ann, Matthew, Ria, and Michelle. See you all next week. 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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