Real Wheels Live

May 31, 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.

New vehicle sales are booming--cars and trucks. But many deals still can be had, along with a few surprises. Consider, for example, the 2014 diesel-fueled (turbo diesel) Chevrolet Cruze, which is worth a serious look. In the Washington area, Ford Motor Co. in late June will stage a product soiree for the  audience that counts, the people in the market who buy cars. I will post more on that at later today. Subaru buyers will have to be patient. The new Forester wagon is selling so well--told ya!--the company is running behind on sourcing the U.S. market, about 2,000 units short of meeting current demand.

EVs remain in the mix. Honda is redoing financing for EV Fits to increase buyer appeal for that model. Nissan is loading its EV Leaf with so many amenities, it looks and feels like what some of you call a "real car."

All and all, it is good news for the industry and its customers. We'll stay on top of developments.

Good morning all

Are you looking for a new Volvo and are a Costco warehouse member? I'm posting the "rules of engagement" that I got from Costco Auto.

Promotional Rules

  1. To be eligible to participate in the Volvo Limited-Time Offer, you must be a current Costco member as of March 1, 2013.
  2. All participants must be registered with the Costco Auto Program before purchasing a vehicle. To register and locate a participating Volvo dealership, click here or call 1-877-746-7422. Dealer participation may vary by market.
  3. To qualify for this event’s promotional pricing and Costco Cash Card offer, participants need to purchase a new 2013 or 2014 Volvo vehicle between April 12, 2013, and July 31, 2013. 

    All new 2013 and 2014 Volvo models are eligible for this promotion.
  4. Redemption forms must be submitted to the Costco Auto Program by Aug. 31, 2013 and can be completed online. Please allow three business days for redemption form processing.
  5. To receive your $500 Costco Cash Card, register and purchase a new 2013 or 2014 Volvo model from a participating Costco Auto Program dealership. Then, submit a redemption form. Once Volvo of North America verifies your purchase, a Costco Auto Program representative will call you to complete a Costco Auto Program member satisfaction survey. Please note, the verification process may take 3-4 weeks and will only be completed after you take delivery of your vehicle. All surveys must be administered by the Costco Auto Program to be eligible for the Cash Card. 

    Costco Cash Cards will be activated using your Costco membership number and mailed to the address you provided to the Costco Auto Program. Please allow 8 weeks for delivery after completion of all eligibility requirements; including redemption form, purchase validation from Volvo of North America and survey completion.
  6. Factory orders are permitted. Demonstration, loaner and pre-owned vehicles are excluded.
  7. The Volvo Limited-Time Offer ends July 31, 2013, and is subject to change without notice.

Warren, back on 5/10 you mentioned that you had taken delivery of a Ford Fusion Engergi to test drive. I am really looking forward to your opinion on that particular vehicle so, when can we expect the results?

Warren talked about the Energi awhile back. I did an interview with Sam Hoyt from Ford and drove the car and loved it.

In two weeks. A preview: It is ordinary exceptionally well done. Makes sense for commuters--up to 24 miles (my actual experience) on full charge alone. Not as much as the Chevrolet Volt (40 miles on battery). But I managed to drive the Energi all week without touching gasoline. 14-mile roundtrip commute, plug-in (house current) and recharge when done. I like it.

Warren and Lou Ann, What is your opinion on the leader of the class of SUV's that include the Mercedes-Benz GLX 350, Cadillac SRX, BMW X3, Audi Q5? Is there another candidate that should be on my list? I would like to stay under $40k, so some of these would be on the low end for options. Joel, Williamsburg

I dont' think I've driven the Cadillac SRX yet, but Cadillac is on a roll and I like their infotainment system.

Of the other 3 I would look at Audi Q5, but also at Hyundai Santa Fe. You can get everything they offer on the Santa Fe in infotainment and technology, including heated seats and steering wheel.

Warren's response: The Acura MDX, particularly the latest model, should be in your list. I've driven al the models you mentioned. For reasons having nothing to do with objective measure, I love the Mercedes-Benz GLX 350 simply because of the way it feels in hand. Next would be the Audi Q5 for much the same reason.

Please provide further information on MKZ forward collision avoidance and rear collision-proximity warning system as mentioned in nuts & bolts May 26 2013 column. Also, in MKZ available without panoramic glass roof?

Forward collision avoidance--employing radar, cameras. automatically alerts driver when car is too quickly approaching the car in front. Visual alerts. Automatic mitigation intervention, application of brakes for example, if crash seems imminent.

Rear proximity warning--employin visual an sound alerts if car is in danger of backing into something or someone.

Mititigation technology also involved in rear proximity.

Warren, I wrote in last week asking about Mazda3, Hyundai Elantra, and the Honda Civic. We test drove all three. However, while I'm a fan of the Mazda3, I was really surprised to learn about its crash ratings. I could not, in good conscience, buy this car if we are going to put children in it. Perhaps you could explain these safety ratings? The side and rear ratings were absymal compared to the Elantra and especially the Civic. Thank you.

Most crash tests involve vehicles of similar weight and size. All bets are off if those metrics change significantly. The Mazda3 is a reasonably safe car in its category. So is almost anything from Hyundai.

Last week there was a questioner who wanted a cheaper alternative to Michelin MXV4 tires on their Toyota. You suggested Michelin Pilots. They are essentially the same price. Perhaps you could suggest looking at other brands which are usually cheaper, like General and Cooper.

Okay, so suggested. Better, check with Tire Rackfor best advice.

It has been a long time since I was a member of Costco and can't say I ever considered buying a Volvo. But, I am surprised the rules say you must have been a member as of March 1st. There is no incentive what so ever for anyone else to read further or become a Costco member. When companies like Groupon offer deals, it creates new members, not this deal. It almost seems like they want to offer a deal without risking too many people being able to accept.

Yep. Accurate perception, I think. But the information is important for people who can and want to take the deal.

Lou Ann here:

I should do a story on this. First, I am a Costco member. Second, Volvo - from what I hear - is offering employee costs, which is great! I don't use groupon, very few of my friends do (I know because they would facebook me the deal if they did - they do everything else!)

But Warren is right, if you're in the market for a Volvo and are a member of Costco you should check out this deal. We like to bring you deals if we hear of them. Everyone is trying to stretch their pennies, we're trying to help.

Looking to trade in my cute Audi convertible for something more practical. I've narrowed down my choices to two: the Audi Q5 or the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and I really can't decide. What I like about the Audi is: slightly better fuel economy, familiar Audi luxury touches and easy-to-use controls, snappy/sporty handling, maintenance covered for 4 years/50K miles. What I like about the GC is: legendary 4WD performance (though not really needed around here and I don't tow or drive off-road), overall less expensive maintenance & repairs, better dealer incentives that make the payments a little more palatable. Comparably equipped, the MSRP is within $1K so neither really wins on price. Got any advice that will help tip the scales? I've driven basically everything out there, and I've narrowed it down to these 2. Help!!

Wow, you are right, those two are both wonderful SUVs.

Where do you want to drive them? The Jeep can go off-roading etc.

I like the infotainment/nav system better on the Audi than on the Jeep.

It really comes down to how you like the drive.

We were about to haggle for a new car, but we are reading it is better to wait until the end of the year (September-November). True or bite the bullet now?

Not true. Certainly, not universally true. Armyourself with as much information as possible before biting the,,,, this forum, et cetera. Then, bite.

I don't put a lot of mileage on my car (6-7000 miles a year). I was advised to change the oil every 6000 miles or 6 months. I use synthetic oil. Is it possible, or adviseable, to go longer than six months, since my mileage between oil changes is so low? P.S. I enjoy your Friday question & answer sessions. Keep up the great chats.

I have the same issues. I have a Lexus LS400 that rarely gets driven, but we change the oil/air filter more often than we should because we live in the country and during the summer months it dusty in these parts.

Changing the oil - especially if you do it yourself - is going to be one of the cheapest things you can do to keep your car healthy. If you do it yourself, or have the same person do it, they/you will notice parts on the car that need attention.


What do you all think of the new(ish) Jag XJ series? I can't decide on whether I like the new look. I have a 2004 XJR (the prior series) and love it, and have started to think about a replacement. Have either of you driven the new car? Does the standard model have more than enough power or is the supercharger necessary for someone who really enjoys driving?

They are all selling reasonably well and apparently will start selling even better now that Jaguar has a very successful halo car, the new XF convertible. I like the look of Jaguars, always have. I like their Dawsonian-Hammondian Curves. What's that? Ever met Michelle Dawson,the queen of all things Jaguar in the Washington Metropolitan Area, or Lou Ann Hammond?

Lou Ann here:

Thanks Warren :)

Ian Callum is one of my favorite designers. The guy is a genius when creating. The new F-type is a collection of his imgination and the testament that a good leadership understands that the designer needs to be left to his imagination. Too many designs are a conglomerate of people, car by consensus.

Good morning, Warren and Lou Ann: Last month, my wife and I bought a 2013 Toyota Camry SE. It was our first new car purchase since buying a 2000 Saturn SL2. This time, our choice came down to the Camry or Honda Accord. I think we could have been happy with either automobile. What made the difference for us was the no-haggle pricing and a 0 % APR offered by Toyota. Did we make the right choice?

You sound happy. That means you made the right choice. Buyer's remorse is the product of a bad after-purchase experience. You seem to be okay. Be happy.

Warren - I have had my eye on the A3 for years but don't love the idea of spending that much money on that car when I don't need all that room. Just got back from Europe and spotted the A1. Of course I loved it! Any chance whatsoever that such a car will make it over? If the Fiat has found a home in America's cities, will the A1 as well? Thank you!!

Eventually, yes. Smal cars are the rage globally for all of the reasons you might suspect. The U.S.and China, at this writing, remains the world's most lucrative market. If Audi thinks it can make money on the A1 in these parts, it will provide the car or a reasonable facsimile.

If you google Tread Lightly and join for 3 years you can get the Grand Cherokee for 1% under invoice. If you search for Grand Cherokee forums there is one that has a group buy in DC area for 4 to 6% under invoice. Check out Mnassas Jeep they were having some great deals. They are the best Jeep Dealer in the area especially service wise. Clifton VA

Many thanks.

Lou Ann here:

Wow! Thank you. That's what I'm talking about! Let's hear about some of these great deals.

End of the month or when the dealer has to pay state and/or local taxes on the inventory. Clifton, VA

Thanks, but baloney. It all deoends on existing inventories, what's coming into the showroom, overall all economy including consumer confidence. There are so many variables. The "end of the month" stuff is based on an old paradigm that has changed radically with time.

Lou Ann here:

I'm going to assume that you are talking about knowing which car you want, because if all you're doing is buying a car that is cheap you are going to have buyer's remorse right away.

Make sure you do your homework before you look to purchase. Just like one of the other chatters, check to see if there is a 0% interest rate, or if there are places you shop that have discounts.

Curious about the Volvo/Costco promotion you posted. Why? There are a hundred promotions/cross promotions/advertising campaigns out there at any given moment. Why did you post this one and not one from other brands?

We found it interesting.

Lou Ann here:

I post any deal that is nationwide when I hear about it. Costco auto runs these deals for a certain length of time, so I know they're good for awhile. Our readers will also let us know when there are deals. We all like deals!

I can fit a compact car in my garage, so I want to stay small. My goal is 40mpg, but it doesn't need to be a hybrid. It must have a good size trunk or rear storage space that can hold a folded 10x10 tent, table, and other supplies. Anything fit this description? Under $20k would be great!

Chevy is just bringing our their Cruze diesel that gets 27 city/46 hwy mpg and is under $25,000.

The Dodge Dart gets 25 city/36 hwy mpg and you can get a bare bones for under $16,000 (which means you have room to add options)

The Fiat 500 hatchback might be a little small but you will get 31 city/40 hwy mpg starting around $16,000

The Honda Accord is bigger, but only gets 24 city/34 hwy mpg but starts a little over $20,000

Honda also has an insight hatchback (no longer the 3-cylinder version) that gets 41 city/44 hwy mpg for under $20,000

You can get all Elantras/Sonatas  from Hyundai starting under $20,000 and their mpg varies.

I love the Kia Optima SX turbo

The Toyota Prius C hatchback wins on mpg, but is a bit higher than your parameters for money.

Oh- Volkswagen Golf diesel and Jetta diesel get the mpg, but are a little higher as well.

I've racked my brain - let me know if this helps.

Warren, What happens to Tesla if gas prices drop to under $3 a gallon. Keystone pipeline, a rational energy, foreign policy(Iran), and monetary policy could result in regualr gas costing $2.50 a gallon in next 24 mos or so. And sorry rational means not jacking up taxes for Green reasons since this drives up the cost of everything else. It also measn ending subsidies for ethanol and getting ethanol out of our gas. Clifton, VA

I gasoline prices fall below $3, not likely to happen, all bets are off for all investments in what you call "green" technology. Which will be too bad. We have passed the 400 ppm CO2 level, which is not good for climate change. Frankly, I'd rather pay taxes for green technology than spend money repairing damage and lives because of our climatic ignorance.

Lou Ann here:

It's also about creating another energy source. When you have only one source they have a monopoly. If you create another energy source people can choose. The government helped create the oil/gasoline industry why not the energy industry?

We spend $1 billion a day importing oil. Why can't we spend some of that to bolster our infrastructure and create technology that allows us to store electricty?

Hi Warren and Lou Ann -- do you have any recommendations on affordable wagons or roomy hatchbacks? High gas mileage and safety are important, and my budget limit is about $20K. I would prefer to get a new car, but I would consider used, too. Thanks!

I would've suggested the new Forester Wagon. But that one is in very short supply nowadays. I'd shop Hyundai or Kia, or look at something such as the Chevrolet Equinox.

There is a definitive answer to the question posed about the oil change interval for the low mileage driver. YES, change oil according to your mileage, NOT according to the calendar. Changing the oil just by calendar/time has no usefulness at all (unless you are using your car in incredibly dirty environments, such as plowing fields in the desert - in which case your air filter would have been clogged 10 times over before you need an oil change).

And follow the advice in your owner's manual. Do that first, in fact.

For most modern automatics downshifting for engine braking is not a good idea. They are not built to withstand this. On rare ocasions this can be done but not on aregualr basis. Cost of having a rebuilt trannie especially in an Audi Q5 is probaly close to $8k. I suggest last weeks post contact Audi and make some trouble. You shouldnt need new brake pads on a Q% with less than 20K mile son it. If the OP towed aor autocrossed the Q5 maybe but not in normal use. Use your brakes and not the automatic trannie to slow down. its still chepaer in the long run. also remember to change the transmission fluid per owners manual or sonner. its cheap insurance. Lifetime is the trannies lifetime not the vehicles BTW. Now on a manual trannie downshifting is fine. The trannie made to take it. Clifton, VA

Thank you, Cifton.

Clifton's comment about why downshifting for speed control is not a good idea with an automatic reminded me why I like manual transmissions! Speaking of the upcoming diesel Cruze, any chance that will be offered with a manual? I'm betting not (sigh).

You might lose that bet. If Chevrolet gets high demand (enough to make a business case) for manual, it will answer in the affirmative.

Warren,  sales folks still have to meet their monthly quotas, just like local law enforcement. Also, allocations for some dealers from the auto makers are based on monthly sales. So end of the month can still work on some vehicles. Paying taxes, etc on inventory is also a good time. In VA the end of Nov beginning Dec used to be the best time for this. Problem in the US is car buying is still a game and just like Vegas--despite all the info we have the dealer still has the advantage. In the UK and EU they don't play this game. Clifton VA

Which sales folks in which dealerships? The dealerships that still pay based on number of products sold, or the ones that pay salaries and other forms of profit sharing? The auto retail scene has changed radically. It is no longer Cliftons rock-em-sock-em enterprise.

Even if you waved your magic wand and changed all the vehicles powered by internal combustion engines in this country into EVs and so called zero emitters it would have no effect on climate change and would not stop the climb in ppms. Source R&T 2/09. And yeah, Warren, if the WH would get out of the way we could have $2.50 gas in the next 24mos. Then I wouldn't mind paying 5 cents or 10 cents extra in state fuel taxes to rebuild infrastructure. Clifton VA


The better the technology the better the numbers for ppm will be. If we looked at the ppm numbers for drilling oil 100 years ago and compared them to todays EV start-ups EVs would win. You are not comparing apples to apples.

Each step is incremental. This is not Star Trac. There is no warp speed for technology. It is being taken one step at a time, just like safety is. Before NHTSA started implementing more safety fatalities were on the rise. Now they are going down.


The "magic wand" has been waved, but not by me. We've cracked 400 ppm CO2. Climate change, partly as a result, is here. Ask anybody in Oklahoma.

When a certain volcano in Mexico fiannly blows its lid spewing ash and CO into the atmosphere? Huh Warren. One big problem is food prcies will jump becuase it will take some of Mexico's most fertile fields for growing produce for the US. The other problem is it will lower temps in the US for years becuase of the of all the dust. Read your history about the effects of Krakatoa(sic)! Clifton,VA

on a roll today Clifton?

There are earthquakes in places that we haven't seen before. Is it because we're allowing deep - and I mean deep - drilling for oil?

One can use an example and find a way to be right. What is wrong with being proactive and saying if this is an issue I'm willing to look at alternatives?

Especially if it would keep my money in the United States.

We thank you all for joining us this week--including you, Clifton. Thanks to Matt Monahan for another fine production. Thanks to Lou Ann Hammond, our California contributor, for helping to keep things sane. As always, thatnks to Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson for helping to keep things moving. Try to be happy, people. Start with eating 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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