Real Wheels Live

Jun 07, 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.

Hi Warren and friends

I'm in Germany this week. I visited Continental tires in Hannover, Germany. They have created a new, more precise way to measure how well their tires perform in rolling resistance and wet braking. It's the first in the world and I will be reporting on it shortly.

Right now I'm sitting in the Cafe at the Porsche museum in Stuttgart, Germany. From June 4 - September 29, 2013 in the Porsche Museum you can the Anniversary Exhibition of Porsche celebrating “50 Years of 911”. If you can't make it to Stuttgart we'll be bringing back video of the cars with  Dieter Landenberger, Head of Porsche's Archives, narrating.

Free admission

All 911 drivers plus one accompanying person, upon presentation of the vehicle registration at the box office of the Porsche Museum, have free admission from June 4 to September 29, 2013. The Porsche Museum also foregoes any admission price for visitors who were born in 1963 and can prove it by presenting their ID.

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Hi Warren, This is your friend from Bay St Louis. But I have moved to Mobile recently! I miss the Bay. Caught the discussion last week about oil change intervals for synthetic oils and low mileage drivers. My 2005 Mini Cooper S Convertible takes only full synthetic oil. Oil changes are not based on mileage but on the "Service Interval Display" which is hooked into the engine computer. The need for an oil change is based on the actual use of the vehicle from various parameters recorded by the engine computer. There is a note for low mileage drivers though and I am a low mileage driver. The Owner's manual says that "People who drive very little, i.e. much less than 6,000/10,000km per year, should have the engine oil changed at least every 2 years..." But to add to the confusion, the Service & Warranty booklet says, "Note: change oil at least once per year." FTR, I am going with once a year. My wife's brand new 2013 Ford Escape says to change oil whenever the "change oil" light comes on. Again, not per mileage but the engine will actually tell you when it is necessary. Did not read anything about a time schedule for oil change on this vehicle. Certainly, changing oil every 3k miles or 5k miles is a waste of money and natural resources both from the production and disposal ends. I would hope that all would read the owner's manual to see what the experts--the people who designed and built the vehicle--say what should be done. P.S. the 2013 Ford Escape is a marvelous small SUV. We have the 2.0l (larger) engine for trailer towing ability. This SUV is 1000% improved over the previous generation Escapes.

Thanks for the help and clarification. I haven't read my manual, I must admit, but my car is a 1993 and I think the other person's was equally as old. Back then I remember it was a set mileage, but I will try to read it to confirm that.

I'm in the market for a small SUV, but probably not purchasing one until 2014 at the earliest (trying to be fiscally responsible and all). If I had to buy now, I'd be considering the Escape, CR-V, CX-5. Mileage is important to me, as is attainable luxury (hence the Escape Titanium model I prefer - leather seats, nav, park assist/backup camera, etc.). What do you see in this class/price range in 1-2 years that would appeal to me? Any models in this genre/class coming in diesel? Any new models coming in this genre/class? I need something to look forward to!

I think you can start with trhe Titanium edition of the Escape, quite well done and offers the luxury you say you want. Reasonable fuel economy, about 30 highway actual, for a small SUV. The CR-V remains a favorite. But also take a look at offerings from Hyundai and Kia.

Hello! We recently rented a Hyundai Sonota Hybrid on a recent week-long vacation. I forget the exact numbers now, but we drove over 200 miles, a combination of highway and local driving (about 1/3 to 2/3, respectively). We filled up upon returning to the airport and topped off with 3.1 gallons of gas. We averaged 65 mpg. Crazy!!!! It was a fine car (not crazy about the seats), but it would be a top contender with that mpg!

Those are the best numbers I've heard for the Hyundai Sonata hybrid and I love them. Crazy? crazy good.

Here in Central Florida dealership fees as high as $899 are charged in addition to tax, title and "paperwork fees" that also can run as high as $250. Obviously the dealerships can legally charge these fees. Do consumers have to pay them or can we stick to our guns and refuse?

No. It's a competitive market with dealers  and products competing. Find a dealer who does not charge those unnecessary fees. Sounds like greed to me.

Are you worried that participation in these chats will go down once the Post's paywall goes into effect?

No. It is up to us who produce these chats to give people a reason to pay. Nothing's free.

It is acceptable to negotiate the price of any vehicle. It is acceptable to negotiate the price of anything, poeriod.

I am considering an Acura RDX. Already took it for a test drive - very nice. How does the Honda CRV compare with the RDX? Is it acceptable to negotiate the price of an Acura vehicle? What other cars should I test drive before making my final decision?

It is acceptable to negotiate anything and everything about the car. What is your credit score? Negotiate the finance rate. Cars and houses are the two most expensive purchases you will make in your lifetime. You will probably finance it which makes the car/house more expensive

I just wrote do's and don'ts of buying a car

I haven't driven the 2014 CRV yet, but the 2013 is a 4cylinder while the RDX is a 6cylinder. The Honda is going to have better fuel mileage but the Acura will have better horsepower.

The Acura is a luxury vehicle so it depends on how much you want to spend but you can trick out the best Honda and it will probably cost less than the Acura.

Hi, I live in the Dupont Circle neighborhood and we have been having significant rat problems in the neighborhood. I found rat droppings in my car engine and the rats have begun gnawing on some of the wires. I wondered if you had any recommendations of ways to keep rats out of cars? Thank you for your help!

Take yourself to Pep Boys or Autozone and inquire there. They are the experts on these things. Or, wait for a response from Clifton. Clifton, you there?

Lou Ann here:

Ask them if you put moth balls in your garage around your  car if that would help. We did that in a shed where the skunks hung out and they haven't come back. :)

Are the lithium batteries of hybrid and electric vehicles all the same or do some models have better batteries than others? Do they all have the same lifespan (thus years before they need to be replaced)?

Most batteries, lithium and nickel metal hydride, last three years or longer. The industry is still gathering research on this. No, all lithium ion batteries are not necessasrily the same.

Do you enjoy any television shows about cars (such as Top Gear on BBC America?)

I watch Top Gear, the Science channel/how things are made. Commercial television bores me to tears.

Hi Warren, Long time reader here, but have never needed your advice before. It's probably one you've answered in the past, but can you refresh my memory? My husband and I are expecting our first child. We currently drive a 1997 Honda Civic and an 2003 Ford Focus for short, in-town distances - we're thinking we may need something larger soon. We like the idea of a station wagon (Volvo?) over an SUV, but have no idea where to start and what to compare. Regular fuel and great mileage are both important to us (my old Civic still gets over 30 mpg in town!). Obviously safety. And we are the people who keep our cars forever, so want something we can rely on for years to come. We just don't know where to begin. Can you help? Thanks!

I would start with the usual suspects in the  crossover category assuming that you aren't shopping for top-dollar luxury. Those would include The Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav 4, and offerings from Hyundai and Kia, which are surprisingly competitive to many people. BMW has the X3 and X5 and Mercedes-Benz the small G-Class wagon. They also have the higher prices.

How does the AAA no-haggle program perform in terms of getting a good price for a vehicle? I understand it might not be quite as a low than if you were willing to negotiate all day long.

Membership programs are dsigned to give a good discount to their members so that the members don't have to haggle. Look at how much you make an hour and how much you think you will save. If you can beat the price of the membership cost than try haggling.

Also look at last week's chat. We talked about membership programs and discounts in that session.

I'd like to find a way to find out what car manufacturers really do. Example: I have a Forester, and got tangled up with their required "coolant conditioner" when I had to have work done on the radiator system, Then I found about the "conditioner" that was really ground up linseed that clogged holes in head valve gaskets, so when the radiator liquid was drained, the head valve gaskets had to be replaced because of leaks. On my dime. Hence, I'd like to find out if a manufacturer has a history of such schemes before I buy a car from them. Other than disgruntled buyers whining sites, do you know of any such information? THANKS Oh and I do like my 2001 Forester, but that did give me a sour taste about buying another one...

Are you Clifton? Geez! Not everything is a conspiracy. Certainly not this one. I have a hunch that I'm not hearing everything here.

Do you enjoy any type of auto racing (NASCAR, Formula 1, Indycar, etc.)?

Watching, not necessarily doing. Most of us who buy and drive cars don't race. We use roads such as the New Jersey Turnpike, I-95 and I-87, which are heavily regulated. Do you race? Where?

Hi Warren - I just bought a new Audi SUV 3 weeks ago. It is black with a panoramic sunroof, and has black leather seats which have seat heaters but not seat coolers/ventilation. This is the 1st car I've ever had that has leather seats and seat heaters. It is garaged so it does not sit in the sun. A few times when I've gone out it feels like the seat backs are heating up without the seat heaters on. Owners manual says even if the heaters are on there has to be pressure on the seat for hem to work. I took it back to the dealer to have it checked and they found no issues. They told me leather, especially black will hold and retain heat from my body. Does this sound reasonable? It is not uncomfortable - it's not like I'm burning up - but it is definitely noticeable. Any comments from you or the readers would be appreciated.

Dark leather does hold and retain heat from your bot and ambient surroundings, such as a hot garage on a hot day. I use towels over such seats.

Abarth 500c or Subaru / Scion FR-s or the Honda CR-Z or the Fiesta ST? Have you driven the ST?

I've driven them alal and would choose the Fiat Abarth 500C simply because i like the wayt it looks and feels.

Lou Ann here:

I would drive the Fiesta ST as well. It's funny, the size of the Fiat 500 looks totally normal in Europe. We see Ford Fiestas here as well. It's the Smart car that still looks tiny tiny.

Have you driven the Mercedes GL large SUV? Is it worth a look for a 3-row hauler/family vehicle?

I've driven all of the M-B G-Class. Even helped some friends buy them. They are rich friends. They are happy with their G-class models, including the GL, Lou Ann. It's a mindset. I couldn't get them to look at a Hyundai. And I've tried.

Lou Ann here:

There are people that still will only buy a certain brand, I understand that, but at least look at the Audi bmw x5 and porsche cayenne.

For the person with rats eating his car, why you? Are you parking next to garbage cans? Are you leaking antifreeze (which can attract animals)? I also live in downtown DC, and I've never seen or heard about this problem.

Hmmm. Interesting questions/observations.

The mechanic I use, who is also races cars, doesn't like long oil change intervals. The primary reason is that the filter is on the entire time - - so recirculates impurities and such thru the engine the whole time. Just one opinion.

Yeah, well: He races cars, which means he apparently has the time and the money to do so. Race cars are high-performsnce vehicles, which most of us don't buy or own, or maintain. Prescribed oil-change intervals usually work best for the cars we drive.

Peppermint oil has proven to naturally repel mice, so I'd assume it'd be worth a shot for rats. And your car will be minty-fresh!

Thank you.

WOW. I am really surprised by your response. Check it out - google "subaru coolant recall" sometime. You'll see they don't sell the material anymore, since they fixed the problem with later model versions and didn't need the stuff any more. Shall I send you the bills I had to pay for the head valve gaskets??? WOW. Surely you have other readers who had this happen, those who keep cars a while? WOW. What an attitude you have.

No, I haven't. And please accept my apologies for my response. I definitely will research this. Never heard of it. I'll check.

Hi guys, keep up the good work! Since you guys seem to have the industry's ears, can you please let them know families are hankering for a minivan/crossover that seats 7 and is a hybrid/plug-in/etc as those two things would really be attractive together in a vehicle!

Yes, we will and we have. And the industry seems to be responding with hybrids and new diesels. Consider, as an xample, the seven-seater Toyota Highlander SUV hybrid--not cheap at a base price slightly below $41K. But none of these things are cheap.

Just saw the new Corolla - Are you as surprised as I am Toyota is still using a 4 speed automatic?

No. It's a business decision. Costs. But I suspect that Toyota soon will get rid of that four-speed in the same manner that it is ditching the Corolla's short, boxy body.

Guten Morgen, Lou Ann and Warren: Any chance while you're in Germany that you'll be test driving the new MK7 Golf that we'll be getting here early next year? Or better still, can you sneak one TDI Highline into the cargo area of your flight home? Danke! Garey, Ottawa

Lou Ann just got on the bus to go back to her hotel in Stuttgart. My hunch is that she will be tooling around in a Golf R on her playtime.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thank you Matt Monahan, Lou Ann Hammond, Ria Manglapus, for another fine production. Eat lunch. Drive happily.

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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