Real Wheels Live

Jun 14, 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.

North American sales continue to perculate. Yet, it very much remains a buyer's market. The WarLou Rules of Common Sense apply. Know your credit rating and longterm bank account. If you can afford only to buy and maintain a Toyota, don't stretch for a Lexus because of what appears to be an attractive deal. Let's chat.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, Have you driven the Chevy Cruze TDI? Does it live up to the TDIs of Volkswagen? I have only ever test driven a Volkswagen Jetta TDI, not the Golf. While intrigued by the better gas mileage, I'm still looking at a Focus ST purchase later in the year. Vince in Vienna

Yes, and I love it. Likes up to, easily competes with anything in the same category from VW. I drove the diesel cruze hard, loaded and unloaded up steep Mine Hill Road near our family-gatheringhome in Cornwall, NY.The car performed admirably.

I'm looking to replace my 2009 Pontiac Vibe. The Ford Fiesta looks interesting. What do you think of it? What similar cars should I be looking at?

I'd skip over the Fiesta, which does not impress me much, and spend a little more for the very impressive Ford Focus.

Sorry folks, I wasn't able to get on earlier. Here's a chat I put together while trying.

I'm back in the United States from Europe. I just landed in Denver, CO, on my way to a Fiat Lounge launch in Baltimore, MD. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the people whose homes and families are being affected by the fire and the smoke.

It's fun to go to a city and think about where you, my chatting friends, would want to visit. What type of restaurants embody the type of car you are buying, what museums you would want to visit.

When I go to Stuttgart, Germany, the home of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz or Modena and Maranello, Italy, the home of Maserati and Ferrari there is an infusion of automobiles and lifestyle. Just like in Detroit and Dearborn, MI, home of General Motors and Dearborn, there are factories where people work and museums full of classic cars. will be putting up videos from some of these factories and museums in the next couple weeks. What I really enjoyed was the feeling of lifestyle in Modena/Maranello Italy. Modena is the assembly plant for Maserati, Maranello is the factory for Ferrari and engines for both vehicles.

I talked to Porsche and Maserati and both said that if you want to buy a Porsche or Maserati and have it shipped back to the United States that can happen. There are also tours of the factory of the automobile you are buying.

If you do take a trip to Italy I have a couple of suggestions of places you have to visit. Maserati is about lifestyle. Modena is known for their 25 year old balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano reggiano cheese and Maserati.

You have to visit the Maserati Factory, right in the heart of the city, of course! But there is a cheese factory in the countryside that is a must as well. You will think you have made a wrong turn, but keep going past the cows, past the cheese factory to the barking dog named Car. Yes, Car. Matteo can tell you the story behind the name while he takes you around a museum that has more classic Maseratis than anywhere else I know of in the world. You can find out more at It's a private museum so contact them first.

If you want to take a ride up to Maranello to visit Ferrari-land go a little past Maranello to a little restaurant named La Fontanina. Shamefully, I don't speak Italian and the owners speak very little English, but the food is delicious.

At night you can drive to the outskirts of Modena to Emilio's "Strada Facendo" restaurant. It there are 10 tables in the restaurant I would be amazed. It's a labor of love and Emilio comes to each person's table himself to take their order.

If you want to drink and not drive you can visit Alberto's "La Cucina del Museo" restaurant in the heart of Modena. Alberto has owned the restaurant since 1987, but the restaurant is over 300 years old. It reminds me of a little speak easy from the prohibition days. Only 19 people can be seated at one time, so make sure you have a reservation. The kitchen near the museum restaurant was frequented by the great Luciano Pavarotti, who lived in Modena.

I'll be back next week for a full hour to chat with all of you.

Like me on facebook

follow me on twitter

How long on average should I expect hybrid car batteries to last?

The industry says it should last, meaning with effective service, the equivalent of a regular gasoline engine--meaning at least three years or 36,000 miles.

Hi! I have a 2002 V6 Camry with 180k miles. I love it, it is very quiet with great pick-up. I am thinking about my next car. I want the quietest cabin possible - I'm not a fan of road noise. My budget is under 30k. Safety is also very important. Either a 4door sedan or outback-type vehicle would be great. Any ideas?

Buick Verano. hands down for that kinds of money. I'm not sure of the exact cost, but it's within that ballpark.

My wife and I are late-30's, live in a Georgetown row house, and have lived without a car for the last year. We are in the market for a car now, mostly to get around town, a few day trips here and there, etc. We have a dog and no kids. We are thinking of a "sport wagon" like a Subaru Outback, but we have a long list of cars that look interesting, and need help narrowing it down. Which of these is "the best"? Audi Q5 Volvo XC60 Volvo XC70 Infiniti EX37 Journey AWD BMW X1 Nissan Murano Toyota Venza Honda Crosstour Acura TSX Sports Wagon Chevrolet Equinox Toyota Prius V Subaru Outback Ford Fusion Kia Optima Audi A3 Ford Edge Subaru XV Crosstrek Nissan Rogue Thanks!!

I'd take the new Subaru Forester over the Outback because the Forester is more family friendly. But, yes, I also would give serious consideration to the ChevroletEquinox.

I'm looking for a hatchback, station wagon or crossover vehicle with priorities 1. Safety, 2. Efficiency, 3. Price, for a family of 3 that may or may not go to 4. It needs to be big enough to stow some gear. My current car is a 1997 CRV with over 150,000 miles. I love it and it's still going strong. I expect to keep the CRV, since it is still in pretty good shape, but our other car is a 2001 Ford Ranger, so not family friendly. I don't need luxury, but tend to drive a car forever. What would you recommend I consider?

Mazda CX-5 is the first car that came to mind.

Hyundai Sonata, Chevy Cruze and Sonic have 10 airbags.

Congrats on the children, get more space than you think you will need :)

Warren, which do you prefer and why?, BMW 335ix, Audi S4, Infiniti G37x? Also have you drive Jaguar F-Type yet. Thanks

I've yetto drive the XF, which is on the drive schedule. That said, I'm a hopeless BMW fanatic, which means I'd go with the 335i. Why a BMW fanatic? It's simple. That company knows how to make cars for people who actually love driving, of which I'm one. Downside: BMW kills you with options and option prices.

Warren, everything I read tells me Jaguar cars continue to have reliability issues 1) Have you heard the same information, 2) if so how does Jaguar expect to compete with other luxury brands? Thanks

My apologies, I don't know what you are reading. Clearly, I am not reading the same thing. What kinds of reliability issues are you talking about? Jaguar remains a strong player in the luxury segment.

Toyota warrants prius batteries for 8 years or 100,000 miles

That's right. Many thanks.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann. I love reading the chat every week, I'm starting to look for a new car for my wife. We live out here in Utah so an SUV or all wheel drive of some sort is a must to get around in the mountains and snow. I was starting to look at some used hybrids, the Higlander, Escape, etc.. Is there anything special to consider when looking at a used Hybrid compared to a new one? Does the technology hold up? Maintenance issues with older Hybrids? The hybrids world is brand new to me and it makes me a little more nervous than the standard gas SUV's that I'm used to.

I've talked to Bob Carter from Toyota about this. He says that the amount of batteries being returned/taken out of service is so minimal, maybe 1-2%. This technology is almost old-hat at this point because it is a nickel metal hydride battery not a lithium ion battery.The newest technologies come with lithium ion, but your hybrids go back 15 years now.

Also look at the Nissan Pathfinder hybrid.


When there are discussions of performance/luxury cars from your readers, it is usually about BMW, Audi or MB. Seems Japanese cars such as Lexus, Infiniti and Acura seem like after thought. What do the German cars (if anything) have others don't? Thanks

When it comes to performance, the Japanese cars are an afterthought in my mind. In part because so many of them imitate the German cars...for good reason. Drive a BMW or Audi and see why.

I'm looking for a small to mid-size used SUV. Safety is most important, then mileage. What would you recommend? Price isn't a factor at this point. Thanks!

Hyundai Santa Fe gives you 10 year/100,000 warranty and good fuel economy.

Chevy Traverse.

I'm confused by your responses sometimes. Someone says they have no kids and no pets and asks which car you recommend from a long list and you pick one based on that it's "family friendly". It just seems like you don't even read the questions.

Point it out to us and we will tell you why that one particular car came to mind. Sometimes we read the priorites differently than a reader but it is okay for you to ask us why we picked a certain car. It's okay for you to suggest another car.

Consider this a roundtable of people who are friendly with each other. If you were at the table and I suggested a car you would pipe up and say , hey, what about this one, right? Do the same here.

It's all good.

Dear Mr. Brown, I am very interested in the new Versa Note. I think the Note will be available very soon, but I've never purchased a car that has just been released.What do you know about it? Do you think it will be reliable? Will its novelty weaken my purchasing power -- i.e., should I expect to pay MSRP? Will test results and reviews be available as soon as the car is in dealers' inventory? Thanks for any help you can provide!

The Versa Note should be in Nissan's showrooms this fall. At a highway rating of 40 mpg using regular gasoline it should be  a top seller in the economy segment. It is largely based on the original Versa platform, just stretched a bit, which means reliability shoud be ok. The Versal is one of Nissan's global sellers which means it is globally competitive.

Warren, I'm in the market for a small, performance-oriented wagon-crossover. The BMW X1 costs about $10K more than comparably equipped Ford Escape or Subaru Forester. What would I be getting for the extra $10K?

A BMW X1. And, no, I'm not trying to be flippant. A BMW is a BMW is a BMW. You can't substitute a BMW, which is why you pay BMW prices. You can also look at an Audi A3 wagon. You could be happy with that one.

When can I buy one here on a family budget, e.g. $30k? Europeans and Japanese can buy the prius alpha, but it is not available here. Mitsubishi's Outlander Hybrid, when it isn't catching fire, gets great mileage but they placed batteries where the third seat resides on non-hybrid models. A Tesla Model S meets the other requirements, but is more than double my budget. VW has teased about some diesel options ... Nissan is coming out with a Pathfinder Hybrid with 26mpg combined, but will only sell it at maximum trim levels, I.e. $40k. If the applied the same technology to their minivan it could work. How about a hybrid Honda Odyssey,?

I'm confused - do you want a car or an SUV? An SUV would be much better for 6-7 passengers.

Why do you need a hybrid? Yes, a Honday Odyssey hybrid would be great, a VW Jetta wagon diesel would be wonderful. If you look at the cost of a 6-7 passenger Hyundai Santa Fe long-wheel base and compare the fuel costs how long would it take you to make us the fuel economy?

(I'm assuming you're the same person that emailed us earlier?)

You said hybrid batteries are expected to last just 3 years, like the life of a gasoline engine? Maybe you misunderstood - I think the question was about the lithium drive batteries (not just the $80 battery for the starter). Hybrid batteries in the Prius I think are guaranteed for at least 8 years, and gasoline engines can last 20+ years with maintenance, repairs, and luck.

Yes, hybrid batteries in the Prius are guaranteed for 8 years. A similar guarantee is offered for nickel-metal hydride batteries. Advanced lead acid batteries, which are making a bit of a comeback, have gasoline-equivalent service lifespans, too.

Warren and Lou Ann, need your expert advice. Narrowed down to Audi Q7 or Mercedes ML350. Want to keep this car for perhaps ten years or more. Which do you recommend? If not, these, then what?

Warren here. I choose the Q7.

Anyone driven the VW Jetta Hybrid, or know if it really does have better response/acceleration than other hybrids in its price range?

The hybrid has dsg transmission instead of CVT. Drives like a real car, you wouldn't know it was a hybrid until youfeel the regenerative braking.

In other words, drive them, all, then decide?

Yes. And if you drive them all, my hunch is that you will pay the extra money for the BMW, assuming that cash is in your budget.

I think the chatter was referring to this question and answer:

My apologies. But, what was the question?

Don't forget the Jeep Grand Cherokee V6 Clifton VA

Ok, Clifton. Thanks. How are you?

specifically I want to know about Acceleration (".. if it really does have better response/acceleration than other hybrids in its price range?). Can it peel out?

I don't know, inasmuch as I never "peel out." Again, not trying to be flippant. I simply don't drive that way.

Japan vs Germany Lexus and Infiniti do not compete in DTM or german Touring Car race series. They also dont run at Le Mans,Sbering or Daytona in the endurance racing. They cant beat the Germans at the 24 hrs of Spa or the hrs of the Nurbring. If you do track days its rare to see any Lexi or Infinitis there. BMWs and then a small cadre of Audis. Dont forget America's premier performance car which costs about the same as a high optioned 3 series or M3 the Corvette. The 2013 Boss 302 and 2014 Z28 will run with and beat the Germans. Clifton VA

Many thanks, Clifton.

I asked this question, but I am not the same person who enquired earlier about a family car. I don't care about the type of car. My only criteria are mpg, 6 or 7 passengers and price. The santa fe gets 25 mpg combined, which is a step in the right direction., but too low for me.

Take a look at the Kia Sorento which seats seven and gets about 30 mpg using regular. Hmm, let me double check.

Not bad. Q7s and Q5s have a reputation for eating front brake pads. X1 is overpriced and very small. ML350 would be my choice but I would also test drive a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee which is built on the ML platform. You can save $10K or more and get equal performance n road and Select Terrain the low range go places the Q7 and Ml on dream about. Relaibility is about each between the three, maintenance cost significantly lower for the Jeep. Jeep dealers are way less arrogant than Audi and Mercedes dealers. Check out Manassas Jeep.Clifton, VA

Ah, Clifton, thank you for reminding me about the new Jeep Cherokee, which I drove and love.

Warren, what a coincidence. I just returned from a trip to France to visit my family and fell in love with the A1. When I caught up on my WAPO chats, I noticed that someone beat me to it and inquired about the arrival of the A1 in the US. I read someplace that it would be around 2017. Well, can I buy one in France and bring it back? I know it would be costly but I'm more worried about making it legal to drive on US roads. I talked to the dealer there and, although he wasn't that knowledgeable, he did tell me that some features would have to be changed as the US has very strict rules as far as specs. Do you think an Audi dealer would be able to guide me here? Thank you.

My sources say you are right about the A1's prospective US arrival--probably in the fall of 2016 as a 2017 Model, depending on fuel prices, currency exchange rates and other conditions in the US. Because US and Euro safety and clean air regulations are quite similar, homologation of a Euro-bought model should not be technically difficult. The price increase is due mostly to politics.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, thanks for the chats. What vehicles would you put into the same category, size-wise, as the Chevy Traverse? Cost is NOT a consideration, willing to examine every option at every price point. Dealer service post-sale is a huge factor, which likely rules out the lower-price options in our area.

The GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave, both from GM and sharing the same platform as the Traverse. Something similar: the Ford Flex and Dodge Journey...and M-B R-Class inasmuch as price is not a con sideration.

I should start with the fact that I, like you, are older now and look for different things in a car that I did when I was in my 20s when I had a BMW 2002. However, I am a big fan of the Infinity. I recently replaced my wife's G35 with a G37Xs. Before we did so, we looked at the BMW 5 series, Audi, and even an E350. In a word, the BMW was not nearly as comfortable to sit in, had a much smaller back seat (important when you still have aged parents to transport) worse sightlines and just did not feel as solid. The Infinity is plenty fast and agile, and feels more solid. I just wish I got to drive it more, but it is my wife's car and she was the one who nixed the BMW as soon as we got back to the dealer after the test drive. I'm sure the BMW is a great car (I loved mine back in 73) but I think that the Infinity is a better car for the money. But that is all personal taste I guess.

I have no argument here. In fact, I mostly agree with you. It's just that I love BMW.

According to They rate the top performer as 21city and 30hwy, but it only comes out to 24 combined A hybrid, impressive diesel, or EV will probably be required for 30mpg combined and 6 or 7 passengers.

No argument here, either.

If Jeep evers gets EPA approval the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel. Only caveat is the price figure minimum MSRP of $45K and many dealers will mark up. Join Tread Lightly for 3 years and you get 1% under invoice Clifton VA

That one is coming. Fiat, Jeep's current owner, already makes great diesels. I'm reasonably certain that technology will be transferred to Jeep.

is CarMax or comparable dealer really reliable? How can I be sure I'm not getting a hurricane fixer-upper?

Go to Carmax, the vehicle retaialer. But, first, check with CarFax, the vehicle use/damage historian. That won't make things 100-percent sure. But it will get you close.

OK Warren I'm not asking if you personally peel out. Although if you are a BMW fanatic as you say, I would think you sometimes accelerate fast. Since one of you apparently drove the vw jetta hybrid, I'm just asking about its acceleration so I can know if I will shop for it. I don't like unsafely slow cars when merging - I want good accel. Do you know this about the Jetta hybrid?

I think Lou Ann and I have both driven the Jetta Hybrid. The car is quite highway competitive and fun to drive.

have owned both. Nearly time to lay my 91 Accord to rest. Seems like recent Accords are not getting great reviews (I'll buy used, likely a 3-5 year old car). What do you think of Civics? How do they compare to Corollas and Camrys?

All good cars, actually. Current Accord reviews are puzzling to me. The Honda Accord and its siblings are well-made, reliable automobiles.

The point of the X1 is that it's small but also has utility. From someone who has one and loves it.

Thank you. We love Clifton. But he is a John Wayne, old-school type when it comes to vehicles and most things social.

That was great fun. Special thanks to Lou Ann Hammond for juggling flight schedules to be with us today. Thanks to Matt Monahan for another fine production. And things just would not work right, or work at all, without reliable backup from Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson. Love you all. Eat lunch. Have a great weekend.

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: