Real Wheels Live

Jun 15, 2012

Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown will be joined by Lou Ann Hammond to discuss the auto industry. Plus, they'll give purchase advice to readers.

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One chatter asked if mazda had announced when skyactiv will be in the mazda5?


Mazda said it had not been announced yet, but that "It'll be whenever the full model-change occurs."


Hi, curious to know if Hyundai/Kia are planning on delivering a new minivan to our shores anytime soon? Our minivan is aging and want to see what they might be up to, thanks!


Hyundai has no plans for a minivan in the U.S


Kia's response was, "For MY13 the Sedona will not be making an appearance. As you know, I can’t discuss future product plans for competitive reasons. However, Sedona sales YTD are up 6.2 percent and it’s a market Kia strongly believes in."

Have you driven the new Lexus GS? If so what did you think? Thanks.

Lou Ann, have you done this one?

Yes, I've driven all the iterations of the GS and like the car. They have a hybrid as well, a GS 450h. 

You can see two reviews online at

I own a Lexus 400 and can still set the bar to that car for many cars

I have driven many cars in most categories, for example: I'm considering an eco/commuter car now and I drove the Prius, the Accord, Corrolla, Focus, and the Chevy Cruze. I even went a step further and rented a Cruise for a week while in Florida last April to verify my concerns and find that the Cruze, dollar for dollar offered more feature and better gas mileage (sans the Prius) then the rest. I find it has a huge trunk, quietest ride in the class, equal or superior handling and performance, air bags everywhere and still only luke warm response from you. Why?

The Chevrolet Cruze is selling quite well, largely for the reasons you cited. If it has any problems, it willbe in availability. Chevy is selling everyone it makes. Ditto Toyota with the Camry, Hyundai with everything.

I think what you see WArren and I complaining about is not the Cruze, but the fact that General Motors/Chevy is not bringing the Cruze wagon to the United States. They will slowly bring the Cruze diesel, but why not a wagon? 

Hello Warren - we had an unfortunate accident a couple of days ago. My son was driving and was hit (THANKFULLY all OK and no one was hurt including the other driver). Our '04 VW Golf had relatively minor damage (at least so it appeared to me when I looked it over). Just heard from the insurance agent that the frame was bent and they are totaling the car. I'm having a discussion about the value they are assigning. The number they are offering as of this afternoon is about $2K less than any similar vehicle/model year I can find on, auto trader or Carmax. I realize those are list prices not the final negotiated price (except with Carmax) but his explanation is that the 3rd party they use to evaluate (CCC1 which I have not heard of) gets "actual sales data" from local dealerships - not the advertised prices. Though his logic sounds fine, I am having a hard time believing that local dealers in these gas price challenged times are negotiating 15%-20% off the sticker price for a good quality fuel efficient car with relatively low mileage like the Golf. Any suggestions on how to successfully challenge their value assessment? As always, thanks for your insight! Alexandria, VA

What's "totaled" to me and you is not "totaled" to the insurance company. The definition largely depends on timing. For example, according to Automotive News, the car industry's bible, used car prices are dropping. More particularly, consumers nowadays are rushing toward new high-MPG models. In that context, an insurer is less inclined to offer big cash on an expensively wounded car of declinining value. Insurers are inclined to "total" it.

Hi, Warren and Lou Ann. I enjoyed Warren's review last weekend of the Hyundai Azera. It's an intriguing vehicle. I'm wondering how you would compare or contrast your impressions of the Hyundai Genesis. I realize it's larger, it's rear wheel drive, and it's more luxurious, but from a daily driving standpoint, is there a distinction that's worth the difference?

I'm more inclined to go with the Azera which, in practical terms, has nearly everything offered on the more expensive Genesis, which is bigger and more powerful--but, so what? The Azera comes with everything, practically speaking, offered on substantially more expensive cars. That includes quality and safety.

Can you recommend a mid-size luxury SUV? I previously owned a horribly unreliable 2008 BMW X5. However, nothing I've test driven thus far seems as much fun to drive or has the cabin view (side and forward at least) and spacial comfort (I'm a slim 5'10" but don't like claustrophobic cabins) of the X5...though I'm intrigued by the Audi Q5 (to jump segments). I'm also addicted to the panoramic sunroof. Is the reliability of X5s improving? Will the 2013 Acura MDX have a panoramic sunroof ? Should I save my money and buy a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited? I plan to purchase a vehicle in the next two months, but could be talked into waiting a little longer if something interesting is in the pipeline.

Have you looked at the Land Rover Evoque? It's got glass everywhere. The sunroof was made by David Cooperfield :) You watch it go back and say to yourself, how do they do that? 

You can see my review at

My husband and I are moving and need to start commuting (with baby) by car. Our current car is a 2011 Subaru Outback, which we love but isn't fabulous on gas mileage. We're thinking of getting a smaller, second car primarily for commuting and are intrigued by the thought of getting a TDI. I don't want to spend a ton of money though since we've got a great primary car. Would a used TDI be a good bet? Any other suggestions? Thanks!

Hyundai Elantra. That South Korean company has gone nuts over fuel economy and safety, reducing weight wherever possible by using thinner, yet high-strength steel. Styling, even on the economy Elantra, is first class inside and out. You might get a good deal on a 2012 model, which Hyundai is trying to clear out.

Between the smart, the IQ and the Prius C and the Fiat Ararth which is the most fun city/commuter car?

The Abarth, with 5-speed manual, which is the only way it is sold in the U.S., is the most fun. The Prius C is the most fuel-efficient and reliable. The Smart Fortwo actuall makes the most sense in daily urban driving. But it is absolutely no fun on the highway. Ditto the IQ.

Warren-- Over the last several years, Acura has redesigned all their models or even introduced new ones with one exception...the RL, ostensibly their top of the line model. Any idea why there hasn't been an update or a reinvention ?

Honda/Acura is rethinking and redesigning everything--trying to catch up with recent slippages in sales. The company has an entire new (recently appointed) design team. I'm sure the RL will be replaced, and soon, with a new flagship model.

Recent news reports indicated that the 2012 FIAT 500 Abarth was completely sold out and dearlerships were putting people on waiting lists for 2013. But if you check local inventories, you see a number still available. Is this PR hokum to drum up sales?

Marketing is a real thing, but if one of the Fiat models was going to sell out it would be the Abarth. It's a lot peppier than it's counterparts, the 500 and the 500C. 

It's hard to believe that if there were such a demand for Fiats that they couldn't make more since Sergio Marchionne keeps saying how bad things are in Europe and crying the blues that he has way too much capacity in Europe. (This means he has too many union workers to pay for cars he isn't selling, so if he could sell more Fiats he would) 

Can you solve this riddle for me of a small budget but also small needs (basic transportation for short trips)? I'm trying to find something used that's somewhat reliable/not breaking down/going to the shop all the time.

Much to chose from New would include the Chevrolet Sonic and Hyundai Accent. Used would include the Hyundai Accent and/or Elantra. A bit more costly used would include the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann - Hope you and yours are well. I know you (especially Warren) are a fan of diesels (as am I), but I'd like to get your support behind an issue that is a potentially serious one. You may know that certain HPFPs in newer vehicles are prone to failure, and are very sensitive to lubricity in fuel (an issue now more than ever with the ultra-low sulfur fuel on the market). The pumps in question are made by Bosch. I have a VW Golf TDI (love it) and am most familiar with the issue as it applies to VW/Audi, but apparently Ford and GM vehicles that use the same pump are experiencing the same problem. While the numbers are not high (1 - 2%, depending on estimates), the consequences are severe. Basically, the pumps were designed to run on Euro-spec diesel (which has a wear-scar rating--a measure of the fuel's lubricity--of 460 microns in the standard test). The US fuel standard is 520 microns. When the HPFP wears due to the 'abrasiveness' of the fuel, it rather quickly degrades to the point where it shatters. This immediately fills the fuel system with metal shards, destroying the injectors and requiring replacement of the whole fuel system--from the tank on up to the injectors, to the tune of (in VW/Audi, anyway) about an $8K - $10K repair. It also stops the car dead at onece, a very un-good thing should one be, say, merging onto an interstate in front of a semi. NHTSA has been investigating this for years (since 2009 I believe) and has elevated it to an engineering study. Whether it is the automaker's or Bosch's fault, someone it seems brought a product to market in the US, knowing it could not properly function in the ambient conditions of the market. A lot of us owners were unaware of this issue before buying. I'd love to hear your take on this; you can get more info at NHTSA's web site, but this has been going on for so long, many are getting frustrated. (BTW--Canada's diesel wear scar standard is the same as the Eurozone--460 microns--and failures are all but unheard of there). Thanks for any info you can provide. Tim in Baltimore

Those HPFPs are designed to work exclusively with ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel (about 15 parts per million sulfur). That fuel is widely available in the United States. My suspicion here would run more toward the fuel supplier than Bosch. I've had occasion to pump ultra-low sufure diesel that was anything but. But I'm putting this out there to start the conversation.

My newly employed son (25 y/o) is looking to replace his very old Accord. He's thinking about a new Mini coupe. I think it might be out of his price range with his moderate salary. I'm thinking of new Elantra Coupe, Veloster (turbo?) or FR-S as alternatives. Any other recommendations in that price range or category so a car payment and student loan payment doesn't choke him? I doubt I can convince him to go the used route.

Yeah, he got a J-O-B!!! Congratulations. And he's going to be an upstanding citizen and pay his student loan back. Man, what did you do right? EVERYTHING!

I would go with the Hyundai Veloster turbo or the MINI coupe. Kids like to be different and the Veloster is a different car - only 3 doors!  

The MINI coupe is fun and in his price range. 


The Mini cooper, priced from $21,300 50 $34,500 (sans options), is within his price range in a world where every thing goes as planned and expected. But we don't live in that kind of world, especially not in entry-level employment in an economy that could fall apart at any minute. I'd go with the trusty, less-expensive, reliable Elantra.

Now we're both interested in what he will buy. Let us know what he ends up with, please. Just for bragging rights! :) 

Have either of you tested the new Ford Escape? It appears that the Titanium (top of the line) model will give the top level Subaru Outback a run for its money. It certainly beats the Outback in looks.

I'm scheduled to drive it in two weeks. Hooray for Ford for putting the new Escape on a car platform, which is where it should have been all along.

And the redesign for 2013 is beautiful. 

What do you think of the Nissan Juke? I'm looking for something small, safe, that will fit a car seat (rear facing for a bit longer). The car seat would be used infrequently, as this is the car that will be driven to work and parked in a garage in DC (hence the small). We currently have an Audi TT which is what the Juke would replace, and an Infiniti FX 35, which I love, but is a pain to park. Other suggestions welcome too!

I like the Juke, but hate its name. But it's one of my "perfect" vehicles for urban commuting and small hauling. Reliable, reasonably comfortable and affordable and safe.

Love the way the car drives, and the interior. I don't like the bulging headlights. They look like the car has a thyroid problem. 

Have you seen people with bulging eyes, or a dog with one eye that looks bigger than the other? It's usually an indication of a thyroid problem. 

I would change that part of the car. 

What would you recommend for a good used sedan under 10k - think mid 2005 infiniti G20. Also where is the best place to find these older used cars?

You don't have to go that old for a car under $10,000. The difference is how much "stuff" you want on the car. Because this was a question so many of you asked I wrote a list of cars under $15,000 that are new:

For 2012, cars under $15,000

If you want an older car, this list was compiled in 2009

You can look online at places such as, and, or in the Washington Post classifieds :) 

And go with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. I am getting 20-22mpg with the V6. I don't tow so I don't need the so called hemi. I have had the car a month with no problems or issues. Jeep is no longer taking orders so you are stuck with what is on dealer lots. Range Rover Evoque is very nice but small inside and a poor reliability record. Test drive the Grand Cherokee and compare. You save at least $15k over a similar X5 or ML320. Diesle and 8spd will show up in winter of 2013 as a 2014 model. -Clifton Va


I could have missed something. But I just did a quick oline check of possible quality problems affecting the LR Evoque and found none.


Where did you read/hear that the Evoque has reliability problems? 

Saw an article in USAToday about engine fires in three older models of Jeeps. No recall has been announced. Considering we have one of the models and a toddler, what do you recommend we do? It seems like there's no 'fix' for the problem - location of the gas tank by the rear axle, resulting in fires from rear-enders. Will we get financially compensated through a recall, or some kind of 'fix'? What should we do while we wait for the investigation to complete and how long do you estimate that will take? Thanks, from a worried mom!

Check with Jeep Customer Service and your dealer to see if there is a recall or "consumer action" notice affecting  your vehicle's VIN number. "Recall" is a statutory term referring to a court-ordered remedy. Most "recalls" are voluntary actions often appearing under different names. Also check for any related service bulletins.

Including the Fiat 500, are selling fast. The current market largely is driven by a push for fuel economy. It's not PR hype. Check any maker--Chevrolet, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota. Their small cars are selling.

Thanks for joining us today. Please stop by next week. Thanks, Dominique Vu, for another fine production. Thanks, Lou Ann Hammond, for your generous input. Thanks, Ria Manglapus, for keeping things running. 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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