Real Wheels Live

Jun 21, 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.

There is something magic about BMW. I own a 2009 Hyundai Elantra. Very pleasant to drive, everything works well. My son-in-law bought a 1992 BMW 325is for cheap. It is not pleasant; it is outright fun and exhilarating. My son-law refused to sell it back at a handsome profit because: dad loves that car; it brings a smile to his face. Harrisburg, PA. Love you weekly chats.

Well said. I agree.

Hi Warren, Thanks for taking my question. I am in the market for a new SUV. I have 2 elementary-aged kids and want an SUV with a 3rd row for occassional use. I've been looking for a while and don't seem to like most options. I want high-tech features and some luxury. I've narrowed it down (I think) to the brand new fully-loaded 2014 MDX or a 1-2 year old BMW X5 Premium. I haven't liked most others in the class for one reason or another, including the Infiniti JX, Volvo XC90, Lexus GX, Enclave, Mercedes GL is too big and too expensive, Audi Q7. I currently have a Lexus RX330 that I love but want a 3rd row. Thank you!

Well, you are shoping in the top ranks. But you could be doing yourself a surprisingly big favor by, at least, cheching out the new Mitsubishi Outlander and the Kia Sorento. Seriously.

What do you think about the Mazda 2 and the Honda Fit for general purpose around town driving for up to an hour? Seats comfortable? Ride comfortable? Reliability good? Safety sufficient? Would spending more for a Civic or Mazda 3, for example, provide a dramatically improved experience in the categories above?

I like the idea that you put a time on your drive. Both the Mazda 2 and Honda Fit make perfectect sense for local commuting. My bias, because I love the feel of it, leans toward the Fit.

I'd like to use the parking brake on my F150 correctly. Do I (1) put in neutral, apply parking brake and then shift to park, or (2) put in park then apply parking brake.

A. Put vehicle in park. B. Turn off ignition. C. Apply parking break. D. Check, especially if you are on an incline.

Lou Ann here:

E. curve wheels towards the sidewalk so that if you have messed up and the car starts to roll it will roll into the sidewalk not down the street. In San Francisco you can get a ticket if you are on a hill and don't curb your wheels.

Hello! My 2001 corolla has been mostly great but over the last year or two it has been a $450 repair here, a $500 repair there. I'' inking it might be time to look at the next car that I'll have for a decade. I'm starting a new job, one where I have to show up in all weather or the place doesn't open, and I live in crofton, work in Baltimore, so it's about 30 miles each way, mostly highway. I'm on a tight budget, so fuel economy is very important to me. I've gotten used to 30-43 with the corolla. I'm looking for a lower mi,rage used car in the $15-17k range. In particular, I'm trying to decide between a 2009 Honda cr-v that's in great shape, $17k, 40k miles. It's comfortable to drive, has 4wd (which is attractive for the bad weather driving), and its a Honda so it's a great long term value. But it gets 23-26 mpg. I'm also looking at at a 2013 Hyundai elentras with comparable mileage and price. Not 4wd, not the SUV storage capacity, but still a good value with better gas mileage. Is it worth going for the crv for any reason or is the elantra the clear choice?

Check out the Hyundai Elantra, keeping in mind that you are seeking reliability, excellent fuel economy, and low purchase price.

So my 2013 Edge was at the dealer for the 3rd time because the bluetooth stopped working. According to the dealer, this is an issue because I use apple products (Iphone 4 and have an IPod plugged into my USB port) and they cause difficulties with the Microsoft computers in the Ford. Does this sound right to you? The rest of the car works fine, but I'm supposed to believe that I'm going to have to deal with my bluetooth failing to link after a couple of weeks of use, which can only be cured by either a) disconnecting my battery or b) returning the entire sync system back to its factory defaults? I'm having real trouble believing that Ford didn't bother to make sure the sync system didn't work with the most popular smart phone manufacturer before they released it. Any ideas what I should do, or should I just suck it up and reset the system very frequently?

I have had problems myself but didn't realize it was because of a microsoft/apple software issue. I know Ford is constantly working on software so I wouldn't surprised to see an update in the next couple months. I'm sending this chat to Ford to ask them. I will also be in Dearborn with Ford next week and will find out. email me at lou at and I will let you know what I find out. put in the subject line. Email me and I will send your info to Ford.

First, I really enjoy these discussions. Recently, I rented a Focus (it was some kind of hybrid and I didn't pay much attention to it), but it got really great mileage. I think I put over 400 miles on it and it only used about 10 gallons of gas. The only bad thing was no room in the back seat. Is Ford doing anything about that for model year 14?

Not to my knowledge. But it sounds as if you were not driving the hatachback version, which has more room in the back. Were you?

I am tired of sitting in traffic. It can take 15 minutes just to merge from the beltway onto I-66. I really need a car that can fly. Any chance one of the automakers are actually working on cars that aren't limited to travel on the ground?

Do you have $250,000? You can get a terrafugia, part car, part airplane.

You will need a sport pilot license

Hello, My husband and I are doing some research as we plan to purchase a new car. Currently we have a Honda Pilot that I drive and my husband has a sedan that he would like to replace with a SUV. Problem is he is 6'6' (I'm 5'11). I find the fit of the Pilot ok but he says there is not enough leg room. Our goals are: comfort, reliabilty, price, and fair gas milage. I can except 17-22 MPG but not the price of the higher gas. I did a google search of SUVs that can use regular gas but nothing came up---not even the Honda Pilot which does run on regular. Your comments/advice would be GREATLY appreciated!

I'm sounding like a scratched record here, but for good reason. I truly believe that the Mitsubishi Outlander and Kia Sorento are among the most overlooked vehicles for peopple looking for space for tall folkd; and for seven seats. Both are quite reliable, comfortable and affordable. Both run on regular.

Lou Ann here:

Do you need 7 seats? My husband is 6'4" and we just drove the Fiat 500L. It is higher than the MINI Cooper and has as much interior room as the Chrysler 300. My husband had a good 3 inches of head room so your husband should fit quite nicely. Drive it and let me know what you think

What are the key differences between the Kia and the Hyundai?

The name. Hyundai owns Kia.

I was looking at one the other day and it is an impressive machine -- absolutely beautiful in every respect except for one thing: the instrument cluster was just a video screen with graphics that looked like a 1980s video game. I understand that there are benefits of including a screen, including menus and lots of options for presenting data. But you always need a speedometer and a gas guage and (in a car like that) a tach, so why did they eliminate proper guages?? They have a beautiful analog clock in the middle of the dash, to go with the acres of wood, leather and chrome, but the whole effect is ruined by that cheap-looking instrumed cluster. Didn't they learn a lesson from the Corvette, which finally reverted to a normal speedometer?

That is an endless argument. Dials make perfect sense for things such as volume and temperature control. but the swipe/touch stuff remains all the rage among the smartphone generation.

Both my dad and youngest brother have this height issue (if my brother rides in one of his friends cars - an old Saturn - he actually has to stick his head out of the sunroof to fit) and they have both had good experiences with Jeep Grand Cherokee's.

Find something that allows him to keep his head inside the vehicle....please!!

Sure, but are there differences (similar to the differences b/w GMC and Chevy trucks - mostly trim?), available packages, etc?

Not really, just as there aren't realy substantial differences between Gm, For, Honda and Toyota cars using the same platform. It's all marketing.

I had a similar problem on I-295. I bought a bicycle. Mornings like this one are glorious.

You are part of your solution. There is nothing quite as nice as being able to walk/ride a bicycle to work. You feel healthy and there is no road rage. Congratulations

I know you get these types of questions every week, but I'd still like to ask. My husband and I are planning on starting a family soon, so I'm looking into the option of a crossover SUV (I currently have a 2002 Hyundai Elantra that I am trying to drive 'til it drops). My top contenders are the Hyundai Santa Fe, Chrysler Equinox, and maybe a Ford Edge. I'd like to keep the cost of the car around those ranges, and am looking for great fuel economy, as I have a commute that adds up to over 70 miles a day. Thoughts?

The Hyndai Santa Fe is an excellent choice.  The Chevrolet Equinox is another good one, well worth the look. The Ford Edge...not so much in my humble estimation. Better to check out an Explorer, I think.

No, it was not the hatchback version. Just the 4-door sedan. It was a fairly comfortable ride in the driver's seat.

The hatchback would have more room. If you like the hybrid look at the Focus or the C-Max. Both good cars.

Thank you all for joining us today. Note: Law enforcement people nationwide are looking for unbelted motorists. Tak heed. Thanks Matt and Lou Ann. Congrats to Q Manglapus, Ria's son, on his high school graduation and acceptance to Randolph College.

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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