Real Wheels Live.

Jul 11, 2014

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.

Good morning Warren and Friends


How was your 4th of July? I had my cousin/namesake, Lou Ann, and her two children, 10-year old Abby and "I'm 8 years old" Frankie visit me from Canada. 


Children are a handful and the questions are non-stop but I was pretty impressed with Frankie's questions about batteries and hybrid cars. We had a Porsche Panamera S e-hybrid. Beautiful car, beautiful ride. The 2014 Panamera S E-Hybrid, starts at $99,975, our paper said the car we were driving totaled $128,000. 


At 8 years old Frankie knew that there was a difference between the "normal battery" in a regular car and the car we were driving. 


I explained to him that The Panamera S E-Hybrid switches to a lithium-ion battery rated at 9.4 kilowatt-hours. I told Frankie that the old Porsche hybrid used a nickel metal-hydride battery pack. Porsche says the new hybrid has a range of more than 20 miles but when we charged it the instrument cluster said we had 16 miles of electric. The battery pack can be fully recharged in about 2.5 hours on a 240-volt power source.


Porsche says the new Panamera S e-hybrid will run from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds, have a top speed of 84 mph on electric power and a top speed of 167 mph off electric. The electric provides boost under hard acceleration or climbing mountains like we did going up to Lake Tahoe, and powers the car during coasting when the V-6 shuts down. We stayed at the Resort at Squaw Creek and they had a charge right by the front door for us so we got to use electric around town as well and the first 16 miles on the way home. 


A smartphone application lets the owner remotely monitor the Panamera hybrid's state of charge range, along with pre-heating or cooling of the car. We didn't use the app but we did use the charger and it was the one complaint about the car I have. 


The charger for the plug-in is ridiculous. you have to plug it in and wait for it to cycle and then plug in the charger to the car, but if you open a door it stops charging and if you don't wait for it to cycle it doesn't charge. and unplugging it is challenging as well - you have to lock/unlock the car unplug first then discharge from the car. The Prius, Volt and Leaf chargers are so much simpler. 


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Hi folks, When will the 2015 Hyundais hit the showrooms? Thanks!

Probably September-October.

I read that Porsche is planning a new, smaller, four-cylinder roadster to fit below the Boxster in price. Have you heard anything about this?

Lots of rumors, which would not surprise me, if true. The estimated 16 million cars and trucks currently sold in the United States are bought by only 17 percent of the population, down from about 20 percent prior to the 2009 recession. Nobody is going to ick up more sales by moving upscale.

What are your thoughts on Courtland Mliloy's controversial column about bicyclists?

I figured that question would come up today< I would not support Courtland's prescription for solving the problem. But I agree with him that there is a very real problem--with bicyclists and pedestrians. Too many people amblin absentmindedly into flowing traffic, too many bicyclists NOT sharing the road, creating a hazard for motorists and themselves. Rules are rules. We should all follow them.

The 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid has been available to purchase in Northern Virginia since late last year. This vehicle is not on the Virgina DMV approved list for clean fuel vehicles and therefore not allowed in the HOV lanes. There are other SUVs which do have this designation. My question is, why would anyone be willing to purchase this vehicle in NoVA given that it is not authorized? One would suspect that NissanUSA would be interested in adding this vehicle to the list but even their dealers seem unaware of this problem.

I'm sending this to Nissan and a few of my auto industry friends to find out why. standby - they usually get back to me quickly. 

Trying to narrow down the list of midsize SUVs to test this fall. Currently considering Subaru Forester, Kia Sorrento, maybe Hyundai Tucson. Any others I should consider? Also, general thoughts/preferences? Thanks!

Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape.

At the Lexus dealership this weekend, I was close to plunking down cash for a ES350 hybrid when the salesman asked if I would be interested in financing or leasing. When i said no, he brought in the manager who explained that there are many programs that can both save us money and make it for them through the car company. They were willing to give us a better deal on a car for which we financed a tiny bit and paid it off almost immediately. Is this true? All of these games are ridiculous but of course we are always looking for a savings. I just can't believe that they can be better off with 0% financing rather than cash. I know they have the sales price to bargain with. Is it better to bargain on a cash price?

I always thought it was but perhaps they give a dealer a spiff if they have a certain amount of cars that are financed or leased? I'm sending this to my Toyota friend and asking them. Warren you have any idea? doesn't make sense to me. 

Now that a date has been given for the unveiling of the new Miata, do you have any more information about its details, engine, etc.?

Not me. You, Lou Ann? It Is on my schedule early August.

Lou Ann here" 

got this in the e-mail the other day 

This fall, 25 years of storied MX-5 Miata history will turn the page to unveil the beginning of its fourth chapter as the next-generation roadster will be rumor no more during simultaneous global events in Japan, Spain and the United States.  Officially confirmed as a 2016 model, the all-new MX-5 coyly made an initial debut at this year’s New York International Auto Show in the form of an exposed SKYACTIV-CHASSIS.  MX-5 historians eagerly scribbled notes, snapped photos and speculated on what the final product would be.  On September 3, 2014 speculation will shift into revelation during an exclusive event to be held in Monterey, Calif.


“We’re excited to make this official, to announce that the newest member of the MX-5 Miata family will be arriving soon,” said Jim O’Sullivan, president and CEO, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO).  “Along with our colleagues around the world, we continue to celebrate the MX-5’s 25th anniversary and look forward to sharing even more news in the near future.”


In addition to the global unveil of the 2016 MX-5 Miata, MNAO has partnered with the enthusiast-operated event eponymously known as Miatas at Mazda Raceway, which will be held on September 5-7.  The next-generation roadster will be on display along with an array of heritage, concept and motorsports MX-5s.  MNAO also will lead consumer discussion sessions covering history, motorsports, R&D and design as well as coordinate one of the largest gatherings of MX-5 Miatas in North America.  Registration for the annual event is free and open to the public.  For more information, visit

Warren's Rule of Thmb: If you are buying transportation, lease. If you are purchasing property, buy.

Hi! Have you or Lou Ann had a chance to drive one yet? If so, what do you think? I am going to break down and buy a new car this fall. I read that Nissan made more backseat room by stealing from the front seats. If too short (my reason for not buying the 2014 Acura MDX), then I may take your advice and give the Lexus RX450h a try. That's another $10,000 +. I don't buy Chrysler or GM products. Thanks for all your efforts in getting car info out to us.

Not yet.

Lou Ann here: 

I just drove the Lexus RX450h and loved it. Got great gas mileage, fun to drive. I would pick it over the Toyota Highlander hybrid, toyota 4runner acura mdx. I don't remember the Nissan Murano being short on room, but the 450h was so impressive with mpg and functionality that I would give it a good look

Just a comment from Geneva, Switzerland. (Visiting for work, never been to the Autoshow.) Anyway, the Bentley dealership is displaying a Pagini (I think it's a Zonda, but maybe a Huayra). Wow. I like. I really like. Alas, I don't have $1M to spare. Have you seen, or good lord, driven one of these beauties?

Haven't driven it. Out of reach for most of my readers. So, I tend to stay away from those. But you have rekindled my interest.

Lou Ann here:

I was lucky enough to be in Florida and get a small drive/ride in the Huayra. Here I am talking to the owner of the Pagani dealership owner

I was also in Geneva at the auto show in 2011 and the Zonda was not manufactured for the US specs but the Huayra was. Here is a video of it then.


Warren, a follow up on my previous question: Please advice which is best to buy as a used car; a Nissan Altima ( other Nissans); Honda Accord ( or other Hondas); or Kia. Your advice is crucial to my decision. My wife has other choices. I think my "line-up" is better. Many thanks.

The Honda Accord. Consistent quality. Extremely durable.

A while back, I submitted a question about all the problems I was having with my fifteen-year old Toyota Avalon (brakes, transmission, rust, failing mechanicals, etc.). Lou Ann gently told me that my car was dying and it was time to get a new one. In February, I finally bought a used Toyota Avalon (2010) and am very happy with it. Such a feeling of security, knowing that I will have brakes at the bottom of the hills. Thanks for the nudge.

Yeh, Lou Ann!

Hiya Warren and Lou Ann. Thanks for doing these chats. I always learn a lot. The Volkswagen California is a camper van that seems to be selling well in Europe. There is nothing like it on the market in North America. Does VW plan to introduce it in the U.S., and if not, why not? Seems like the market is big enough to support this. Puzzled.

I am just about to put up a video interview with Marc Trahan from Volkswagen and I ask him why VWs product takes so long to come from Europe to America and he says I am right but that is about to change. They have agree that a B-class SUV will be coming in the next year so look for the rest of the product line-up to come over sooner than later. 

In doing research on the Elantra, I'm seeing the sedan and coupe reviews for 2015s, but not for the hatchback. Is this version discontinued in 2015, or will it come out after the sedan/coupe versions?

The Hyundai Ealntra GT hatchback remains in the running at this writing. My understanding is that it is being twweaked for better fuel economy.

Good morning, Warren and Lou Ann, In the last week, I've had to make two drives out I-66 to rural Virginia. In both cases, I've been rather surprised that the prevailing speed of traffic hasn't been greatly above the speed limit. I know in my mature age, I've slowed down, but is there a trend here?

No. Follow I-66 west until the legal limit goes to 70 MPH. Amazing how many people apparently find that too slow.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann: Have either of you ever driven coast to coast on the blue highways of the U.S.? It is kind of an adventure/small town/curiosity thing, but if you have the right car/van/truck, it is also a car thing. You could review different vehicles as you pass through the different states. There would be highway speed driving and small town driving. There would be nothing better than a Warren Brown/Lou Ann Hammond travelogue/car review series as you make your way west. Have you ever considered doing this? If you leave Ocean City on Route 50, you can get to Sacramento and beyond. Whaddaya think?

I've done that exactly five times. Interesting. Our military seems mostly supplied by rural and small-town America.

I'm thinking about buying one -- any thoughts?

A good, compact SUV. Worth the look.

My husband and I retired to the Shenandoah Valley, and my otherwise-reliable 10 year old Accord EX is inadequate to the winter need for 4-wheel drive. Recommendations for a small to mid-size 4WD SUV, with extra points for style (no "mom cars")?

Get a Subaru Outback or Impreza and be happy.

I have a 2001 Mazda protege that I'm happy with, but know it's probably going to die soonish. I am also inheriting about 9k from an uncle. Short (10mi) commute in arlington. New car? Used car? Any ideas as to what I should look at? I kind of was thinking honda fit or mazda since this last one has been so good to me. Thanks!

I would look at the Mazda 3. The Honda Fit is a good vehicle, but I think of the Mazda 3 as a step-up. If you're inheriting money use that money for increased safety and fun. Buy a new one if you can, it will have all the newest bells and whistles on it. Thank your Uncle. 

Hi Warren. I'm curious about your rule of thumb to lease transportation. I have never leased a car, because it seems like I pay all that money and have nothing at the end. perhaps a misperception. I am also not crazy about the mileage limits that seem associated with leases. My experience has been to buy, take care of and hold on to vehicles for ten years or more (after turning my back on Detroit in the mid 80's). We drive them as many miles as we like and once they are paid off, no more payments. we currently have a 12 year old BMW, 7 year old Nissan pickup and 5 year old Infiniti. Before that we had a Previa for 15 years and two Accords for 10 years plus. I do understand that lease offers a lower payment for a more expensive car and I'm basically only renting transportation.

Lease transportation if you normally don't hold onto a car or truck more than three years. It makes no sense to buy in that short window. Reason: The vehicle will depreciated faster than you can recoup your return on investment through use. Buy if you plan to own for four years or more.

What's a B-Class SUV??

A small one.

Not to ask you to scoop yourself, Lou Ann, but in your interview, did the VW executive address whether they will market more diesels in the U.S.? I'm thinking specifically of the Tiguan.

diesels are a huge part of the VW portfolio and will continue to be. VW had to have two different rear suspensions because they're bringing in the golf tdi, because the diesel required it, but they did it because diesel is so important to them. 

Any news on when the Audi Q3 will be here and what the pricing will be?

Fall of 2014.

I guess we're all gotten used to the new model year getting earlier and earlier, but Mazda is rolling out a 2016(!) model in Sept 2014? How does that make any sense?

It does to Mazda's marketing people.

Should I spring for the P1 or save the $$$ and go for the 650S?

At the 2014 New York auto show McLaren showed off their new 650S that you can own for a mere $265,500. If I'm going, I'm going big - save for it. 

Have you driven the new e-golf? How does it compare to the Leaf? Thanks, Joe, Bethesda.

Yes, and planning to drive it again, soon. Like the Leaf, it is a good non-fossil fuel commuter. Use during the day. Charge at night. Ready to go another up to 80 miles or so the next day.

Have either of you seen or driven the new TLX? Impressions? Thoughts ? Thanks

I would look at the bmw 535 or mercedes e350 as well. 

I would like advice on buying a 2 or 3 year old car possibly a Honda, Niessan, or a Kia. We currently have 2 Acura's; one is a 1997 CL and the other is a 2003 TL. Both are getting old and need some minor repairs, etc. Both are great cars but now that we are retired and only drive local in Las Vegas, used cars would suit us better. We would like a heavy car, the weight of the TL and a lighter weight one. Thanks, Bruce McLeod

Get thee to Carmax. Buy according to needs--Honda, Kia, Nissaan, or Toyota. You'll be happy and backed by a used-vehicle warranty that makes sense.

I read an article about how Toyota was providing two types of ultra-compact electric cars for a new program in Grenoble, France. Honestly, I don't need a big car for my daily commute to and from work. I just need something with the range (60+ miles) and basic comfort including radio/CD and AC in a car that could go highway speeds. My guess is that if the prices were right, we could get a lot of drivers to switch to a commuter vehicle... and by prices being right, I mean cheap enough that they could afford a second family car for their other driving needs.

the operative word is new program, which means there will be government initiative. 

The US already gives HOV lane status and federal tax credit to people to buy hybrids etc and the sales are not as forthcoming as we would like to see. 

it will take a while. 

The Elio Motors facebook page said they are working to have their concept car legally considered a car and not a motorcycle (since it only has three wheels). It seems that if produced, people in some states would need to wear a helmet and/or have a motorcycle license. How do the laws work for motorcycles since it is state by state and not US laws? If I can legally drive in my home state, but go on a cross country trip, would I need to have a helmet/license to drive in the other states or do my home state laws carry over?

IMHO - only if you had a brain you wanted to protect.

We rented a minivan for our summer vacation and absolutely loved the added room, however we stopped more frequently at gas stations than ever before. How come no manufacturers will build a 7 seater-hybrid? We'd buy one considering that most of the time we are doing circles in the city and would be excited about improved mpgs, thanks!

Toyota Highlander hybrid, lexus has one too

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thank you Angela Wong, Lou Ann Hammond, Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson. Eat lunch. Ciao.

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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