Real Wheels Live

Jul 12, 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.

Good Morning Warren and friends,

I won't be able to join you today. My husband and I are flying to Dulles, picking up a Volkswagen Beetle Convertible turbo and driving to Pennsylvania for my niece's (Kathryn) wedding.

I wanted to give you an update on a chatter that wrote in a couple weeks ago about a problem with his SYNC in his Ford. I told him to email me and I would send the email to Ford. I got this back from him last Wednesday;

Good afternoon Ms. Hammond,

I just wanted to give you an update.  I've been in touch with Lynne Buckman at Ford regarding my issue with the Sync system and bluetooth connectivity.  We are waiting to schedule a conference call until Gary Jablonski, the Manager of Infotainment Systems, returns from his vacation.

I need to make sure I thank you for what you've done on my behalf.  This is actually a bit surreal for me, but I'm glad (and excited) that it is happening.  It's a little hard to believe that what started out as a "sanity check" on what my dealership told me has become conference calls with Ford Executives, but I guess I'll enjoy the ride.


Warren and I have interviewed Gary Jablonski and he will get to the bottom of the problem for Mike.

Have a wonderful chat with Warren. I will read it later today. And have a great weekend everyone.

And remember, never drive faster than your Angel can fly :)


Lou Ann 

Warren, have you driven any of the new (2014) Lexus IS models? If so how do you think they now stack up against similar in class BMW, Audi, and MB models?

No, not yet. But the Lexus group is on the near-term shedule, probably end of July.

What's the best value 7-seater currently on sale in the U.S.?

"best value" probabl;y woulde be the Chevrolet Reaverse for a 7-seater family hauler.

Warren, can't decide between BMW 335xi or Audi s4. If you have driven them both which one would you say is more fun and more reliable? Thanks

Reliability is difficult to trell after a week in the saddle. But I'm inclined to go with the audi S4, which, for me, is more fun to drive.

I wonder if we are stuck with our current system of roads, not because they are the most efficient for transportation but because they are there. I look at a train and when it starts moving, the last car of the train starts moving at the same time and speed as the front car. Factories have conveyors that can move hundreds of items around the plant. But, when it comes to the modern car. Each is controlled individually. When a light turns green, the front car starts moving, then a few seconds later, the car behind it. 10-15 cars back won't start moving for some time. If cars could "dock" together to form mini trains it might become more effective. They would share the energy required to keep moving and be able to move at a more constant speed because they move together instead of individually starting and stopping. I can't help but think that if we pretended that cars didn't exist and had a clean slate that we could design something for the future that was way better than what we have today.

Your idea is the basis of experimentation in California and other places, as well as with companies such as Audi, which is looking at automated cars and roadways. Those developments will continue apace. They key proiblem is the individual--in this case, whether or not enough individuals will be willing to sacrifice their controll over cars and trucks for the greater good.

I am psyched about the new Jetta hybrid and am seeking your opinions. Have you driven it yet?

That one, too, is on the near-term list as a must-drive. I'm equally psyched to try out the German approach to gas-electric hybrids.

Mr. Brown, Thank you for your sound advice on the TDI Jetta that you gave me 2 1/2 years ago. We have had 5 major road trips, the latest being 2800 miles, and we love the car. I highly recommend it to anyone considering it.

Thank you. Continue to enjoy and stay in touch.

While on vacation last week I drove my Dad's 96 Honda Civic. I hadn't realized just how bad the visibility in modern cars was until I drove that! I can actually see out of it when looking over my shoulder! The pillars are actually NOT half a foot wide! The windshield is NOT 2 feet away from my face! Why are modern cars designed with such terrible visibility? It reminds me of the track I drove in the Army using the periscope...

I think you are extrapolating too much from a single experience. T'is true that a number of domestic, and a few Japanese cars, have fat A-pillars, methinks because their engineers were more concerned with crashworthiness lawsuits than they were about visibility. But that's changing almost everywhere in favor of better visibility.

Greetings Warren and Lou Anne I have been reading, enjoying and trying to learn from the chats for the last 6 months but this is my first time participating in the chat. I have a 12 year old Cirrus with 200K miles on it that is starting to need expensive repairs. I sat in the Forrester and Outback because of multiple reviews praising them, and friends that have told me Subaru's last forever. My problems- I am 5'10" & 400lb(trying to lose weight but its not happening yet) and did not fit well in either.(seat was slightly narrow) I drive approx 80 miles a day so I need reasonable fuel economy and cannot plug a hybrid in, I would like it to be fairly reliable and somewhat comfortable and if possible I would like something around $25,000 and I don't really like pickup trucks or turbos  --any suggestions? Thank you


Steve Front Royal

Welcome! Lou Ann is traveling on assignment today. But, in answer to your question, take a serious look at the new Subaru Forester, which offers decent space for the somewhat tall among us and is decent also interms of fuel economy (21 city/ 27 highways drinking regular.)  Price starts at abou5 $21.3K.

Greetings! My 99 CRV has 230,000 miles on it and is leaking a little oil and gas, so I'm thinking it's time to look for a new car. I don't need the space of a crossover (have an F-250 for hauling). After a lifetime of solid, reliable Hondas and Toyotas, I'm really leaning towards a somewhat frivolous Fiat 500 Sport. Will someone who's used to keeping a car for many years without spending a lot on repairs be happy with a Fiat? I'll be kicking myself if it needs to go to the shop often.

The Fiat 500 is like a hot date--fun and exciting for a while. It has decent reliability, but not the always-ready, always-there reliability of something such as a Corolla or a Civic...or a Nissan Versa, for that matter.

We had the very unfortunate experience of renting a Chevy Sonic from Hertz in California a couple of weeks ago. We had never heard of this car but it was all that was available. I would rate the ride fair, the handling poor and the acceleration non-existent. This car could simply not merge into high speed California freeways. Simply not safe. Visibility was also very poor. How can GM be producing such a poor excuse for a car in 2013? Is this just to boost CAFE? If so, I say I would rather have less mileage and drive something safe and comfortable. I cannot believe anyone would actually buy this car after a test drive.

I long ago learned never to pass judgment on a car because of a good or sour rental experience, especially in California, the land of abused rental. As for the Sonic, it is was engineered and designed as an economy car and seems to perform well in that performance milieu globally.  It is not a car you get into for maximum acceleration.

A friend complained on facebook that when she went to the gas station, the pump reading for gallons of gas was higher than the stated capacity of her gas tank. I know I have seen things like this before... It either seems to indicate the reading on the pump was wrong or the tank is bigger than stated in the owner's manual. I know I have heard that tanks have vapor space which may have been one possible answer.

I need a bit more explanation, please.

Warren, you seem to recommend the Kia Sorrento often. I'm trying to figure out why. I know appearances are subjective, but the Sorrento looks quite dated, is cramped in the third-row (relative to the Chevy Traverse), and isn't cheap.

I recommend it often as a family hauler because it is reasonably priced, reliable, and has a high crash safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Hifghway Safety.

What do you think is the best overall hot hatch right now, and what might be worth waiting up to a year for its debut?

I like the VW Jetta, Nissan Vera.

I would agree on the GTI....highest overall quality, though not has "hot" as a Focus ST, MazdaSpeed 3 or WRX. 2015 GTI might be real nice.

I like the Focus. But "hot" is a subjective matter. It tends to cool off in repair bays, for example.

It is a wet day all over the country. We thank you all for stepping out and joining us today. We'll be back after a short seasonal vacation. Take care. Drive safely.

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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