Real Wheels Live

Jul 20, 2012

Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown will discuss the auto industry. Plus, he'll give purchase advice to readers.

Cadillac has a smaller model it brought out a few years ago. I would like to know how you rate the 2012 and 2013 models.

The Cadillac CTS, a solid sales success, is more expensive, startinat $35,915. It is available in what I call  "CTS mild" and "CTS the way you want it to be," which is the super-sporty CTS-V. Now cometh the smaller ATS, les expensive, starting at $33,095," and more fuel efficient at 11 mpg city and 33 mpg hwy. I have yet to drive it, but plan to do so, soon. Stay tuned.

I've never gotten one on a press trip test drive. When I'm in other peoples' jurisdictions and countries, I make sure to behave as a proper guest. Anyone  going 136 mph on a press trip, assuming that is what you are referring to, is an idiot and probably should be suspended from future trips. The idea that normal drivers are going to drive at excessively extra-legal speeds on regulated streeta and roads to "test" a car they actually paid for is stupid.

Have I gotten speeding tickets while driving a test car? Yes. Most were deserved, for which I apologized and paid. Others, unfortunately, were DWB citations, which I fought in court and mostly won. One was simply not prosecuted.

Warren, love your chats. Long-time lurker, first-time poster. Debating getting rid of my 08 Subaru Tribeca. Started new gig entailing daily commute bt DelRay and Sterling. 6ft4in husband, 5 y/o in Britax Regent for at least 3-4 more years. Want the best of both worlds: fuel efficiency for commute and decent space for family roadtrips. Possibilities? You rock!

Consider the Chevrolet Equinox, or the GMC Terrain, if you want more lux. Or go back to Subaru with its new, larger, reasonably fuel-efficient and definitely dog friendly, based on our Chocolate Lab's rating, Outback wagon/crossover utility vehicle.

I hope you can help! I have a 14 year old CRV that is doing fine, but a friend offered to buy it and if I wait too long I fear I won't get any cash for it so I can buy my next car. I've never bought a used car, but have heard good things about Carmax. I'm looking at another Honda I think. There's a lot of issues here - sell my car for more current safety features, go to a smaller car (Civic or Accord or something else?), or can a used car be as good as a new one? Please help.

Sell your car. Make sure it does not have any issues (that you know about) that can ruin a friendship. Take the money and go to Carmax to by used. (I like the way Carmax backs what it sells.) Or, take the money and go to Hyundai and put it down on a new, excellent Hyundai Elantra.

Would you recommend a volvo after the chinese buy-out? I'm looking for a very safe and reliable car, and thought volvo might be it, but then I was told about the buy-out. Do you think it will effect the car's performance and reliability and all good things? Thanks!

The Chinese are as concerned about vehicle safety as anyone else. They have to a country of mostly new and recently licensed drivers. They certainly are concerned about money, which is derived from good product reputation. Most of the money being invested by Volvo's new owner is going directly into product development and quality. Witness the new S60 with its innovative pedestrian protection devices. Volvo remains a recommended buy in this quarter.

Hi Warren, thanks for your excellent work! I saw in a previous post your accolades for the Volt and your consideration of buying one. I am really intrigued by the new lease ($249/month + approx $2500 down) but my interest is mitigated by the fact we are a household of five. Any other car you'd recommend for us considering we'd like to be able to squeeze 3 in the back seat?

Toyota Prius V, excellent mileage, good for a family of five, excellent safety, reasonable price....But it is a wagon, a small wagon. Can your ego live with that?

Warren, Given the choice between a 2009 BMW 328i wagon and a 2011 Acura TSX Sportwagon, which would you choose. The mileage would be higher on the older BMW, but the cost for each is roughly the same. We are not looking for SUV/CUV options, we are going wagon. Thanks for the advice. - Alexandria

I think you just answered your own question. It's the Acura TSX Sportwagon. It is just as luxurious, practically speaking. Less expensive to buy and maintain. Just as safe as the BMW. But less prestigious. What do you want?

Hiya Warren. Thanks for doing these chats. My 74 year old father wants to replace his Subaru Outback station wagon, and he does not like the newer, larger Outback. He drives a mix of highway and city roads and likes to haul wood working materials in it (and his dog). Do you have any favorite station wagons that he should consider? Thanks!

Chevrolet Equinox, which is a station wagon masquerading as an SUV. If he prefers to live without that pretense, go with the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen Diesel, which starts a bit above $25k.

Why is it when I go to Europe and UK everyone is driving Audi, BMW, Mercedes, etc. autos with diesel engines getting great milage and we can't get them here in the US? How can we put pressure on whom to get these great cars over here? NT

German politicians are smarter than our people. They know that diesel is at least 30-percent more fuel-efficient, in terms of mpg, than gasoline. So, they place a higher tax on gasoline. And they put pressure on petroleum refiners and automobile manufacturers to develop advanced diesel fuels and advanced, clean-burning diesel engines and exhaust devices. Whattaya know? You get better fuel efficiency and better air quality that European car drivers prefer and are willing to pay for. Meanwhile, back in the Good Ole USA, we have Tea Party Republicans and Left Is Best Democrats who much prefer beating up one another than actually doing something good for the people--like making advanced diesel fuels and user technology more accessible.

You said the ATS is 33 highway and only 11 city. What makes the spread so wide?

That has to be a mistake on my part. It is. ATS Cadillac is 22 mpg city and 33 mpg hwy. My sincere apologies for that unfortunate typo.

It's Caddy's competitor to the 3 series. Caddy may have a chance Warren, since the current 3 series is just a shadow of its former self. It has grown way too fat and big and its handling and braking cant compete with its legendary forebearer the E30 3 series. BMW really should put the 3 series out of its misery but wait it has the new 4 series coupe is coming out! Clifton VA

As always, thank you, Clifton. Fortunately, for Cadillac and BMW, most people shopping the ATS probably won't know that it's competeing against the 3-Series.

What do you think of the Honda CRV? Many websites recommend the Toyota RAV4. Has Honda lost its mojo?

Has Honda lost its mojo? Not in the least in terms of product innovation, quality, and reliability. It is more the victim of the Palm Sunday Greeting Syndrome (PSGS). Works like this: Today, we greet you as a beloved hero. By Friday, we're nailing you to a cross for nothing that is actually your fault. Like, in Honda's case, a tsunami/earthquake that hampered product development and some production. But Honda has overcome that. Honda's products are as good and solid as they have ever been. And that includes the latest version of the CR-V.

Could you please explain how BMW is marketing it's new 6-series 4-door as a coupe? The last time I checked, cars with 4-doors were called sedans or saloons. If I register the car at the DMV, what will they call it? What's next, Mercedes marketing a car with a panoramic sunroof as a "convertible"?

Most automobile marketers were lousy language students--bad on spelling, syntax and definition. But they've turned their intellectual deficit into something they think is cute, such as Xterra and a bunch of actually confusing alpha-numeric names. Now cometh the coupe that actually is a sedan, because the marketers think that coupes are sexier and believe that you will, too, if they forcefully and expensively push the erroneous message that the new 6-Series sedan is actually a coupe because, in their minds, it looks like a long-waisted coupe. The DMV people, however, probably will think otherwise. Their world is devoid of poetry, misleading or otherwise. They most likely will list your "coupe" as a four-door sedan.

If you were looking to modify the suspension on this car, is there an authoratitive source of information you would refer to regarding after market parts and compatibility? I don't mind doing some mod's, but reliable information is hard to find. This is a nice wagon, but the thing floats down the road like my grandfather's Buick. Thanks.

Hey, Clifton, if you are still with us, help us out with this one. Thanks.

Hi Warren, a few weeks ago you mentioned you were going to get an opportunity to drive the new Fusion. Have you done it yet and has Ford mentioned when it will go on sale? -Justin, Tysons Corner

It goes on sale in the Fall 2012. Ford promises to get it to me well before then. I'm waiting.

I am interested in the 2013 Kia Sorento, 4 cyl. with the GDI. I was on the verge of buying one, based on the salesman's statements (and window sticker) that it gets 22mpg city. However, I checked out some online reviews, and a lot of people are claiming it gets MUCH worse, closer to 17 mpg city. Now I don't know what to do. I need something somewhat fuel efficient, as I do about 500 miles or "errands" per WEEK. However, I also like sitting up high (yes, I am a short woman who is used to driving a Suburban). Thanks for any recs.

If the Environmental Protection Agency sticker says it gets 22 mpg city, that means it gets 22 mpg city under ideal conditions--good weather, great roads, light onboard load, little traffic congestion. Most of us don't drive under ideal conditions. Thus, your mileage is likely to vary from that on the EPA sticker. But you are much more likely to spend less on gasoline in a four-cylinder car than you are in a six or a eight. Also, check the transmission. Generally speaking, five-speed gearboxes are more fuel-efficient than four, and six-speed gearboxes are more efficient than five. Go ahead an buy the Sorento, one of the best, most complete and affordable crossover utility vehicles out there. Your mileage will vary depending on driving conditions, driving style and onboard loads. Don't worry about it.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please come back next week. You can also send questions/topics you wish to discuss to me during the week at

Thank you, Dominique Vu, for another fine production. And thank you Ria Manglapus, the world's best assistant, for your patience and perseverance, which I appreciate, although I too inrequently say it. Thanks. Eat lunch.

In This Chat
Warren Brown
Warren Brown has covered the cars industry for The Washington Post since 1982.

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