Real Wheels Live

Jul 27, 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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If you take a break from the Olympics to go car shopping. keep in mind that it remains very much a buyer's market. Especially for Japanese models, which remain heavily freighted with incentives, But, again, buy only what you can afford to maintain and insure.

Warren and I are the happiest when we know you are buying within your economic means. Other media are catching on to what we've been telling you for years - keep your car till you have to buy a new one! 

If you are watching the Olympics watch the cars in the background. BMW UK has provided 4,037 low-emission, diesel, hybrid and electric cars, motorcycles and bicycles. Included in the Fleet is the BMW Pedelec, a pedal electric cycle, a custom-made complement to the BMW i3 Concept car that can be folded up and stored. 

Let's chat about cars

Warren, I have always had "sensible" cars in my life. I promised myself before I got too old I would get a sports car just once. Narrowed it down to Porsche 911, Jaguar XK, and BMW six series. How would rank them and why? Many thanks.

I'd go with the Porsche 911, if driving is your thing. It has the best engineering and  handling for that. I'd go with the BMW 6-Series if you're looking for driving and presige. I'd take the XK if you're primary concern is appearance and prestige with some good driving thrown in.

They are all beautiful cars. The Porsche is smaller and lighter versus the luxury BMW and Jaguar. The amenities in the BMW and Jag surpass the race car like Porsche machine. 


I am looking for a luxury car that is short in length but high off the ground . I have a physical impairment and higher cars offer easier access. I'm thinking about Audi Q 5. I really don't know other cars that would fit my needs. Carole

And I would take the Audi A5....or the Cadilla CTS-V.

I'm surmising you need short in length for parking purposes. It also sounds like you need an SUV for your easy access. Look at a BMW X3. 

Any references on determining a good value for a used car. I'm looking at a late model used high end vehicle and the prices just seems so staggering that getting a new vehicle and the warranty/maintenance perks is worth it.

I'd check with,,,, or With all of that info and related value rankings, you should have an idea of what deserves your cash.

I really want to buy an American car that's affordable and gets great mileage -- but I keep coming back to the Toyota Prius. I have to wonder -- why hasn't an American car company figured out how to make something that's equivalent? Or am I missing something?

Ford has some great cars that get good mpg, the Fusion, the Focus. There coming out with a c-max energi. Chevy has the Sonic and the Volt. 

BTW - if you own a Volt, or want to drive one, and are in the Pleasanton, CA area this Saturday from 10-1 email me at and I'll tell you where you can see 40 Volt owners and drive one. 

Have you driven it? What do you think about it? I'm deciding between this and the Elantra. Thanks!

Yes, on having driven the Tucson. But you do realize that you are asking about two different vehicles, don't you? One, the Tucson, is larger and crossover/wagon-like. The other is a small car, good for local commuting, but not as adept as the Tucson in hauling stuff. Which do you need/want?

Have I read correctly that the Volt gets around 40 mpg after it's battery charge is depleted? The remaining propulsion being the same electric motor, powered by a generator like gas engine. So, why not take the battery pack out, saving 500 lbs? Just use an electric motor, direct drive, and the generator engine. No longer an electric car, but certainly sounds efficient. Is any manufacturer considering this? Or am I missing an important detail? Thanks...

The whole concept of the Volt powertrain is that the electric motors that drive the wheels are powered by the battery pack, not the generator (ICE), which charges the battery. 

ice = internal combustion engine

The Volt gets about 40 miles driving range on battery power alone. The small 4-cylinder gasoline engine, which GM's engineers prefer to call a generator, helps to carry the car another 300 miles, or so. Transmission from battery-only to gasoline assists is seemless. It works.

A friendly ammendment to my colleague and friend Mr. Brown - the way I understand the Volt is that the engine only powers the wheels at highway speeds, other than that the engine is being used as a generator to power the battery. s at highway speeds, other than that the engine is being used as a generator to power the battery.

Plus side of 45 now and have been married 20 years. My 1st kid is ready for college. I've always had the older or "second" car in our house, which includes a minivan now, and I'm ready for my own luxury. Looked at Mercedes and BMW, prices said maybe I need to look at  Lexus or Infiniti. what would you recommend amongst those in the sedan size of the M35 (or M37 is the latest model). new or recent used does not matter.

I'd go for the M-35, new or recently used. Or the E-Class Mercedes-Benz, which is always sat5isfying. Lexus? Yes. Pobably something suc as the IS 350 coupe. But unless you have retirement income to burn, I'd stay away from the $375,000 LFA Coupe.

Sorry, 6 series is not a sportscar and neither is XK. Current 911 is an overweight nightmare that destroys the legacy of the 911. Real 911s are aircooeled and have RWD.  For sports cars, check out the Vette (best of the bunch). Z06 is superior to the 911. Check out BMWs 1 series M and the M3 along with Z3 coupe for real sports cars. Xk and 6 series are GT cars. - Clifton VA PS real Porsches have 4 cams , 4 cylinders and are air cooled

Sorrym Clifton. You are incurably old-school in your definition of what is a sports car and what isn't. A Porsche Panamera, for example, is now accepted as a "sports sedan." Some people even call it a "four-door Coupe. " I know that grates against the grain of oldesters such as you. But, there you have it.

Good morning. I am trying to get an answer as to why our new Mazda5 (love it) can not take a receiver hitch. I want it solely for a bike rack. If it is structural, I can understand that and will just have deal with getting a roof rack eventually. If it is just because of power issues then I see no problem. But I can not get an answer from my dealer or MazdaUSA. Do you have any idea how I can get this information?

You should be able to add a bike hitch to a Mazda 5. Check with your local bike shop. But the Mazda 5 essentially is a small wagon. Do not affix a hitch designed to pull heavy loads.

WArren is correct. A manufacturer will not sell you a hitch because it is not certified for towing. Yes, you want it for a bike rack, but if they sold a hitch there are others that would use it for towing and it would be to much for that machine. 

Warren, I'd asked you whether a new Toyota RAV-4 or a Volvo XC-60 with 30,000 miles was a better choice. (For several reasons, those were the only two models I could consider because of dog show equipment needs and a new XC-60 was outside my prize range.) The difference in cost was abut $4,000. You recommended the Volvo and I couldn't be happier! Great car and a much nicer experience all around. So thanks!

Volvos are great vehicles and they run forever. 

I had a 242DL and put 250,000 miles on it and still sold it for $2,500 in the '80s. 


I'm happy that I could help. But also give credit to our  Chocolate Labrador, Rosa Parks Brown. She much prefers the Volco XC-60 over the Tpypta Rav-4. Cheers.

I'm curious because I've heard so many stories lately of bad experiences at Toyota dealerships when people are trying to buy a car. Rudeness, lack on interest in offering help to people who are looking in the lot or walk into the dealership, those wacky "team" approaches where the salesperson who shows you the car can't or won't answer questions about cost, and then there's a third person who talks financing... Is this just coincidence or a regional thing (I'm in the southeast) or has Toyota de-emphasized point of sales?

The Toyota shops behaving as you described are holding on to a sales culture absent portfolio. Theirs' is an arrogance derived from a time when Toyota had what was widely viewed as an "unquestionale" reputation for superior quality. That reputation was undeserved then. It certainly has no basis in fact now.

Maybe, this wil get their attention.

Warren and I are in a unique position for you, our chatters. If you can give us concrete information, times and dates, of these indiscretions we can give the people we know in the manufacturing side know your issues. 

It's like any other business, many times the employers don't know what the employee is doing to turn off a customer. Yet that rebuff causes people not to buy the product. 

Feel free to let us know and we will make sure you get heard. No promises on what will happen. 

Which is what most of you seem to be doing. Thank you for joining us today...those of you who did. Please come back next week. On Wheels resumes this Sunday in The Washington Post. Thanks producer Dominique Vu, contributor Lou Ann Hamond, and the world's most able assistant, Victoria Manglapus. Go USA!

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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