Real Wheels Live.

Aug 01, 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


Driving the Nation had a great time at MINI takes the States 2014. I know to some (Warren!) it sounds like a marketing scheme, but it's so much fun to see regular people take their own car and spend their own money tromping across the United States and just enjoying themselves. 


I met some of the nicest people, and they've saved up their vacation time and their money for this event. It's not cheap, they say it costs $5,000-$7,500 for the trip. 


MINI had Tony Hawk, the ultimate skateboarder skating over MINIs as they left the beginning line of the San Francisco trip. You can see him jumping here


I have a question for the people who own 3-row SUVs. How often do you use all 3 rows for hauling people? 



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Lou Ann Hammond

Warren, in a nutshell is the 4 series worth the extra money and why? thanks

I just drove the 435 convertible and loved it. Of course, like all convertibles trunk space is at a premium, but the car itself is a wonderful ride. 

The car feels like a woman. It has a waist, when you're dancing with it it follows your lead. When you go around the corner you feel it curve at the waist. It was just a wonderful vehicle to drive and it's a 4-seater. 

Submitting early because of a business meeting: I'm finally retiring my 2004 VW Passat after 302,000 trouble-free miles and am considering a Jetta SportWagen TDI. What do you think of this car? -- Sandy Hook, Conn.

I think the Jetta sportwagen tdi is a great vehicle and has almost as much cult following as the MINI does. 

Hi. I bought a new, year-old Mazda2 last fall. Despite thorough research and a test drive, I've found it doesn't hug the road; after decades of driving, sometimes I feel this car could go out of control. Also, in rainstorms, the windshield fogs up fast, and high defog does nothing. Is the second problem something the dealer can help with? It's very dangerous; I've had to swat the windshield with a sweater frequently just to be somewhat safe to drive. I hate to say, this car is worrying me.

The dealer can help with the window fogging. Your ventilation system seems to need work. As for road-holing, what was te shape of your tires on your year-old Mazda. Sounds like you need to replace the rubber on that car.

Yesterday, I was informed by my mechanic my beloved 2001 Buick LeSabre is facing its last days. I commute from Annapolis to D.C. and the ride has taken its toll. So, I am looking to replace my Buick once the wheels "fall off." My thought was a diesel given its low maintenance, good mileage, and, correct me if I am wrong, durability. What are your thoughts? Also, should I consider a pick-up or SUV given the pounding vehicles endure, especially on Kenilworth/295? That said, a truck will get less mileage. What are your thoughts on used cars? Warren, I appreciate your guidance.

I"m not sure why you would need a pickup. You  are right, it would mean more money for gasoline. 

How about a Chevy Cruze diesel? That's a great little car and you can maneuver easier. 


How do they get the traffic data to calculate travel times and delays? If I am using my GPS, is there something that is gathering data about my trip to show average speeds and delays? I notice my GPS usually mis-reports traffic delays in a specific area where there are many restaurants located. I wonder if it is gathering data from all of the people who stopped for lunch/dinner and thinking they are still sitting in traffic.

Government monitoring of traffic flow using a variety of cameras and wireless communications.

I've been reading about MB's C-Class 2015 AWD diesel hybrid, purportedly getting 60MPG! Do you know any more about this vehicle, and when it's due in US showrooms? Are other OEMs hopping on the AWD diesel hybrid bandwagon?

You know if Mercedes is bringing in a diesel AWD Subaru is planning one as well. VW Golf is bringing in a diesel and I think it has an AWD variant. 

I know a rear-wheel drive hybrid has been confirmed. I am not sure about the timing on the diesel hybrid. warren? 

It remains to be seen if the MB actually delivers 60 mpg in real-world driving. But all major car companies are working on diesel hybrids. Pricing will be an issue. Diesel hybrids arte expensive.

Does Subaru have a diesel in the pipeline for the US? I'm hoping for a diesel Impreza..

I've pinged the PR people in Subaru. If they get back to me I will let you know. 

They have diesels in other countries and more and more companies are bringing in diesels so it is only a matter of time. 

Am getting ready to buy a new car and would like to trade in. At what point in the buying process do i bring this in? Also how to do ensure i get the best trade in value from the dealership. Thanks.

Check KBB and Edmunds for current value on you vehicle. Check Carmax. Negotiate the price of your new vehicle as if you were paying cash, Trade-in should be treated separately.

In January we purchased a 2013 Prius Two, for my husband to drive on his 80-mile roundtrip commute. In early June it was rearended and totaled (my husband had minimal injuries, for which we are thankful). We replaced it with a 2014 Prius V Three. We find the ride much better over long distances in the new vehicle and the mileage is almost the same (within 1 or 2 mpg). I thought others would be interested in our involuntary comparison.

Thank you for sharing. The Prius V is one of my top Best Common Sense vehicles--more of a wagon. Makes perfect sense,

My 2007 Volvo XC70 station wagon is on its last legs. Do you have any station wagons (please no SUVs) that you think of highly? I understand the Jetta TDI and the Audi allroad are leading contenders, but what else should I be looking at?

The Audi Allroad would be my top choice. Well made, good all-wheel-drive system and one of the best interiors in the business--at any price.

Any word on the new Miata? Contemplating a fun car that can take the wife out to dinner on a warm evening, do the commute relatively efficiently, and go to the track 5-6 times a year. Miatas have been good for that in the past, wondering what the new one will be like? (And whether the Alfa version will be any good.)

I think the Alfa will be the biggest competitor for the Miata but the price will be higher. But if you like that sportscar feel and that real leather smell and something new that no one else has Alfa would be the bet. 

Mazda is tried and true in the US and is a great car to drive. 

...Why not get another Buick? They're much better these days :-)

I agree.

Lou Ann here: 

good suggestion but the buick person wanted a diesel -  My thought was a diesel

Otherwise I would have suggested a Buick Verano. 

Check out VW, which has the most accessible, affordable lineup of diesel passenger vehicles.

The car had sat on the lot for a year or slightly more. It had 54 miles when I bought it in November. Is that bad for tires? The tread is fine ....

Yes, that is awful for tires, which probably were flat-spotted and cracked after that hiatus.

Is buying a car still have to be a process and not an event? I thought this was changing for the better but maybe not?

It is changing, it is just slower than one would like. Let me ask you, what are some of the changes you would like to see? What makes it less of a process and more of an event for you? How do you shop for a car right now that you want to change? 

Would a true self-driving car mean you could be drunk as a skunk and not worry about getting into an accident, much less about getting a DUI ticket? And would we no longer have to worry about Grandpa getting lost when he tries to drive himself to medical appointments?

No. No technology relieves you of the responsibility for controlling your car. You can't use drunkenness as an excuse for anything.

My favorite dealer maxim: "A 'good deal" is what the buyer and seller both agree is a "good deal." There always will be tension between the two."

If I could change one thing, it would be the uncertainty about knowing if I got a good deal. In stores, you can compare advertised sale prices. Even in purchasing a house, you can usually look up what the previous owner paid, and you can compare to the selling prices of comparable homes in the neighborhood. In car buying, you have the MSRP, the invoice, the actual costs and other incentives from the manufacturer to the dealer. And the varying profits on different options makes it even stickier. Even with services like True Car and the Consumer Reports pricing service, it's still something of a mystery how you did.

I understand the desire to want to compare how you did, but I'm not sure it's as important as getting what you wanted for a price you could afford.

A competitive nature is good for some things, but what I want is to cut down the time you spend looking for a car, cut down the hassle of looking for a car. 

The time to me is money. If you spend $100 more than another person but you save two hours, I'm good with that. 

How do you shop for a car that would make that time more efficient? 

The dealer should have been so glad to be rid of that long standing piece of inventory that they should have replaced the tires for free---if you had asked them . Probably fresh oil as well.

yes, sometimes it is a matter of asking. a dealer is not going to do something out of the graciousness of their heart - it's a business - they've got mouths to feed. 

your business is making sure you get the best deal that makes you feel comfortable about the car you buy. 

I love driving it and I love the manual transmission. Thoughts on similar "fun to drive" cars? I am thinking a small sedan because the teens in the backseat gripe about headroom.

Audi A3 sedan, although you still may hear some griping from back-seaters. Or the Nissan Altima.

For years, my experience has been Wonderful, since I've been buying from Fitzgerald's. I do my homework on Edmunds, but Fitzgerald's really does do No Hassle, No Haggle when buying a car. The experience is So Pleasant, and Not one bit of stress. Too bad other dealers still sell the old, traditional way. Just my two cents :-)

So help me understand this 

What is the old traditional way? 

What does Fitzgerald do differently? 

Would Fitzgerald treat you differently if you were a new customer? Do they do No Hassle, No Haggle when buying a car because you are a loyal customer?

I would love to be able to buy a car directly from the manufacturer and cut out the dealers. For instance, I would like to save time and money buy logging on the Lexus website and purchasing a Lexus with my specifications directly from Lexus. Rather than having to go shop around 5-10 different Lexus dealers wasting time and money trying to figure out the best deal.

I can't help with the price, and if all you're looking for in the end is getting the best deal lexus wouldn't be able to help you either. 

If you went on their site and built a car they would only be able to send the car to the local dealership - those are state franchise laws. 


C'mon folks. Let's shake off summer and get back to chatting. Thank you all for joining us today. Thanks to Matthew Monahan, Lou Ann Hammond, Ria Manglapus, Michelle Dawson. Have a great weekend. Eat Lunch.

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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