Real Wheels Live.

Aug 08, 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.

a few weeks ago a chatter inquired on Real Wheels Live about the Clean Special Fuel plate status of the  SUV Hybrid. This vehicle was not on the list and the local Nissan dealers could not explain why they couldn not drive in the HOV lane when other hybrid SUVs could. The chatter emailed me this week and said, "I wanted to share with you that, after researching the matter, I've learned this vehicle is not on the list due to its certification as an ULEV instead of SULEV (such as the Toyota Highlander Hybrid). Buyers in NoVA should be beware when purchasing and expecting to transfer an existing plate."

This week I drove a different Nissan that isn't allowed in the HOV lane, but probably gets more mpg than any SUV - the 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL. A turdy ride, it got 33 combined mpg. While some cars I have driven have taken another $10,000 to be outfitted the way I would drive them, the Altima SL started at $27,920 and the out-the-door price was $30,830.

I looked on the sticker for the Altima and couldn't find the fuel economy rating (whether it was a ULEV)

Let's chat about cars

--For calling out Congress on its pathetic handling of federal funding sorely needed to repair or nation's roads and bridges.

--For calling out national dealer associations for failing to reign in dealers who are giving the industry a bad name.

Try a long-wheelbase Hyundai Santa Fe, GLS or Limited. You'll be surprised.

I wrote in about an odd problem with the top on my 2013 VW Beetle convertible. Co-ordinated with a guy from VW (thanks to Ms Hammond for setting that up) so he could have someone there to check the problem out when I had the car in for servicing on Tuesday. Looks to have been a bad switch, which was replaced. Seems to have fixed it.

Yehh, Lou Ann!

Lou Ann here:

Wonderful! Thanks to Scott at VW of America. Sometimes it's something as small as a bad switch to make everyone happy.

Thanks Scott. There's a reason you just got a promotion.

I need to replace a Camry with a more family friendly SUV (I can't bring myself to do a minivan) and it just feels like there are so many options! Wish list--leather seats, bench seat in second row, good cargo room for luggage/double strollers/etc) and the occasional bigger item (furniture), safety, reliability, ability to handle rough/gravel roads. On my list now are the Pilot, Highlander, Explorer, MDX, Volvo XC90 (the last two are a bit of a stretch on the budget). I am looking stay around the $40k mark. Am I missing anything? What would you recommend?

Pilot, Highlander, Explorer, MDX, Volvo XC90

Have you driven the2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek Hybrid AWD? Chevy Equinox

and don't forget the highlander just brought out a hybrrid, but you can also look at the lexus for that price. I like the lexus because it's a smoother ride, of course I own a lexus.

Warren, Question. When I look at sedans versus hatchbacks, I see less room for trunk space in the hatchback. But the car is the same length. So where does the extra room in the sedan go? For instance, the Hyundai Accent sedan vs hatchback. The front seat room looks the same and so does the leg room in back seat area. Sorry if dumb question!

Not dumb at all. The penalty of aerodynamic styling in the hatchback. Sedans usually go with traditional notchback trunks--less aero, but more interior space.

I have been reading on blogs about two potential liabilities on the 2015 Outback: unusual oil consumption attributed to the oil control rings plus unusual carbon build up due to new direct fuel injection. Outbacks have a lot to offer but should I wait a year until these problems are resolved or are these so-called problems just unsubstantiated rumors?

I have almost total faith in Subaru. If there is a recall/"customer service" problem, bring it up at point of sale. Get dealer assurances that you will be cared for. But, first, check the recall/customer service (complaints) bulletins at gov.

Three times I have used an excellent auto buying service which has garnered for me a purchase price that is often hundreds (or over a thousand) less than the best price I could find elsewhere, and that included the price I paid for the process. Often, car dealers will offer to sell the car for "$500 below invoice, etc." And of course, they'll show me the "invoice" price, but I've since learned that there's more than one "invoice" price. I am away of holdbacks and other rebates that the dealer gets. I have no problem with that. They have to make a profit. But how can I be sure that the "invoice" price they're showing me is the REAL invoice price?

Invoice prices are not always what they seem. Research all prices at,,, and similar sites.

Good morning -- I'm curious about the Mazda5. My aunt owns one as a stickshift alternative to her Boxster when they have to haul the dog; she loves it. I drove a rental a couple months ago and it was surprisingly capable and fun for a shrunken minivan. I can't help but think that with a fuel-efficient Skyactiv engine and a Kodo facelift to match the rest of their line, it would get a lot of attention from young families like mine. Mazda has been hitting it out of the park lately. Do you know if they have any plans for the Mazda5, or is it on its way out?

You mean the cx-5 right? the van? I hear it is due for a refresh but how extensive it will be I don't know.

I'm in the process of purchasing a 2014 Honda Accord Sport. The dealer has installed many upgrades at a hefty price that I am not interested in. what is the best way to go about not paying for these items when i sit down to negotiate the purchase price?

Reject the upgrades. Shop another dealer. Tell the new dealer exactly what you want and are willing to pay for. No need to play around with this. You are the buyer.

Warren, we're in the market for a VW Jetta Wagon TDi. We're not picky about getting all that a new car might offer (e.g., navigation, the new car smell), we will pay cash, and we keep cars until they don't drive anymore. What we want is the best value for the miles we will drive it. In that context, should we be looking for a gently used model, or should we go to various dealers for a new 2014 and a hard number (e.g., $24,000)?

Shop dealers. Also, check out,,, etc. I know that sounds like a lot of work. But it is more than worth it. Also, shopping used, check Carmax.

Lou Ann I just checked The Mazda5 is the small minivan, the Mazda CX-5 is the small SUV.

Neither one of them soon will disappear. Young families love those models.

I asked this question last week, not sure there was a complete answer. Was wondering how much difference you may see between a BMW 335 and a 435? Thank you

I thought I answered question.

yes, I did, I looked - I loved the way the 435 drove.

BMW 335 vs BMW 435

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

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. 

My experience with small cars leads me to believe that the hatchbacks have more space with the rear seat down for large objects, etc. The sedans usually have more enclosed space in the trunk with the rear seats up. I prefer the hatchback body style because it gives me more room for the occasional large load in a small car.

An argument that could go on forever. Hatchbacks offer more usable cargo space. Notchback sedans cater more to passengers.

Blame the California Air Resources Board for those. Lou Ann's people. ULEV, Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle.

I can't be the only person scratching my head over "ULEV" versus "SULEV." Is this explainable in a few words?

ultra-low emissions vs. super ultra low emissions.

it is how clean your emissions out of your car are

you have


zero emissions is an electric vehicle

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee with a diesel according to owners gets 33mpg or better on the hgiway. Duh its a SUV.

thank you Clifton

Over the 4th of July weekend, I purchased a 2014 Nissan Rogue. After a month of driving it, I realize it is not the car for me. Any options for trading it in without losing my shirt? How do you find out if a car is or isn't for you? We test drove several other cars we were interested in, but who can tell after a short test drive. I didn't realize how much I don't like the car until driving it for several weeks.

You can't tell about a car after a short test-drive, which is why I--we--drive them for at least several hundred miles. Check out Carmax, which generally offers best deals on buyer's remorse. But, yes, you will take a hit.

HI Warren I am about your age and dimensions and thinking about a new Mini --hard top or a Mazda 3. Sporty , manual transmission. Thoughts/recommendations ? Thanks

Mazda3, hands down. Best small sports-type car for the money. Mini too affected by BMW pricing.

Why didn't that person like it? My wife and I bought one about a month ago and like it a lot.

Don't know, clearly a preference.

A question for Lou Ann, if I may. You've spoken a few times about your husband's height. I'm in the same category, with longish legs and plus-sized feet. In test-sitting cars, I've found my head sticking out of the sunroof of an Audi A4. I could not actually get my foot on the accelerator of a Mercedes CLA, due to the center console. The Passat was a perfect fit. But I am curious about other options, from Buick to Volvo. So, I'm just wondering if your husband at least sits in most of the vehicles you test, and if so, which ones fit him.

He loves the MINI. He is long-legged and big feet and the MINI fits him nicely. He also likes the go-kart feel of the old mini. He thinks the new ones are starting to feel more like BMWs.

I saw that GM will roll out the next-generation Chevy Volt next year. Besides a hopefully more extended all-electric range, what might we expect?

This is the info from the press release they just sent out. The 2015 volt will be unveiled at the 2014 north american auto show in detroit

The 2016 Volt will build on the award-winning original’s strong foundation of technology innovation. Volt sales were up 13 percent in July and more than 65,000 have been sold since it was introduced – making it the best-selling plug-in passenger car in the U.S. market.

“Volt is the perfect example of the ingenuity that drives everything we do at Chevrolet,” Mahoney said at the Center for Automotive Research Management Briefings. “Volt fully delivers on the promises of Find New Roads and will continue to provide consumers with the transportation solutions they need and deserve in the future.”

Volt owners are driving more than 63 percent of their overall miles in electric vehicle mode, collectively logging more than 500 million gas-free miles since the Volt’s retail debut in 2010. That has saved more than 25 million gallons of gasoline. 

While the driving range in EV mode can be affected by temperature, driving technique and terrain, the ease with which Volt drivers are avoiding gasoline use demonstrates the Volt’s suitability for almost any lifestyle.

Volt owners who charge regularly typically drive more than 970 miles between fill-ups and visit the gas station less than once a month.

The Volt has received multiple customer satisfaction awards from leading third-parties. According to a recent leading independent satisfaction survey, the Volt is the highest-rated compact car under $55,000. Owners are showing their satisfaction as well. For the past three years, a leading customer publication has reported survey results showing more than 90 percent of Volt owners said they would definitely buy a Volt again.

The Volt continues to draw buyers from non-General Motors’ products.  In the 2013 calendar year, nearly seven of 10 new Volt buyers traded in a non-GM vehicle, the majority of which were Toyota Priuses.

Thank you Angela for all your  help today. Warren, my friend, take care and have a good weekend. Thanks everyone for joining us today.

And remember, never drive faster than your Angel can fly.

much love


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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