Real Wheels Live.

Aug 15, 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

Do any of you use to find out how the fuel economy (miles per gallon) on a car you are researching is doing? I drove the 2014 Buick Verano 2.4-liter ecotech 4-cylinder turbo. A beautiful car inside and out, quieter than most cars in that segment it totaled out at $32,680 which is pretty spot on for a fully loaded compact car.

The unusual part was the mileage. I only 20 mpg over 200 miles. That's normal for me, to drive 200 miles in a week, but normal for the Verano should have been around 24 mpg according to the sticker.

I went on to Buick Verano and the information is interesting. A person that drove 89% with an automatic 2013 Verano got 20.1 mpg while a person that drove a stick 70% highway got 37.6 mpg.

It's a great resource and if you have time you can start adding your information to the mix so that others can get a real world feel of what their car will get.

Let's chat about cars

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Lou Ann

This is not your usual question, but I'm hoping you can answer it anyway. How do I find out if a booster seat is safe to install in a particular car? I have a 2005 Toyota Camry and my wife has a 2012 Honda Fit. We bought two Compass B540 booster seats for our 6-year-old. It was top-rated in Consumer Reports and had the highest NTSB rating as well. The manual says the seat "...may be used in any rear seating position equipped only with side impact airbags that are roof mounted with "curtain type" deployment." Do you know if the description of the air bags covers both of these cars? I looked in the Camry - the air bag is not actually on the roof (the roof is upholstered - is any air bag actually mounted on the roof?), it's near the intersection of the frame of the car and the roof. I've contacted the dealer and car seat manufacturers with our baby seat, and both of them tell me to contact the other. They are not willing to tell me if the product is compatible. Thanks.

Take both cars and booster seats to your local fire station. The folks there are trained to properly install booster and child-safety seats. They also can tell you which seats work best. They know. The unhappy part of their jobs involves extracting young bodies from crashes in which those seats failed.

I love the summer and winter. The sunrise and sunset don't impact my daily commute. Spring and Fall are the worst as I seem to get hit by the sun in the morning and afternoon commute. The sun visor never seems to block the sun. Any cars have something better? Even a stop light sensor that knows when the lights are going to turn would be useful instead of having to look at the lights with the sun directly behind them.

I was impressed with Subaru's advanced distronic system. We were driving down the highway and the sun was directly in our eyes. Apparently, it was in the radar's eye as well because a warning came up on our nav and said the car cruise control with distronic was disabling because of the sun.

Other than getting tinted windows and a visor that extends I haven't seen anything.

Anyone else know of anything?

Hi folks, I was looking on a website at the Jeeps, but it wasn't showing the diesel engine option. I thought I remembered hearing that it was supposed to be available on the 2015 Cherokee. Am I remember that incorrectly??

I believe you're thinking of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee eco-diesel

What are the chances of v6 diesel engines in sedans making their way to the US in the near future?

Very g0od--pushed by Volkswagen Mercedes-Benz, and others.

Lou Ann and Warren I am 68 and still drive a manual transmission car. I have stuck with manuals to indulge my race driver fantasies and have better fuel mileage. Am I correct in understanding that current automatics and dual-clutch transmissions often give both better performance and better fuel mileage than manual transmissions? Also, how many gears are enough? I can understand the need for six speeds, but are nine two much? Is it a case of always wanting one more gear than you have? Thanks.

That's the same question I asked the CEO of ZF, Dr. Ludger Reckman. How many speeds - currently we're up to 9-speed - do you have before you have a CVT?

Yes, the automatics are getting equal mpg, but the performance and control are not the same.

The vaunted superiority of manuals--in terms of vehicle control and fuel economy--has now become car-guy fiction. Computers and microchips, and the emergence of manumatics, have relegated most traditional manual transmissions to yesterday. I know of know traditional manual that shifts better or saves more fuel than a modern, computerized automatic--or a tranny that can be operated manually and automatically.

Why has Honda continued to produce the misshapen Ridgeline year after year? Stuck in the rejected mold of the Pontiac Aztek and the Chevrolet Avalanche, and dragging a deplorable EPA gas mileage rating (15 city), it has solid virtues that are buried by these glaring shortcomings. At long last it is out of prodeuction, supposedly to be updated after a gap of more than a year. Why get squeezed out of the game for more than a year? Year after year, sales were abysmal. Is that what passes for corporate planning at Honda?

It still sells. And it gives Honda a needed "truck."

Considering the Honda Odyssey vs Toyota Sienna. What are your thoughts?

Both are excellent minivans--well-built, safe, family friendly. I'd shop for the best deal.

Why is Lou Ann's Twitter handle @drivingthenatio instead of @drivingthenation?

It is

Lou Ann here:

Warren is right, my website is

twitter only allows so many characters and my handle is one character to long. :(

Just a reaction to a questioner last week who was not satisfied with his/her 2014 Rogue, I've had mine for 3 weeks and am loving it!

As are many other Rogue owners.

Um, sunglasses? I keep two pair in the driver door pocket: one prescription; one not, for when I wear contacts.

And I lose all of mine. Lucky for sun visors in cars.

I've driven a lot of different cars (but not as many as either of you, it isn't my career). I still come back to the stick shift. I like it. Cars with automatics and dual clutches bore me. Think of it this way: Email and IMs are faster, better for the environment and more technologically sophisticated than "snail mail." And they have a HUGE, dominant and important position in today's communication. But what's better - giving your wife a handwritten love letter, or an email? .....Exactly.

Even the cars with seemingly traditional stick shifts are computer enhanced. I prefer the manual-automatics, which can be driven both ways.

I didn't buy a manual because my car is underpowered (although it is) or I want better mileage (although I do). I bought one because there's nothing like letting off the clutch in a heel-toe downshift at just the right moment to scoot smoothly and powerfully around a corner. I bought one because when something goes wrong they're vastly less expensive to repair. And I bought one because it physically prevents me from talking on a cell phone or eating a big mac while driving. It's fun to be a Luddite sometimes!

Good for you. I can do many of the same things with a manual-automatic without the worry of paddling through heavy traffic.

Do you have any thoughts on the new Polestar version of the Volvo v or s 60? I had the Polestar electronic upgrade done to my C30 and have replaced the suspension, wheels and tires with performance versions over time - it's a blast to drive. Which has made me very curious about the new Polestar Volvos, which I think, combine the Polestar electronic performance tweak with more performance components.

No. But thanks for bringing it to our attention. We will research and get back to you.

Lou Ann here:

John Maloney, President and CEO Volvo North America talked to me about Polestar and what it is

The new Mustang is due soon. (I think I saw September.) Have you guys had the opportunity to drive them yet? If so, what do you think?

we drive it next month.

named Darren Wilson and live anywhere clsoe to St Louie , MO for the forseeable future! Big time not good. They should ahve kept the name confidential.

there are a lot of things that shouldn't have happened

When driverless cars come out I want a stick shift. Gotta have some fun!

hummm - when driverless cars come out you won't be driving 

Several car companies are making cars that seem to routinely run for 200K miles or more. Given depreciation is high soon after (first 3-4 years) after a car is bought what is a good duration to wait(after it was new) to buy one of these cars economically speaking ..

look at reliability news - different cars stay durable for a longer time - volvo and toyota are known for running forever without a lot of maintenance cost.

Good morning, I wanted to get your input regarding where you see production car material usage and powerplants going. With Ford's recent dealings with Alcoa in securing an aluminum supplier for the forthcoming F series and hinting that the next generation Fusion will follow, do you think that other manufacturers will follow suit or that others will look into expanded use of lightweight materials in high volume production cars in a effort to meet CAFE standards? I was also curious on your thoughts regarding the use a electric motors when coupled with a low displacement direct injection turbo charged engine with idea being that the electric motor provides trust and torque under the curve to supplement the power that small turbo motors lack in lower rpms due to turbo lag, I know that developments in turbo system designs such as twin scroll manifolds, variable vane billet wheels have reduced lag issues, but I feel that the technology is there for a mass market 1-1.5L turbo motor with electric assist to effectively move the prototypical 3200lb mid sized sedan with adequate power and efficiency. Lastly regarding the topic of manuals versus modern automatic and CVT transmissions, don't discount the difference in maintenance cost and lifespan of the units. Thank you for your time. -David in Maryland

Thanks, David.

Aluminum has been and will remain a big player in the industry. Witness materials usage at Audi, Land Rover, Jaguar, Ford, etc.

The drive in the industry is to drive down weight in pursuit of better fuel economy, aiming at 54,5 mpg U.S. by 2025, assuming I have my numbers correct.

Overall trends: More aluminum and lightweight, high strength steels; more high-strength, lightweight composite materials; smaller fuel-efficient engines with power boosted by turbocharging; more diesel engines. Witness the inline, twin-turbocharged M-B E250 Bluetec as an example.

My soon-to-be 16 yr old son loves cars and is counting the minutes until he's licensed and able to purchase his own (he's been saving since before he got his permit). He's been practicing on our 03 MBenz and 06 Equinox but ultimately wants an old Acura or Lexus he can buy cheap and tune. If I had my way he'd be driving a land-yacht like a 70 de Ville. Friends/family think an SUV is the safest route. Regardless of the car, he's going to have limited driving privileges, so Warren & Lou Ann what type of vehicles would you suggest he check out that will make everybody happy?

the 06 equinox :) whatever he buys get him to buy the one that has the most safety on it so that he gets used to driving with safety technology.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thanks to Angela Wong, Matthew Monahan, Lou Ann Hammond, Ria Manglapus, Michelle Dawson. You guys are great! 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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