Real Wheels Live

Aug 24, 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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Thank you to Honda and United Airlines for getting me home in time to do this chat. It was touch and go.

I've driven the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe and the 2013 Honda Accord (and the PHEV) version. Both are under embargo, but I will tell you that if you are thinking of buying either, wait for the new one. If you want to know more about the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe you can see a picture of it in yesterdays Wall Street Journal. :)

Ram (not Dodge, Ram is their own brand now) has released the price for a 2013 Ram 1500.

Ram 1500
 1500 4x2 Reg Tradesman - SWB         22,590
 1500 4x2 Reg Tradesman - LWB         22,975
 1500 4X4 Reg Tradesman - SWB         26,350
 1500 4X4 Reg Tradesman - LWB         26,650
 1500 4x2 Reg SLT - SWB         27,450
 1500 4x2 Reg SLT - LWB         27,750
 1500 4X4 Reg SLT - SWB         31,020
 1500 4X4 Reg SLT - LWB         31,320
 1500 4x2 Reg Sport         32,935
 1500 4X4 Reg - Sport         35,855
 1500 4x2 Reg Cab HFE         28,200
 1500 4x2 Quad Tradesman          27,185
 1500 4X4 Quad Tradesman         30,630
 1500 4x2 Quad SLT          31,365
 1500 4X4 Quad SLT         34,585
 1500 4x2 Quad Sport         36,430
 1500 4X4 Quad Sport         39,650
 1500 4x2 Quad Laramie          38,615
 1500 4X4 Quad Laramie         41,760
 1500 4x2 Crew Tradesman         29,765
 1500 4X4 Crew Tradesman         32,985
 1500 4x2 Crew SLT         33,520
 1500 4X4 Crew SLT          36,740
 1500 4x2 Crew Sport         38,285
 1500 4X4 Crew Sport         41,505
 1500 4x2 Crew Laramie          40,470
 1500 4X4 Crew Laramie          43,615
 1500 4x2 Crew Laramie Longhorn         44,275
 1500 4X4 Crew Laramie Longhorn         47,420
add $995 for shipping and handling

I am thinking of buying a used E class (350??) sedan. What are your thoughts on that model & how much should I pay? No accidents. Thank you.

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan is an excelllent piece of work, starting at $50,490. Compare with the Lexus GS 350, starting at $46,900, or the extremely worthy Cadillac XTS starting at $44,o77. The 5-Series BMW will option you to death. Frankly, I'd buy the new Cadillac.

Our 2003 Pontiac Bonneville has been declared totaled by insurance due to a recent accident. No injuries and not our liability, thankfully. However, we need a new car quickly. We have driven Bonneville's for over 20 years. We are in our early 70's, drive about 30 miles from home and take a few long road trips. Any suggestions for a car comparable to the Bonneville in comfort and style would be appreciated,we would like to stay in the low-mid 30's, new or used. Thank you for your suggestions.

My brother-in-law is over 60 years old and explained to me that as one gets older, they buy fewer cars. Therefore, it is important to get a car with the technology you need and the comfort you want.

Look for a car with lane departure warning and back up sensors. As we age our neck doesn't swivle as well as it did when we were young. Both of those technologies will help you with blind spots.

I like the Buick LaCrosse, Hyundai Genesis, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Avalon.

Do you have an opinion on the Verano. Traditionally I will buy used luxury cars and drive the wheels off of them, current is '03 MDX. I can buy this car new for what I would normally pay for a used luxury car. My concern is that it isn't a big seller, do you have an opinion as to why that is? Thanks

You're my kind of buyer - I, too, will buy a car and drive it till the wheels fall off. I still have my 1993 Lexus LS400! Garaged from the day she was born.

Here's the beauty of what you do - you don't have to worry about whether it is a big seller or what the residual value will be, because you are buying it for yourself.

The Buick Verano is a great car, quiet, quiet, quiet. Has a great Bose system.

Buy the car because you like it, enjoy the car the entire time you have it.

Here's a piece I did on the Verano

Many of today's cars have miserable sight lines. e.g. The Honda Fit is unsettling to drive because of its impaired sight lines fore and aft. Mpg at the expense of safety is bad.

Sight lines are in the eyes of the beholder. I've driven Honda Fit models all over the United States in all kinds of weather with absolutely no problems. And most automakers nowadays aren't silly enough to sacrifice safety for fuel economy. The 2013 Chevrolet Spark, for example, with similar site lines for reasons of aerodynamics, has 10 air bags and one of the highest safety ratings in the business.

Hi. Have you heard anything about the new design for the Forester, scheduled for 2014? I'm contemplating getting a 2013 model but wonder if I should wait. If I go for a 2013, do you think Subaru will offer discounts? Thanks.

I ashamedly haven't been paying attention to the Forester. What about you, Lou Ann?

I currently drive an 8 year-old Honda Accord, which will be given to my son to drive. I am looking for something smaller and fuel efficient, and not very expensive. I have done some test drives and liked the Honda Fit. Is there anything positive or negative you can tell me about it? Any other cars I should consider? I found the Civic annoying because of the placement of the spedometer , and the comparable Ford models left me cold.

You might not like the sight lines. But, so far, one of the best urban minicars I have driven--considering affordabaility, overal quality, safety--is the Chevrolet Spark, starting a bit north of $12K. The base moidel is a true stripper, devoid of msny of the welcome amenities in the Spark 2LT, starting a tad north of $15 K. More expensive, but wonderfully enjoyable is the Mazda3,

He said USED Warren!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sorry, I missed that obviously. A used M-B  E-Classs? I'd only buy one that is genuinely certified by Mercedes-Benz. Same for Lexus and BMW. To my knowledge, there are noused Cadillac XTS models at this writing. I apologize for the error.

Are all the Land Rovers made in India? We are looking at the LR2 model, but have some hesitation on Land Rover's reliability and availability of parts. What are your thoughts?

Both Jaguar and Landrover is owned by the TATA group, which is headquartered in India.

I asked the PR folks for clarification and they say that All Jaguar Land Rover products are made in UK but they do assemble from kits Land Rover Freelanders in India for the Indian market.

Since Jaguar and Land Rover are both doing quite well there should be no problem getting parts. I'll bet even Ford, the previous owner.  has some old Land Rover parts they would sell you.

Mazda Miata Grand Touring with the retractable hardtop or Mini Cooper Roadster S? I like both...really tough to decide. Or would a slightly used BMW Z4 be worth considering?

The BMW Z4 is the most impractical of the two in terms of long-distance driving comfort. The Mini-Cooper Roadster S looks pretty and is; but ultimately expensive to keep on the road. The Mazda Miata Gran Touring with retractable top looks good, feels good, is easy to operate and maintain and is the one, in that group, that would get my money.

I think I might buy a 2012 Chevy Sonic tonight. Should I be concerned about a warranty that only last 3 years when I will probably get a 4 or 5 year loan? Are you familiar with this new car yet? Any response would be MUCH appreciated!

The Sonic or the Spark. The Sonic is larger and more expensive. The Spark is a minicar with a 5-year, 50,000-mile (I think) powertrain warranty. Calling for A GMer to help on this one.

Hi folks, can you explain this technology? Is it Mazda's version of a hybrid? When they start offering diesel engines here, would you choose a diesel model over a Skyactiv model?

Skyactiv is more like gasoline direct injection.

Here's a video of a Mazda representative talking about it

Yes, I would choose a diesel over a Skyactiv.

My father is in his 80's and had never ridden in an SUV until we loaded him into our Murano. He was pleasantly surprised at how much easier entry and exit were, which might become meaningful for these folks as they age. Some of the smaller SUV's or tall wagons or whatever the marketing people are calling them are worth considering.

I live in a community where the average age is over 70, and the oldest is 93. Most of them still own sedans, but when their children own SUVs, or CUVs, just for the reason you are describing.

They older folks don't drive as much as they used to, especially if one of the children will drive them. The children (now in their 50s and 60s) find it easier to get Mom and Dad in and out of SUVs because they don't have to bend down as far. It has to do with upper body strength, I think.


If they can afford to buy and maintain it, a S class Mercedes new or used. Car is the safest vehicle on the road and can withstand bombs going off in trunk. remember the incident in MD years ago. If you cant afford that new XTS or similar Buick. Clifton, VA

 Clifton. But I tend to shy away from "safest" car discussions, because safety depends on so many variables, including the attention and competence of the driver. Certainly, with all of its redundant and advanced safety systems, the S-Class is one of the best. But you and I have both been around long enough to know that, combined with inattention and reckless speed, and a failure to buckle up, you can die in anything. Some of us still mourn Lady Diana, for example.

For a little more money and no awful Subie CVTs take a look at the 2013 Jeep Grand Cheroke Laredo. AWD drive standard. V6. I average 20-22mpg. Clifton VA

Yes, but have you seen prototypes of the new Forester, Clifton?

I was looking at a so-called certified car a few years ago. When my mechanic got it up in the air, he found 3 bent rims, on the inside where it's not readily seen. Don't fall for the certified scam.

"Certified" is not a scam if certification is done properly, as it usually is by companies such as Carmax, Mercedes-Benz, BMW. Manufacturer certification usually is best. You can have a certified mechanic/technician check car if you are suspicious. But just make sure that your tech isn't scamming you.

Next year we'll need to replace our Chrysler Town & Country mini-van that was modified for a wheelchair by Braun. We're considering the new MV-1 from VPG Autos. Know anything about it?

From what I know, VPG started out as a group to help Americans with Disabilities become more mobile. The MV stands fro Mobile Vehicle.

A while back I wrote about federal tax money that was given to different auto manufactures. The Department of Energy (DOE) says that a $50 million loan to The Vehicle Production Group LLC will support the development of the six-passenger MV-1, a factory-built wheelchair accessible vehicle that will run on compressed natural gas and create 900 jobs across the country. A prominent partner of VPG is Clean Energy, a Natural Gas Group of T. Boone Pickens.

Since then it appears the MV-1 will be standard with regular gasoline, but will have the option of CNG.

I believe VPG is getting their engine and transmission from Ford. I will have to do some more homework.

I hope that helps.

Hi Warren, I am looking at a VW Golf or GTI. I wanted to see how the reliability is on these cars. I test drove and liked them both. The Golf now has 170 hp vs. 200 hp for the GTI. Are most VWs of good quality? Are some VW models better made than others? I believe the interior of the Golf and GTI are better materials than the Jetta. Thanks.

Yes, on good VW quality. It has improved tremendously at point of sale and in the repair shop. You can buy VW without worry. If you have a product quality problem, please notify us. We can get your complaint to the top people at VW...Fast!

Why are they advocating and pushing changing your oil every 4,000 miles when usng Mobil? Only thing I can figure is the profit. You should be able to go at least 8,000 miles between oil changes.

I'm flying blind on your question. Who are "they"? And what vehicle or vehicles are they speaking about?

Lou Ann- Ease of entry is more than just seat height. Two years ago, I rented a Sonota in California that I kept bumping my head on getting in and out because of extreme windshield pillar rake back. Don't have that problem with my 2001 Focus.

My husband, Stretch, is 6'4" (hence the nickname Stretch) and I can't think of a car that he has had that problem with. I know he loves the Sonata.

I remember my Father not being able to get his hands in the map compartments on the side of the door. Now you see side compartments that can open up.

All the manufacturers are giving a lot of consideration to their aging customer base.

Jag is at the top JD Power list for dependability. Jag in last few years has completely revamped their line. Land Rover is in the process of doing the same. LR2 is getting a mild redo for 2013 w/ the turbo from the Evoque. I amy sell my Grand Cherokee if they offer the Defender 110 in 2015. Its the right vehicle for hauling herding collies. Clifton VA

Clifton? Right? I can tell by the Defender reference. I assume that you have no intentions of driving or parking that thing in the city.

No but did drive the 2012 model and the CVT turned me off. Its worse than Nissan's. And I wasnt gaining anything is mileage over GC.

CVTs are continuously variable transmissions, installed because they automatically change gears without employing fixed gear ratios. Some are awful in terms of their rubbery, spongy feel. Others are excellent. The industry will continue to use and improve them in pursuit of the global quest for better fuel economy.

I agree with the earlier poster that a crossover SUV may be a better replacement. My 71-year old father just replaced his aging Buick sedan with a Honda CRV and loves it for the ease of access, comfortable seating position, and drivability.

I agree also.

It has a 4 speed auto, which is dated. As the outback 2.5i has the CVT, I would be surprised if the 2014 does not go to the CVT. Also, in the Outback, the CVT does ok. My outback, for example, gets 23 around town, and 30+ on the highway at posted speed limits. Not bad for a car of that size.

I"m not a fan of most CVTs but I do have to say that a car certain car I drove this past week, who is still on the embargo list (see first post) has done a great job with their new CVT. Subie needs to get rid of the 4-speed, for sure.

I wrote in a few weeks ago about getting the most for trade in of a Saab. I took it to a GM dealer as suggested and want to report that they offered me $7000 for it. KBB said the suggested trade-in value is $7300, so they didn't completely lowball me, but still too low compared to what we owe on it. So we'll stick with it and pray that nothing expensive needs to be repaired in the next few years. We really have outgrown it (such a small car!) but I guess we're stuck with it.

It sounds as if you are "upside down" in the car, owing more on it than it is currently worth. It happens. But based on your comments, you are only off by $300 on what a dealer is willing to pay you. You could take his $7,000 and make a big payment on your outstanding loan and eat the $300. But if the remainder of your loan is substantially higher than $7,000, keep the car and work on rebalancing your accounts with other sacrifices.

Would have survived if she was wearing a seatbelt. Her injuries were fatal because she wasn't Warren. If the bodyguard riding in the front passenger seat survived, so would Lady D since front passenger seat is the death seat ! Clifton VA

But, she wasn't wearing a seatbelt in her M-B. She did not survive. As I said, you can die or be critically injured in anything if you are inattentive to basic safety.

Hi Warren, the GM trio CUVs will be updated shortly. I like the Enclave but wondering if it will be best to save $$ on a 2012 or wait for the 2013? What features will the new one have that I might prefer?

The 2013 model probably will have some version of GM"s CUE (Customer User Experience) infotainment interface, which is well worth witing for.

What do you mean by sight lines - the ability to see where the front and rear bumpers are? If I'm interpreting that correctly, the chatter who didn't like the Honda Fit is WRONG. I've always liked hatchbacks and wagons, because when parking, you know the rear bumper is just a few inches behind the glass.

When I think of sight lines I think of how well I can see out of the car.

We thank you for joining us today and ask that you come back to us next week. Lou Ann has included her twitter hashtag at which she is reachable all week. I tend not to twitter. But I am reachable at I'll be in DC by Tuesday, Ria. Thanks for keeping things going in my absence. You are beyond wonderful. Thank you, Dominique Vu and Lou Ann Hammond, for another fine production. Eat Lunch. Enjoy the weekend.

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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