Real Wheels Live

Aug 30, 2013

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.

Where is the best place to purchase a late model used car?

Carmax. Large inventory. Reasonable prices. Warranties.

You can also try the classifieds and You will have to do more legwork and be careful when you're buying from a single person. Never go to their house, meet them in a public place, perferably near a police station. Let someone know where you are going.

For anyone thinking of buying a Prius V, which I just did, here are a couple of comments. If your head hits the airline seat just wrong so that your head is pushed forward, that'll happen in the Prius. I had to take the headrest off and turn it around, probably risking whiplash, but better for the moment than having my head pushed forward all the time. Your view out the back window also is much narrower than you'd expect; there is a wide band of darkening around it, leaving a smaller 'hole'; also, the rear seat headrests block some of the view, so I took them off also; if I have rear seat riders, I'll put the headrests back. Be ready for several highly detailed user manuals - I was astonished by the complexities of a "computer on wheels", having come from a 2001 Forester with dials and no fancy electronics. Lastly, be ready to be distracted by the dashboard while driving. You can really get caught up in monitoring what's going on with the car... Other than these things, I do like it so far.

Thank you. Responses welcome.

My husband, Stretch, and I were just in a Prius V yesterday and I remember him commenting on how  much room the backseat had and he is 6'4". I was in the front seat and had no problem with headrest.

Your distraction with the information overload will get better the longer you have the car. I am always fascinated myself with the amount of information only because I find myself playing a game of how much mpg can I get.

Get back to me in a couple months and see if you've gotten used to car a little more.

I would also take the car into a dealership and see if they can help you with the headrest. That sounds unsafe.

Where can I get info regarding dealer cost on a new vehicle?,,, On wheels in The Washington Post, among others.

Good morning Warren and Friends

What a busy week!

In the beginning of the week I was at the #Vwdrive full-line event. The big news from the event;

Volkswagen is replacing the 2.5-liter with a 1.8-liter that will get the same horsepower. The fuel economy goes up from 22city/33highway/26 combined to 26city/36highway/30combined. The 0-60 goes from 8 seconds to 7.3 seconds. The biggest change is in the torque The torques changes from 177 lb-ft @ 4250rpm to 184 lb-ft @ 1500rpm.

VW also launched a new in-car system called VW Car-Net.Think of GM's On-Star and you're on the right track. The first six months of the service is free.

From VW we hightailed it over to the #toyotahybridnation in Michigan. According to Satoshi Ogiso, the Deputy Chief Officer that has worked on Toyota hybrids since the first generation, the next Prius, probably out around 2015 will get at least 55 mpg. (this is after the hints he gave and I did the math - no guarantee, but for Toyota to hint...). Toyota owns 70% of the hybrid market nationwide and yet only 16% of their sales are hybrids.

An interesting factoid - Ed Larocque, Toyota's National Manager of Advanced Technology, told me that a Boston study group did the numbers and that if everyone drove a Prius hybrid-type sedan instead of a midsize sedan that would reduce the dependence of foreign oil by 70%. Once again, doing the numbers that would mean the United States could keep $255 billion dollars in our Nation!

Let's chat about cars

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Between a Prius 3 and a Civic Hybrid, does one have a quieter ride during high-speed highway driving? How would they compare to a conventional Camry or Accord?

The Prius 3 offers a reasonably quiet ride, as does the Civic hybrid. Reasonably? Yes. You have to pay attention to what you are buying and why you are buying it. Both the Prius and Civic are small cars on short wheelbases whose primary reason for being is efficient utilitarian motoring. These aren't luxury cars with luxury rides.

Have you had a chance to drive the 2013 Lexus GS 350, what are your thoughts on it?

I'll leave this one for Lou Ann inasmuch as the California journalists seem to be getting this one first.

Lou Ann here:

I own a 1993 Lexus LS400 and I can still set the bar on some of the cars I drive. I can also still get into a brand new Lexus and feel very comfortable because they haven't changed the overall feel, which I think is a good thing.

Some companies are too high tech for me, I have to drill down too many layers to find what I want and that means too much time with my eyes off the road.

The things I remember about the car is that it is quntessential Lexus luxury. I remember thinking they could have had a better low-end torque.

If they have a GS350 hybrid that would take care of that problem.

What do you think about the 2013/2014 Accord V6 Sedan? Also, would you recommend a 2013 version of this vehicle, or is there enough difference to make you want the 2014 version? Thank you so much for your chats.

As far as i can remember they are the same in horsepower and fuel economy.

The 2013 is a little less money and you can probably get a great deal in the next couple months because the new ones are coming out.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, I recently came back to an American car builder after 20+ years driving Honda products. I was impressed with the Ford Focus ST and bought one last month. So far, I love it, however, as I experieinced on my 2002 Honda Civic Si, the electric steering provides very little feedback, especially on the highway. I was expecting better from a highly rated performance car. Yes, it goes exactly where I point it, but I also get this feeling that I'm just floating along on air. Is this just the sacrifice of electric steering systems, or have some manufacturers been able to nail it?

I think it is what comes with electric steering, especially in a car that is more "performance" in marketing than it is in fact. The Focus stems from the economy school of motoring.

We'll soon be in the market for a new to us car- and was wondering- when looking at used cars, is it better to have something a little newer with higher mileage- or older with lower mileage? Any other criteria we should be looking at (assuming a reputable dealer like carmax or something)? Also- any thoughts for a car for family of 5 plus big dog? we already have a minivan so want the second car to be something different. Am looking at the Ford Flex and Acadia but open to other ideas.

The Ford flex and Acadia both are good for big dogs. But Rosa Parks, our chocolate Lab, based on actual experience, much prefers the room in the Acadia. Buying used: Check your finances. Make and stick with a budget keeping maintenance and other costs in mind. Set aside some money to pay a technician to check out your intended ride. Check Carfax--that's CarFAX==the title research company.

Lou Ann here:

If  you are looking for a used car don't just look at the year. Look at the maintenance, look at how many miles, have a technician look at the car, get a carfax report.

Warren Last week I wrote you asking your opinion on small SUVs. You recommended the CRV followed by the Equinox and the Sportage. I test drove all three and found the CRV driver's seat to be extremely uncomfortable. I got a cramp in my leg after only about 5 miles. The Sportage was OK, but after looking at and driving the Equinox, I found it to be a huge step above any of the other small SUVs. Only had it less than a week, but so far it is excellent.

None of that surprises me. The Equinox has long been one of my favorites in the small SUV segment. Enjoy.

We keep a Subaru Outback as our go-to vehicle at our home in Cornwall, N.Y. Lots of hills and curves there. Lots of snow in the winter. The Outback is a natural in that environment. Lots of room for Miss Parks, the Lab, too.

I have heard various commercials where owners of a make of car can get a discount if they buy that make again or where owners of a different make can get a special deal for buy the make. For example, a Toyota owner may save when buying a GM... or a Honda owner saves when they buy another Honda. Why can't they just offer the same deals to everyone? Why does it matter what make I currently own?

Approach all of those "deals" with caution. It all depends on the dealer you are working with. There is nothing that says a GM dealer or Toyota dealer has to give you a break to make what the industry calls a "conquest" sale. Nothing at all. Approach with caution.

Lou Ann here:

Do you know what Warren means when he says conquest? It really does matter to the manufacturer what car you are trading in. It's bragging rights and marketshare.

If Toyota can get you to trade in your Ford for a new Toyota that means one less Ford on the road and Toyota gets another new car purchase. It means that Ford's marketshare goes down and Toyota's goes up and Toyota gets to be the number two car manufacturer in the US instead of Ford.

Marketshare means more cars on the road and more organic advertising because if everyone is buying Toyotas people must like them more and the residual value of a used car can go up if people like that car.

Sometimes marketshare is more important to manufacturers than the profit in their company. That's not a good thing for a long-term ongoing concern, but it happens

What is your opinion of the Outback? I don't like SUVs, or worse yet, minivans. But I do have two kids and a husband. I love the all wheel drive, and the high clearance. I'm from a warm weather state, so I'm not a fan of driving in rain, let alone snow. I don't really care very much about room for carpooling, and it seems that my kids' petite grandma could fit in the back even with two car seats. Any reason I shouldn't consider the Outback? What are your impressions of the new version? Thanks very much. I find your chats very educational.

I'm with you, don't like driving in the snow. A couple of the competitors to the Outback are Nissan Versa Note, Toyota Venza, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the Volvo XC60.

I like all of these and would look at gas mileage on each one. Take away 1 mpg for every 100 pounds of person and things  you're going to fill the car with.

Drive each of these cars and narrow it down for us next week.

A 1.8L non-turbo engine with 184lb-ft of torque -- what's the trick? Does it require premium gasoline?

Most turbo (forced air) engines require premium fuel. That's my rule of thumb: Turbos = high compression = need for a more complete burn = premium fuel.

Comment to the Ford owner with poor feeling electric steering - I have been very pleased w/ VW's steering response. Sporty and precise and good feedback for a midpriced sedan. Am sure some others do it well too but that's what decided me for v-dub when I comparison shopped it against Ford, Hyundai, and Mazda models.

Good point!

VW is bringing back the quality and reliability on their cars. Their warranty claims have gone down substantially and that is one sign.

I love their engines, the new 1.8-liter can throw some G-force.

Thanks for the response.

Is it safe to assume that you don't make her sit in the back?

Miss Parks fully understands freedom. She generally sits where she wants to sit. She prefers the back and all of the space and privacy it offers.

I think it is clearly preferable to get older w/ low mileage, than newer w/ higher mileage. Nothing wears on a car to just exist. But it does wear on a car to be used. Consider it like a rug - the amount of wear/usage/foot traffic is what ages it, not the age itself.

And we thank you.

What are your thoughts on this car as far as reliability, driving experience, and "bang for your buck"?

I'm still scratching my head over why Honda in general and the Accord in particular recently got a bad rap. It is a good company that traditionally makes excellent automobiles. My suspicion--competition has increased. The Accord remains a very reliable car. But Honda simply has to step us its game to meet new rivals.

I had the Dart as a rental car last week and really enjoyed it! I thought that it was zippy and really fun to drive! I liked it so much I would consider buying for my next car (assuming it's still around in 5 years, which is when I will need to start looking for a new car) - though I wouldn't get the base model that I had. Have you driven it or had other feedback on the Dart?

Yes and if you like the Dodge Dart you should drive the Chevy spark and the Fiat 500L.

Let me know what you think of all three.

I understand how turbo engines work and why they require more fuel -- just because "turbo" was in my question doesn't mean it needed a primer, but thanks! My question was specifically about how VW's new engine puts out so much more power with so much less displacement, and tangentially whether premium fuel will be required.

regular unleaded! I was so impressed with this little engine!

I suspect because the power is related to the torque being so much lower.

Yes, I think premium will be required, which you should know inasmuch as you know so much about turbo engines.

Warren and Lou Ann--are there any diesel minivans on the horizon for the US market?

Volkswagen and Audi, I think. Possibly something from Chrysler/Fiat. I've got to check.

My mother drives a 4 or 5 year old Tuscon, and is looking for a new replacement. It's just her, although she occasionally hauls some stuff in the back. Mostly, she just doesn't want to downsize into a compact or even sedan. I drove a 2013 Ford Escape Zipcar the other day, and thought it was great. Strangely responsive, easy viewing out the back and blind spots, etc. What are your thoughts? If not the Escape, what else?

If you like that one, take a look at the Titanium edition of the Escape. Feels like a small luxury ride. I'm betting that both you and Mom will like that one.

Hi, I have two questions: 1. Do you know when the Audi Q3 will be coming to the US? 2. I test drove the BMW X1 and the Mazda CX-5. The BMW drove a little better but the on/off engine seemed annoying. The Mazda had better features (back up camera, blind spot indicators) and was $12,000 less (Grand Touring vs BMW X Drive). I have a Mazda now and I like the CX-5, is there any reason to pick the BMW or should I be happy with the Mazda and my $12000?

I think you should be happy with the CX-5 and your $12,000. Here's why: Mazda has dedicated itself to making family wagons that also are reasonably fun to drive. That shows in the CX-%, CX-& and CX-9. The company is reducing the weight of all of its vehicles while at the same time improving overall safety and fuel economy. Impressive...and still reasonably affordable.

Lou Ann tells me that I'm wrong. Regular grade is okay, according to VW. I'll believe it when I drive it.

Would you recommend the Equinox over, say, the Santa Fe? Do you have a preference? I am looking at both and having a hard time making a choice.

I'd go with the Equinox and I would not be swayed by third-row seats, if that is an issue. I don't like most third-row seats which I think too often are too close to the rear hatch.

No inside information - but it is remarkable for them to show that much torque at that low an RPM, from such a small engine. In general the engineering is sophisticated, BUT specifically to get torque at low RPM's you increase the stroke of the piston travel (and usually decrease the bore). Since there's no free lunch, that will make it a less high revving engine, due to mechanical inertia factors from the longer stroke. But every engine ever made has tradeoffs, and this sounds like a good one.

The reason I like it is because you get the torque when you are passing on a hill. I hate passing on a hill and having to mash the accelerator and lean forward to get as much inertia as I can. :)

Thansk for the help.

We thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. All questions and questioners are welcome. Thkanks to Matthew Monahan, Lou Ann Hammond, Victoria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson for all all of you do to keep this little enterprise chugging along. Have a happy, safe 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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