Real Wheels Live.

Sep 05, 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

This week I drove the 2014 Nissan 370 Z Nismo. Talk about a car that gets looks! People that couldn't see the badging thought it looked like a Porsche. We ran into a couple of guys, Eric and Nick, who were just back from a Z-club gathering in San Diego, CA. They were so excited because the father of the Z-car, the original designer, Yoshihiko Matsuo, was there and had signed their car. They agreed that the new 370Z looked more like a 70s Z than an 80 Z car. Both guys had Fairlady on their car, the original name of the Z car in Japan and the green 70 Z had the original name, Datsun.

The owner of the 70 Z had kept the original air conditioning in the car because it would have messed up the lines of the car if he didn't, but he added a lot of dampening that took away the noise so that you could hear the melodic exhaust tones of the car, something that could be done to the present day car as well.

It's a sports car and true to sports car fame it was fun to drive especially around the curves. At $46,370 it was sparse on technology; there was no USB. There was an aux-in and 2 DC cigarette lighters but no bluetooth. There was no NAV system but Nissan cleverly had a backup camera in the rear mirror, though it didn't have steering trajectory on it, it was still a great invention.

Our drive, city and highway, mostly highway garnered about 25 mpg. The sticker says EPA numbers are 18 city/26 highway/21 combined.

I drove the Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4X4 priced at $31020. Great vehicle, it would be better if it had more low-end torque. We got about 22mpg for the week.

I also drove the 2015 Chrysler 200. There are four trim levels and, depending on the content you want and the money you want to spend, you can pay as little as $21,700 up to $38,000. You cna get an inline 4  with 9-speed or opt up to a V-6 all-wheel drive.

When you look at the 2015 Chrysler 200 notice the console. Next to the cupholders, on the left side is a button that you click and pull back. Hidden in there is enough room to put your small valuables or to charge your smartphone. Because Chrysler used an electronic gear shifter they had enough room underneath the console is a skid pad for your smartphone or change. Imprinted on the pad is a horizon of Detroit, probably an older version - predating General Motor's Renaissance Center :)

But what is between them is thoughtful design. There is a pass-though that allows you to keep your usb lines underneath the cupholder and your smartphone in the empty space underneath the console space.

Driving the Nation

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Hi guys, am wondering if you know of any Sign & Drive (no money down) lease programs being offered soon? Thanks!

No, but look on the internet for customer incentives. There is lots of information about what is being offered now.

Since you guys have the auto industry's ear, please share with VW that their revamped website is downright disappointing. There's very little info on cars, pics often display "European models", and no more build & price option. Was considering buying the new Golf or Mini Countryman & went with the latter b/c better info all around.

I will tell them, but there are third party websites that give you as much, if not more information about those cars. and they will allow you to price out the car.

I am surprised the build and price option is gone, though.

From your keyboard to VW's eyes :)

Well, the family is getting bigger, and older, so it looks like we're going to get a (small!) SUV. I am thinking the Ford Escape or a Subaru wagon. Is that the right direction or do you have other suggestions?

    1.    2014 Subaru Forester

    2.    2014 Subaru Outback

3. GMC Terrain

4. Ford escape

    5.    2014 Subaru XV Crosstrek
    6.    2014 Honda CR-V
    7.    2014 Nissan Rogue
    8.    2014 Mazda CX-5
    9.    2014 Nissan Juke
    10.    2014 Kia Sportage

Check some of these because they are all-wheel drive as well.

I have a 10 year old car and I'm thinking about going something new. My car runs ok, but isn't really a city car and looks it. One of the run-ins was scraping against a pole getting out of a too tight alley. The side of my car looks horrible. Should I get it fixed before I trade it in? I've never bothered because it is cosmetic and it never seemed important, but I don't know if it will matter for trade in purposes. Thanks

The cosmetic fix makes sense to a new buyer, who is likely to spend more for it assuming it does run well. What kind of car is it? What are you looking for?

I watched the MX5 unveiling on YouTube, and it seemed to be big on styling, marketing, and image, but not too good on specs, etc. Have you heard if the long-standing rumors of a larger interior were true? Reasonably-sized folks like Stretch and myself need roadsters that we can ride in without permanently damaging ourselves. How did you like the small amount of info they gave us about the new car? Thanks.

Par for the course. Ayou Tube unveiling tells you not much, like how to make sure a push-button ignition is off when you think you've turned it off.

Lou Ann here:

Clearly Warren is having an issue with a push-button ignition :)

It's the reason we don't put canned manufacturer videos on our website ( because they tell you nothing. It's all glitz and glamour, which is fine, but then come the real questions.

Tesla X is very interesting to me. When if ever will it be available for sale? /and is there any hint of a possible price point? Thanks.

no price point yet. Tesla just announced that the gigafactory will be near Reno, NV so all the news we're hearing right now is about that. I will inquire.

A month ago I asked about my 2013 Mazda2’s fogging windshield and not quite holding the road. You advised having the dealer look at the ventilation and for flat spotting and cracks (after a year on the lot). The dealer wasn’t able to replicate fogging and told me to return during heavy rain so it could document the problem. A young mechanic checked the tires carefully and said they looked fine. He told me the out-of-control feeling I had was from “body roll” built into the car--being a little taller and thinner than other cars its size, it’s supposed to feel like that! What burned me was the general manager’s attitude. Before my visit, he emailed to suggest buying bigger tires--he would send me prices--or, he wrote, “the Mazda 2 is our entry level car that is inexpensive, gets great gas mileage and is easy to maneuver. Other Mazda’s have bigger tires and better road feel, but are also more expensive. I do have 21 used Mazda’s in stock that also might be something to consider.” Seriously??

It was a good suggestion to check out the fogging condition in the rain, or in heavily humid climate. That is when fogging occurs. And the dealer, like it or not, was right. The Mazda 2 is entry level with narrow, entry-level tires. It might make sense to bring it to a tire store to check out wider tires for that model.

We are considering a new car purchase. Currently we have two hybrid cars, ia 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and a 2001 Prius, the first Toyota Prius available for purchase in the US. We have been very happy with the gas we have saved over the years, and are thinking of moving to one hybrid, and one electric car. The 2001 Prius is still going strong, has had very few mechanical or repair issues of any type. The range of the newest Prius Plug In is just too short for our needs, to avoid gas usuage we need a vehicle that can go at least 25 miles on a single charge. I love the Tesla look and concept, but $85,000 is just too steep a price. I have been told that the next generation Prius Plug In will go further, and the next gen Tesla will be half the price. How long do we have to hold out for these electric cars of the future? What other options are on a nearer horizon? Don't think the old 2001 Prius will keep rolling for too much longer.....

Check out the Prius V hybrid wagon and the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

Have you heard anything about the new Miata, beyond what was released at the big event earlier this week? What do you think about it? Thanks.

I love Derek Jenkins designs. If you look at it from a certain angle it looks like a mini jaguar (and I have read that on my facebook as well, so it's not just me :)

If you look at the video it doesn't look any bigger on the interior.

I love the comments - "we want to know more about the car" :) so do you, right?


A friend is looking for a new-to-him convertible to replace his Mercedes SLK. He has a high budget (possibly up to $100K, although I'm sure he would be happy not to go that high). One complication -- he lives in the city and will have to park outside. So a hardtop convertible as opposed to a soft top might be best. I suggested the new Jag. He doesn't seem to like Porsches, which would be an obvious alternative. He knows a jerk who owns a Gransport, so that doesn't work even though it is a beautiful car and depreciated for a couple years would be within budget. Any other ideas? Used SL?

Tell him to save money--especially since he apparently has no off-street parking--and buy a hard-top Mazda  Miata MX5. He'll be happy.

Picking up on the comment about the VW web site, I would add that a lot of car dealers need to improve their web sites. I bought a car in July and found that some dealers have great web sites that: a) have numerous photos of the vehicles; b) clearly list the options that each vehicle has; and c) tells you the actual (as opposed to MSRP) price of the car. On the other hand, some dealers: have no photos of the cars they are selling, other than stock photos that are usually not in the same color as the vehicle you are considering; do not list the options or bury them in a lengthy list of standard features; and only tell you the MSRP price. Which of these dealers would you rather invest in a relationship for the next 5-10 years?

I'm not sure there is a corelation. Some manufacturers may not know that there websites don't show that and would love to hear that from you. 

It's like the manufacturer media websites, some are great and easy to navigate, some (ford) I don't even bother to go on because it makes me nauseous just looking at it.

It doesn't mean Ford doesn't have good cars, just not a well designed website by their developers. 

A.B.C., baby. Always Be Closing.

Because what the dealer is hearing is that you don't like your car - beyond the fogging issue, it's too much body roll etc. Maybe he is actually listening to you

A few weeks ago Lou Ann, I believe, asked how we'd like to improve buying a car. I haven't a clue--though a former GM exec whom I told this story to said, after a long rant about how rotten dealers are, the answer was letting manufacturers bypass them. You don't need the long story, but in short it took four tries to get a list price, including the excuse that one price on the website was a mistake, an explanation that we didn't qualify for incentives, including one for veterans denied because my war was too last century, and a refusal to bargain on the delivery charge and the processing fee (four times that at Carmax). The showroom was jammed, so clearly either we're weird or the general public is so inured to being jerked around that they've given up. Not the first time I've walked out of dealership, but for sure the last time I ever consider that brand. You're not going to sell this former NCO a car by telling him you don't appreciate his service--in fact, you're lucky he doesn't take you out behind the showroom for a bit of attitude adjustment.

You were dealing with the wrong dealer. That simple. Good dealers, and there are many, would not put anyone through that hassle. Next time, check prices and specs and retail price histories at,,,

Love your chats! It was just announced that Nevada will be the site for Tesla's Gigafactory and am wondering if this will usher in an age where electric cars cost the same as their ICE brethren?

We'll  see. Tesla still has much to prove.

Can you get a manual transmission on the new Nismo?

Check out te Nismo site. The answer is yes.

Lou Ann here:

Yes, I drove it. love the car, wish is wasn't so noisy so that I could hear more of the exhaust tones. drive it more than just around the block - go on the highway etc. fun ride.

Lou Ann, my impression of the 300/Charger and 200 is that they make a good first impression (even as rentals) but my ownership experience with Chrysler tells me "lease, don't buy." Did the 200 feel like it could last a few years without succumbing to Chrysler Rattle?

Short answer. Yes. (Have you watched the Sherlock Holmes series - Short answer. not dead. :)

Henry Payne, from Detroit, and I went around the competitors cars with the window up and down and then to the 200 and the 200 sounded more solid when we slammed the door than some of its competitors.And I love that pass-through under the cupholders. You have to go see it!

The issue is going to be the pricing.

This segment is price, and fuel economy, sensitive which is why Chrysler touted the competitive 36 mpg highway and the equally competitive starting MSRP of $21,700 on the entry level version of the 200.

There are four different trim levels and from the entry level of $21,700 to $38,000. That's more than the most expensive Honda Accord, but not as much as the Ford Fusion titanium. Depending on how much money you are willing to spend for the content you want, this is a decent car

The 2015 Chrysler has been on sale since May and Chrysler has already sold about 25,000 units in less than four months. That includes $1,000 on the hood (discount) and you can get another $1,000 if you're already a loyal customer trading in an old unit.


2015 Chrysler 200 LX model $21,700,
Chrysler Limited model volume trim 17" wheels LED nightlight 5" nav $23,255, Chrysler S model $24,495 (sport - younger male) and the premium
Chrysler 200C $25,995 (lane departure only on C)
$995 shipping and handling - not included

competitors: Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata and Subaru Legacy.

How are they doing? Will they continue offering cash-back deals for the foreseeable future? My wife wants one and we probably will take the leap in October but don't want to miss the deal.

The Fiat Chrysler group has increased sales for the past 53 months consequtively. Expect an IPO soon.

Which are you thinking about? My favorite is the Fiat 500L. Love that car.

Hi All, What are your thoughts on the new engine that Duke Engineering from New Zealand has produced? Will this in time come over into cars? Thanks Much!

Are you talking about the super-low friction small-car engine?

Why is the Mazda3 Touring model (with the more powerful motor) only available with an automatic? Also any idea when/if a MazdaSpeed 3 will appear?

I suppose that Mazda's people ran the numbers and discovered that a stick Mazda 3 is not in high demand.

I am in the market for a reasonably priced small sedan, something a couple of years old and with 40k or fewer miles on it. Have driven and liked Corollas and Hyundai Elantras, and would also consider a Sonata if I can find one within my price range. I am six feet tall, and not too skinny (not obese, though - I just carry a lot of weight in my hips/thighs). Comfort is important, but so is reliability and safety. Any other cars I should consider? And what are the best resources to use in my search? I'm somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of information out there!!

heck out a used Kia Optima, or Chevrolet Cruze.

Old car is an Acura tsx. Not sure what I'm getting, but maybe a mini or a golf

Check out the Golf. which long-range makes more sense than Mini.

2015 Jeep Cherokee

Good choice. Certainly worth the look.

I have had two, a 500 sport and now an Abarth. Obviously one has to be willing to deal with the small size. The 500 is really underpowered, particularly with the automatic. I got a great deal on the Abarth a year ago due to the factory money. My guess is that it will be around for awhile because the sticker price is a bit on the high side for what you get. But the Abarth is a fun little car and gets noticed in a sea of blandness.

And we thank you.

I was wondering does anyone at Toyota look at the electronics they put in a car? I purchased to 2013 Avalons. They both have Navigation and the Sound system (Entune) if you turn it up rattles. I owned a 2010 Lacrosse and I must admit, GM has a lot of people beat with the electronics and how they intergrate in the car. For example on my Toyota, if I am using the Navigation, I can't see the radio. Or if I get a phone call, I can't see anything else until it is done. GM has a spit screen and also gives you the option in front of you in the display. For the price I paid, I am dissapointed in this case twice.

I had not noticed that in Toyota - I am going to have to keep track of this because it is infuriating and I almost wouldn't buy a car because of it.

I have been in cars and plugged my iphone into the usb to charge it and then I had to listen to whatever was on my iphone. It couldn't charge and let me listen to the radio at the same time.

I will keep better track as infotainment becomes more insidious.

Thanks for joining us this wek, Please return, Thank you Angela, Matt, Lou Ann and Ria. Eat lunch, Fplks. I have to retrieve a dead-battery Acura TLX. Cheers.

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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