Real Wheels Live

Sep 07, 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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I understand a Hyundai Equus is not a Mercedes S or a BMW 7. But how does it compare to the E Class and 5 Series it is priced with? And is it worth the difference over a Genesis?

You are right. It is neither a Mercedes-Benz, nor a BMW, nor a Cadullac, nor a Lincoln. But it is a darned good Hyundai, which is more than good enough, offered  with lots of standard amenities, good safety and quality, largely thanks to a Korean asembly worker pay scale that is substantially below what is offered in the United States.

I just read the new VW Golf isn't coming to the States until 2014. Do you know much about the new specs? Should I wait for the new model in 2014 and how does the Golf compare to the GTI? Would you prefer one over the other? Thanks.

No. But e should have answers on what exactly VW is doing, and not doing, and how it plans to do it, from the upcoming Paris Auto Show. Warren attending.

What I am told is the 2014 VW Golf will  be built off the new MQB (Modular-Transverse) platform which is the next generation platform designed with more safety, fuel economy and technology.

Why is there a small gap between the price of a used car and that of a new car these days? Was it because of the program awhile back: cash for clunkers, I believe it was called. Those clunkers were junked, and thus decreased the availability of used cars?

Good morning,

Cash for clunkers had a small effect on the price of cars now. The bigger problem came when Japan had an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown and they couldn't produce cars.

Just when Japan's automobile industry was getting on its feet  Thailand stopped production. Thailand is where a lot of cars are built as well.

Had we had the cars from cash to clunkers we would have been a little better off, but Congress, in all its wisdom, decided to take post 1983 cars off the road instead of pre-1983 like I advocated.

Hi, I am an inexperienced car buyer and looking for some advice. I really like the new 2013 Ford Fusions, but have always been told to focus on purchasing pre-owned. I also really like the 2009 Audi A4's. Can you suggest some things to consider when making the decision between the FF or Audi/BMW/Mercedes type used car? Thanks.

If you want an Audi A4, I don't think you'll be happy with the Ford Fusion, which, in my humble opinion, still ranks a step or two below Audi in overall quality, especially in interior treatment. But if you want a great car for the money, replete with amenities available at Audi only for a higher price, then it makes perfectly good sense to buy a Ford Fusion, which is a very good bargain in comparison with Audi, whose pricing also is affected by unfavorable (for the U.S.) overseas currency exchange rates.

Warren - several years ago you recommended a Hyundai Santa Fe for my needs and it was a fantastic choice. Alas, the Santa Fe is getting a bit long in the tooth and is probably a bit small for our current / future needs. We live in Chicago now so need something to get through the winter and also haul around a few larger dogs and hopefully kids in the near future. Was thinking about the Jeep Grand Cherokee or the Q5 (though may be a tad small). Anything else we should look at? Would prefer an SUV to be a bit higher and for the snowy roads and definitely something with some of the active safety features such as blind spot detection but would prefer to stay under $50k. Thanks!

I just drove the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe and loved it. If you can find a 2013 drive it before you buy.

Have you looked at the 2013 Audi allroad? It's a beautiful station wagon and I love the drive.It's also great for dogs, especially as they age.

Another is the 2013 Acura RDX, great redesign.

Happy Friday! Budget is very tight, so I need something inexpensive and fuel-efficient. Between the Toyota Yaris and the Hyundai Accent, is there a winner in terms of long-term reliability, fuel efficiency, or general fun-to-drive-ness?

I made this post up for my chatters. We get so many people trying to stay within their budget and yet find a decent car.

Hyundai Accent would be my choice of the two, but you also have the Kia Soul, Mazda2, a couple of Fords. Look at the article, drive them all, let me know.

Also, make sure you know your FICO score before you buy if you're getting credit. Your FICO score tells the financier how good your credit rating is and it determines your interest rate.

Hi Warren, I hope you are well. My wife and I are seriously considering a Chevy Volt. We both have short commutes and the thought of not buying gas makes me a bit giddy. My only concern is how the Volt behaves in light to moderate snow. We live in Rhode Island and can expect some snow throughout the winter. I understand the battery's ability to hold a charge is lower in cold weather, but my real concern is how the car performs. Any insight you have would be greatly appreciated (otherwise we might consider the New England standby Subaru). Thanks!

I am well, thank you, and offer you warm greetings from tNorthern Virginia. I'd buy the Volt and not worry much about mid-Atlantic winter weather. If it is too snowy to drive a Volt (largely because of snow depth and Volt ground clearance, which is about 4.5 inches) there is too much snow to drive most cars. Nearly all of the Volt protototypes and production models I've driven have been in winter, including one Detroit winter drive. The  Volt performed well in all inclement weather settings.

Warren, As an owner of a Subaru Outback, can you tell me more about the roof rails on recent models? I've noticed that both the front and back ends of the roof rails or recent model Outbacks are covered by some sort of plastic shroud. Can those shrouds be removed to attach crossbars? If not, the Outback's roof rails are not long enough to provide stability for some of the large, long heavy loads (canoes and sea kayaks) that I need to carry. Also, Subaru now advertises that the roof rails on their Outbacks now convert to crossbars. Can this be true, or am I misunderstanding? If so, how?

You can put one or two plastic-bodied kayaks atop a Subaru Outback. I'd strongly recommend against doing more than that. The roof rails can support a total of 100 pounds, perhaps a teeny tad more. But the bottom line is that you DON'T want to put too much weight on those rails, or on any other rooftop rails, for that matter.

I pinged someone from Subaru to help with the question.

The crossbars on Outbacks are integrated into the side-rails and swing out when needed for larger loads. This is to reduce wind noise and improve fuel efficiency when they are not in use. It’s something that is only found on Subaru Outbacks. Until the 2013 the crossbars were fixed in terms of their location. For the 2013 Subaru has modified the system to allow the rear crossbar to be moved rearward approximately 10 inches to allow for longer items to be carried on the roof. They did this because they got feedback from customers like you. :)

How many pre-1983 cars are there on the road?

I don't know. Check at for an estimate.

In California there are still quite a few of them. The difference is that most of them sit in the backyard and rust. It's that rust of fuel lines that causes bad emissions, different emissions than burning gasoline.

We have one such car that meets the California law that says pre-1974 cars don't have to be smogged. So it sits there, be driven to the recycle bin because we throw all our recycles in it. Had Congress offered that first I would have been able to convince my husband to get rid of it, take the $4,500 and apply it to a new MINI.My neighbor was waiting for the same offer.

Congress didn't do that. They took perfectly good cars and destroyed them, all because they could quantify the mpg on the car.

Is the awd CRV worth the 2 or $3,000 more than the Forester to get more seat comfort? I want the AWD in either car along with driver power seat. I need the awd for winter but I am disappointed in the reviews of consumers on seat comfort in the Forester, plus I can tell a difference when I "test-sit" them. Looking at 2012 only. And, by the way, I am not noticing any 'bargains' from either dealer. You said the dealers of Japanese cars were looking to sell. Not where i live - western NC. No significant end of year discount.

I know you say only 2012, but the 2013 Honda CRV is sooo much nicer than the 2012, you should at least take a look at it.

Both Honda and Toyota are trying to make up for lost sales so they should be willing to deal a little, but the incentives I've seen are not out of whack with all the other manufacturers. Chrysler had big incentive on old brands, and Volkswagen had the biggest increase in incentives. is the average price of a vehicle and their incentives.

But you might be able to get a good deal on financing which doesn't show up in incentives. Financing incentives are worth their weight in gold.

I would go with the 2012 CRV, but take a look at the 2013.

Hi Warren, am a big fan of your work, thanks for providing real world wisdom when it comes to auto reviews. I've always been a big fan of wagons and am curious to know if you can comfortably seat three children in the back seat? If not, what wagon out there should we consider when roominess is chief amongst our concerns?

You can put three children in the back seat of an Allroad, asssuming you aren't using three child-safety seats. But "comfort," in this regard, is a matter of perception. With three children in the back of an Audi All-road, there is NO demilitarized zone. That can make for a noisy ride for parents.

Warren or Lou Ann- If you are going to Paris later this month, could you please check on Kia's plans to bring the new, sleek Rondo to this country, and Mazda's plans to introduce Skyactiv to their Mazda5? There seem to be repeated calls for fuel efficient 3 row passenger vehicles.

Warren here. I'll check on those models in Paris. Kia's problems with the Rondo was that the Rondo was an appearance and performance flop when the company first brought the Rondo to the U.S. five or so years ago. Kia and the Rondo have improved substantially sense then. We'll see.

I have a 1996 Toyota Avalon with about 170,000 miles on it. It's been a good car, but things are starting to go wrong with the vehicle, the latest being when my brakes failed (luckily I was in my neighborhood and was able to stop). Our mechanic fixed the one brake line, but tells us the others are rusty and its just a matter of time. My husband wants to just keep fixing the car (he feels that it's just as cost-effective to fix the problems as they come up than to have a car payment), whereas I would prefer to cut our losses and buy a new one. We can't seem to come to an agreement on this; any thoughts?

I remember when I was in a car accident and ended up in the hospital. I was upset because I had totaled my car. It was the first time I saw my Father cry when he said, "I can replace metal, I can't replace you."

There is a time when you are putting your safety at risk. Your mechanic has told you so.

If you read this chat regularly you know I tell people to drive their car till it dies. I mean the car should die, not you.

Your car is dying. Go through the grief process, trade it in, buy another car.

I find the Ford C-Max very intriguing, but wondering if waiting for the introduction or the Energi plugin model would be worth the time and extra expense. Are there any federal incentives for this one?

If you can wait, wait. Check federal and state DOT operations for possible tax incentives.

We are a one-car household looking to replace our very small car with something a bit more versatile, while still keeping an eye on mileage and maneuverability in a city context. I am thinking this means we would be best served by a 5 door. We are certainly looking at a Honda Fit. Do you have any other suggestions?

Yes. In the Brown household, by February, we hope, we will replace our pain--in--@@##@#@!!, when it comes to repair and maintenance costs, Mini Cooper, with a fully loaded Chevrolet Spark with Techno Pink body paint. Seriously.

Like many of you, I've been watching the big party political conventions. I did not expect the Republicans to totally ignore the automobile industry and all that means, which they did. I expected the Democrats to take credit for saving Detroit, which they did.

I am a Democrat/Republican who usually votes American, which means I go with whomever I think is best for the country or local jurisdiction affected by my vote.

I was happy to hear from the Democrats that they, at least, think it is important to continue federal investments in electric cars, electric car infratstructure, and other alternative propulsion systems. The Republicans said nothing about this other than to imply that global warming is some kind of a left-wing joke.

Take it from a fiercely independent voter, Romney/Ryan:

Global warming is no joke. It's no left-wing fantasy. I've traveled worldwide. I've seen what climate change is doing. It's why I am no longer one of those automotive journalists who stupidly believe that the only good horsepower is more horsepower.

Global warming is no joke. We need continued investment in alternative propulsion systems and infrastructures. Debt ceilings will be meaningless in a world under water.

Warren, I recall some years back when you and your wife fell in love with the Mini Cooper. It's obvious that the bloom has long since faded for you. Does BMW know your opinion on their Mini maintenance and repair charges?

Oh yes, BMW, MINI, even Rolls-Royce (another company owned by BMW) knows how Warren feels. :) 

We not only tell the manufacturer's our thougts on vehicles, we tell your thoughts on vehicles.

And, they actually appreciate the feedback. Look at the response on the Subaru roof racks.

Background. Our affair with the Mini Cooper is the difference between infatuation and marriage. MaryAnne and I have been married 43 years. We've been through a lot, good and bad, stupid and smart, in that time. We've come through it all with a better understanding, deeper appreciation of, and deeper love and respect for one another.

Not so our hot infatuation with the Mini Cooper. Our first warning should have been the difficulty we had in replacing tires on the thing. But the repair and service bills kept coming, each one dampening any affection we've had for the car. Familiarity, in this case, has yielded immense contempt. We're dumping it for a Spark.

Warren, I understand about the weight limit for a roof rack, and I adhere to it. My question focuses on whether the black plastic shrouds at the front and back of the rails can be removed to maximize the distance between the crossbars. My current wagon does not have these shrouds, and this enables the crossbars to form a nice, long base to carry a long load. If the shrouds cannot be removed, the distance between crossbars becomes very small, probably too small to provide stability to a long load.

Perhaps you didn't see this answer I just posted. If it still doesn't answer your question email me at lou at

I pinged someone from Subaru to help with the question.

The crossbars on Outbacks are integrated into the side-rails and swing out when needed for larger loads. This is to reduce wind noise and improve fuel efficiency when they are not in use. It’s something that is only found on Subaru Outbacks. Until the 2013 the crossbars were fixed in terms of their location. For the 2013 Subaru has modified the system to allow the rear crossbar to be moved rearward approximately 10 inches to allow for longer items to be carried on the roof. They did this because they got feedback from customers like you. :)

One last bit - according to Subuaru the weight load is 150 pounds max

One of the arguments for excluding the older cars from the program was that the fact that many/most of the cars more than 15 years old don't get driven nearly as many miles as newer cars. To increase overall fleet mileage, you want to take off the road the cars that are still racking up the miles. I know the car dealers of America loved that program at the time and a lot of car buyers made out OK, but in hindsight it was a mess (speaking as an energy and environmental policy analyst).

There are two different types of emissions; one from burning gasoline, one from rusting fuel lines, etc.

In my opinion (I have to remember to put that :)

If you had destroyed the older pre-1983 cars you would have destroyed cars that were rusting and created a new buyer base. Instead Congress destroyed cars that weren't rusting (as quickly) only to have to use energy and supplies so that people who would likely be buying a newer car in the near future would buy it sooner.

It was a boondoggle.

The used-car market is changing rapidly. Falling prices on cars and trucks older than three years, largely because many of those older models already have been traded in on new pent-up demand/replacement models. But, largely thanks to our lingering recession, there remains a healthy market for used-car models three years old and younger.

Cash-for-clunkers, which occurred several years ago, has nothing to do with any of this. It is the changing dynamics of the market, largely affected by pent-up demand for new and replacement cars.

I have a 2004 Mazda 6 sports wagon. I'd like to buy another, brand new, or something similar that doesn't cost $45,000 (and that's not an itty econobox). Please tell Mazda to bring the 6 wagon back to the U.S. Or tell VW to have the option to get a Jetta wagon with the 2.0 turbo.

Consider it done.  With Audi bringing back their allroad (which is based on the A5, not A4) it signals the start of the station wagon reemergence.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please come back next week. Thank you, my Guardian Angels: Dominique Vu, Lou Ann Hammond and Victoria (Ria) Manglapus--the irreplaceable "we" in "we built it."

To the rest of you: Let's get serious. Let's not be fooled by winks, smiles, personality, promises, Democrat or Republican. Let's ask hard questions, look for real answers, consider what is truly fair or unfair, what is best for Our Country, and vote.

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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