Real Wheels Live

Sep 13, 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.

Good morning Warren and Friends

Both Warren and I will be attended the Frankfurt auto show next week.
My favorite car was the Opel Monza concept. If GM is going in that direction that is great! Of course the doors can't be built on it, but the car itself is great. You can see my interview with Ed Welburn, and the car, at

Also, I'm at a Dodge/Jeep/Ram, Mazda and Cadillac event this week. Let me know if you have any questions about any of those brands.

Let's chat about cars

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I was disappointed when I saw photos of the new Tahoe/Suburban/Denali yesterday. Why didn't GM further differentiate the appearance of these vehicles? What's up with the antiquated tranny column shifter? Ugh!

I think they did make sublte changes, but you have to remember that there are thousands - and thousands - of loyal GM/GMC buyers that don't want a lot of change in their vehicles.

The Detroit News just wrote an article with a bunch of pictures -- the headline sort of explains it:

"GM unveils more powerful, fuel-efficient large SUVs for 2015"

Have you done a review of the car? I'm not finding anything in the archives. If not, I'm surprised given your enthusiasm for alternative vehicles. I think Elon Musk is one the most amazing entrepreneurs this country has had for a long time. Hats off to him.

I have not driven the Tesla S, I don't think Warren has either. I think you are right, that Mr. Musk is a great entrepreneur. He does tend to over-exxagerate occasionally and he is so good I don't see the need to do that.

Recently he over-exxagerated that his Tesla S got a 5.4 NHTSA rating. The highest you can get is a 5-star rating. NHTSA was not amused. I'm just saying - you don't want to make enemies with NHTSA.

I look forward to seeing how the whole tesla company/car plays out. It is fun to be in the future today :)

What is your opinion of the Mazda CX-5? What version would you recommend?

It is an excellent urban car, small enough to park easily and to fuel. I like it.

My current GPS is giving me problems. Even if it is plugged in, it will say the battery is low and shut off. Sometimes, if I wait 5 minutes and try again, it will turn on. But, the other day, even after an hour of driving and many attempts, it woud not stay on long enough to program my destination. Yet, when I got back in the car to go home, it worked without any problems. I suppose I can use the GPS on my smart phone, but I did always like the display and options of the dedicated GPS better. Is it worth buying a new GPS or are the ones on phones easier. I know they are hard on the phone battery.

I'd go with the smart phone and have tecnician che ck out the electrical hookulp of the onboard model.

Two weeks ago I wrote in about my Prius V. Per request, I'm back. So far, mileage is 47 - which is very acceptable. I have come to terms with the seat back and head rest. The seat is leaned back a bit farther than I'd like, but at least the head rest isn't bashing me. I am getting used to the different view out the back window, with rear seat head rests removed. And I've managed to tune in some radio stations, and have a USB with CDs to use also. Now if the dealership would kindly send me the floor mats they owe me...

Why does the dealership owe you floor mats?

Did you drive this car before you bought it? Did you note the problems and still decided to buy it?

Have you ever heard of a carturner? Do you know whether this is a well manufactured machine? It seems to be much lower cost. Is it cheap or inexpensive?

No. How abiut you, Lou Ann?

Warren, What are your thoughts on the Chevy Spark? I drive about 45 minutes from Olney via 108 to 95 to my job near BWI airport. My concerns are safety (size of the Spark) and the ability to maneuver (speed) on the highway. As always, thanks for your insights.

The genius of the new Chevrolet Spark is not so much the drivetrain. It is an economy car. The genius is how it incorporate the iPhone into the overall operation of the car.

The Chevy Spark is one of Warren (and mine) favorite little cars. At one point he was considering buying it.

If you do a lot of highway driving you can also look at the Chevy Cruze diesel.

I see ads for cars w/ automatic braking, but wonder how that works if there's a legitimate something in front of me (ranging from blowing tumbleweed to a cop directing traffic or a squirrel) where I don't WANT to have the brakes slam on. Can you describe?

"Automatic" braking does not work that way. You are moving at a certain speed and "sutomatically" braking at a certain distance. You are still in control of the car...with all of the responsibility that involves. Even when cars becoming fully automatic , drivers will have the option of remianing in charge of the car.

Anything about the upcoming Miata released at the big show? Engine, transmission, increased interior size, etc? Thanks.

It looks like Alfa Romeo and Mazda are following the ranks of many car companies and collaborating on two cars made on the same platform.

The new Mazda Miata will be shown at the 2014 Detroit auto show

I am overdue for an oil change. I know it needs to be done, it is just finding the time that is my problem. I own a smart for two, and the only places that seem to be able to service them are the smart dealers (Mercedes of Tysons). Since the car only needs an oil change once a year or about every 10,000 miles, I am sure the other annual services items also need to be done. My problem is finding the time when I can drop the car off one day and pick it up the next. I just don't have the time to make it out to Tysons on a regular basis with my schedule. Since I have access to another car, it would be great if there was a reasonably priced service that would pick the car up from my driveway at home and drop it off when it is done. That way, I wouldn't have to worry about fighting beltway traffic, getting to work late or having to leave early to do it myself.

I think that any competent technician can change the oil on a Smart car. That shouldn't be a problem.

Warren, What are your thoughts on the Chevy Spark? I drive about 45 minutes from Olney via 108 to 95 to my job near BWI airport. My concerns are safety (size of the Spark) and the ability to maneuver (speed) on the highway. As always, thanks for your insights.

Again, I like the Spark, especially the way it incorprates Android/iPhone in its overall operation. But it's a small car, an economy car and all that means.

Hi guys, the concept by Volvo that was apparently inspired by their P1800 is an absolute beauty in the pics I've seen. How did it look in real life and do you think there are any plans on producing it? Apparently, some of its design cues will find themselves in the design for the new XC90.

I'm really rooting for Volvo to make a great comeback. They were the only stand alone company that didn't do well in August. There seems to be some in-house arguing between Geely and Volvo, according to Automotive News China

I liked the car, I also liked the diesel hybrid they showed.

Have you driven the Tesla Model S for any length of time? What was your experience in actual driving range versus the advertised range?

No, but I remain unimpressed mostly because I ave driven models such as the Nissan Leaf for a heck of a lot less. Not to ention plug-in electrics such as the Chevrolet Volt.

The Opel Monza's lines remind me of the Tesla. That is a good thing. do you know if Opel has plans to include the long-legged model and the dog as standard features in the car? Including them would certainly make me take a good look at the Monza.

:) LOL - If they did I would buy the car. Holy long legs, batman!

Tesla, maybe. We see a lot of gullwing and scissor doors on concept cars because it allows the press/consumers to look into the car and take pictures easier, but they don't end up on the car in production.

The infotainment, and the lines are the things you look at on the cars when they are concept. Which lines do you like that you would want on the car, what is in the interior that you would like to see?

And yes, the lady and her dog.

Cars last longer these days- which cars from 10 15 or even 20 yrs ago would you drive today?

I'm not a muscle car person, more of a luxury car person. I still own my 1993 Lexus LS400. The LS400 was one of the first cars with heated seats.

Porsche, Maserati, Jaguar - I'd suffer through any of them :)

My husband and I are in the market for a used vehicle. We're currently driving a Toyota Avalon, which has been a wonderful vehicle, but it is on its last legs. We'd like something with some room, but we don't think we need an SUV. So the crossover vehicles seem like a good alternative. Any recommendations?

So many.

Crossovers: The GM tiumvirate__the Traverse and its Buick and GMC siblings; the honda CR-V; the Toyota  Rav-4.

Full-size sedans: The Hyundai Azera and Kia Cadenza; Buick La Crosse; Toyota Avalon.

Will we ever see a modular car? I know that with some current cars, you can remove the top or pull out a row of seats, but how about something more extreme. Maybe something like a stretch limo where a car is the front row and trunk and any number of middle pieces.

Yes, within  segment limits.

What was your impression of the new Infinity? When will it be out (if you know)?

Infiniti's  Executive Design Director Alfonso Albaisa talked to us about the Inifinti Q30 and we have video on drivingthenation

I've seen some new design come out in the last year or so and appreciate the path Infiniti is on. I don't know when it will be out.

I just heard from an Infiniti spokesperson and they said, "
The Infiniti Q30 Concept previews a premium compact that will be available globally in a couple of years. For now, it's a styling concept, no details of powerplants or on sale dates yet."

Hubby just bought a 2014 Scion tC - beautiful! All his online reading said to not bother with paint sealer and extras the dealer offered. I wonder if a really good wax job or even a sealer and wax from a detail shop is in order. To me, it's worth protecting the investment. What say you?

Anything Scion/Toyota already has been paint-sealed at least nine to 12 ways. No need for aftermarket treatment, including an expensive wax job.

I'm a big fan of Honda and Toyotas - almost limiting my "new" (used) car search to them. Nowadays, most are black, grey, white or some minor variation on those. BORING! What are your thoughts on an after market paint job, especially on a used vehicle?

There are a lot worse ways to spend your money, if it makes you smile when you walk out the door and go to work, I'm all for it.

It was back in 2007 that I did this piece, but you should read it to see what the color you decide on says about you

I know of an ASE Certified mechanic that has a mobile service unit. He comes to your residence or place of business to perform routine maintenance. However, he operates mainly in Northern Montgomery County, and does not work on current Mercedes vehicles. I'm not sure if that constraint extends to the SMART.

ASE is headquarted in Virginia. You could call them and ask. I don't have their number

National Institute for

101 Blue Seal Drive, S.E. Suite 101
Leesburg, VA 20175

Hours:  8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday - Friday, except Holidays
Switchboard:  1-703-669-6600

How important is mileage compare to overall reliability? My sister will be buying a used car for her son. She wants to pay $10,000 to $15,000. Consumer Reports likes the '09 Ford Fusion and '07 Honda Accord (both 4 cylinders). Reliability for both is excellent. However, an '09 Fusion will likely have substantially less mileage than an '07 Accord. If both have average mileage, the Fusion would have 20,000 fewer miles than the Accord. All other things equal, how important is this mileage difference?

Do you have records of maintenance on both? Can you take both to a mechanic for testing?Can you get a carfax report to see if either has had major damage or been flooded, etc?


Warren, did you teach your girls to drive as teenagers? (Or, as I'm not sure what the rules are in Virginia, did you, like me, have to spend 60 hours with them behind the wheel?) If so, what was your mantra while this was going on? I'm doing my best to remain calm, not scream, not close my eyes in fear, give good advice, maintain dulcet tones. Will we make it through to the other side? Signed -- a somewhat scared and reluctant driving teacher / parent.

I required my girls to finish their first semesters of college before they wer allowed to take drivers' lessons. I required them to pay for their own drivers' training. They were not allowed to drive in high school. Nor were they allowed to "hook" rides with licensed classmates. I/we got through it. They called me lots of names. No matter.

What are your thoughts on the 2014 Corolla and 2014 Ford Focus? I really like the Focus, but keep seeing scary warnings about the transmissions online.

That small-car segment is hotly competitive. The new Corolla and Focus are why. Both are excellent small cars. Both command market attention.

I like the overall flow of the Monza's lines. Yes, I know that any production model would have regular doors. I am pleased that the roofline is straight and that the read hatch area is expansive. What I want is the assurance that those sleek lines will not compromise the driver's visibility, and will not impair interior functionality or comfort. I'm in agreement with Warren in that I prefer to bring my own portable GPS unit with me rather than have a built-in. Please, no CVTs and no LED headlight modules that cost a a grand to change out. Otherwise, the car looks good, but it looks even better with the model and her dog.

I agree, but in order to get LED lights that look great (or the model and her dog) you've got to pay the bigger bucks for the upkeep.

It's just a fact :)

My Prius is getting on in years. Because I need to use 66 to get in to work each day, I have to get another hybrid. That's fine. But while I have dreams of a Tesla, the reality is that I'm most likely looking at a Prius or new Accord. I can't see paying extra $$ for a lexus or other luxury model for less mpg. Do you know anything about the new Prius or Accord? Which would you pick?

The Prius is perfectly fine for the kind of commuting you describe--any one of the available Prius models. Take a look at the Prius V...for more utility.

thanks for the question is really: is a paint job an ok thing to do? Will it somehow be harmful to the car and factory finish?

A paint job is fine assuming you have it done professionally.

My 2005 Toyota RAV 4 has 240,000 miles (that's mot a typo) on her. Still the original engine and I take goof care to change oil and other fluids when needed. It's been a great vehicle I'd like to get through the winter with her--am I being realistic?

That does not surprise me. The Rav-4 crossover is a good piece of work.

Other than the Honda Fit, what are your favorite small cars at the intersection of tiny, relative inexpensive, good gas mileage, and reliable? I tried a Fit recently, and it's just fine. I know it's the practical choice, but I'm leaning a little to impractical at this stage in my life. Don't need cargo space, have a truck for that. Mostly looking for a highway commuter car with driver only and no passengers. Thanks!

Chevrolet Spark Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Fiat 500 and 500 L, Volkswagen Golf. Lots of them. Nearly all good.

Am the happy owner of a Prius V.... It carries stuff, it is economical --average of 47 mpg, Passengers especially older passengers can get in and out very easily from the rear seats. Rear visibility is even better than the liftback. Go for it....

I agree.

Many thanks for joining us today. Please come back next week.

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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