Real Wheels Live.

Sep 19, 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 Hyundai Genesis and the 2015 Lexus NX200T, a welcome new gorgeous entry to the small compact luxury crossover segment, known as lux-ute. 


If you're looking at a Lexus four-door sedan look at the Hyundai Genesis, it's more like a Lexus sedan than a Toyota. 


The 2015 Lexus NX200T is a prototype SUV/CUV. Beautiful design. I don't know the specifics - the cost etc, but think RAV-4 size but prettier.  The NX 200T is agile and the engine is mated well to the transmission. 


The one thing I didn't like was the front seat. I could never get comfortable. I like to sit straight up with my head touching the headrest. In this Lexus my back had to bend over to conform to the seat.


Driving the Nation also attended the launch of the all new 2015 Ford Mustang with the new independent rear suspension, which makes all the difference in driving character. The car is beautiful and has a new 2.3-liter ecoboost engine that makes 310 horsepower and gets 22/31 mpg for a base of $29,170. The car DTN drove topped out at $37,755. 


The 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8 starts at $36,100 but was equipped to $43,490. It makes 400 horsepowe and cliams 15/25 mpg






Let's chat cars 



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We are shopping smaller SUVs and have so far narrowed it down to the Subaru Forester, the Toyota RAV4, the new Nissan Rogue, and the Nissan Xterra (the latter admittedly being more of an emotional than rational choice). However, we have found a number of significant incentives on the 2014 Nissan Murano that bring it into our budget range. The additional interior room of the Murano is certainly attractive, since we will almost always have back-seat passengers and need space for car seats, but we are curious about the sudden price drop. Is this just a "clear out the old to make way for the new" discount or is there some other issue with the Murano that we should be alert to? Is it being discontinued?

It primarily is end-of-retail-year model dumping. But, hey, everyone's doing it, which means you might also get a good deal on the Chevrolet Equinox, which you shuld also add to your list.

Lou Ann/Warren - Any plans on test-driving the new Colorado or Canyon? I'm seriously looking at a Colorado and would love your input. My impression is that GMC may have a small gold mine there based on lack of competition from Ford and Dodge and the age of the Tacoma and Frontier if they put together a good package.

Yep. going there Thursday. 

My impression is that GMC may have a small gold mine there based on lack of competition from Ford and Dodge and the age of the Tacoma and Frontier if they put together a good package

As GM would say - from your lips to god's ears :) 

Anything in particular you want me to ask, look for?

Funny that you ask. I'm doing that Tuesday in San Diego. I'll do a blog post to let you know what I think.

For purely SAFETY reasons, I have narrowed my choice of a new car to Mazda 3, Subaru Forester, Honda Civic, and Kia Soul - all with front end accident avoidance technology if available. But if both WP writers had their choice, which of the above would they personally pick for Overall driving Satisfaction including Reliabilty?

Mazda 3

In order of reference; The Honda Civic, Mazda 3 and Kia Soul, because it is hard to beat Honda's craftsmanship or dedication to improved crash safety; the Mazda3 is so much fun to drive in addition to having lots of advanced safety options; and the Kia Soul also has lots of advanced safety options along with one of the best warranties in the business.

Hi Wheelers, If you had about $20K (a little more okay, less even better) to spend and were going to buy at the end of a model year, needed AWD (or ability to select 4X4), demanded a rearview camera, and needed to fit two car seats (one for an under 2, one for over 2, so more of a booster), what car would you choose?

One that you wouldn't think of because it's just coming out is the Chrysler 200S All-wheel drive at a base of $28,695 - I think that price includes the awd, but check 

All Subarus are all-wheel drive, of course, then you have Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Juke, Kia Sportage. 

I would look Honda because of safety content and Kia Sportage for price and content. 

Let me know what you pick.

I admit to a very jaundiced view of these cars with lane assist etc. The ads on TV for the lane assist and such show a fellow paying zero attention to driving, and I know I've seen an ad with a woman with a phone in her hand. Show me what these technologies will do in snow, rain, fog and I might be more impressed. But showing ads with people paying zero attention? Nope. If you don't want to drive the car safely on your own, take a cab or bus! I do not want a car programmed to brake on their own -- I've programmed computers for 30 years and DO NOT want some car deciding to stop on it's own in the middle of the highway! If you don't want to drive, take a bus.

I would not buy a car without lane assist, forward collision warning, blind-side monitoring, etc. Why? I drive an average 40,000 miles annually--all kinds of vehicles over all sorts of terrain in all kinds of weather. Advance safety options such as lane assist and forward-collision intervention have saved me more than once. And I think I am a darned good driver.

Warren, have you driven the new MB C class? If so how does it compare to BMW 3 series. Thank you

Yes, two different cars really. The MB C-Class is a good all-around entry-level luxury car for people more concerned with transportation comfort than they are with 0-to-60 mph times and taking curves. Suits me and my driving style perfectly fine. But the BMW 3-series caters more to performance concerns.

I had read great reviews of the Honda Accord Hybrid so I went to Fairfax Honda to test drive. The salesperson said that the car is in such demand that the only way to drive the car was to buy it. If dealerships ever wonder why they are so despised, this has to be one of the reasons. Have you ever heard of not being allowed to test drive a car?

Never - and I am passing this along to me Honda friends. I will be at an event this week with the manufacturing group and will show this to them. 

email me at lou at - subject line WP and tell me more. 

Amazing amount of hubris

I have a 2006 Matrix that I love, but it seems Toyota stopped making them. I love the reliability of Toyotas, plus I have a great Toyota mechanic that I trust. Is the Rav4 the next best thing? Is there any difference between the 2014 and the 2015?

The Rav4 remains, as it has been since its inception, a good all-around small suv. I'd compare with the Chevrolet Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Honda CRV and Ford Escape.

i have a 2002 camry so will need a new car soon and after last winter I am considering tthe Outback. I pay cash for my cars and am an avid kayaker and backpacker so the Outback fits my lifestyle. Are there any other vehicles I might consider?

I'd go with the Outback, You might also want to give serious consideration to the Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota Rav4.

How does the Chevy Spark compare with the Smart Fortwo? I have had a smart since it came to the US in 2008 and after 100,000 miles looking for something a bit bigger. Also, I suspect being a Chevy, more mechanics would be able to handle the repairs instead of having to go to the Mercedes dealers. It is my understanding that the Spark is a bit bigger and has more horsepower but still low priced and 35-40mpg.

yes, that is my understanding as well and it's a fun little car to drive. 

If you want something small but bigger inside you can also look at the fiat 500L - only the L version. It has the same interior room as the Chrysler 300

We've had ours since '04, and it's still going strong (knock on wood) at 150K miles. No major issues, some little annoying things, but I'm still frequently impressed by the interior capacity. YMMV

Drive it till it dies - that's my motto. Keep your cash, make yourself richer instead of someone else. 

Warren, please pardon the ignorance, but where can one find your blog?

No need to beg for pardon. I will post directly to from San Diego. I leave it up to the hot-shot digitechs to publish.

Does it makes sense to buy a lightly used car vs a new model nowadays? Seems that the prices are quite close, but my budget is rather limited and I would rather save a bit of money if I can.

hold on there 

What about the warranty of a new car? Does the small amount of money you're going to save include a certified pre-owned warranty? 

I"m all for saving money but look at the longer term and what you get first. 

Used car prices are falling. I would take advantage of that and buy a "lightly used" automobile if possible.

Is a Mazda 3 that's a few years old (say 2010 or 2011 model) also something you'd recommend?

Yes! Enthusiastically, especially if it is in reasonably good condition.

I'm old enough to remember some of a awful cars that were U.S. manufacturers' response to the 1970s oil crisis: the Vega, Pinto and Pacer, just to name a few. Today, however, some of the smaller vehicles with impressive safety systems and small turbo or alternate fuel engines, are genuinely impressive. Is the fact of the matter that car companies "learned their lessons" and developed new technologies, or is it really just 30 years of steady progress?

30 years of steady progress. that and a different generation of people in the business. 

kids today grow up with recycling and efficiency in mind. the more that happens the more it wanders into the business mind. 

Perfect quote for Washington -- almost as good as "We have to pass the bill so we can see what's in it."

Right? They just did that in California. Passed a bill to charge for groundwater. All the people that had to pay to drill a well are concerned that they will now be billed for water but no one knows because they haven't read the bloody bill yet. 

But back to HONDA - I'M surprised at that dealership and I think Honda will be as well. 

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: Any guesses why Volkswagen is the only major automaker with lower sales in an up market in the USA? Sure, VW sold 3,799 Golfs in August, its highest monthly total since August 2012. What will spur a turnaround? Couple other questions: How many miles a year should someone drive to consider getting at Golf TDI instead of a gasolive Golf? The diesel costs $2,500 more in Canada. And if either of you has any pull with Volkswagen Canada, mention that its dealers must do a better job putting new-car inventory on the Internet (and leaving price stickers on the window until a vehicle sells). Few dealers do this here while within seconds I can check inventory for almost every VW dealer in the USA. Last point: Warren's right about Lane Assist, a technology I thought the new Golf would have here, and parking sensors, too. Garey, Ottawa

My guess, and iys only a guess, is that VW's pricing is the unhappy victim of foreign exchange rates, which makes the prices of their shipped-to-USA vehicles higher than that of the competition. VW probably will fix that problem by reestablishing US manufacturing center. Hooray to Canadian Dealers for common sense.

Something that really struck me during our car-shopping is how much one's impression can change when actually sitting in or driving a vehicle. When we began, one of our top candidates was the Mazda CX-5 - its looks, price, reviews, and our previous experiences with Mazda made it seem ideal. Then we sat in the back seat of one and were stunned at how little room there was, even in comparison to its direct competitors! It was immediately off our list. After being disappointed by the CX-5, we tried a Nissan Rogue, which was on our list more as an afterthought than as a contender. The "Rogue Select" was predictably blah, but we were pleasantly surprised by the new 2015 Rogue. After climbing around in it and taking it for a test drive, it is now near the top of our list. I know I'm probably preaching to the choir, but Internet research is only a starting point - no one should buy a car until they've put their behind in the seat.

Internet research is a necessary starting point. But nothing beats actual look, see, touch and feel.

and driven the car. 

Preach, baby, preach

Warren and Lou Ann, We bought a 2004 XC90 T6 AWD with 73K miles from a dealer in Houston. Yes, it came with a 3/36 extended warranty. As suggested by the salesman. "Everything's is in working order." We were told. After taking delivery three days late. The ABS/Anti-Skid light came on. We had a coolant leak the next day. Turns out the water pump was leaking. That turned into coolant over the timing belt and serpentine belt. Ok, it could happen Immediately after getting off the delivery truck. My wife heard a clunk. Limped to our local Volvo dealer for a thorough review. Drive Shaft Assembly, turbo boost control valve, front control arm bushings, ABS control module. Chances the car was fine before we got it and suddenly all these items break? Just wondering how close we are to having a brand spanking new XC90 once repairs are completed. Oh, they do offer a buyback; if informed within 48hrs of delivery, if bought at full price and reshipped using their shipping company after fees. CAVEAT EMPTOR. Any thing like this ever happen to either of you? Luckily our mechanic is thorough and has 20 years experience. Shaking our heads down south.

Yep, more times than I care to recount. Usually resolved by a dealer who truly care about customers, but who, oddly enough, seems to have a poor concept of what is happening in the used-car operation.

A few months ago, I test-drove a Sonata Sports Edition and afterwards, I told the salesman that I didn't like the feel of a "sports" drive and wanted a softer, quieter ride. He steered me toward the Sonata Limited, which I was happy with. In a conversation with me, the salesman told me that I liked softer rides, then I shouldn't even bother going to Honda because their wishbone suspensions made all their cars have sporty rides. Of course, he's a salesman trying to get me to buy his car, but I was wondering whether there was any truth to his assertion that wishbone suspensions produce harder, "sportier" rides. Thanks.

Baloney. I've driven everything Honda/Acura all over the world. Rougher rides, of course, come with any car , such as the Civic, with a short wheelbase--the centerline distance between the front and rear wheels. But I'm sold on overall Honda quality, craftsmanship and performance.

I'm curious whether Warren and Lou Ann typically go with the tires that their cars come with or immediately swap them out for high-end Michelins (my dad's long-time approach to car ownership). Are the tires that come on most new cars "builder-grade," so to speak, and should be replaced with better ones?

I had to answer this one because my Dad was a Michelin man also. 

OEMs have tire companies produce tires specifically for that car, usually having to do with better fuel economy. There are many cars that i have driven lately that I would change out the tires right away because the tire makes it less fun to drive. 

I'm still loving my Mazda 3, but I am looking a the Nissan Juke, I love the look its different and I don't see a lot of them. What say you Warren?

The Nissan Juke is a joke of a small crossover-utility design. But it has decent overall quality.

Maybe their entire inventory has been sold, including all incoming cars. If I had ordered a car I'm certainly not going to be happy if they let someone else drive it before I pick it up.

Find another dealer.

We recently got back from a week in Paris. We've been there several times before (we have family there), but on this last trip I was surprised by how many Ford Mustangs I saw in the city. For the most part they were newer models, but one was a 1965 fastback in perfect condition! Other than a single 2015 Corvette, they were the only sporty American cars we saw - not a single Camaro, Challenger, etc. Anyway, there's no real point to this post - we just found it interesting.

Tells me how much room there still is for Fiat Chrysler to grow globally. 

Have either of you driven the BMWx4 or Porsche Macon? Interested in your thoughts, thanks

I will be driving the X4 at the end of October. I can tell you then what I think but is there anything specific you want to know? email me at lou at 

Warren and Lou Ann, always enjoy the conversations. I bought a 2014 GMC Acadia Denali this week (great to buy when the 2015 come out). I have been totally impressed with the vehicle (also the fact that my family grew from 3 to 5 in one week (last Friday to be exact) when two of our grand kids moved in. Great thought went into the vehicle. I'm still learning something each day. It also helps to buy through USAA (veterans should use them for the car buying service to save thousands). just wanted to give GMC credit for a great job (the heads up display is good at night, lane avoidance is taking some getting use to. So everyone is comfortable now.

Thanks for writing. We'll post this. And, yes, despite some recent bad publicity, GM has some great vehicles out there, of which the GMC Acadia is one.

Warren, actually, I was criticizing Canadian VW dealers for NOT putting new-car inventory on the Internet, with few exceptions. And many pull the price stickers off vehicles on the lot.

My apologies for the misunderstanding. It makes no sense nowadays for a dealer not to put new-car inventory on the Internet. Most of us live and shop by the Inernet.

Great! Today is the kind of day we like--lots of questions! Please return next week. Lou Ann and I work 24-7 to gather the information you need and want. Thanks to Lou Ann, Angela Wong, Matthew Monahan, Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson, who is staging a Jaguar Concours de Elegance in Reston, Va. on Sept. 24. Eat lunch!

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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