Real Wheels Live

Oct 05, 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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AT the 2013 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) the car and truck of the year will be awarded to one of these vehicles in each category. Which car, and truck, do you think is most deserving?

The short-list vehicles for the 2013 North American Car of the Year.
BMW 3 Series
Cadillac ATS
Chevrolet Malibu
Dodge Dart
Ford Fusion
Honda Accord
Lincoln MKZ
Nissan Altima
Scion FR-S
Subaru BRZ
Toyota Avalon
The short-list vehicles for the 2013 North American Truck/Utility of the Year.
Acura RDX
Audi allroad
Ford C-Max
Ford Escape
Hyundai Santa Fe
Infiniti JX 35
Mazda CX-5
Nissan Pathfinder
Ram 1500

Hi Warren, I just bought a BMW X1 28i for my wife and it seems to be a really good car for someone who wants a "crossover". I like it because it handles like a station wagon and gets good gas milage at a pretty good price. Have you driven one yet and any plans to review it in the near future?

Yes, I've driven it. You bought your wife a small station wagon that marketers prefer to call a "crossover."

I seem to be in a cycle. A few weeks ago, my check engine light came on. By the time I made it to the dealer, it went out. It has since gone on and out a few more times. It seems to go on when my tank is getting low. If I fill up with gas, it will stay on for a day or two and then go out. A few more days later when the tank gets low, it goes on again. Since getting to the dealer is a challenge and it hasn't seemed to have performance issues I haven't had it fixed. I just want to know if I should take it more seriously and get it fixed ASAP or if it can continue to wait until it is convenient for my schedule.

I am thinking this is an older car. I have a 1993 Lexus and the lights would flicker on and off, the gas gauge wouldn't show how much fuel I had in it. Once I had new sensors put in it everything came back to life.

There maybe someone near you, that isn't a dealer, that could look at the problem. I like to work with mechanics that are Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified.

What is your impression of the new Kia Rondo / Carens CUV? Were any details offered as to its relative fuel economy, and the prospects for it coming back to this country? Appearance-wise, it trumps the Mazda5, and if highway mileage was in the mid to upper 30s, it might claim a significant share of the compact people mover market.

I've yet to see the new Kia Rondo. I suspect that it will be better than the first Rondo, which was a boring as you can get for something with four wheels and an engine. Kia  being kia, I expect better styling inside and out and better infotainment/communications technology on the new one.

The Rondo/Carens was shown at the Paris auto show, but At this time, KMA has no plans to offer the Rondo or Carens in this U.S.

FYI, the 2013 Impala will be the last car sold in America with a bench front seat.

Dubious distinction, don't you think?

U.S. buyers are reportedly on track to purchase nearly 15 million new vehicles this year. Roughly what percentage of this increase versus the past couple of years is attributable to an improving economy? What percent is due to the other oft-mentioned reason: old cars that need to be replaced?

It would be hard to say without some hard statistics from the people buying the cars.

We do know that people have been holding onto their cars longer, which means more of them are at the breaking point and need to be replaced, or they are being passed on to the next generation in the household.

Another factor is financing. In the downturn financing all but collapsed and if you didn't have a cash downpayment and a good FICO score and a job you couldn't get financing. There are more companies willing to finance people with what is called subprime loans. These loans are usually given to someone with a FICO score of less than 680.

I would say those two reasons are higher on the list than an improving economy.

It depends on how you parse the term "economy." I prefer a broad definition--any activity that spurs an exchange of currency. That being the case, excitement over new metal and boredom with metal that has been in the driveway for nearly 9 years--the need to replace--is helping car sales a great deal. Evidence of an improving economy can bee seen in increased sales of commercial trucks. Also, check out today's national unemployment rate--below  8 percent for the first time in four years.

Hello, I recently read an article by consumer reports confirming what many of us already know-lowering the National speed limit will reduce emissions and oil consumption dramatically, do it overnight, for next to nothing, it's proven, fair and easy to do! Why haven't we done this if we're intellectually honest about reducing emissions?? Seems this should be a top shelf story!!

Thanks, Conservative Engineer-yes, really! See below: "Joining the over-40 mpg club: Overachievers that can beat EPA fuel economy ratings Feb 21, 2012 9:00 AM We've recently showed that most fuel-efficient cars can beat their EPA highway fuel economy estimates in Consumer Reports measured fuel economy testing. But if you want to hit 40 mpg on the highway, our tests show that you have more options than you might think.

See any/all mpg forums in the world and all data from the 55 mph era! 60 mph max would do the trick and we'd all still be driving almost 70 anyhow-just not 80+! Somebody with National influence need to run with this NOW! We don't want to be wrong about global warming and this should be a no brainer!

Good Morning Conservative Engineer

It's interesting to my husband and myself, in the morning on the odd days that we drive at 5 am on the highway the vehicles going the fastest (and I mean over 80mph) are the big trucks. Not the 18-wheelers, but the 1/2 tons and 3/4 tons.

The 18-wheelers know what you're saying is correct, though it's not because of emissions, but gas mileage. Their profit line lives and dies, in many cases, on how much gasoline they have to burn.

Having said all that, I haven't heard any talk about lowering the mph on the highway. In fact, I think I heard of one state recently upping their mph on the highway to 70.

It's one of the last vestiges of freedom people seem to have, the ability to get out on the open highway. 

You've answered your own question in its preamble. We are NOT intelletually honest about anything: Not speeding, not energy policy, not the lingering nastiness of race in America, not what Christianity and other religious beliefs realy demand of us, not anything--not even station wagons, which we now euphemistically call "crossovers." We lie to ourselves until some crisis arises that make our lie obvious. Then, we look for scapegoats, which is why we'll keep speeding and guzzling as long as we can get away with it.

When will we see the last American car with drum brakes?

When the cheapest disc brake is cheaper than the basic drum brake. It's a production cost issue.

Good morning, folks. Just wondering what your impressions of the new Tesla sedan might be and whether you think its technology and battery life will filter down to lower price points in the nearish term.

The new Tesla is neat, but still too expensive. Yes, the technology will cost less in time. It will migrate to less expensive vehicles. We seem to be willfully ignorant of history. We now carry computers, once an exclusive defense industry marvel, in our purses and pocket books.

Warren, can you let us know what you thought of the BMW X1? Also, have either of you driven the Subaru Cross Trek yet? Thanks!

Here is my problem with the X1 and similarly costly crossovers: I can get all of their utility, comfort, most of their technology, in less expensive wagons. I'd take the Volvo V60 over that one anytime.

I guess if I had a car on the list, I might be more interested in the results, but I see so many reasons why a car could/should win. Is the car the best overall value? Is it the most fun to drive? Did it have the most cars sold, best fuel economy, fewest repairs, cheapest, etc. Just like at the movies, the car that people like most may not always be the winner. What makes a car the best?

Good question, I struggle with that all the time. It's not the most sold, the Chevy Volt wouldn't have received it if it was.

It's the sense of the most overall value.There is also some incorporating in of the newest technology in engines.  Car manufacturers are going to have to comply with the CAFE requirement of 54.5 mpg by 2015. Fuel economy is becoming an important part of all cars, but that needs to be combined with driving performance.

There are years where the manufacturer really goes out on a limb to bring out a great car, even if that car has been out before (like many names you see on the list) has that car been really refined to meet all the needs of the car buyer today?

There are 50 journalists that drive each of these cars and vote on the car of the year. It will be interesting to see which one wins.

Buy a new fuel filler cap from the dealer and clean the surface of the filler neck before installing it.

His car is a 2008 smartfortwo.

Thanks for the tip for him, I'll pass it along.

Warren, Your review of the 2012 Explorer dealt mainly with the family's dislike for the "MyFord Touch". Since I have no "child" handy to work such things, and seldom a co-pilot, I intend to resist such "bling" as long as possible. There was a good article in Consumer Reports a year ago complaining about how much longer it took to change stations on the radio. I even find it easier to arithmetically adjust the time for daylight or standard than set the clock. Ford is now offering a 2.0 turbo charged option. The reviews seem mixed. Is this a motor that you can "drive hard and put away wet" or will pushing it push it into the shop? Also, I see no payload(s) projected for the Explorer although I see the 2.0 is rated to pull 2,000 while the 3.5 is rated for 5,000.

MyFord Touch and similar technology is changing cars, what we think of cars and driving, all of that. That's the reality. Can you drive the Explorer hard and put it away wet? As I said in the piece, yes, you can do all of that in the new Explorer. But the reality is that most consumers expect the Explorer and most other vehicles to double as a mobile communications pods. It's not just about zoom-zoom anymore.

Do you know when the MAZDA CX-5 diesel will be here? Also which would you buy the Mazda CX-5 or the BMW X1?

No firm answers on that one, yet. Lou Ann, what do you hear?

Mazda won't talk about future cars, but rumor has it they are bringing out a 4cylinder diesel. Rumor

It is a 2008 smart fortwo. As far as I know, only the smart mechanics at select Mercedes repair shops have the equipment and skills to service the cars. That is why making it to Tysons, the only smart dealer in Northern Virginia, is a challenge. I have been turned away from other shops, even when I just wanted a tire patched.

Did you see the guy that said buy a fuel filler cap from the dealer and clean the surface of the filler neck?

Have you tried calling the Mercedes dealer and asking them? Sometimes if you call the service department and speak to a mechanic it is a known problem and they can help.

Mr. Brown, Thank you for saying we are not intellectually honest about anything. You are correct. If we were honest, we would move out of Denial (the most over-populated state) and move to Thoughtful Action. Many thanks for pointing out how our behaviour about cars is not just about cars! Martha

It's something I've been thinking about, something I'm facing personally as I age--intellectual honesty. With no attempt here to evangelize, I've been reading all of the great religious  books--Bible, Torah, Koran, et cetera. If we were intellectually honest, Christians would be socialists; Jews and Arabs would have no real reason to hate one another; Democrats and Republicans would stop playing games and put the country back to work. Don't even get me talking about our treatment of our own mothers, sisters, daughters and wives. We are habitual liars about what we think, why we think it, how we really live.

Come on, Warren -- you're too smart to parrot the jive "unemployment rate" talking point without also noting that the actual number of people working is stagnating at its lowest level in decades.

But the unemployment rate is a measure that has been consistent and there is a meaurement there.

I agree that the unemployment rate is a false measurement of the unemployed, but it is still used you can't disregard it when the same system is used to measure it.


No, I'm not "too smart" to embrace that talking point. Nor am I too stupid not to know the truth. The curent unemployment rate stands at about 7.8 percent. That does not include the number of people who have stopped looking for work. Nor does it include the number of people who are unemployed because those sitting on a trillion or so in potential employment funds would rather not use that money to hire anybody. Nor am I stupid enough to believe that the primary objective of business is jobs. The primary objective is profit, usually obtained and increased by getting the most work out of the fewest people possible. Intellectual honesty, again. Speaking of which: If the unemployment rate had been 8 percent or higher, that would be someone else's "talking point," wouldn't it?

Hi Warren, comparing the X1 to a Volvo seems a bit strange. I paid under 40k for the BMW Xdrive and the turbo 4 cylinder/8 speed is fast and gets 30mpg. I assume the Volvo has more room, but do you really think the handling/performance are the same?

There are very few cars that have the handling experience of a BMW. I think what Warren was referring to was the nomenclature of a station wagon. Both are station wagons, both are excellent cars in their own right.

Hi Warren, My girlfriend is a professional climber. Her 96 Toyota Tercel worked really well on her 14000 rock climbing road trip last year. Save one thing, it lacked cruise control. She's in the market for something to replace it. There are two hard criteria: 1) MGP greater than 30 miles per gallon 2) sufficient space for her to sleep in (she is 5'6"). If possible a secure storage for her gear when not climbing, i.e. an enclosed compartment would be ideal. Nothing is off the table at this point. Used is preferred to new. Again fuel efficiency is paramount because fuel was her highest expense last year. What, if any, recommendations do you have? Thanks.

The enclosed compartment has me stumped. I was going to say a Hyundai Santa Fe or a Ford Escape, but I don't know about an enclosed compartment.

I will put it out to our readers. Any suggestions my fellow chatters?

Have you formed an impression of the new golf -with new platform and weight savings? Insight into what engines/how economical the engines will be imported into US?

I'm glad VW is not timid about diesel technology. The new Golf, i'm told, will be available in that. Small four-cylinder gasoline engines will be the mainstay. What's your take, Lou Ann?

this question came in

GMC Traverse
I wrote in last week about the poor fuel economy I've received from my 2012 GMC Traverse. You had asked me what the mileage was on the vehicle, and that the valves may not have seated. Well, my Traverse has 20k miles, and is just over a year old. As you can tell by the mileage, I drive it quite a bit, predominently on the highway (80 miles RT each day), and even on a recent trip to Canada, I only got 23 MPG. I've averaged 21 MPG since I purchased this hunk (the computer thinks I'm getting 26 MPG, but I fill the 18 gallon tank about every 350 miles). Is there perhaps a defect with the vehicle that can be repaired or qualify under the VA Lemon Law? The dealer routine maintenance has not noted anything wrong with the vehicle even though I've mentioned the poor fuel economy. The moral of my story is I will never EVER base a car purchase decision again based on MPG, unless a dealer is willing to let me test the car through a full tank of fuel. BTW, is there any dealer out there that would do that? Also, do you know of anyone that wants a guttless, gas guzzling 2012 GMC Traverse with 20k miles? This experience makes me never to want to purchase a GM product again because I have been betrayed by grossly over-estimated MPG data.

Here is the answer from GM:

a little confusing because as you know -- we don't have a "GMC Traverse".  It's got to be either a GMC Acadia or a Chevrolet Traverse...I think!

BUT....regardless, the fuel economy is the same for both the Traverse and Acadia, and unless I am missing something, I don't see a discrepancy between the published fuel economy estimates and this vehicles real world performance.

Not sure what the issue is...the customer says they have been betrayed by "grossly over-estimated MPG data."

Unless I am missing something, the EPA estimated -- and published fuel economy estimates for the GM crossover are:

AWD -- 17/24
FWD -- 16/23

This customer is averaging 21 mpg -- which appears to be right on the mark.  And on a recent highway trip, achieved 23 mpg...again, right on the mark.

The fuel economy for our crossovers is competitive in the segment, and I believe among the top for crossovers with three rows of seats.

Let me know if you want to respond, or if you'd like us to, please send the contact info. 

So, if we've missed something let us know and we'll have GM reply again.



Producer Dominique here. Be sure to check out the new Ask Warren Brown search page. You can get there from the Ask Warren Brown link in the Cars section sub-nav. We've made it easy for you to browse shows from the past 4 months or to search through all shows since the shows began. You can even search by car makes, models, or any other keyword (i.e., “green cars” or “sports cars”). Enjoy!


Thank you all for joining us today. Please come back next week for more wide-ranging fun. Thank you, Dominique, for another fine production; and you, my dear Lou Ann Hamond, for your sparkling intelligence; and you, my trusted Ria Manglapus, for all you do to keep us in business. Thanks. 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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