Real Wheels Live

Oct 11, 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

I'd love to hear from all you. Many of you in the D.C. area are federal workers and are on furlough now.

Were you thinking of purchasing a car and have put it off? Do you think the government will reopen the government before October 17th?

Has your consumer confidence changed in the last week when it comes to the state of the economy?

I drove the new 2014 Kia Soul, 2013 Volvo XC70 and the new 2014 Honda Accord hybrid this week.

Let's chat about cars

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Do you have any feelings about this recent debate?:

I attended both Darpa events for autonomous driving cars. I do think there is a demand for those cars, more from the younger generation than the older generation. Younger people don't have the desire to drive like the older generation does.

But how far have we come in driverless vehicles?

Here is a video of Chris Urmson back in 2007 in a Darpa race. Watch to the end when his Dad comes up and starts talking about Chris' science projects.

Fast forward to 2013 at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) and we have Annie Lien talking about autonomous self-parking cars. I could see where self-parking could be the first part of the autonomous car. Think of this - If you live in New York city, in an apartment building with a parking spot down the street and it is raining you could have the car drop you off and go park itself. It doesn't have to worry about you getting wet, or how close the car is to your building. When you want to go somewhere you use your smartphone to call the car to the front of the building. You can see that here:

Bosch showed off their autonomous parallel parking with the help of Ron Fancsal, a student at Airport high school. Fancsal, like many other 17 year olds, doesn’t like to parallel park. In this video he parked without the help and with the help of assisted parking. Too cute.

And it's not just Google testing cars
Continental AG gets ok for autonomous driving in Nevada
Continental’s urban safety curbside detection

Have you gotten any more questions from that person in Spain about horses?

No, but Congress is still acting like a bunch of asses. (you have to read last week's chat to get this)

Hi Lou Ann & Warren. It is time to replace one of our cars. I want a station wagon, my wife doesn't like station wagons, but does like "cute utes." We have narrowed our search so that our first choice is the Acura RDX; I would be interested in your impressions of the RDX. Thanx!

You might also want to include the Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, especially the Titanium edition, and the Honda CR-V, which has incredible cargo space.

Is there any chance that Mazda will introduce any new rotary engined cars?

Anything is possible in the automobile industry. But now that fuel eonomy and reduced CO2 are primary goals of vehicle development, another rotary engine, whose predecessors egregiously consumed fuel, is an outlier.

I am tired of sitting in traffic. Can you recommend a car that can fly in a low earth orbit and reach warp speed?

There is a car that alo doubles as a plane. I forget thr name at the moment. But as a flier, tou will have to deal with the FAA and other restrictions. You want that?

Lou Ann here:

It's called terrafugia and you can get it for $250,000 and fly it if you have a sports license.

With small kids, can't justify a two-seat sports car at this point, . What are your picks for best 4-seat cars under $40K, under $50K, and under $75K, from standpoint of performance and sheer thrill of driving? Or should I just buy a '67 V-8 mustang?

Quite the gammit there!

With small kids you can't afford to buy a '67 V-8 mustang. It doesn't have the safety features offered in todays cars. It is your responsibility to make sure they are safe.

I would suggest a car that has a backup camera with sensors. says that on average 2 children a week are killed because someone runs over them backing up. I just did an article on all cars that have backup cameras and/or sensors as standard

To your question:

Mazda3, MINI Cooper

I don't know about the prices but look at the Porsche Panamera (probably toooo expensive, but can seat 4 nicely and I love the ride)



Hi -- I'm looking for a car to replace my '99 forester, which has been a great car and would like another car that is good in snow. Do you still recommend the new foresters? You raved about them before, but I don't think you've mentioned them in a while. The only thing I don't like about them is that they're bigger and I live in the city so a few inches makes a difference in terms of which parking spaces I can squeeze into. I test drove the Ford Escape and C-Max and the Hyundai Tucson and didn't like the feel of any of them. I haven't had a chance to test drive the 2013 foresters yet. Is it worth waiting for the 2014s to come out? Are there any others you'd recommend I look at?

You are correct, the Subaru Forrester has gotten bigger, but it is still a great car.

Have you drive the Hyundai Santa Fe? They have both 5-passenger and 7-passenger.Also try the Fiat 500L - it's as big inside as a Chrysler 300.

We just bought a new Honda Odyssey. Normally, we'd pass on the extended warranties without a second thought. The large number of cool technologies are making us reconsider. We passed in the dealership but found a number of on-line dealers that sell the Honda Care extended warranty at cost (they make their money by volume bonuses) which is about half of what we were quoted at the dealership. What are your thoughts on extended warranties? We are planning to keep the minivan for as long as possible.

Extended warranties are another form of insurance. I've never dealt with an insurance company that pays out more in coverage than it collects in premiums. Your Honda Odyssey already comes with warranties and guarantees that you paid for when you bought the minivan. I'd pass on the extended warranty.

Why is it so hard to find the right wiper speed needed to keep a window clear? My car has a sensor that can control the wipers. It also has a manual mode with three or four speed settings. For the most part, the lowest setting is too fast for a light drizzle. The wipers just squeek. The automatic mode seems to do better, but will sometimes switch to the highest setting for no reason. I assume some fog is forming around the sensor, but my usual response is to turn the wipers off and just pulse it on once in a while. There must be a better way.

#firstworldproblems :)

Bosch is creating new sensors for wipers that are pretty cool. I get tired of the click, clicking sound and will turn my wipers off at stop signs/lights. I also will pulse the wiper until there is a downpour.


Jetta hybrid or Jetta TDI? Any advice would be appreciated

Do you do more driving in the city or highway?

The hybrid gets better mpg in the city, the diesel gets better mpg on the highway.

I won't make any big money decisions until this is over. October 17th and the Government Shutdown are only two pieces of the puzzle. They were talking about a short term deal that would allow the debt ceiling to be raised until Thanksgiving. Any temporary measures will have a chance of leading back to a shutdown. Only a full year funding of the budget and raising of the debt ceiling will end the chances of people being sent home. We haven't heard any possible furlough days being part of the budget for 2014 like they were for the summer of 2013.

It's embarrassing, disgusting, infuriating. We should fire this Congress and elect a new one. I am sick and tired of ideologues--right wing, left wing, Tea Party, Republicans, Democrats. I want governors, people who care about the country and its people, and who are willing to compromise, make tough decisions for the real good of the nation, and keep their mostly stupid ideologies to themselves. I understand your dilemna. I am similarly situated. I want to buy a Spark EV. But my wife looks at the stupidity of this Congress and says "No Way."

And now we have a govt that makes any Italian gov't in last 60 years look competent and efficient. Shame we can't have a no confidence vote like they do in the UK and EU countries in our gov't. Not furloughed but working and may get paid for it some decade. Throw all the bums out. I have never voted for the Democratic candidate for prez since I could vote in 1980...that will change in 2016. Clifton VA

I agree. Throw all of the bums out before they turn us all into bums. Who are these children in pinstripes?

In a nutshell, Odyssey or Sienna? Or is there another contender to consider? For general family hauling.

There is another condender, well worth the look--the Kia Sorento. But I'd choose the Honda Odyssey over the Kia Sorento. Reason: Honda seems to have gone out of its way to make a vehicle that is especially tailored to family life.

Warren, 1) do you see much difference in these two engines? 2) Any thoughts why Honda doesn't add all-wheel drive to its flagship Accord sedan? Thanks

BMW's turbo is twin-scrolled which gives you less lag.Warren - what about the MBZ turbo?

It didn't occur to me that Honda didn't have an all-wheel drive. I wonder if the hybrid is all-wheel drive? I have emailed HOnda and asked them and will get back to you.

I just heard from Honda and they said, "Hi!  Fundamentally, Crosstour serves in that capacity for us. Hybrid Accord is about ultimate fuel economy. Our AWD hybrid system is geared towards performance and launches on the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid in a couple months"


Nothing is a cute as the Range Rover Evoque. Unlike Warrens' recommendations the Evoque can ford 20 inches of water and go further off road. Clifton, VA

I love the Evoque. If you want a smaller car that looks similar to an Evoque look at the Mini Paceman.

I was upgraded on a recent trip to CA and was disappointed with the Ford Fusion. The mileage was ok, but no better than my VW TDI, the steering was loose and the trunk is too small. It also has a number of blind spots and the warning indicators were distracting. I am curious about your opinions.

Not fair. You compare a gasoline-fueled Ford Fusion to a diesel-fueled VW TDI. Diesel has 30-percent better fuel economy than gasoline. And which VW TDI was it? As far as the steering is concerned, your Fusion was a rental car--the constant victim of abuse by many hands.

Yesterday, I was driving along and the car in the center lane merged over and almost hit me in the process. I soon realized they knew something that I hadn't, that there was a firetruck racing down the street and they were pulling over. It was blocked from my view by the truck behind me until the last minute, but that doesn't excuse the driver who almost merged into me. Backup cameras, collision detectors and whatever still can't help people see in their blindspots. That seems like the next area to focus on.

There is a technology that detects cars around you. You will see it in your side mirror, a little light lights up. The more technology we have on the cars the less accidents will happen.

There are groups working on car-to-car technology that talks to each car and tells them if there is an accident ahead, or if an emergency vehicle is coming.

This if from 2010, but it shows what car-2-car is

per EPA, the 2013 Jetta hybrid gets 42 mpg city and 48 mpg highway, 2013 Jetta TDI gets 30 mpg city and 42 mpg highway -- that's better on the highway for the diesel?

Hybrids usually get better MPG in the city than they do on the highway. It surprises me that the Jetta hybrid does significantly better on the highway, according to your numbers. Can someone from VW explain? Thanks in advance.

Are at Belle Grove Plantation in VA . Just south of Winchester for 2013 Shepdog Finals. Come see these incredible athletes and their humans. Watch these great dogs put sheep where they want them to go hundreds of yards from their human. No world class human athlete can run 400+ yards as fast as these sheepdogs. Even in the rain its a nice drive in your vehicle. Foliage is just beginning to change Clifton, VA

I like that: "Come see these incredible athletes and their humans." Ha! My incredible athlete is sleeping at the moment. She doesn't like rain. We thank you for the invitation. "Off subject" is always welcome here.

I failed to mention that :)

Still, it was a hybrid running on gasoline. I'd still buy a good diesel over a hybrid.

BMW M3 with the manual transmission and if you just need 2 seats the 2014 Vette. Clifton, VA

Hello, Clifton. I would reverse the order on that one. I love the new Corvette Stingray and gladly would take it over the BMW M3.

Mazda's latest facelifts are fantastic and their driving dynamics impeccable. I can't wait to see what they do to the next-generation Mazda5. All that said, between the CX-7 disappearing and their distinct lack of midsize wagons, my grew-up-in-the-80s sensibility has nowhere to turn. Do you suppose we'll see a Mazda6 wagon or similar, like those lucky Australians?

Mazda is a small stand-alone company. They have to make sure every vehicle and iteration can sell well. What they are making now are some great vehicles with great design. I am sure they are looking at all the possiblities.

LOL, Americans complaining they can't dial in their wiper speed. I remember traveling to the Soviet Union in the 80s and people would only install wiper blades when raining. If they left the car unattended with the blades installed, they would get stolen as they were a hot commodity.

yes, it is a first world problem.


Hi Please tell me your thoughts on the Honda Accord Hybrid and how it compares to the Toyota Prius. Thank you very much

The Honda Accord hybrid is a very competent hybrid with more space  than you you will find in most Prius models.

Lou Ann here:

and the new 2014 gets 50mpg. great vehicle.

One of my favorite features in my 2004 Jag is the adaptive cruise, which uses radar (I think) to slow the car to the speed of the traffic ahead. I can set the distance at which it using a switch on the wheel. It works amazingly well - I have driven from DC to Richmond. I am surprised that, in the ensuing ten years, it has not become standard equipment in luxury and entry-level luxury cars. Do you have any sense of why? I did see an ad for a Mazda 6 (I think) that featured it.

All new technology starts at the luxury level. Once a car company has had time to amortize some of the cost they start putting it into the lower levels. Some of the technologies are deemed so beneficial (like ESC) that NHTSA requires it to be in all cars.

Back-up cameras were supposed to be required but Secretary LaHood kept delaying that requirement. He is no longer Secretary and it is not required.

Some of it is cost, some is politics.

Curious as to why you wouldn't also recommend the Audi Q5 to the chatter asking about the Acura RDX? The price point and trim levels are far more comparable than the brands you mentioned. I drove them all and only the Audi & Acura felt even a little luxurious. The others were just "transportation" (yes, even the Titanium edition of the Ford).

Ah. the Q% starts at $37,000+. The Q5 TDI starts at $46,5000. It is tough to get a gasoline-fueled Q5 out the door for under $40,000, nearly impossible to get a Q5 TDI off the dealer's lot for under $50,000.

It now appears like the Republicans in Congress are having a "Colonel Nicholson moment". In the classic movie "Bridge on the River Kwai", the climax occurs when the officer in charge of British prisoners of war, striving to prove the superiority of his civil engineering expertise over his Japanese captors, suddenly realizes that he has instead been aiding them to complete a strategic military railway connection, crying "What have I done?" Indeed.

I visited that bridge with my Father who was in the Vietnam war. There was a makeshift museum of some of the items the prisoners had made during that time of incarceration.

I had to leave the museum because I realized that my Father had been their age at the same time that those young boys had been there.

But you are right, there will be further reaching consequences.

There is one that can fit 4 adults comfortably: The VW GTI. Roomy, a blast to drive, and available in auto (DSG). And it maxes at about 32K; stripped is 25K.

Thanks for the reminder. VW's DSG is fun to drive.

I understand that technology starts with the high-end cars and propogates down. I also understand that some safety-related technologies (ABS, aribags, now rear-view cameras) become mandated. My real question with respect to adaptive cruise is why it hasn't been more widely adopted. I don't know if it has a positive safety profile or not (I assume it's not causing lawsuits or it would have been discontinued) but it is so convenient and, to my mind, such a step forward that it is a real selling point. It's inconceivable that anyone would try to sell a luxury car or near-luxury care without cruise control. It seems to be that they equally should not sell such a car without adaptive cruise, now that the technology has been around for awhile. But I seem to be somewhat alone in my view . . .

Adaptive cruise control has not been that much of a hit among consumers who like to be in control. There is a fear among consumers that adaptive cruise control will lull them into not paying attention. Like most fears, I suspect that this one has little fact to back it up.

Or Warren my first choice would have been 2014 Vette. Although BMWs 135 with sports package etc and set up for track days is lot more fun than an M3. Only problem is I hate turbos. Clifton, VA

Clifton! We agree on something! Let's bring our show to Congress and show them how it's done.

I'm confused about the museum you visited; I thought it was a fictional movie about WWII (based on a novel)?

The railway line was meant to transport cargo daily to India, to back up their planned attack on India. The construction was done using POWs and Asian slave laborers in unfavorable conditions. The work started in October 1942 was completed in a year. Due to the difficult terrain, thousands of laborers lost their lives. It is believed that one life was lost for each sleeper laid in the track.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
At the nearby Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, around 7,000 POWs, who sacrificed their lives in the railway construction, are buried. Another 2,000 are laid to rest at the Chungkai Cemetery.

If you are extending your price range to $75K, I think there is no doubt about the most fun family hauler sold in the US: Caddy CTS-V Wagon

It is a fun vehicle to drive.

We thank you all for joining us today. We invite you to return next week with questions on topic and off. Thank you, Matthew Monahan, Lou Ann Hammond, Victoria Manglapus (Yehhh, Q! Way to go, godson!), and the lovely Michelle Dawson. To citizens, eat lunch. To Congress, get real! You all are killing us, literally in some sad cases. You are an embarrassment, an infuriating embarrassment. WE ARE ASHAMED OF YOU. STOP IT!

Why should someone buy the convertible 335is over the 335?

Because he or she wants it--that simple.

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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