Real Wheels Live

Oct 14, 2011

Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown will discuss the auto industry. Plus, he'll give purchase advice to readers.

Past Real Wheels Live Chats

We're flying solo today, without our main man, Mr. Brown. He'll be back next week. This week I will answer the questions, but as always, feel free to add your two cents if I miss something.


I like to keep my cars for a long time. I am looking for a new car now, I live in California and keep it outside. Any suggestions for paint colors which fade the least.

I see some great old cars in California because we don't salt our roads in most of California. No snow, no salt needed.

How much a color fades - or can be seen - is a matter of perception. You will see fading on darker cars more than lighter cars.

Enjoy the car, enjoy the sun.

Any new features coming up in the new Silverado 2012 model? We are looking at 2012 trucks to purchase... Thanks.

I am always amazed at how many trucks are sold annually. I was talking to Davis Adams, a colleague that works at The Ford F-150 again claimed the top spot of most looked at vehicles.  The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 was  No. 5, the Dodge Ram 1500 was No. 6, the Ford F-250 was No. 7 and the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 was No. 10.

You're still a couple years away from a major redo of the Silverado but in 2012 Chevy put a new chrome mesh grille on LS and LT models plus a new silver-painted lower fascia.  The LTZs got a new body-color surround. There are new options that you can purchase.

Interior -wise you have two new colors, Dark Titanium/Light Titanium and Dark Cashmere/Light Cashmere. On the base models you gain standard cruise control and a spare tire lock.

Best yet, you can purchase heated and cooled seats on the LTZ.

Personally, I wouldn't buy a car without heated seats. Warren tells me it a girl thing. :)


Good morning Warren and Lou Ann--If you were the federal "auto safety czars," what would you require manufacturers and aftermarket shops to do? My list would include requiring that bumper heights match up (so jacked up trucks don't crush normal cars) and banning tinted windows. I'm no fan of all the internet-connectivity-driver distraction devices either. Favorites? SpokaneMan.

Great question.

There's such a difference between what a manufacturer can do to a car they sell and what you can do to a car in the aftermarket. Especially when it comes to getting fuel economy. But you want auto safety.

It would depend on the age of the person. Young teens, beginning driviers I would put a governer on their car that didn't allow them to go over a certain mile per hour. I would disable their radio if they didn't have their seat belt on, or didn't use their blinkers when changing lanes. And I would put a radio shield in their car that wouldn't accept emails and phone calls on their phones.

For older people I would make it a requirement to have clind spot notification in their side mirrors. As we age our neck has less movement and our eyes have less peripheral vision.

I thought there was a requirement that bumper heights matched, but if there isn't I would require that. I, too, dislike tinted windows.

But for people my age, and yours, we could drive any way we want.

Hi, Warren! I have a 2008 Cadillac DTS. Beautiful car. But due to ongoing electrical issues in the car (not to mention poor service of said issues at the dealership), I feel like it may be time to ditch it. I just want something comfortable (I have back issues) and reliable in the $50K range. I'm not adverse to buying American but would appreciate some respect from a dealer. Suggestions? Thanks!

Dealership respect is a common thread in these chats. I am also dissapointed to hear that dealers allow this to happen, still. Good for you for talking with your dollars.

Since you have a back issue, I would only buy a car that had heated seats and lumbar support. Make sure any of the vehicles below have those two items. Another thing to consider is the headrest. When your back gets tired you depend on the headrest more. Watch that when you're test driving these cars.

There are a couple of cars that you would love.

Hyundai Genesis

Mercedes E-class sedan - it comes in a gasoline and diesel version

Chrysler 300

Lexus LS450 or GS350

Protect the back.


Always enjoy your chats. I would like your opinions. I am a car guy and truly enjoy driving. My commuter car is a MINI Clubman, which I am about to trade-in. The candidates for replacement are 1: Clubman S; 2: VW Golf TDI. My commute is a 50 mile RT on the beltway, and for my driving style, I've found my current Clubman underpowered (hence considering the Clubman S). I have driven TDIs in Europe and I think the strong torque would make a huge difference from my current MINI. But I love the MINI driving experience, and I am concerned the Golf won't be as much fun. Opinions?

The only way you can make that decision is by test driving the car. The two cars are distinctly different. You can also try a VW Golf R (gasoline only) or a VW CC. Both of those are fun to drive cars and I love VW engines.

How serious an issue is the recall of 2009-2011 VW Jetta TDIs and Jetta Sportwagen TDIs to fix a fuel line that might crack? VW says that there have been no fires, but it nevertheless feel obligated to recall the vehicles "voluntarily" in order to inspect and replace the fuel lines, if necessary, and to put dampeners on all recalled vehicles. The recall only applies to vehicles with diesel engines.

Remember the Toyota problem? One of the biggest complaints was that Toyota didn't listen to the compaints. Since then you have seen car manufacturers react a lot more vigurously when there is a complaint.

Take your car in and get the fuel line changed if that is what they are requesting.

Take a minute, save your life.

I saw a car carrier on its way to the dealer loaded down with some very interesting looking coupe/hatchbacks, have you driven it? It's got a very interesting look that I liked at first glance.

I have the Hyundai Veloster in my driveway right now. I am going to drive it to San Francisco to see a friend from Japan that I haven't seen in years.

I love the 26.2 yellow color (marathon yellow). It's a great looking car. Ask me next week and I'll tell you how it drives.

Warren, Will towing a camper within the rated loads of our 2011 Subaru Outback 2.5i overly tax the CVT transmission? Subaru manual says the only limitations are going up long hills when temps are over 100 degrees. Is a transmission cooler recommended with towing?

Ask the manufacturer/dealer about the transmission cooler. The manufacturer has already tested this car and knows its limits, so your warranty will be fine as long as you stay within those limits.

Mr. Brown, could you put in these reminder(s): 1. Please use blinkers when applicable 2. If two lanes are merging into one and the signs indicate that the left lane ends, please move to the right lane and not stay in the left lane until the last possible second.  Thanks.

It always amazes me that there are places in the United States that see it as a weakness if you use blinkers.

A little courtesy goes a long way.

I really liked the looks of the Evoque Warren tested last week. How do you feel it rates for the money?

The Olsen twins sold out of their alligator backpacks that retail for $39,000 in days. $39,000. backpacks.

$45,000 for a range rover evoque is a bargain. It can do about 70-80% of the off-roading that a Range Rover can do, plus you have all the luxury as well.

It doesn't have heated seats in the back, but the panoramic roof makes the backseat the envy of the front seaters.

The steering column is manual, not powered. It does have a power liftgate, the first in Range Rover history.

I liked it.

I drive an 89 mustang LX 5.0. It has no airbags and only lap belts in the backseat. Where would be the best place to use a booster seat for a 6 year old?

In a new car.

I'm not being cute. This is your child. Protect it properly.

Need a awd vehicle for commute. Like to stick to a smaller/med size crossover/suv and have been looking at crv and the forester. Which would be a better choice, although the crv gets much more talk.  Also, would you wait for the 2010 CRV which is expected at the end of the year? Thanks

The 2012 CRV is coming out within the month, I would wait to look at it, but my first recommendation is the Forester.

Lou Ann, I recently ordered a 2012 A5 coupe to replace my ten year old TT coupe. The A5 is expected to be delivered in early 2012. I have subsequently read that Audi has made some minor changes to the styling of the hood and to the head and tail lights for the 2012 model year. Should I expect these changes on my model, or would these changes likely be introduced later in the year? Thanks for your weekly insights!

It's not something I know offhand. I can find out for you. Email me at

put washingpost chat in the subject line.

Lou Ann, I stand about 6'5" tall. Shopping for a car has long been a challenge. (I prefer driving a sedan, by the way.) On one hand, I generally need to find something without a sunroof, but there's a secondary issue often with the center console putting dents in my knees. Have you driven any vehicles recently that struck you as good tall person cars?

My husband is 6'4" and he loves the Mini Cooper, Subaru Forester and the VW TDI.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann: We recently moved to the Washington DC area and brought our Nissan Xterra with us. Can you recommend some places in the area to go 4-wheeling? If not, can you recommend some clubs/associations/etc.? Thank you.

There's plenty of 4-wheeling, I don't know of any specifically for Nissan Xterra. Can any of my peeps help me?

Bergen County,  blue mountain, Cumberland, capital land, deep woods?


Actually, this is a bad idea. Engineers always recommend that you PREPARE to merge, but not merge until the end of the lane, because then there is only ONE merge point instead of several. Road planners and other traffic-flow experts have openly advised that the best traffic flow results from waiting until near/at the end to merge over.

The one that grips me, and she may have been thinking this, is when someone in the stationary lane moves to the merging lane so they can get 10 cars ahead of where they were.

Hi Warren, This may be premature, but my fiance and I are starting research into new/used cars for purchase in the next 2-3 years. I have an 04 Matrix (37k miles), he has a Lancer 09 (23k miles), and between the two of us we have 3 dogs - 100lbs; 6 years, 45lbs; 18 months and 18lbs; 7 years. We both drive cars for years, and the next purchase will most likely need to accomodate car seats. Additionally, we drive to the upper Midwest (MN and WI), the Great White North (ON), near Lake Erie and to New England 5-6 times a year in all seasons. The Matrix is too small for all the dogs and people, plus has horrible ground clearance in snow. The Lancer can't accomodate all the dogs. I am partial to the Jeep line, but a realist when it comes to an actual purchase. Looking to replace on of the cars, probably the Matrix. Are any of the wagons just a bit larger than the Matrix? Are we in SUV territory at this point? I like the Element, but worry they won't be around, not against Full Size SUV as I commute via trains and buses, and it wouldn't be an every day driver or need to be parked on DC streets. Finally, I researched cars for 2+ years before settling on the Matrix, asking this early isn't out of the norm for me. Thanks!

Have you seen the Honda Element dog edition? My favorite!

If you buy a car and keep it till it dies it doesn't matter if the Element is going to be around, you don't care about resale value. You care about whether the car can be maintained. Honda will be here for years to come.

The dog edition has seats that go up on the side, a ramp for older dogs and washable floors.

Love it.

Last weekend the air bag idiot light on my 05 Element (170k miles) illuminated so I took it to the dealer. They said sensor, control module, maybe wiring. I suspect shock damage from a couple years ago when a guy ran a red light in front of me. Since I'd been planning on having the brakes done, and needed new tires, the cost to keep it on the road was around $2000. So I went to the showroom to look around. What happened? The Civic is ugly, and has a digital speedometer so that instead of telling my speed with a glance I actually have to focus on it for a few seconds. Bad idea. The Fit? Nice, but, no option for XM (20 mile commute to work), and the radio looks to be an odd size, so putting a new radio in will require (at least) taking a dremel tool to the dash. Since one of the failure modes for the airbag was inflates with no warning, I spent the whole day going from one dealer to another on Rt 7 in Tyson's. Really wish I'd had the money for the Golf TDI. I ended up with a Chevy Cruze Eco. Easy to shift manual tranny, comes with XM, handles well. Looks better than a Civic. The gas savings alone should cover 20% to 25% of the monthly payment.

This is how you buy a car. You wait until something pushes you over the edge. I'm glad you found a car you like.

I also would recommend starting to put a little money away each month if you have an older car so that you have a little down payment.

And know your FICO score. That will tell you the financing you are able to get.

We may be buying a home in the Asheville, NC area, moving from overseas. It does get occasional snow, so need to be prepared for it, but I doubt it's enough to warrant a 4WD (which might be in order if we bought in another area we've considered, Spokane). Just the two of us but we'd like space for luggage for weekend and longer trips. AWD best? FWD? My wife likes the Chrysler 300 from renting experience, but I'm thinking of something closer to the size of a Buick Lacrosse for ease of driving and parking, and gas mileage. Ideas? Like to stay under $30k.

Buick LaCrosse is great. Chrysler 300 has been completely redesigned and will have an 8-speed in the srt8.

Also look at Volskwagen CC, Volvo S60, Lexus IS 250, BMW 3-Series and a Lincoln MKZ

Hi Warren, I am looking for a used Cayenne because my 2005 Cayenne was claimed at total loss involved in an accident. Luckily, the driver, my wife, only had a small cut on her wrist and my son was sitting in the carseat without harm. Our old 2005 Cayenne was a V6 and a little lack of power. We are thinking to get a used 2008 Cayenne S. Should I be worried with repairs? Is there any difference between V6 and V8 in term of reliability? Thank you.

I haven't heard of any problems between the V-6 and V-8 Cayenne. You will take a hit on the fuel economy, but that is the trade-off for more performance.

I've noticed that if I look directly into the breaklights of the car in front of me with LED bulbs, I get a feeling of nausea. I've also noticed this with pocket camera's that have the LED light that shines on the subject for focus assist. Have you heard of any other drivers experiencing this with LED bulbs? Or is it just me? By the way, normal incandescent taillamp bulbs do not affect me this way.

You're not going to believe this, but according to technology review in 2007 police officers were considering makeing flashlights with led lights to disorient them and make them nauseated.

I don't have that problem. I probably will now. :)

Good morning Lou Ann and welcome back to Real Wheels Live. Which automaker do you think is producing the most creative TV car advertisements today? How effective do you think TV advertisements are in influencing prospective car buyers?

I don't watch TV. When I did watch TV, I Tivo'd it so that I could blast through advertisements.

Anyone else want to chime in on this?

Nope, not true. If that were true, they wouldn't stage very long merge zones with those traffic cones, they'd let the cars merge at the last point. I've been in the biz for 30 years and never heard that poster's claim.

Another point.

The hour has gone by fast. Next week both Warren and I will be on, so save your questions.

Thanks Dominique for your stellar work.

And remember, never drive faster than your angel can fly.

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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