Real Wheels Live

Nov 04, 2011

We have received your questions but due to technical difficulties, Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown will be answering your questions until 1:30pm. Please continue to submit your questions and check back for Warren's responses. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Our 2000 VW Jetta is getting a little old and a little small with 2 kids, so we're looking to replace it with a larger sedan. Our other car is a Hyundai Santa Fe, which we are very happy with, so we are considering the Sonata. However, we have also been happy with the Jetta over the years, and we were surprised to see that the new Passat is comparable in price to the Sonata. Which would you recommend? Is there something else we should be considering? Thanks.

Then, you should look at the new Passat, which is larger than its former self, too. I especially like the diesel-powered Jetta TDI. Give it a look.

Warren, you have been pumping up VW for the past several years for its improved reliability and customer service. I respectfully disagree. A significant number of 2009 to present model year High Pressure Fuel Pumps (HPFP) are failing causing catastrophic damage to the entire fuel system, at an $8,000 repair bill. NHTSA has instigated an investigation. VW is playing stupid providing no information to owners or potential customers. This is not reliability, and more importantly it's not corporate responsibility. Tell VW to step up to the plate! (dezlboy, Arlington VA).

You are right, dezlboy. VW has been doing so much right, lately--especially since late 2009. But it still has a lot of sins for which it must atone, including that ruinous problem with high pressure fuel pumps. I think the company has sent a service bulletin to its dealers about this, which means you are due a rebate on repair of this problem. Press them on this. I will.

Hi Warren, I recently read your reviews of the NV and Ford's Transit Connect, due to an email from WaPo. Sadly, the Ford does not seem to qualify as a dog show van since the motor and rear end, while great for local deliveries, require very hard pedaling for even 300 to 500 miles per day. The NV sounds like the best van since my old Sprinter (Nationwide will not insure the new Mercedes version.) I've talked to one handler who loved it. If the van is not full of dogs, one can put a Saint on the table and prep it even in cold or rainy weather. Any thoughts on handling, ride, or MPG? How would it compare to a Ford or Chevy van of equal size? Note, no minivan since the Astro will accommodate a Saint's crate, and the big SUVs are loaded with $10,000 or more of things I don't need.

Shows you what I know about dog shows.Given your explanation of needs, you are right. The larger, more powerful NV van forom Nissan is a much better fit. I should've pait more attention to your previous hauler, the Dodge Sprinter. It's HUGE.

Taking your advice from last week, we went ahead and leased a Passat S with appearance package (the SEL too rich for our blood) and really love it. We were surprised by how roomy the back seat is, so roomy in fact that our two kids still in child seats can't kick the backs of our seats, something parents in similar situations will appreciate. Besides the overall nice level of standard amenities (love the Bluetooth integration for iPhone!) at a truly affordable price, we also appreciate the torque that the 5 cylinder engine provides. Keep up the good work and looking forward to enjoying our new car!

I am happy to have made you happy. If you have ANY problems with it, please write me at until I get better acquainted with Facebook and Twitter.

Hi Warren, Love the chats and columns. I've been very satisfied w/ my 2003 SantaFe and it is still running strong. Is there another major update coming for the SantaFe or the Veracruz (a little more lux and room for longer trips). I love the look and features of the new-style Sonata, Tuscon, and Elantra. I might hold out for a year or two if a new SantaFe or Veracruz is on the way. Thanks... former Virginian turned Hoosier.

Those changes are being completed as I write this. Given your previous stament of needs, I'd go with the ne Veracruz, with what I call "family specific"--all of the nooks, crannies, conveniences, communications and infotainment devices a family needs, especially on a long trip.

Because we had a long delay, occasioned by technical problems in trying to connect with the main office via long distance, I'm staying on with you all until 1:15

So Warren, we are getting ready to buy a new car for the first time in 24 years! We've always taken older cars from relatives, bought used, made what we owned last FOREVER. But now we are splurging. We've got this new fangled internet to help us figure out pricing since the last time we did this. Where do we start? What numbers do we look at to help us determine a fair price? We of course want the dealer to make his profit and we aren't looking for a steal. Just fair. Thanks, Beth

I'd start with the car rating/pricing services such as;; and Note their ratings for the vehicle you desire or need. Especially note the regional purchase-prtrends for those vehicles. Buy accordingly.

Just wondering if you had any recommendations for donating our 1992 Saturn L2. It runs great, but the sunroof leaks and the interior is starting to deteriorate because of wetness. Also, it's 20 years old! Thanks.

I favor making such donations to local veterans' groups, especially those serving our wounded warriors. Those groups tend to be highly cause-drive, a product of their military training, I guess. At any rate, most of their proceeds stemming from hardware donations usually go directly to caring for those soldiers.

Warren, is there a reason why diesel prices are much higher than regular gasoline? Is that due to taxes, higher global demand, you only get certain percentage from a barrel of oil, or what? It seems no gov't entity wants to promote (incentives) diesel powered cars (just VW/Audi/MB). My simple mind would like to believe if there are more diesel cars on our roads, there will be less imported oil - a good thing. What do I know.

Yes, the reason is that we have no real energy policy in the United States, other than the one that should carry the  label, "STUPID."

  1. Consider that 50 percent of the new vehicles sold in Germany and England, for example, are sold as diesels. Why? Those countries, represent two of the strongest economies in an economically troubled Europe. They also have the best energy policies. Diesel is 30 percent more efficent than gasoline in terms of miles per gallon. So, those governments put their highest fuel taxes on less-efficient gasoline. They financially reward the purchase of more fuel-efficient and punish the purchase of less efficient models. We do none of those sensible things. We much prefer signing stupid codicils pledging our loyalty to a "no tax increase" policy, even when a tax increase probably is the right thing to do in a given situation. Dumb.

I have been cheated by 2 or more shops lately, one which I thought would always be my go-to for repair. Any suggestions in FFX County, Reston/Herndon area? I need new fuel pump and struts for my 99 Corolla and want to make sure I don't get cheated.

To be fair to all, I humbly recommend that you check with Consumer's Checkbook, published by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for the Study of [mostly local] Services. I liveby that book and organization--much better those consumer advice groups in my opinion.

Warren, I am still a hybrid skeptic, in no small part because of all the batteries that will wind up in landfills. I've heard you many times talk about the virtues of diesel, but you also discuss the challenges of diesel adoption in the U.S. Do you hold out any hope that the curve will move?

None anytime soon for anuptick in US diesel acceptance. Politics and politicians, for a variety of savory and unsavory reasons, is on the side of electric energy used in various power generating iterations--hybrid, plug-in extended range, all-electric. Our "leaders", for many uninformed and unsavory reasons, seem to have forgotten about othe alternatives: diesel, compressed natural gas, liquid propane gas, hydrogen. Pathetic.

What has happened to the small pickup truck? There's hardly any on the new car lots, and I'm seeing fewer on the road...?

Not profitable, the market for those models has collapsed, thanks to abandonment by its core buyers--people who bought them because they once sold at a substantially cheaper price than cars.

Hi, Warren. Do you know anything about when the 2012 Subaru Imprezas will actually arrive in the U.S.? Thanks!

Those arrival dates are so iffy--pushed farther ahead, rushed up. In this case, Im betting on late 2012 or fall 2013.

Mr. Brown, Good morning. It amazes me that folks will not use premium gas when their car/manual indicates so. And folks who use premium what their car/manual indicates premium is not needed. What does it take to convince this folks? I usually stop arguing and just agree with them because it is futile.

Stop arguing. Buying cars is much like buying houses. Many people buy super-large houses they really can't afford because that fits their version of the American dream. For too many of them, it does not take much to turn that dream into a financial nightmare. Same with cars and trucks. They buy something that demands premium  fuel, almost as a badge of honor. But when their personal economies take a dive, they start searching for inappropriate, but less expensive regular grades. It figures, cars and houses are mostly emotional purchases.

Your previous answer on donating brings up to me a question i've been curious about: what do these charities actually do with the cars, most of which are in pretty bad shape? Do they just take them to a wholesaler and get what they're given or is it more complex? DO they sell on an open market? thanks

They repair and resell them , usually through a dealer's auction. Their share of the proceeds from those sales go to support of their causes.

Hi Warren, We are seriously unhappy with our 2010 Acura RDX and are ready to trade it in. In the two years we've owned it it's been in the shop for electrical issues with the headlights and the nav system (multiple repair attempts each), a/c repair, and, most recently, because part of the passenger side dash fell off(!) Can you recommend a replacement other than the usual suspects? We're looking at the Infiniti EX35, BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Subaru Outback.

Sorry about the problems. Go with the Audi Q5 or Infiniti35.

Do you think VW will make the Routan in a TDI? If so, when?

If it does, and it might, look for Chrysler to do the same thing with its Town & Country inasmuch as the Routan essentially is a Town & Country with a VW badge.

I have a 2002 Jetta (six speed manual) with about 100K in miles - we are looking at the Jetta TDI wagon - but are wondering about performance - how noticeable will it be to give up some power? Do you like the TDI in general for reliability?

I like the Jetta TDI in general for reliability and performance.

Warren, it's that time of year when you see all of the people with more money than brains who drive their lux and entry-level lux cars, e.g., Volvo, M/ B, year 'round with their fog lights on permanently. Annoying when they're on-coming, but downright dangerous when you're following one of these cars with a bright rear brake light constantly lit.  There is a reason for this in Europe (you activate on a narrow street when the car is parked so it doesn't get slammed into), but why to some manufacturers insist this affectation across the Atlantic? Can't there be a federal reg mandating that fog lights and headlights can't operate simultaneously? This would be a two-line software fix.


Affectation is akin to sex in the autobile industry. Sex sells. Hard to regulate against  it.

Thanks for joining us today, despite technical problems that slowed us down. Please come back next week. Also, please check out our new online car section. It's hot. Thanks Dominique for getting things moving today. Thanks Ria for keeping them moving. Eat lunch, if you haven't already.

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Warren Brown
Warren Brown has covered the cars industry for The Washington Post since 1982.

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