Real Wheels Live

Nov 08, 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.

Have you heard any information about the upcoming new Miata?

Not yet, Waiting for Tokyo show, which is coming up soon.

What car do you think is the most comfortable and quiet for under $40,000?

The Buick LaCrosse, which starts at $33,135.

I have a 1996 Nissan 300X convertible that I want to replace. I want to replace it with sports car built in the years 2007 2011. Preferably I would like a convertible but it is not an absolute requirement. What are your suggestions? thanks for your consideration.

I'd go with a Miata with hardtop convertible roof. It is pretty, fun-to-drive and reasonably affordable. And there always is the Mustang convertible--definitely fun-o-drive and reasomably affordable.

I am partial to VWs and am looking at both the Jetta TDI or the smaller GDI. I would appreciate your thoughts on those options. I am sold on diesel vehicles! Thank you.

Then, tou will love the Jetta TDI, one of the best diesels available. Good fuel economy. Lots of torque. Excellent build quality. Reasonably priced.

Warren, what's your take on run-flat tires? Pros? Cons? Thank you

Run-flat tires generally are those designed to run for at lesat 50 miles at or about 50 mph, thereby enabling the driver to get to a presumably safe location for needed repairs. Run-flats eliminate the need for and the storage space require, as well as the extra weight of onboard eeplacement, spare, tires.

I like the idea and engineering intent. I don't like the generally harsh ride currently afforded by most run-flats. ButI think run-flat technology is here to stay and that it will improve.

What are your thoughts on Elon Musk's submarine car plan?

First, Elon had better figure out what's causing fires in the Tesla S models. And he'd better do it quickly before Washingon-based consumer advocates, who smell blood, eat him alive. Find the problem, Elon. Fix it. Make whatever reparations are needed. Sincerely apologize for the problem, or risk becoming a political football in a public relations battle you can't possibly win.

Wife recently bought a new Honda Accord, but had been riding a Jeep for years. Looking at new SUVs with 4WD option and decent cargo space so we can trade off, any models under $30K that stand out?

Yes, one that easily caught my attention--the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander, starting at $22,995. Excellent design for family use. Decent fuel economy at 22 city and 35 highway. Good utility. Available with latest electronic safety equipment. Overall good quality.

Looking at gently used SUVs (2009-2010) and have narrowed the focus to the Lexus RX350 and Lincoln MKX. Anything else I should be considering? Leaning towards the Lexus, but somewhat wary due to the recent spate of recalls.

Wary, as you should be, especially at Lexus prices, evenused. I frankly would save the money and buy a new Kia Sorento, with one of he best warranties in the business, starting at $24,100.

Buying my first new car - ever! (at age 50....) set my sights on a 2014 Corolla S+. Is end of the month or year a best time? End of the first quarter (March??) thanks!

Forget about the end-of-the month stuff. It's mostly retail fairy tale. But a big thumbs-up on the new Corolla, easily one of the best--interms of build quality, safety and reliability--small cars available.  Starting at $16,800. Your first new car, assuming it is a Corolla, will be a happy purchase.

My boyfriend is about to sign for a new Scion tC -- cool car! Is it really worth it to get upgraded paint (we live in Virginia Beach so lots of jet fuel pollution and salt water air)? Paint protection? Undercoating? Are those things valuable but a better deal at a detailing shop?

Forget "paint protection" and "undercoating." Both are a waste of money when it comes to Toyota, which makes all things Scion. I've been in Toyota factories. The company's products literally are "paint protected' 11 or so times before they leave the factory. Base coat/clear coat paint jobs at Toyota are among the best in the business.

A lot of people seem to love this.... if looking at it, is the XT really worth the extra premium?

I love the normally aspirated Subaru Forester X, which starts at about $21,995. But many people love the extra power of the turbocharged, 2.5-liter XT, which is more expensive. I have a feeling that I could go anywhere in the X that the XT will take me.

Warren, been kicking the tires on this one.... thoughts on the Avalong versus it's little sister the Camry Hybrid and big brother Lexus ES hybrid....

Seriously, both the Avalon and the new Camry are excellent family rides. I jokingly say that the Avalon is the best Buick Toyota ever made. But there is truth in that. For example, check out the Buick LaCrosse, which matches the Avalon in safety, comfort, reliability and overall affordability.

It seems like we're hearing more in recent months about diesel and hybrid vehicles than we are about all-electric cars. Do you think we're likely to see significant improvement in battery technology, coupled with a network of public charging stations, in less than decades?

We're hearing more about diesel because German manufacturers are pushing diesel big time, which makes perfect sense. At least 50 percent of all new vehicles sold in Europe are powered by diesel, mostly because diesel is 30-percent more fuel efficient than gasoline. Improvements in diesel technology and fuel now makes diesel a formidable competitor to gasoline. Domestic car companies, The Chevrolet Cruze comes to mind, will start pushing diesels, too.

But none of that means bandonment of electric or electrifies vehicles. Start looking for diesel-electrics, soon.

Is she not here today?

Thank you for bringing that up. Our dearest Lou Ann and her prince of a husband, Stretch, are nuring Stretch's husband today. Our prayers and thoughts are with them.

I hear the Fit, w/ auto trans, kinda slow for merging onto highway. I presume the manual would improve on that. Have you driven this one, with or without manual tranny?

That is not what I hear--certainly not what I've experienced. I've driven the Fit all over the Northeast. No problems merging onto anybody's highway.

Hi Warren. Thanks for these chats. My family is looking for a reasonably priced (maybe under $35,000) family car with plenty of space. We have a Jetta TDI, and we love it, but it is getting a bit small for family trips (two car seats ... and maybe more to follow). I am tall, so leg space is critical. We like the looks and overall size of the Honda Pilot, but I don't have much more legroom in there than I do in the Jetta.

Hmm. Check out the Passat or VW Tiguan, the latter of which should offer more space than your Jetta TDI. The Tiguan starts at $22,995 and gets 18 city, 25 miles hwy, assuming I recall correctly.

Warren, what's your take on buying a certified car that has just come off someone else's lease?

It'slike buying anything else used. Get an outside technician, osmeone you trust, to make sure that "certified" means the car actually is okay. Get a warranty in writing.

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: Since visiting France four years ago I've wondered whether Citroen, Renault and Peugeot would ever return to North America. What say you, and have you driven and cars from those three companies that you'd like to see here? Garey, Ottawa

Hello, Garey. Probably not. Citroen and Pugeot, at the moment, seem to think that there is no profitable business case for them reentering the North American market. Too bad. I like Citroen and Pugeot products I've driven in Europe.

Are you saying that I should start bargaining for the S+ at $16,800? I've been seeing prices more like $21K. How do I bargain for a new car? Just state my price? Bring printouts from Edmunds,, Consumer Reports?

No, $16,800 is the base pricefor the new Corolla. The S= is NOT base. Check,, and to get base price for the S+. Bargain accordingly.

These are the two I've always owned. My requirements are sunroof, stick shift, cloth seats. It seems like new cars only come in packages and sunroof + stick shift is only available in select models. I've gone into dealers who've told me, for example, that I can get that in a Honda Accord Ex or Toyota Corolla S model. But when I go to the Toyota website, it does not show those options. Do dealers get custom models or something??

Well, you are right. Manufacturers tend to make what people actually buy. Few are the customers who ask for the package you are seeking.

Hi Warren - I'm a LONG-time fan! I almost never miss your columns. Enjoy and appreciate them very much. You really made me laugh today though. Please re-read your response to the question about Lou Ann. :-)

Oh, oh. Did I mess up on that one? I hope not. Lou Ann and her husband, Stretch, are dear friends. They've suffered a major loss, Stretch's mother. Nothing funny about that. I hope I did not mess up in handling that one.

My daughter has been out shopping for third row vehicles. Pilot and Pathfinder are tied for first place with MDX coming in third. She's telling me that her decision will be based on price. What's your call on Pilot vs. Pathfinder and why?

The Honda Pilot is an Acura MDX in jeans. I'd buy the jeans.

Just want to second your recommendation, Warren re: moving up from a Jetta. We had a Passat and loved it, and now have a Tiguan. Couldn't be more pleased with it. Amazingly comfortable and roomy (quite deceiving from the outside). Some reviews (yours, too, I think) have been critical about lack of utility compared to other small SUVs. That may be true, but it has served us very well - we've had it for a year. Would definitely buy one again.

That's Tiguan utility versus utility in similar vehicles. Still, I love the Tiguan, expecially in the city.

Thank you all for visiting today. Please return next week. Thank you, Matthew Monahan, Lou Ann Hammond, Victoria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson for all you do to keep this enterprise going.

Our condolences to Lou Ann and Stretch on the loss of their mother/mother-in-law. Mary Anne and I will offer a Mass in her honor. Stay strong, Lou Ann and Stretch.

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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