Real Wheels Live

Nov 15, 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

It's time to think about snow, winter and winter tires. What are some of your favorite tips for winterizing your car and driving in the snow?

Let's chat about cars

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Warren, have you heard of any changes planned by BMW to "quiet" its stop-start system? I confess I have not experienced similar systems in other make cars, but the shuddering from the 328i test car I drove recently made me cross this car off my list.

Good morning,

Now I am going to have to drive the 328 again! All of the companies using start-stop are concerned about noise and lag. Chevy just installed what they are calling "change of mind" so that there is no lag in between the time you are about to stop and the time you change your mind and keep going.

USA Today on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013 page 5B rated COMPACT cars costing about $20,000 in the following order. 1 Kia Forte LX, 2. Hyundai Elantra GLS 3. Honda Civic LX, 4. Nissan Sentra, SV, 5.Toyota Corolla LE ECO 6. Subaru Impreza 2.01 and 7. Ford Focus S. I'm in the market. Any suggestions of your own based on the following criteria: safety; reliability; comfort? Styling is not important to me.

Since you put safety first I would go with the Honda. 96% of all Honda have a backup camera as standard. If you have children, live in a neighborhood full of  children you know it only takes a few seconds for them to run in back of you. Backup cameras and sensors should have been made standard by now by NHTSA is dragging their feet.

All of these vehicles are good on reliability.

If it were comfort I might add the Nissan Altima with their zero gravity seats. They are so comfortable, especially on a long trip.

I am a fan of relatively-high-performance hatchbacks, GTI, etc. There are several available now, do you think that these will continue to be popular in the the future (5-10 years)? Thanks

I think they will become more popular. The older generation spent their life being hauled in a station wagon. To this day it is difficult to get a car company to call a station wagon a station wagon because people don't want to buy what their parents bought. I don't know why station wagons got such a bum rap, but many cars that could be called station wagons are being called hatchbacks. They are on their way back.


Just curious why there aren't more options for more fuel efficient people haulers. Looking at our car's trip computer I see that we average around 26 mph because we basically just do circles in the city transporting kids to and from school/activities. Would love to see someone make a large vehicle w/ a hybrid powertrain that delivers above 30 mpgs in city driving as that's what we do 95% of the time.

There are manyoptions for reasonably fuel efficient people haulers. Just check,, The real question: Why aren't there more affordable, fuel-efficient people haulers. That's because fuel efficiency--gas electric, diesel-electric, diesel, plug-in electric--all costs money.

Lou Ann here:

you can also look at to see what other people are getting for their fuel.

My father, an avid hunter, is spending his retirement criss-crossing the middle of the country from Texas to South Dakota, so he is looking for a smallish, fuel efficient SUV . While there are obviously a lot to choose from, the hard part is that he needs one that actually can drive across open fields and muddy terrain, not just a dressed up station wagon. Any suggestions for the most fuel efficient, offroad-capable SUV? Thanks.

There are some great little SUVs these days. I don't have ground clearance memorized,but that is what I would look at as one of the main criteria for you.

Here's a list of some of my favorites;(not in any order)

Subaru Forester (they have a crosstek that I haven't driven)

Mazda CX5

Volkswagen Tiguan

Buick Encore

Hyundai Tucson (Santa Fe if you want a little bigger)

Kia Sportage

Toyota RAV4

Ford escape

Landrover Evoque

Chevy Equinox

Nissan Rogue

Try driving those and tell me what you think.



Are cars safe when jostled on tractor-trailers for 3,000 in a cross-country move? Does the car suffer wear and tear, or worse, in such a configuration? Is it better to just drive the car? {Should the gas tank be full, BTW, if transported?}

Most of the cars sold in this country are jostled somewhere in some manor in transport from factory to dealere. Yes, they are safe.

In last week's chat, I believe it was Warren who referred to some diesel-electric hybrid vehicles are are coming down the line. Do you know anything you can share about manufacturers and timelines?

Were looking at 2015/2016. Probably from the Germans. That is all I can say at the moment.

We missed you last week!

Thank you. We buried my husband's Mother last week. Jeanne was a WAC in WWII and now rests with her husband, Cal, at Arlington Cemetery. Cal was at Omaha beach during WWII. She was interred 3 days before Veterans day.

Thank you.

My TV at home has a DVR which lets me pause live TV and even rewind the program. There are times when I am waiting for the traffic report and then get distracted to the point I miss hearing if they said something about my commute. I would love to be able to rewind the radio 30 seconds to replay the traffic report instead of having to wait 10 minutes for it to come on again. Any chance they will add such a feature to car radios in the near future (assuming it isn't already available).

It all depends on the onboard navigation system you get. I can always get the latest traffic situation on Honda, Nissan, and some GM systems.

Our family of 3 is looking to purchase a new car within the next 12 months. Interested in a small SUV for our urban lifestyle and trips visit family/vacations. I really like the CX-5 design. What else should we consider? Thanks!

I just posted on that above, but I will list them again. If anyone else has one they like please feel free to let me know.

I like Mazda, I like the CX-5. I would put that high on the list of a vehicle to buy. Here are some more

Subaru Forester (they have a crosstek that I haven't driven)

Mazda CX5

Chevy Equinox

Nissan Rogue

Volkswagen Tiguan

Buick Encore

Hyundai Tucson (Santa Fe if you want a little bigger)

Kia Sportage

Toyota RAV4

Ford escape

Landrover Evoque

Hi, I test drove the Hybrid and I do like it but it only has a one disc CD and I am always listening to books on CD in the car. Also the inventory of the Hybrid is limited in my area and no financing is available from Honda for the hybrid, So my question is what else should I look at? And someone suggested not going with a hybrid Accord but go with a regular Accord because the resale value of the hybrids is low and the cost difference between a regular Accord and a hybrid Accord will make up for the difference in mpg. Your thought please. Thanks

Resale values change with circumstances. What has a low resale value today could have a high one tomorrow. I'm betting that the excellent Honda Accord Hybrid will retain its value over the years, Consult the aftermarket for another onboard disc player.

I call them estate or tourings but they have morphed in CUVs and mini vans. Someone needs to reimagine the Olds Vistacruiser for 2017. They are very few real Suvs and station wagons left. Mercedes, Audi, VW and BMW all have station wagons but dont import all their models to North America. BMW has or used to have a M5 touring. Mercedes does go AMG with their tourings Clifton, VA

They are all station wagon masquerading under different marketing names, Clifton.

I have a 328i with the Start/Stop system. A lot of time I don't even notice when it "stops" and I actually like that I can feel it start up again. It takes a little getting used to, but now if it doesn't stop I find myself wondering why (usually it's because the car hasn't warmed up enough or I have too many things running like the heated seats, heated steering wheel & the heat blasting)

And you still get decent fuel economy with all those things running because start-stop saves fuel. My understanding is the EPA is going to start counting start-stop in their fuel savings which is why you will see this technology become more available on all cars.

Most folks use 7 seaters for trips and their hobbies and purchase them for this reason rather than short urban commutes. Audi I believe has hybrid Q5. Diesel is another option. You could get a 2013 Tahoe as a hybrid? Also remember that most 7 seaters have those last seats in vehicle crush zone in the rear. Do you want your kids seating there?

No, I don't want anyone sitting back there. But you have more of a rear crush zone in things GM. Diesel Tahoe? I have to check.

Lou Ann How many of the SUVS you mentioned can go across a muddy field and not get stuck??? Everything you listed is a dressed up station wagon. OP father has three options: Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk edition turbo 4 or V6 Range Rover Evoque and slightly larger and more expensive but fuel efficient Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel. OP dad needs to get skidplates as option for either Jeep. He needs tow hooks for what he needs a SUVS for. Only SUV you listed that might be able to get across the muddy field at the end of a tow rope is the Forester. Clifton, VA

Those are a different group of SUVs, not small suvs.

We're finally planning to put our beloved 2001 Toyota Solara out to pasture. Family of 4, mostly urban driving with a couple of long haul trips each year. I've been impressed by the Ford Fusion Hybrid and definitely want to test it. What would you suggest for a good direct comparison? I'm curious about the C-Max, but we have a RAV-4, so I was thinking more along the lines of a sedan. to complement it.

Certainly, the Honda Accord Hybrid, which I've fallen in love with. What a solid, easy-to-drive, reasonably fuel-efficient car!

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: I took two BMW driver training classes before my 325i arrived in 2002. The thing that has always stuck with me: drive for the conditions. It doesn't matter what the speed limit is. If it's prudent to drive only 30 mph in a 50 zone, don't drive faster. I never had winter tires before this car, but I'd never go without winter tires today. Couple other points: please clean off all windows and light, turn full headlights on when necessary, and leave much more room when driving in poor weather. (Sorry for your loss, Lou Ann.) Garey, Ottawa

No argument here. I heartily agree.

Thanks Garey. and thanks for the tips.

Was designed to compete with CRV, RAV4 and the Escape Lou Ann. They are about the same size. I drive across fields muddy, semi muddy, snow covered and dry on a weekly basis and sorry none of the vehicles you listed can do what the OP dad needs to do. There AWD systems cant handle mud. Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk edition also has tires ie All terrains which will help. Clifton, VA

okay, I'll put them up there and OP can decide.

I drove a Camaro as a rental car last week in San Francisco. Who buys the non-convertible version of these things? Terrible sight lines combined with mediocre mirrors make driving in the city a "fun" experience. Handling was decent; not great. Only straight-line performance was amusing. On the plus side, I loved the heads-up display and wished my current car had it.

Welcome to my side of the world! (I live in CA) San Francisco is probably one of the hardest cities to drive in because of all the hills and one-way streets.

I find most of the muscle cars that way, great for straight-line but not fun going into the apex.

heads-up display (HUD) is becoming more available and I agree with you, love it.

GM does have a habit of outfitting its vehicles with fat A and B pillars. But they've never created a driving problem for me. But other people, including my wife, have complained about them, as she is doing now about the A pillars in the Buick LaCrosse.

I agree with Clifton. Most of those small CUV's listed would probably get stuck in a muddy field. It seems the father is looking for an SUV with a low-range/locking 4x4 transfer case. Does any of those listed have that?

Try the RangeRover/Lan Rover Evoque, or a Jeep.

I also love the idea of a "radio dvr"-does Honda's system store the traffic situation so it can be retrieved?

Nissan, Honda, GM, Mercedes-Benz, to my knowledge, all have onboard navigation systems that note current traffic situations.

One other SUV for OP dad might be a Toyota 4runner.

Here is a video of the 2014 toyota 4runner in mild-offroading

My Tomtom GPS gets traffic information via radio signal. It can calculate delays and show where traffic is moving slow. But, it doesn't have the actual report where they can say that the right lane is closed at mile marker 83 or that a truck tipped over which will take longer to clear.

yes, ToTom is a good system. Best to check Consumer Reports for best onboard navigation systems, features and prices.

Thank you Warren and Matt for another great chat. Join us next Friday.

And remember

Never drive faster than your Angel can fly.

much love

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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