Real Wheels Live

Nov 16, 2012

Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown will be joined by Lou Ann Hammond to discuss the auto industry. Plus, they'll give purchase advice to readers.

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Look for sales of super-luxury cars--Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Maserati--to take a dip in 2012 and, probably, 2013. The reason is global economic slowdown, especially in Europe and China. The superluxes are likely to concentrate on Singapore and the Middle East (think Dubai, assuming I have my geography right) to make up the difference. Meanwhile, North American sales will continue chugging uphill, largely thanks to vehicle replacement buys and lots of attractive, fresh, new, affordable and fuel efficient products. Possible roadblock: Congress, the White Hous, and debt reduction negotiations. If they go badly, the U.S. economy and car sales will follow. Let's talk.

Good Morning Warren and friends,

As the weather changes, it's harder to go out to your car in the morning and sit in a cold seat and wait for the car to heat up. How many of you have remote start-up? I had the Ford Focus Electric vehicle and it can use remote start-up while the vehicle is still plugged into the grid.

I drove a Porsche Boxster this week to my dentist. My dentist, Dr. Jones,  is a practical guy, kind of looks like an old hippy, but underneath loves cars. He kind of smirked at me when he saw the Porsche, in a that's way too expensive and I couldn't even afford the gas for it kind of way. I showed him the sticker on the windshield and his eyes widened, "that Porsche gets more miles per gallon than the car I'm driving!"

Let's chat about cars.

A couple weeks ago you mentioned that Fiat is looking into doing a clear side panel to get rid of the blind spot in the car. Do you know what time frame they're looking at to get that done? Thanks!

In one to two model years. Fiat showed an example of see-through A-pillars at the Paris Auto Show--pillars with large ovalesque openings in the middle. We'll see how this develops.

So, which would you guys pick? M3 convertible or Porsche Boxster S convertible? Both with real manuals.

I wish I had your problems! :) That's like asking me which diamond I want.

How tall are you? The taller you are, the harder it is to get in and out of a Porsche.

It really comes down to a subjective point on this: which one do you like the looks of more? Which one fits your body better.

They're both beautiful cars.

The M3. BMW is less interested in testing one's manhood with its "real manuals." Porsche has a more operatic Teutonic view--breaastplate manhood, unneccessarily hard--of how a manual should work.

I agree with most of what Jim Motavalli has written. They're common sense.

If you are a regular to this chat line you know that I always advise people to know their credit scores and to have a sense of what they can pay before they start shopping.

If you are in California be careful when you buy a car if you think you are going to get the $7,500 tax credit. The credits are going fast according to Anton at


Mr Brown, Please help us settle this discussion. My wife wants us to buy a Acura MDX (shes likes it). We need a SUV with 3rd row seat capable of sitting adults when needed (this might be a daily necessity when our inlaws stay with us for extended periods of time). We do not want to buy a full size suv and would prefer to stay in the mid size range. I do not like the fact that the MDX is an old body style, with premium gas requirements and the 3rd row not being very functional. What options are we to look at other than the MDX? Thanks

First, the MDX and Honda Pilot essentially are the same vehicles, with the Pilot listing a lower price. Second, most "seven passenger" vehicles usually aren't, meaning the rearmost seats often are only suitable for small children. Third, I've found that the best 7-8-passenger vehicles often come from the domestics--Ford Flex, Dodge Journey, Buick Enclave are examples. Fourth, most of us don't need real SUVs for urban-suburban driving. Shop in the wagon/crossover utility vehicle segment.

Have you had a chance to drive this yet? Not the gas guzzler it used to be. I'll be in the market soon for a family hauler with a third row of seats/storage. How does the Pathfinder stack up to the GMC line, the Durango and the Explorer? Thanks!

I haven't driven the ne Pathfinder. Hoping to do so, soon. What about you, L0ou Anne?

Hi Warren & Lou Ann, it seems that auto companies are looking for advantages wherever possible and one area that's been emphasized is car design. There are some great car designs at all levels and I'm wondering if you both believe we are experiencing a boon in this area? Thoughts?


For example, People tell me the Volt costs too much. I say it doesn't, I say the design isn't in the price point people are willing to buy. If the Volt had sleek lines, like the side panels on a Hyundai Sonata, they would have sold more.  I have long loved the look of a Maserati or a Jaguar and have been surprised how that look hasn't trickled down. If you can trickle down expensive technology into lower end cars, why not design? I think you're seeing that first with the Korean cars.

But they also have new challenges - Car designers are also being asked to design for aerodynamics and for the new pedestrian law. Have you seen cars that look like they have a snub nose? Those cars are meeting a law that requires a car to make it safer for a pedestrian when they are hit by the front of a car. 

great question.

Yes!!! Which is why, I think, Suzuki is leaving the U.S. market  and Mitsubishi is struggling to stay. Both have lackluster exterior designs--especially less-than-appealing interiors. Great engineering. I love the Mitsu MiVec V-6, for example. But lousy design. Design rules in today's market. Witness Hyundai's resurgence.

Warren, Thanx for your sage advice as always. Wondering if you have driven the Ford Focus ST and have any thoughts on whether the ride and handling are worth the price over the regular Focus. It's on my list of potential new cars for next year. Any new hot hatches heading our way in the next year? Will Honda be reinstating a Civic hatch? My present car is an 2002 Civic Si hatch and before that a 1992 Acura Integra GS-R. Thanks.

Put it high on your list. Excellent design inside and out. Tight body construction. Good-Excellent on-road performance, with wonderfully good handling. I had a short spin, too short. Hey, Ford, I really need this one for a full week, or two.

Mr. Brown: Please compare 2 vehicles for me, the Lexus 300H and the Avalon gas/electric - both with all options - thanks.

Both are good cars, especially the 2013 models. Both are made by Toyota, Lexus being their luxury side of the equation.

I own a 1993 Lexus LS400,  but the Avalon I drove was as comfy as my old Lexus and I can't say that about all cars, or about all Toyotas.

It is a toss-up between luxury items you want on a car.

Here are a couple of reviews for you

Toyota Avalon


I have been driving since 1975 and if you properly adjust your seating position and mirrors there are no blindspots. You just need to spend a little time to get it right. It's easy these days with mirrors that adjust electronically. I still remember the good ole days when you needed to bring a friend along for the passenger side mirror. Heck I am old enough to remember when a passenger sideview mirror was not required. And now we have the gov't wanting to mandate blindspot monitoring and active cruise control etc. Come on. Stop texting and start paying attention. The problem is with all this nanny state electronic driving aids more and more of the the worst drivers will survive and drive. As a result they make the roads less safe! Clifton, VA

I've been driving since 1967. There are blind spots. Yes, there are many things you could and should do to mitigate their existence. But fact, A pillars are fat, A pillars, which often obstruct view. As for new blind-spot warning and lane-departure warning devices, I think those technologies should be mandated by the government. They save lives. They reduce vehicle property damage. The government has an obligation to play an active role in vehicle and traffic safety.

"Government" isn't a bad word or a bad thing. Ask the East Coast victims of Hurricane Sandy, or the Gulf Coast victims of numerous other storms, or the Moms and Pops shopping for safe milk for their families. I support good government. And a good government is one that recognizes emerging automotive technologies that saves lives.

What would be a good replacement for a Honda Fit? I would like something similar in size. Manual transmission, too! Thanks!

Check out the new Elantra GT.

Opinions on the new Nissan Pathfinder? Loving the redesigned body style. Don't necessarily need the third row but I mostly buy cars for their looks anyway.

And we thank you for those opinions. Enjoy.

Look at the Ford Flex. I'm not sure but I think the Buick Enclave has 3 rows.

Oh, and the Hyundai Sanata Fe is coming out with a 3 row version.

I bought a 2011 Elantra in May of 2011. Can you explain the MPG issue and how exactly do I get that money from Hyundai? BTW, love my Elantra!!!

As the price of gas goes up people are becoming more aware of the miles per gallon in their vehicle. The EPA sticker is an estimate of the miles per gallon you will get if you drive exactly the same way as the EPA tests their cars, which no one does. But Hyundai got sued because, according to their press release on their website, "Procedural errors at the automakers’ joint testing operations in Korea led to incorrect fuel economy ratings for select vehicle lines. As part of Hyundai/Kia’s corrective actions, the fuel economy ratings for vehicles currently in showrooms are being voluntarily relabeled. With these changes, the 2012 Hyundai/Kia fleet fuel economy level is reduced by an average of 3 percent – from 27 to 26 MPG."

The money is less about the mpg you will not get, since it's an estimate. The money is to offset any money you might lose when you resell your vehicle.

I appreciate that you still love your Elantra and you probably get great mpg, but you are entitled to the money.

You can get an estimate online at you will then need to go to your dealer to finish the paperwork. 


I enjoy the chats each week. I'm interested in buying the GMC Terrain Denali 4 cylinder. Have you had the chance to test drive it yet? What's your opinions on it?

Yes. You get excellent body construction, lots of style inside and out, every conceivable access for electronic infotainment, but reduced power for pulling trailers and carrying loads. Power with the inline four-cylinder, 2.4-liter gasoline engine (182 hp, 172 ft.lbs.) is more than sufficient for getting around town and running the highway. The real payoff here is decent fuel economy--22 mpg city/32mpg highway. I love this one. If you want more power, get the Terrain Denali equippe d with the optional 3-liter V-6.

Warren, last week you responded to a question about a drop in the mileage in a new Camry and stated that mileage is negatively affected by the use of power-driven appliances - and you specifically named lights. For safety purposes, I've driven with my headlights on for years no matter what time of day it is. Because I do this, am I also affecting my mileage on my 2005 Ford Mustang or any other car I regularly might drive?

Yes, you are affecting mileage. But life is a matter of constant tradeoffs. If you want to enhance life's protection, drive with headlamps on day and night. You can always buy more fuel.

Other possible roadblock: the real jobs and GDP numbers are out, somehow miraculously being "corrected" after the election. Nobody has any money unless they work for the federal government, and nobody dares take on a long-term obligation in year 5 of the longest recession we'll ever see. The "new normal" is putting tires, belts, and hoses on a 10-year-old car that we bought back when we thought we were rich.

And in California we will have less money because our taxes are going to go up. It's easier than living within their budget, which is what all of us have to do.

The auto industry is coming back, however, and that is helping the industry. The sales of cars keep going up, slowly. Chrysler just announced they were adding jobs.

There were too many people that used their houses like ATM cards. We're paying for that.

The only good thing I can tell you is that government jobs haven't increased lately. Keep your car as long as you can, pay off all your bills.

Hi Lou Ann, I recently purchased a 2013 Kia Optima EX, which I love. However, I noticed that the remote doesn't include a remote start for the engine and when I asked the dealer they said it can't be added. Is there anyone I can contact at the corporate level to get more assistance?

Since most people have today off I'm going to have to get back to you on this one. I have sent an email to Kia asking them. Email me lou at and I'll get it for you.

I love 4 wd cars and suvs. I don't think I would go back to fwd or rwd again. I have not found an equal fwd or rwd to 4wd. What economical to run 4 wd cars and suvs are going to come out in next few years-(please not subaru, had real bad experiences with forester and legacy)? Q3 out in usa? X1 is out now. 2014 A3-new platform? What else? What else?

There are no true 4WD vehicles that have comparable fuel economy with AWD (power shifting to all wheels on an as-needed basis) or two-wheel-drive. You can find true 4WD in the Jeep, Dodge and GMC lines (I think). But you are not likely to find much that pleases you on fuel economy in that bunch.

My growing family will require a larger vehicle in the near future. I am leaning towards a used Mazda CX9. I want to stay around 25K for the purchase. I live in DC so the weather is not a big issue and the farthest I will take this off road is a dirt parking lot. What other models should I be considering?

First, you are leaning in the right direction with the CX9. Also consider the Ford Flex and Edge, Chevy Traverse, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Dodge Journey, BMW X5, Hyundai Santa Fe.

Hi folks, I was at a car comparison website and saw that they had listed "2013 Mazda3 Diesel - coming soon!" Is this true? And if so, when? Also, do you know if VW has plans to have a diesel version of their minivan, and if so, when? Thanks!

soon. of course Mazda won't tell you anything about future product, but I would bet they're announcing something at either the LA auto show (nov. 28th) or the detroit auto show (in jan). Porsche is also announcing more diesel variants. And if VW had its way they would have a diesel variant for every car.

Did the chatter from Clifton really say he wanted more bad drivers to die in car accidents?!

That's what that attitude amounts to, even if he didn't exactly say it that way. Clifton knows that I have long crusaded against the "driving enthusiast" mentality, which relegates all but the best drivers (supposedly them) to a "don't drive" status. It's a silly mindset, I think. Currently, according to the Automotive News Data Center, there are 1.7 billion vehicles--that's billion with a b--on the world's roads. The drivers of all of those vehicles aren't all "enthusiasts." Technologies that keep them and the rest of us safe on the road are welcome and encouraged here.

"The real payoff here is decent fuel economy--22 mpg city/32mpg highway."  That 32 MPG highway is a bogus stat. Chevy/GMC should be hit with the same fine that Hyundai got, because I couldn't get 32 MPG in my 2012 Terrain going downhill. When you see a 10 MPH difference between city and highway numbers (except for hybrids). Run, don't walk, away!

(I know you meant mpg, not mph)

Do you have a lot of stuff you haul around? People throw junk in their cars, especially the bigger ones, and then they expect to get the same mpg as EPA says they should.

My husband has a homebuilt airplane. He has stripped everything he can out of the plane to make it lighter and more nimble to fly. Car companies are doing everything they can to make a car lighter and more aerodynamic, but then people stuff the car with stuff and don't know why they can't get the epa mpg.


I own a 2012 Sonata that has a sympathetic vibration between 1800 and 2000 RPMs. I've brought it to 2 dealers for warranty repairs for this and, while they heard the noise, they can't find the source. One mechanic tried to blame it on the direct injection, but a friend has the same model and doesn't have the vibration. What should be my next steps in getting this fixed?

Once again, everyone is on vacation so I won't be able to get an answer today, but email me at lou at

Car companies take these complaints seriously. A friend of mine that owns her 3rd lexus complained and I sent it along and she is getting help right now.

The car companies are interested in your customer satisfaction. They know they best way to get a new customer is through an old customer. Email me, I'll try to help.

Go to the dealer and complain. Why? Because the dealership might've received a service bulletin from Hyundai directing the dealership to repair for free or at reduced cost any customer coming in with your complaint. Also, it is in the dealership's best interest to make you happy, assuming the dealer wants to sell you another Hyundai.

So, is this version of the Boxster worthy of its Porsche bloodline or does it still cause Porsche purists to shrivel their noses?

Porsche "purists" are much like the Philistine's of old. They shrivel their noses at anything they consider impure, whether it is or isn't. If you want a Porsche Boxster, buy one. It's a good ride. And don't worry about what the "purists" think. You are paying for the car. They aren't.

My neighbor, Eric, has a Porsche Carrera ( a littler older). The minute I stated the Boxster up I could feel him and his boys stop what they were doing and look over. A smile came to my face. I languised in the moment as I drove by, stopping, rolling down my window. You could see the lust in his eyes. He looked inside and was impressed with what they had done. He said he still liked his carrera better, but...

Porsche's are hard to get in and out of, but they are worth it. The feel, the drive, the design, just beautiful.

I can't tell you if it is of old, but it makes me feel young and new.

Leaving unattended vehicles idling is illegal in many places and can be dangerous. This may account for the limited availability of remote start options or the unwillingness of a dealer to install it.

Good point. Thanks.

We thank all of you for chatting with us today. Let's do it again next week. Thanks to the lovely, wonderfoul Lou Ann Hammond for all of her contributions. Thanks to the genius Dominique Vu for another fine production. And, as always, thanks to the ever faithful and gloriouslycompetent Ria Manglapus for keeping the cars moving. Eat lunch. Enjoy the weekend.


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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