Real Wheels Live

Dec 06, 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

How was you Thanksgiving? Over Thanksgiving we were in Orlando, FL at the Festival of Speed. Yesterday I spent the day in Palm Springs, CA driving the Corvette Convertible, the LE1 and the SS sedan (not to be confused with the Camaro and SS Camaro, the SS is produced in Australia by GM's subsidiary, Holden)

You can see some of my pictures on facebook,

but I'll post some of the cool videos around Christmas time when you have extra time to sit and see some one-off and/or very expensive cars (I'm talking $1.6 million dollars!)

Let's chat about cars

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Any Black Friday car sales we should be rushing out to take advantage of today?

Sorry we weren't on the chat last Friday. I hope everyone had a lovely weekend.

From now to the new year (or whenever the 2013 cars sell out) you are going to see great deals.

One thing you should remember if you are trading in a car - there is something in the auto industry called conquest deal. That means that you are trading in another brand car for a new brand, i.e. you have a Toyota and you are buying a GM product. These trade-ins go to the heart of marketshare and all the manufacturers love that someone is trading out of a car and into their car. Your car is worth more as a trade-in.

Make sure to ask your dealer if there are any special deals because of that.

The latest crop of new cars includes many with CVT. The mileage increase is significant. What are the drawbacks in: Performance? Responsiveness? Long-term maintenance ?

It all depends on how you define "performance" and "esponsiveness." Some people complain of a "rubbery" feel in gear changes. Others say they feel less connected to gera changes. Others don't know the difference.

Warren,  what would be comparable to a new Toyota Camry in regards to quality/dependability - and that is lower priced? Thanks....

The Hyundai Sonata or Kia twin.

Since the forecast calls for the wintry mix on Sunday, it is time to think about driving in the snow. I grew up in Chicago where snow never seemed to impact things nearly as much as it does here. I have been trapped going 2mph on Fairfax County Parkway because of less than 1/2 inch of snow. Short of having everyone get a 4wd SUV, what should the typical driver do?

Lou Ann here:

This is from 2004 but the tips still apply for winter driving

Welcome to Washington where everything, it seems, gets stuck in a crisis. Buy real winter tires and drive reasonably free of problems. I recommend Bridgestone Blizzaks.

I bought a 2013 Escape, and didn't want to pay the extra grand for the parking assist package, which was the only way to get the backup camera. I have tried to look at getting one after market, but that voids the warranty, and from checking so far it doesn't look like there is any option to get one installed at the dealership. Any chance Ford is going to rethink this and make it possible for someone to get a camera after purchasing the vehicle? I am in complete agreement with you on the value of the camera, but apparently made the mistake of buying my car before 2014!

I'm with the GM folks right now and I asked them and the one thing they would be concerned with would be electrical so my assumption is that Ford would have the same issue. GM doesn't think it voids the warranty but they are checking for me now.

GM just got off the phone - they still don't think it would void the warranty but if you installed it incorrectly and you created the problem they might not honor that problem.

Thank you for caring so much about the children in our world. 2 children every week die because they are ran over.

It takes all of us looking out for each other.

May be slightly off topic, but we just moved to the area and Maryland's rigorous inspection revealed that we need new tires for a 2001 Chevy Tahoe. What kinds of sources (, Consumer Reports, etc.) do you suggest we look at to compare tires? We've got the Michelin LTX M/S2s now, and were thinking maybe the Firestone Destination LE2s or Yokohama Geolandars, if it matters. (We used to just go to our favorite shop, and let them tell us, so we're a bit adrift without a shop we trust up here, so recommendations on that welcome too!)

I would go to, which always sold methe right tires I need. Also,of course, Check with consumer reports. Also understand that "all season" tires really aren't--aren't necessarily the best for summer or winter driving.

Yesterday, I decided to go out and replace my wipers in advance of the possible weather. I checked a few websites to find out which blades I needed to buy and it seems that each website had a different recommendation. Some listed different sizes for the driver and passenger sides, others showed both being the same. Is it just the brand differences that some brands have more lengths/connector styles available than others?

It does seem that each car manufacturer has different blades. That is partly due to the design. Bosch showed us some wiper blades they were bringing out.

Watch the sensors react to the speed of the water on the windshield and just how long are those wiper blades?

Any chance for a VW Jetta Sportwagen to be offered in a TDI AWD next year?

Every chance. Vw has a big diesel push. More diesels coming from that source. The only question: Exactly, which ones?

Hi Warren, a few weeks ago, I think you mentioned the thick A-pillars in the Buick Lacrosse. I leased a fully loaded 2010 Lacrosse and just recently turned it back in. EVERYTHING about that car I loved, but it had huge A-pillars that created large blind spots on the left and right sides of the vehicle. Several times while turning from one street onto another, I nearly hit another car or a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Strangely, I didn't notice this hinderance while test-driving just before the purchase. I think the Lacrosse would sell in larger numbers if it weren't for this issue. Any thoughts from you or Lou Ann?

The new LaCrosse offers blind-side detection warning and a host of other electronic systems to reduce your chances of car-to-car, car-to-pedestrian, and backup accidents. GMinsists that those thick A-Pillars contribute mightily to the structural integrity of the car. Other manufacturers have a similar problem and are using similar "aautonomous driving" technologies to get around it.

Lou Ann here:

Warren is spot on. I didn't notice a blind spot in the Lacrosse like you're talking about and I just got out of it. We enjoyed the vehicle and do think it will do well.

Having lived in the Midwest for years and the Mid-Atlantic for years, the winter driving is just not comparable. It is relatively easy to drive in Midwest snows. Mid-Atlantic ice and sleet are far more problematic.

We are going to experience a storm this weekend in the Sierra Nevadas (California). We're not used to this type of weather and it's going to be interesting to see how people deal with it.

You are right, it is the ice and sleet. The same will happen here.

My Tacoma takes two different-sized washer blades. However, sometimes they are sold in a set, so it seems like they are being listed as just one size when they are not.

good to know. It's all about packaging.

Make sure you have windshield washer, and check the tank on vehicles regularly. Nice slow inputs from a start, while driving and when stopping. AWD, 4wd and traction control, stability, control and ABS are all subject to laws of physics. Once you exceed the traction limits, it's going to get fun and interesting. If you have never driven your vehicle in the snow, go out when there is no traffic and learn your vehicle. Read your owner's manual. BMW used to and may still recommend putting a 100lbs of sand in the trunk on its RWD vehicles. Finally, take your time. Clifton, VA who has run winter tires for more than 25 years and now has them on his Grand Cherokee.

I think I covered all those in the article Clifton but thank you.

Bosch makes some of the best wiper blades out there. Take a look at your wiper blades. You can measure them yourself. Are they the same size? Or you can just go to the dealer. If you are buying new blades, don't forget to pick windshield fluid Clifton, VA.

Agreed. Bosch blades are among the best.

Having had a few different ones in rental cars recently, there are also major differences between brands. One was horridly slow to accelerate, another was barely noticeable at all. If you're looking for the increased MPG, it's worth shopping around.

You're absolutely right, it depends on the manufacturer. Each manufacturer is getting better with each generation and it is about mpg.

Warren, I'm confused by your comment about feeling CVT gear changes. I'm used to snowmobile CVTs, where the engine pretty much stays at constant speed with the CVT constantly and smoothly adjusting in between. Don't automotive CVTs do the same?

Yes. But no reason to be confused. Simple truth: Alot of people who fancy themselves "driving enthusiasts" complain about the rubbery and disconnected feel of continuously variable transmissions. I happen to think that CVTs make perfect sense.

If it helps, our 10-year-old Murano has one of the earlier CVTs, and it's held up fine with regular maintenance. Mileage is okay, but just okay. Performance and responsiveness? There's a significant lag between putting your foot down and feeling the car move--enough so that you don't ever try to punch it through an maybe that's safety equipment in disguise.

Example given. Thank you.

My daughter has been pushing for a car down at College. She spins flags, so a hatchback seeems to be the way to go. I'm leaning towards a Honda Fit at the moment. Any others I should consider?

The Honda Fit is good, as is the Chevrolet Sonic, Hyundai Accen and Elantra, ant the Kia Forte, to name a few.

Warren, Considering either with 3rd row option. Found class action on V6 MB gas engines with failure of balance shaft. Anything to check on MB 3.0L CDI or Audi Q7 3.6L? Like leg room and MPG if CDI. Both AWD. Stay dry thanks.

I'd go with Audi Q7 TDd click on :recalls" anddI. Overall excellent quality and family friendly. Go to and "customer service bulletins" to find out if there are any problems you should be worried about.

Warren, Your article is form 2004 and there are many vehicles on the road that now have stability control, electronic traction control and AWD is more frequent. Snow and Ice are most difficult to drive on when the temps are between 28 to 34 degrees F. That's because a film of water develops on top of the ice. This is the tempature the ice is kept at for speed skating since it means a fast track. Snow and ice are a lot easier to drive on at 15 degrees than at 30 degrees. Also our area is not flat. Lots of folks think so who don't live here from watching network news. Also, VA, MD, and DC have no clue about keeping the roads safe in this area and really don't want to spend the money for something they may need 3-4x a year. Winter tire BTW also provide superior performance in the wet when temps drop below 45 degrees. Clifton, VA

I  have no idea of what form 2004 is, Clifton. And despite the increased availability of the partial atutonomous driving you enumerated. I remain convinced that the right tire for the right season is crucial to motoring safety.

Lou Ann here

I mentioned that the article was from 2004 Clifton, but some of those tips still apply and are some of the most important tips to consider when driving in snow and ice.

Good Morning! Gorgeous day here in DC, isn't it? Reading the comments/questions about CVTs prompts me to ask for your take on another issue. I have a 2011 Mustang 3.7 convertible that I ordered locally in fall of 2010. The car has 30k gentle miles. To use old terminology (yep, there's snow on my roof), the car has been a cream puff from the start. It has been serviced without fail by my Ford dealer in Gaithersburg - and I would recommend that dealership to anyone. My only complaint about the car - and there's tons of posts on the internet about this - is with the auto trans. It has developed a VERY hard second-to-first shift (e.g., when coming to a gentle stop), as well as a hesitation to make that same shift when trying to accelerate from a slow speed. It has gotten to the point that when I pull into a parking space I stop a foot or so out and wait a few seconds for the trans to downshift (with a clunk), before pulling all the way in. I've brought the car in to the dealer twice for this. I was told that the transmission is "adaptive" and it's because I tend to drive the car gently that it shifts as it does. They "re-set" it to factory specs, and it worked smoothly for a while. Now (for the 3rd time), the behavior is back. Again - LOTS of similar complaints on the Internet. What is your take? Can you check with the Ford brass? I do trust my dealer - I don't think I'm being given a run-around. And he insists that the hard shift is NOT detrimental to the trannie in the long run. Thanks for listening and giving any advice!

Most modern transmissions are "adaptive," which basically means they are computer enhanced andm thus, designed to match the driver's motoring style. I'd check with www.nhtsa. com and look for related customer service bulletins.My hunch is that you will find something there.

Don't forget to check out the Dodge Durango along with Q7. Clifton, VA

and the Buick Enclave and Hyundai Santa Fe.

Good day, Do either of you have any information on when Chevy might release more detailed information on the new Colorado, in particular, pricing? It's fun to build a 2015 model online, but Chevy's site doesn't give any pricing information. Also, do either you have any reliability information on the DuraMax diesel that will be offered in the Colorado in late 2015?

Talking to the GM folks right now -

In the fall the pricing will be released and there is no more info on the duramax. :(

I think the redone Colorado is slated for 2015 release, which means late soring 2014. It is notreally a new truck. It's globally engineered. Chevy has been selling the hings everywhere except the U.S. Duramax is a fine diesel, about as reliable as any other.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thanks to our steadfast producer, Matthew Monahan, and our wonderful aides de camp: Lou Ann Hammond, Victoria "Ria" Manglapus, and Michelle Dawson. Drive safely. Eat lunch.

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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