Real Wheels Live

Dec 09, 2011

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.

Thanks for your questions. There are already a lot in the que. Let's get started.

You can also congratulate Warren Brown. He will be receiving a lifetime achievement award on Sunday, January 8, 2012

Some time ago a reader submitted a question asking when you and your team would be updating your review of Lexus luxury cars. I am hearing so many great things about the LS460L, I am close to purchasing. I have two dear friends; one owns a 2007 LS460L and another a 2009. I watched the servicing and experienced the comfort, reliability and driving of both cars over time. They both have very good track records in all these categories. My other friends who own same year BMW and MB have more service issues than the LS. Of course the MS has the best ride and options, but for the money the LS comes out on top. Thanks for your response Lou. What are your thoughts Mr. Brown?

I had a dinner party last night and we were talking about the LS400 that came out in 1990. I owned a 1991 and now own a 1993 Lexus LS400. They are a wonderful car that I can still benchmark other cars against. 

The LS460L is superb. The one car I would like you to drive before you purchase it is the Hyundai Equus. I know Hyundai, but drive it and let me know. It goes beyond what you think of in a Hyundai.

You can also drive the GS450h. It's the hybrid version of the GS. I like the drive in that, or the GS 350 sport plus.

Warren, I have missed your column in the WP the past few weeks. When will you be back? Thanks

Missed you all, too. I'll be back this Sunday, Dec. 11. I've been rethinking ways to use that column to tell you not only about the vehicle in question, but the context in which it was conceived, what it says about the company and industry today.

Warren, I live in the city. My children are grown. I don't carry dogs or haul stuff to landfills. It's just me and freshman sweetheart, still going strong after 35 years. What's the best urban solution vehicle, by which I mean economical to drive, easy to park, and not filled with engineering solutions to problems I don't have, like needing to drive 75 mph across the country? I've got my eye on a Smart for 2, but my wife says that's a vanity project. True? Do I look at the Leaf? Or do I go "conventional" with the Honda Fit? Thanks.

Congratulations on 35 years of a love-filled life. My husband and I have been together for 12 years. Warren and Maryanne have beat both of us.

Purely urban commuter, you don't drive more than 75-100 miles everyday and you have a garage you can charge your vehicle? The leaf would be perfect for you. You would be part of the solution - part of the group that shows the rest of us what will be required of our electricity system to get off the dependence of oil.

Do you own your own home? If you wait till the Ford Focus EV comes out they have an agreement with Sunpower that if you buy an EV you can get 2.5 Kw of solar panels, installed with a monitoring system for $10,000 (that includes the federal tax rebate, but not the state). I believe I have the facts correct, but check with your Ford dealer.


Hi Mr. Brown, My husband and I ordered a 2012 Volt after reading your glowing review a few times. We needed to replace our 1996 Volvo 850R, which was a magnificent car for a long time, but was becoming a very expensive thing to maintain. The order was placed in August, we were told it would be February if all went well for delivery. And then it was November and our car was on its way to us. We picked it up November 18. So far, we have a little over 300 miles on the Volt, and even with two long drives to Baltimore, we're averaging 100+ mpg. And they are fun miles! What's weird is that Chevy has created the perfect vehicle for urbanites like us, but they seem unsure of what it is, where the best audience is located, and how to market it. We can drive around for 2 or 3 days between charges (barring trips to Baltimore), or we can come back from the road and plug her in for a few hours and be ready to roll again. It's so cool. Thanks for recommending the Volt. It's our first American made car in decades, and it sure feels better than the old ones. Looks pretty boss, as well.

Congratulatiopns on the purchase of your new Volt. I have faith in that car and the direction in which it ultimately will take us. The Volt is one of many beginnings in less reliance on oil, imported or otherwise. The car itself is way ahead of political and social thinking, and infrastructure. At the moment, it is the perfect urban car--short hops to store and such with the use of fossil fuels; gasoline support for onger rides. But we still have to work out a system where we aren't just trading one source of pollution for another--from mobile source to stationary source. That will come. It will take time. But it will take consumers such as yourself to get it going. I wish we had smarter politicians, which we don't. To many of them are following the bleeting of the sheep--give us everything, sacrifice nothing--instead  of following them.

Hello, I'm looking to replace my 2001 Civic with another Honda (I like my dealer) and I'm looking for something a little more comfortable than the Civic. I was looking at the Accord but it's very long and I have tight parking in the city. Do you think a 2011 CR-V would fit the bill? I think I can get a good deal on a 2011 CR-V since the 2012 has been delayed. Thanks.

You might be able to get a good deal on the 2011 CR-V, but once you see the new CR-V you're going to wish you had bought it. The redesign is far and away better than the old one.

This is the year of redesign for the small SUV. For Honda it only happens every 5 years. Mazda has a 5 coming out as well. The Ford Escape has been redesigned and looks a lot nicer.


Hi Warren, I hope you are enjoying the holiday season. I currently drive a coupe and am considering moving up to a small SUV or crossover vehicle. No kids, no big dogs... mainly for daily commute and occasional roadtrips to NC / SC (golf & family). I'm a short lady, and don't want to use a step or jump out of a vehicle like I'm parachuting from a plane! Does the GLK seem (size-wise) like a good bet?

The Mercedes-Benx Geländewagen Luxus Kompaktklasse (GLK) is a hunk of a machine. It will carry anything you need it to. I'm just not as happy with the feel when in the back seat.

If you're going to spend that kind of money look at Range Rover. In fact, look at the Evoque. It's squatty compared to a Range Rover, but the panoramic sunroof and the power hydraulic liftgate are new for Range Rover.

I want your feedback if you do try it out. Feel free to let me know here or email me at

Good morning. Thanks for taking my question. In September, we pre-ordered a car from a local dealer and outlined the terms of the agreement. One of the terms was .9% financing, available at the time. In November, we went back to the dealer to start the actual paperwork (as we thought the car would be delivered that week), and he said the .9% was no longer available. He said he'd get us the best rate he could once the car was actually delivered. I said that that was unfair - that the .9% was part of the deal when we agreed to pre-order the car with his dealership. He said it is out of his hands - that the interest rate is set by the company and is not dealership specific. What say you? Thanks.

Was all the paperwork signed? What manufacturer?


Not really a question but just a comment. I was totally against the ICC - too expensive for everyday travel, ruining the environment, unrealistic speed limit that was too strictly enforced. Anyway, I have now partaken of the Kool Aid and have been using the ICC daily (although at off-peak hours). I set my cruise control and just enjoy the ride without the hassle of lots of traffic. I've been watching my gasoline consumption and by using the ICC, not sitting in traffic (I go end to end on the ICC), and using the cruise control to maintain a steady, legal speed, I'm using less gas. Also getting to work earlier but there has to be a downside to everything I guess.

Comment welcome, understood and shared on the ICC  (Inter County Connector), Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.

The ICC is not the lemonade. The lemonade is being served up by politicians who are too timid, or too dishonest to level with the electorate: 1. Anything done to move more traffic, generated by community growth (population), is bound to disturb the environment. But the "greater good," in this case, is to accommodate more vehicles and support continued community and commercial growth. Environmental concerns remain secondary to the thinking of such projects. And someone (us) has to pay for them.

I'm looking at a Mercury Milan one is 2006 one is 2009. Both have around 50K miles. ('09:Avg.  Miles /yr 16k+. 06: 8600+ mi/yr). The O6 is loaded leather seats sunroof etc. 09 is base. Both clean. Does the 09 have more risk because of avg. Miles on it? Or the 06 as its 6 years old? Help thank you Read more:

The  Milan was never what many of us considered a great or good car, both for reasons of overall b uild quality, engineering, that sort of thing. So both, in my estimation, share similar "risks," except the risk of being stolen. The  09 should have some corrections/safety additions not available on the  06. Counter opinions are welcome

Our 2001 Toyota Celica has 198,000 miles (mostly highway). We don't drive in DC, only time we drive is if I have to go to a neighboring state for work once a month or so. Husband's parents want to sell us their 2003 Celica with 60K miles at a good price -- when do you know if a car is done? Our car has no problems, but I wonder if or when it's going to up and die.

Are the parents in a hurry to sell you the car?

This is what I tell everyone, with a little amendment because you're not buying from a dealership.

How much would your monthly payment be? Keep driving the 2001 Celica till it needs major work done on it. But start putting a couple hundred dollars away each month for the payment on the 2003 celica. If it lasts another six months you have 1,200 dollars to give the parents right away.

If you were buying from a dealer I would tell you to look at your credit rating now to see what your FICO score is. Your FICO score determines the rate of financing the dealer will charge you. If there are problems on your credit score the dealer will charge you a higher finance rate.

Don't go into debt till the last possible moment you have to, and then be as prepared as you can be.

Hi Warren, I'm in the market for a good used car. I recently put to rest a Camry with over 180K miles and I was looking to in the market for a newer used car. I have not been too enthusiatic with American cars but maybe willing to take another look. I was looking at a Avalon but keep finding high mileage used cars in the market. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Try the Buick Verano with Chocochino? interior color. The Buick Verano is the quietest car in the GM line-up. They put massive amounts of nose reduction material in it. The interior color makes all the difference. Black on Black didn't show the design. The Chocochino? color did.

If you need better gas mileage look at a GM car with e-assist.

If you get a Ford with eco-boost it will give you great horsepower with great mpg. The Ford Fusion is a good car to look at as well. 


Hi Warren, A while back I wrote about whether our FJ Cruiser was going to be suitable for the new addition to the family, and you wisely told me, "no". Correct you were, my friend. We're looking to replace it with one of the following: GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Subaru Tribeca. Any thoughts or advice again would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

To save money, I'd go with the Chevrolet version of the well-designed (especially for family use) Acadia. The Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia essentially share the same platform, as well as the more luxurious Buick Enclave.  Question: Do you really need eight seats? If, not, go with the Honda Pilot, which makes more economical sense (in terms of point of sale costs) than the more expensive, similar, not necessarily better, Acura MDX.

Warren, Last week I test drove a 3 series x-drive and loved it. Then I saw your chat that said that you thought "it can be annoying to deal with in stop-go-stop-go-nowhere city traffic." Can you clarify your thoughts? Thanks!

"Annoying" as in most manual transmission cars are annoying (to me, at least) in stop-and-go congested city traffic--especially the kind of traffice where fellow drivers are not paying the least bit of attention to what they are doing. In such situations, I'd rather have a good automatic to the brainwork..and the shift work.

The deal was signed on a worksheet, so to speak. It more of an offer type of worksheet rather an an official document. However, it did list the cost of the car, the terms, and the financing, so to me, it should be honored. Subaru is the dealer. It also listed, for instance, that we would get 2 year, 24K free maintenance included in the deal. Then, this same night where we were told no-can-do for the .9%, they said that that 2 year/24K maintenance was also unavailable, so they'd give us another year of warranty (up to 3year/60K) instead.

I am sending this over to the Subaru PR people to answer for me. Email me at and put washingtonpost chat line in the subject line. I will find out for you.

Probably by lawyer standards It wasn't an official document if it wasn't signed. I would tell you I wouldn't give the company my business. If it had been signed and you were unhappy they would have made sure you stood by your contract.

But let's see what can happen. Email me.

Attach your document. I am already in contact with them and they asked for the document.

Warren's two bits: You have NO deal on a worksheet. Worksheets are mere works of conjecture--the proposed cost of the vehicle, what you think you can pay, that sort of thing. There is NOTHING final on a worksheet. That's the prospective agreement betrween the salesperson and buyer--always, until you sign an actual sales's agreement replet with agreed-upon loan amount, APR, fees, et cetera.

I would just like to share my experience with my new Ford Focus. I have about 700 miles on now. It is an amazing car for the price. I got SYNC, Heated seats and automatic for under 20K. I was a little nervous given the reviews of the dual clutch auto but it seems to have broken in and feels much smoother. The pep is enough for me. The interior feels nice and much better than economy car. So far I love it. I would recommend it to anyone looking for one.

Fair enough. Points well-taken. Thank you for writing. Civil opposing voices are welcome.

I think the guest was asking about the little GLK crossover, not the German military G-Wagon. I don't need a crossover but the GLK has very sweet lines - the hood appears to be low and long compared to the rest of the vehicle, making it a bit of a throwback. The GLK is a better choice for urban living than the M or G-class.

Thanks for the heads-up. You are right!  Smaller, sweet lines. Bigger than the Lexus. The GLK crossover competes with Infiniti EX35, BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Acura RDX.

Drives like a car, but sit in the back before you buy it. If you're a tall person with long legs you may not fit. Look to the Audi Q5 or Acura RDX for a fun ride and lots of room.

Also look at fuel economy.

Is the new Toyota/Subaru going to be offered as a convertible in the future? Herndon

No word yet.

Now that I have a new and much longer commute for work, I'm considering trading my Infiniti M35 for a commuter car with a diesel engine (probably a Jetta). But I'm wondering if it's worth it given the price of diesel fuel today. Is it a good decision or should I go with a regular gas commuter car (probably a Jetta)? Thanks in advance for the advice!

If you want a good commuter car, 30-percent more efficient than gasoline models, go with the Jetta. As for the higher price of diesel, that's more a political thing than it is economical, politicians going along with the oil industry stateside to charge a higher price for the least efficient, but more widely consumed gasoline fuel; as opposed to encouraging fuel conservation by putting the lower tax on the more efficient, but less-widely consumed diesel product.  Raise your political voices. We need to correct this.

We have a 2005 Hyundai Elantra that we just bought last year for our son. It is falling apart. It needs several major repairs and I do not feel safe allowing my son to drive it anymore. The repairs may outweigh the cost/value of the car. We don't know what to do - the repairs are timing belts, brakes, wheel axle, etc. We obviously made a bad choice in this used car. What to do?

I have looked at this question for the full hour in disbelief that an Elantra could be falling apart so quickly. I hate it when people don't take care of their cars till they are going to sell them and then you get stuck with a car that leaves a bad taste for that manufacturer in your wallet.

There is no easy answer. I am assuming you bought it from a private individual where you have no recourse? If so, the only option is to buy another car. You can't put your son's life in danger. It's just not worth it.

You can replace a piece of metal, you can't replace your Son.

Recently had my g totaled. Lightweight female, so passenger airbag sensor issue on LOTS of cars including Infiniti. :( Dr recommends BMW or MB midsize with blind spot monitor, back up camera, power lift gate if SUV. Avoid run flats & maybe consider Land Rover. Debating '11 ML350 vs '12 redesign. Can't stand under seat box on E class, & wish GLK had BSM because visibility is great. Thoughts?

I can't remember if the Land Rover Evoque has BSM but it does have a power liftgate and it is smaller, more your size. Very airing feel, lots of sunroof, back up camera

Try that and let me know. We'll narrow it down with you :)

Any truth to this rumor? Would this mean Chevy would offer a rear-wheel drive car?

I will be with Chevy next week and will ask.

Hello! It's last week and I just finished reading the transcript from your Q&A today. I had to ask a question based on your comments about the Buick Enclave. My mom has been very interested in that as a replacement to her Volvo XC90. She happened to get a Chevy Traverse as a service loaner a couple of weeks ago (step-sister of the Enclave, right?). It would not fit in her garage. You mentioned that the Enclave is designed to fit in garages. Is it that different from the Traverse that it would fit, or do some people have caverns for garages? For the record, my mom's garage is fairly large - the house was just built 5 years ago, so I assume the builders had SUVs in mind.

The wheelbase is the same for both, but the Traverse is longer. The length is 205. versus 201.8 on the Enclave.


Hi, Warren. Thanks for your input. This worksheet was completed to outline the terms involved in preordering the car (2012 Subaru Impreza 5 door). I would not have preordered a car without having the terms of the agreement set out in advance. Would it be normal to preorder (and thus commit myself to purchasing) a car without some sort of agreement? Thanks!

No, but it may not be legally binding. We'll see what we can do. I've got your email.

Congrats! Who is giving you the award?

Thank, you. Decisive Magazine, the nation's leading multicultural magazine on matters cars and other retail products, where I loosely serve as senior editor (and have not a thing to do with awards), is giving me the award. I am grateful, honored, and thoughtful:

This is my THIRD Lifetime award, including one from The Washington Automotive Press Association in 2001, Road and Travel Magazine in 2007, and now this one from Decisive. A similar honor, The Eugene Meyer Award, was given to me in 2009 by The Washington Post.

What does it all mean? That I have to work harder, think about this business more deeply, try to explain it to you all better, listen better.

Legacy is a matter of loving and having invested yourself in your work and sharing the proceeds of that love and  investment as well and as wisely as you can--no matter how manylifetimes you are given. I am grateful for Decisive's recognition and will do my best to deserve it.

Than you all for joining us today. Thanks to you, Dominique Vu, for your patience and skill in putting together another fine production. Thank you, Lou Ann Hammond, for you sheer genius and willingness to help make Real Wheels and even better chat. And thank you, Ria Manglapus, for keeping me on track. By the way, Ria, airport duty Dec. 12 for quick Detroit trip? Schedule coming. I promise. Meanwhile, eat lunch.

For the rest of you, please join us again next week.

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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