I know there are plenty of people out there that look at cars simply as a means of transportation. It’s how they get from point A to point B. It’s how they haul their kids to soccer practice. It’s what houses them during their daily commute. It’s a crumb collector for the kids, dogs, husband, etc.
But cars can be so much more. I know there are plenty of you that take pride in driving your car “til the wheels fall off” (although you might want to rethink that strategy) but I don’t think you can deny the allure, appeal, and, dare I say, smell of a new car.
Every two years, I get a chance to indulge in that new car smell as an attendee of Heels & Wheels, an event designed exclusively for women in automotive media. It’s a road rally of some of the best new cars out there and despite the name, heels are NOT required.
This year, we were given a full day and a half to experience 21 cars. And I barely scratched the surface with 13. I limited my time to under 30 minutes in each vehicle so I only got a quick taste of each. As for the rest, I’ll explain why I didn’t or couldn’t get behind the wheel and I’ll also give you my 30 minute take on each vehicle I drove.
As always, if you have more questions or want to know more about one of these vehicles, leave me a comment as I can probably at least steer you in the right direction!
If you’re not hauling kids or you have a small family or you’re an empty nester or you’re looking for your first car (wow, that’s a broad range), chances are you enjoy a good sedan. It’s usually comfortable and it’s lower to the road so it provides a different driving experience than every SUV on the road. These cars are for you.
2019 VW JETTA GLI AUTOBAHN
30 MINUTE TAKE: This is the first car I drove and set the bar pretty high. It has a 2.0-liter turbocharged and
direct injection 4-cylinder EA888 TSI® Engine. That matters because that’s the performance engine you’ll find in the popular VW Golf GTI (my husband’s car!). You want German engineering and performance at a totally affordable price tag, you’ve just met your match. MSRP as pictured: $30,890
2019 CIVIC TOURING COUPE CVT
30 MINUTE TAKE: Let’s be honest. This car isn’t for me. It’s for, shall we say, a younger set. And I can see why. It starts at just over $20k but you can get it pretty tricked out (do people still say that?) to make sure you get noticed. Example: Take a look at this shade of Tonic Yellow Pearl aka you favorite shade of Gatorade. And it’s fun to drive with its 4-cylinder turbo engine. MSRP as pictured: $26,850
2019 MAZDA 3 SEDAN
30 MINUTE TAKE: I love pretty much everything Mazda does so I’ll readily admit that I’m biased. When I saw the new Mazda3 at the DC Auto Show, I knew I wanted to get behind the wheel. But I only took it for a quick spin because this is one I’d like to get to know more with a full review. MSRP as pictured: $30,930
2019 NISSAN ALTIMA SL AWD
30 MINUTE TAKE: I’m kind of kicking myself because I didn’t take any additional photos of the Nissan Altima. BUT… I have a good excuse. They created a really fun concept called The Organized Car so instead of photographing it, I did my first YouTube Live with my driving partner, Amelia. from Motorhead Mama. MSRP as pictured: $31,190
A New Kind of SUV
Let’s switch gears now (pun kind of intended) and talk about my thang. It’s SUVs. I’ve loved them since the first time I drove our 1978 Jeep Cherokee Chief. Back when SUVs were basically trucks with a built-in cab. But don’t worry, I still fully appreciate how far we’ve come and how SUVs are really just comfy cars with a lot of cargo space. Here are some new SUVs that might have you rethinking the category.
2019 HYUNDAI KONA
30 MINUTE TAKE: Gee, your SUV looks kind of small. This is part of the new subcompact segment and it’s HOT, as is this car. Named the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year, it’s cute, comes in fun colors, and is pretty spacious on the inside. It’s a zippy little car that comes in an EV as well. MSRP as pictured: approximately
2019 MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER PHEV
30 MINUTE TAKE: I drove a Mitsubishi Outlander for a week. And, if I’m being honest, I was less than impressed. So I admittedly shied away from this vehicle. But when I saw it wasn’t getting much love, I jumped behind the wheel to take it for a spin. I was pleasantly surprised not only with the interior but with the performance of the engine in the plug-in hybrid. The biggest advantage to Mitsubishi? You get a lot of car for the money. MSRP as pictured: $35,795 (plus federal and state tax rebates!)
2019 LEXUS UX 250h
30 MINUTE TAKE: Look familiar? I told you that subcompact segment is hot. UX actually stands for Urban Explorer and you won’t find this vehicle off roading. But it’s perfect for its segment. It’s a hybrid which means it has great fuel economy and is zippy on the road. MSRP as pictured: $34,000 (starting price)
2019 CADILLAC XT4
30 MINUTE TAKE: If I had to name the car I was must surprised and impressed with, it would probably be this one. From the moment I saw it on the car show floor earlier this year, I was attracted to the hints of Volvo. This is a fun, modern take on Cadillac – definitely not an old man’s car. And it starts at just $34k. MSRP as pictured: $48,645
Performance on Steroids
It’s time to take it up a notch. Maybe you’re stuck in your suburban life and driving a “regular” car with a performance boost makes you feel a little more alive. Or maybe you’ve inherited well and you’re ready to drop from F YOU money. These are some fun rides that both exhilarated me and scared the sh*t out of me.
2019 DODGE DURANGO SRT
30 MINUTE TAKE: Dodge makes what I call “dude cars.” It’s for men who feel trapped in their ordinary lives and need a car to make up for that. But guess what? Moms can rock the performance SUV just as easily. But you won’t fly under the radar with these racing stripes. And you probably won’t want to. It’s got a 392-cubic-inch HEMI® V-8 making it America’s fastest, most powerful and most capable three-row SUV. With 475 hp, you can go 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds. You’ll never be late for soccer practice again! MSRP as pictured: $78,535
2019 JAGUAR F-PACE SVR
30 MINUTE TAKE: I’ve made no secret of my love of the Jaguar F-Pace. It’s a sports car trapped in a SUV body. But when you add in a 5.0-liter Supercharged V8 gasoline giving it 550 hp and slap on the SVR badge, it’s a whole different thing. It’s totally sick. Or phat. Or lit. Whatever it is the kids are saying these days, that’s what this is. To ride in it, frightening. To drive it, DIVINE! MSRP as pictured: $79,990
2019 ASTON MARTIN DBS SUPERLEGGERA
30 MINUTE TAKE: This is the big one. The one I could let get away. At the last Heels & Wheels, I didn’t get a chance to drive the Aston Martin DB11 on drive day and had to settle for a quick loop around the block in downtown Portland. It was a little different to open this up on the California PCH. With 715 hp, it’s a bit ridiculous, in the best kind of way. And fun fact? Toyota manufactures more cars in a week that Aston Martin has made in over 100 years. Everything is made by hand which is why if you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it. MSRP as pictured: $308,081 (with fuel tax)
Oldies But Goodies
This year was a little different because we had a chance to drive some totally different cars courtesy of Hagerty’s new DriveShare program, which allows you to rent classic cars. Looking at them is one thing. Driving them is a whole different experience.
1966 Ford Mustang Convertible
30 MINUTE TAKE: SO WEIRD! I’ve never driven a classic car. I mean, I have but it wasn’t considered classic at the time! You really don’t realize how far driving has come until you get behind the wheel of a 50 year old car. While it wouldn’t pass the crash tests of today, this car will turn heads even in California where everyone seemingly has a cool car. It’s been modified so that you do have shoulder belts but the driving experience is totally different. Also, be sure to get your workout in before using the manual steering!
1974 Ford Bronco
30 MINUTE TAKE: Remember when cars had quirks? It wasn’t a warranty issue. It was just something that you knew about your car. You had workarounds. And this Ford Bronco is no different. This was once my dream car and maybe still is. Although I might want the updated redesign that Ford keeps promising us.
What I Didn’t Drive (and Why)
With limited time, I had to make the hard decisions. Which cars would get shunned by me. And it wasn’t easy.
Sometimes the cars were just never available in the lot or sometimes I felt like I had a working knowledge of the vehicle which is why I put it into the “if I have time” category.
2019 GMC SIERRA DENALI – This one has an amazing liftgate but it went lower down on my list because I spent an entire week in the GMC Sierra Denali. It’s a solid and luxurious truck!
2019 BUICK ENCLAVE AVENIR – For those of you not in the know, Enclave is the largest SUV from Buick and Avenir is the highest trim level (like Denali is for GMC). I simply ran out of time with this one. You can read about my week in the Buick Lacrosse though!
2019 INFINITI Q60 RED SPORT 400 – With 400 hp, why wouldn’t I want to drive this one? I ran out of time. But I was disappointed because this sports the new 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, named one of the best engines of the year.
2019 TOYOTA RAV4 Hybrid – This one was a no-brainer. I intentionally skipped this one because I have one sitting in my driveway right now. I’m actually spending a whole week in it!
2019 CHRYSLER PACIFICA HYBRID – We all know I’m not a minivan person. But we all know how much I love the Chrysler Pacifica. And I did get to drive the hybrid at the last Heels & Wheels so this one went lower down on the list.
2020 RANGE ROVER EVOQUE R-DYNAMIC HSE – I really wanted to drive this one too but having driven the Evoque convertible at the last Heels & Wheels, I had to push this one a little lower on my list as well.
2019 CHEVROLET CORVETTE ZR1 – I’m calling this the one that got away. As you can imagine, this was one of the more popular vehicles at the event. Truth be told, I’m often intimidated by super cars (this has 755 hp). So it came down to the wire and I had to choose between the Aston Martin and the Corvette. And like a true woman, I picked the prettier of the two. Next time, Corvette!