Before you even ask, let me tell you. Heels & Wheels is the brainchild of the lovely Christine Overstreet who wanted an event designed for women to get together and focus on what’s happening in the automotive industry, share thoughts and experiences with each other, and get a little hands-on driving some of the biggest, fastest, and best cars in the U.S.
This is the second Heels & Wheels event I’ve been able to attend and it’s thrilling to see not only the manufacturers who have invested in the female community of writers in the automotive space but also to see that they are represented by women. From Product Managers to PR reps to President (holy cow, did you know that Aston Martin’s President of the Americas is a woman – Laura Schwab? What a story she had to share!).
But the best part of the whole event, if I’m being totally honest, is getting behind the wheel of some amazing cars.
Now, if it doesn’t sound like spending the day driving cars is hard work, you’re a little wrong. Driving from 10am to 4pm is like taking a 6 hour road trip only we’re switching cars and drivers and taking windy roads! You won’t hear me complaining though because I got to sample a wide variety of cars. Eleven of them to be exact.
We had 16 cars to choose from so I had to be selective. I opted out of some that I’ve spent significant time in already. And others, I simply ran out of time. In the end, though, I can lump all of these cars into three categories: the best cars for me (my favorites and why), the best cars for you (based on what many tell me they are looking for), and the best cars just for fun (and boy, were they fun!).
The Best Cars for Me
2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD
I’ll admit it. I’m a little biased here. I currently own and drive the 2016.5 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD but what a difference a half a year can make! It still feels sportier than the CX-9 but Mazda has added little luxuries (like a power liftgate, heated steering wheel, and rear vents – FINALLY) while updating the dash and seats. What I loved was the addition of the G-Vectoring which actually made me not feel nauseous when someone else was driving on the curvy roads.
MSRP as driven: $34,085
2017 Kia Niro Touring
I didn’t spend any time behind the wheel on this one but that’s because I already know I love it. After spending many hours behind the wheel at a press trip in San Antonio, I let others take it for a spin.
MSRP as driven: $29,650+
2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
I almost missed out on driving this one. When I spent a full week in the Pacifica last fall, I surprised myself with how much I loved it so I definitely wanted to try the plug-in hybrid. Luckily, I got to drive myself to the airport in it! It confirmed that I do, indeed, love this minivan (or what I call a wondervan). The only downside to the hybrid is that making room for the battery makes you lose the second row stow & go functionality.
MSRP as driven: $44,995
2017 Jaguar F-PACE 35t Prestige
I drove this one back in October at the WAPA Road Rally and I fell in love with it there. It’s a fast sports car trapped in an SUV body. Perfect for suburban moms that want to show off at carpool.
MSRP as driven: $58,518
The Best Cars for You
2017 GMC Acadia Denali
It’s not another version of a Chevy. It stands on its own platform and provides you a capable SUV that can haul your gear (or your kids’ gear), seat 7 passengers, and not feel like a behemoth on the road. I would know. I spent HOURS driving one for the GMC The World’s Longest Yard Sale road trip!
MSRP as driven: $47,070+
2017 Buick Encore Sport Touring
You want an SUV but not a huge gas guzzler. You want something that will fit your husband’s golf clubs or a run to Costco but you don’t need rows and rows of seating. You’re like many other people out there which is why the Buick Encore is so popular. And I love that Jenn from Buick brought the Sport Touring edition with her because she liked the rims!
MSRP as driven: $23,915+
2018 VW Atlas V6 SEL Premium
This was another one that I didn’t drive but not because I wasn’t interested in it. I got up close and personal with the VW Atlas a few weeks ago and so many of you were interested that I did a little write-up on it. Looking for that 7 passenger SUV? Put this on your short list.
MSRP as driven: $48,490
2017 Lexus GX460
This Lexus is another large SUV that’s too large and luxurious for my taste. Wait – did I just say too luxurious? TOTALLY KIDDING! The more luxury, the better! And I happen to know that this vehicle is not only large and commanding on the road but totally capable off the road. Just ask me how I know.
MSRP as driven: $51,680+
The Best Cars for FUN
2017 Range Rover Evoque Convertible HSE Dynamic
Someday, when I have extra money and extra space in my driveway, I’m going buy something just like this. It not only seats four (or more) but it looks good with the top up or top down. And with the windows up, my hair was still manageable. Also, don’t we look like we’re having fun?
MSRP as driven: $69,685
2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR Coupe
If I were to have a torrid love affair with a car, this would be the one. It’s fast yet controllable. And I fit perfectly behind the wheel. Plus, it’s looks hot. What else do you need in your “fun car”?
MSRP as driven: $152,645
2018 Lexus LC500h
I’m going to be honest. I have mixed feelings about this Lexus. I love that it’s a hybrid. I hate that I only had time to drive it around the block. I love the meaty exterior. I hate the naugahyde-looking interior. Still, it’s a car to be reckoned with.
MSRP as driven: $92,000+
2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400
As soon as I got behind the wheel of the Q60, I had that feeling of deja vu. Haven’t we met before? Well, yes and no. It has similarities with sister vehicle Nissan 370Z but without a direct comparison, I can tell you this car is fast. But it totally feels like a dude car.
MSRP as driven: $56,705
2017 Aston Martin DB11
The name is Nally. Fadra Nally. It doesn’t quite have the same ring as James Bond but I felt invincible and a little apprehensive behind the most expensive vehicle in the lineup. I missed my driving opportunity on our drive day but I got to sneak away the next morning and tour some of Portland’s neighborhoods. Good thing, too, because I probably couldn’t have handled it for long on the highway.
Fun facts: Why, yes, that is a V12 engine and yes, there IS a backseat in the DB11.
MSRP as driven: $230,345
The Ones That Got Away
All three of the vehicles below completed eluded me and not for lack of interest on my part. I haven’t driven any of them (I have driven the slightly larger cousin to the Rogue Sport, the Rogue) but I wanted to at least give a shout out to the manufacturers who brought them for us. Once again, it was a case of too many cars, too little time.
2017 Nissan Rogue Sport SL AWD
MSRP as driven: $31,105
2017 VW Golf Alltrack TSI SEL
MSRP as driven: $33,710
2018 Infiniti QX30 Premium AWD
MSRP as driven: $46,035
Watch the overview
Can’t get enough? Check out all the car content on my site and take a look at the video recap. Then let me know which one is YOUR favorite!