Heels & Wheels – Part 2

Heels & Wheels 2013 cars at Brasada
The Heels & Wheels test cars at the Brasada Ranch in Central Oregon

Three years ago a friend of mine, Christine Overstreet, decided to put together an automotive program just for women automotive writers, and that’s when Heels & Wheels (H&W) was born. During the three-day program, we discussed what women shoppers are looking for and the reasons women purchase certain vehicles. Here are the rest of the vehicles and some of the topics we discussed at the Brasada Ranch in Central Oregon.

To go back to Heels & Wheels – Part 1, click here: http://ourautoexpert.com/heels-wheels-part-1/

 

Heels & Wheels 2014 Mazda6Mazda6 – Mazda seems to take a completely different approach to building cars than the average manufacturer. As current models are redone, like the Mazda6 was this year, they are getting Mazda’s all-new range of Skyactiv® technologies. Skyactiv improves the efficiency and sustainability of the company’s new generation of vehicles while enhancing safety and driving dynamics.

The Skyactiv technology optimizes the link between the engine, transmission, body and chassis in a Zen-like relationship to maximize the effectiveness of the vehicle.

I won’t pretend to understand what it means or how it works, that’s more something my husband would appreciate and understand. However, after driving the Mazda6 for a while it starts to make a little more sense.

Gone is the V-6 engine replaced with a highly efficient direct injection four-cylinder engine. It doesn’t have the performance of the V-6 but it doesn’t lack for power and at the gas pump the EPA 26 mpg city and 38 mpg highway fuel economy says this Skyactiv technology makes sense.

The 2014 Mazda6 sedan has a striking new design with a coupe-like roofline, a sweeping front fender treatment and distinctive front and rear fascia. The interior treatment is simple and business-like with well-placed controls and no far out or gaudy lines. The seats are very comfortable and supportive, too.

A high-compression 184-hp four-cylinder engine with six-speed SportShift automatic transmission powers the Mazda6. The Sport and Touring models are also available with a six-speed manual transmission. Later in the model year plans call for a 2.2-liter Skyactiv-D diesel engine, this will have even more impressive fuel economy.

Three trim levels make up the Mazda6 lineup with pricing from $21,675, including the destination charge, for the Sport up to $30,290 for the Grand Touring. All models are appropriately equipped and the Grand Touring version which I drove at H&W had everything standard including leather seating (heated in front), navigation and many of the new technologies like blind spot monitoring, Bi-Xenon headlights, lane departure warning and Smart City Braking (a collision avoidance technology).

 

Heels & Wheels 2013 MiniMini Cooper Roadster – Completely different than the other cars at Heels & Wheels, the Mini Cooper Roadster is the kind of car a woman could enjoy having in the garage. It’s small, agile, comfortable and one of the most fun cars you can drive thanks to its trademark go cart-like handling.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – I happen to like the looks of the Roadster, my husband thinks it looks dumb, but what does he know.

Mini didn’t play games with the roadster giving the impression that you could seat more than two people; the space behind the two front seats is for stowing things, like shopping bags, purses and luggage. The extra luggage space is necessary, because the trunk is for light packers at only 8.5 cubic feet. The top opens and folds down flat behind the seats, but with the outer cloth facing upward so it doesn’t require a cover.

The Mini roadster comes in three trim levels, each defined by the engine. The Cooper has 121-hp four-cylinder. The Cooper S has a 181-hp turbocharged version of that same engine and the John Cooper Works model is the hot rod with an even more modified version of the same engine rated at 208 hp.

Fuel economy numbers are almost identical for all three engines, ranging from 27 mpg city and 35 mpg highway for the Cooper to 26/35 mpg for the two turbocharged versions. Performance numbers have more variations, however, with 0 to 60 mph times of 8.7-, 6.7- and 6.3-seconds respectively. Alternatively, if your thing is top speed they go 124 mph, 141 mph and 147 mph – that’s fast in a little car like this.

The Mini Cooper Roadster has a large variety of available options – they claim 10 million possible combinations to maximize personal choice. The three models are priced at $26,345, $29,345 and $36,495 – more money means faster.

 

Heels & Wheels Mitsubishi OutlanderMitsubishi Outlander – Mitsubishi is one of those brands that has been struggling through the economic downturn, but the new Outlander shows that the company hasn’t been sitting around twiddling its thumbs. Instead, they have been working on some new products and the all-new Outlander shows their efforts are paying off.

The new Outlander shows a mature aerodynamic styling on the outside along with a sophisticated, driver-oriented cockpit.

After years of rally racing development, Mitsubishi has perfected one of the best four-wheel drive systems in the business. They call it Super-All Wheel Control (S-AWC). The S-AWC is included with the Touring package which adds features like navigation, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, leather seating and many other features usually only found on higher end vehicles.

Under the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander’s hood is a 166-hp, 2.4-liter MIVEC four-cylinder engine driving a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and the S-AWC. Performance is nothing to write home about, but the top model, the GT gets a 224-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, which should be much more impressive. The four-cylinder engine has an EPA rating of 24 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. The 2014 Outlander SE S-AWC w/Touring has a sticker price of $32,720 including the destination charge.

 

Heels & Wheels 2013 VW Jetta Turbo HybridVolkswagen Jetta Hybrid – The latest variation of the highly acclaimed Jetta lineup is a hybrid. It’s powered by an unusual combination of direct injection turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric hybrid motor. The pair is rated at 170 horsepower and generates a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 8.6 seconds along with an estimated combined fuel economy of 45 miles per gallon. The Jetta is highly respected for its precise German handling and fun to drive characteristics and the new hybrid does not disappoint.

Rather than going with a sometimes bland Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), VW equipped the Jetta Hybrid with their efficient seven-speed DSG, a double clutch system. The DSG shifts quickly helping to improve fuel economy and performance. It also can be shifted manually for better control and more driving fun.

The Jetta Hybrid comes in four trim levels: base, SE, SEL and SEL Premium. Pricing runs from $25,790, including destination charge, for the base model to $31,975 for the plush SEL Premium, which includes features like Bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, Fender Premium audio and rearview camera. It also includes a sunroof, navigation, and heated seats.

The Volkswagen Jetta Turbo Hybrid takes much of the compromise out of driving a hybrid delivering the performance and handling of a normal gasoline-powered car. The VW Hybrid is a great option for someone that wants to save gas money and the environment without flaunting, “I’m driving a hybrid.” It’s also an option for people who aren’t quite ready to go the diesel route. For me, I’d probably go with the Jetta TDI diesel, but the Hybrid is certainly an entertaining and environmentally sound option.

 

Here is some of the information we talked about in our sessions:

Heels & Wheels presentation

Cooper Tire – Erin Burns Vogt from The Zimmerman Agency, representing Cooper tire, talked about roll of women in the market including the following interesting details about the power of women’s dollars:
* Women account for 85 percent of all consumer purchases
* Women command $5 trillion in U.S. purchasing power, projected to increase to
$22 trillion by 2020
* Over the next decade, women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S.
* Women make 80 percent of all purchasing decisions
* 50+ year old women are the healthiest, wealthiest and most active generation of women
in history
* Nearly 80 percent of women use the internet for research before making a purchase

Representing Cooper tires, Vogt showed us a couple of interesting videos about demonstrating the how good tires can affect a vehicle’s handling and another about Cooper tire in general. She also talked about women and tires noting the following:
* Women buy 65 percent of all new tires, 65 percent of new car purchases and
45 percent of light trucks and SUV’s
* For the first time ever in U.S., there are more female licensed drivers than male
* Women request 65 percent of service work to their vehicles
* The majority of women — 70 percent — are buying tires when they are informed they
need them
* Three fourths of women say they feel misunderstood by car marketers
* Price is the top consideration when shopping for tires; tire brand was only key to 20
percent of female buyers

Heels & Wheels KBB presentationKelly Blue Book – Another presenter, Diana D. Miranda of Kelley Blue Book, discussed where automotive shoppers are getting their information and showed that statistically 59 percent of the information came from the Internet.
* She said that the Kelley Blue Book website (KBB.com) is the most used third-party site for new vehicle purchases and that 25 percent of the visitors are women between the ages of 38 and 67.
* Crossovers and SUVs were two of the most popular categories women were looking at and with the most important consideration being the need for space and safety.
* The most important factor for women, with 80 percent indicating the importance of durability and reliability of a vehicle

I was surprised by the specific features Miranda said women were most interested in:
* Bluetooth and leather interior
* USB ports
* Parking sensors or parking assist
* GPS system
* Satellite Radio

My personal ‘must haves’ are a blind spot system, backup camera, navigation, passenger assist handles, and of course heated seats are always nice.
Heels & Wheels was a great chance for women auto writers to share ideas and get to better know their audience. It was also a chance to drive some really nice cars. I’m already looking forward to next year.Heels & Wheels 2013 group

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