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Sara Lacey
For Utah Rides

Last week I went to San Diego to attend a conference for woman automotive journalists.  This event was put together by a group called Heels & Wheels, who believe it’s important for all of us to be reminded of the purchasing power of women.  For example, women account for 49% of the car-buying market.  Also, almost 80% of the purchasing decisions are made by women.  Lastly, American women have a purchasing power of over $5 trillion.

Knowing this, Heels & Wheels worked with some auto manufacturers to bring cars to us women writers to drive.  After spending the day with a whole bunch of vehicles, we were able to participate in a round table about what we find important in a vehicle, what is important to those we represent.  In addition, we discussed the dealership experience and how it may be improved upon.

But you probably want to know mostly about the cars, don’t you?  I got behind the wheel of a 2012 Mazda CX-5, a 2012 Buick Verano, a 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque Coupe, a 2013 Dodge Dart, a 2012 Chrysler 200 convertible, and a 2012 Jaguar XJL.  It’s not often I have the chance to drive such a variety of vehicles in one shot.  It was fun to drive all these vehicles and find the features I liked the most, and the ones I think you’ll like too.

The vehicle I underestimated the most was the Chrysler 200 convertible.  I thought the drive might feel soft and unresponsive, but it was actually very fun to drive.  Of course, there was a certain charm of driving down the California highway in a convertible that just made me smile.  But seriously, I did like how it handled and how comfortable it was.

The Dodge Dart made an impression before I drove it.  Kathy Graham, Product PR Manager for Chrysler informed us that the Dodge Dart will be customizable with 12 exterior colors and 14 interior colors.  They will have recommended color schemes for you to select if you’re not confident in your ability to match.  Some combinations will require a special order and may take more time to get, but how fun to create your own car’s colors!  The exterior of the Dart is really sporty and fun, it’s sinewy, it looks like it wants to race.

I liked the compact utility of the Mazda CX-5.  It was nimble to drive and handled well.  A family may be tight because that back seat is smaller, but this would be a great vehicle for a single person, a couple, or a teen driver.  It had good pickup and the braking was impressive.  It’s a great size for me, and I’m willing to bet most women will agree.  It looks so sharp and fun.  Count me in!

The Buick Verano was full of features that I like, just as the advertisements promise.  The Verano had heated seats, steering wheel, and Intellilink (which is their entertainment/navigation system, it’s quite easy to use).  I like the idea of attainable luxury and refinement.  The Verano had a nice balance of leather-type seating, wood trim, and chrome.  What was also lovely was that the exterior is clean and modern; it works so well together with the interior.

The interior of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque made me swoon.  Gorgeous gray and beige leather kept the interior modern and clean looking, while the panoramic roof kept everything light.  I like that the Evoque incorporates Land Rover’s famous capability seamlessly into the driving experience.  If it’s icy out, push the button that looks like a SUV on ice and the Evoque adjusts accordingly.  Luxury and functionality packaged in a super hot looking mini-SUV?  Sign me up.

The Jaguar XJL was simply stunning.  It has almost every pampering feature on it for all people in the car, not just the driver.  But the driver is lucky to have a supercharged V8.  Even those of you who may not care about power will fall hard for this beauty.  There is leather everywhere, gorgeous wood trim, rear entertainment systems and tray tables stowed in the backs of the front seats.  Two moonroofs make it so no one feels crammed and confined.  It’s posh.  I’d like to buy one and use it as an office.  I could write it off then, right?

It was great to have a singular focus for this event. I hope to have longer test drives in each of these vehicles and let you know all about them.

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