2015 Heels & Wheels: knowing what women want

LeadNo matter where you get your research from, the consensus is that the purchasing power of women is incredibly strong. Whether it’s automobiles or groceries, women are the primary decision makers. We do research, we ask the opinion of others, and we rely on more than emotions before we sign the contract.

Understanding the female buyer, especially when it comes to automotive, undoubtedly helps manufacturers sell more vehicles. Safety will always be a priority for those transporting families, and connectivity is popular when it comes to staying in touch for work or with the kids. We want performance that’s responsive, but not necessarily over the top. And don’t forget about versatility. But we also expect to be respected during the sales process. Many years ago, my girlfriend told me about one of her earliest car-buying experiences at a dealership that shall remain nameless. She was a hospital administrator, and was going to pay for her sedan with cash. When it came time for the purchase and she was writing the large sum on the check, he actually said to her, “did your husband authorize you to write that check?” I told her she should have walked out of the dealership, but she didn’t want to go through the buying process again. Amazing.

2015H&W-201That was a couple decades ago, and sales consultants for the most part are more enlightened today about female car buyers, but do they understand how we prioritize features? And are the manufacturers building vehicles with the features we think are important?

While we mentioned the big-ticket items we care about, there are many smaller details we also scrutinize when buying a car. Does the driver’s seat have enough travel so those of us who are shorter can be comfortable and feel safe behind the wheel? Do the rear doors open wide enough to allow easy placement of a car seat? How easy is it to open and close the trunk or tailgate? Can we reach the top of the tailgate when it’s open?

2015H&W-30All these questions about how women buy cars, and what the manufacturers are doing to support them, was the primary reason Christine Overstreet, president of Overstreet Events, created Heels & Wheels. This is the third year of the event, and it’s a chance for manufacturers to bring a variety of new products to a group of female automotive journalist, bloggers, and social media experts so we can drive and evaluate them strictly from a female perspective.

For 2015, Heels & Wheels chose Southern California as the venue, mostly because of the great weather and wonderful roads. Combined with an impressive list of new vehicles, the event was top notch.

Here’s what we had a chance to spend some time driving:

  • 2015 Infiniti QX60
  • 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport
  • 2015 Lexus RC F
  • 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack
  • 2015 Dodger Challenger 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker
  • 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
  • 2016 Kia Sorento SXL
  • 2016 Mazda6 I Grand Touring
  • 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TSI SEL
  • 2015 Jaguar F-TYPE R Coupe
  • 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE
  • 2015 GMC Canyon SLE Crew Cab Long Box
  • 2015 Buick Regal GS
  • 2015 Nissan Murano SL

Envy us? You should. We sampled over a dozen of the newest, most interesting rides in the market, and every one on sale and available at your nearest showroom.

I’ve already spent time with half of the field, and you can read more detailed reviews on the Lexus RC-F here and the VW Golf SportWagen here. Because there were so many vehicles, however, I did want to give a quick review of each ride.

2015 Buick Regal GSVehicle: 2015 Buick Regal GS

What is it: The Regal is Buick’s midsize sedan offering. The GS is comfortable, offers an impressive list of standard features, and is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that produces 259 horsepower and almost 300 lb-ft of torque.

How much: The Regal starts at around $30,000. This top-line GS as-tested price is $43,735.

Coolest feature: 4G LTE standard built-in Wi-Fi.

Why women will like it: The Regal GS is smartly designed, offers plenty of room and comfort, is an amazing value, and is one of the best-kept secrets in the near-luxury sedan category.

2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat PackVehicle: 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack

What is it: The Charger is the epitome of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This four-door family sedan is hiding a nasty secret under the hood: a 6.4-liter HEMI V8 that makes 485 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque.

How much: The R/T Scat Pack bases at $39,995, and as tested it’s $41,645.

Coolest feature: 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment/connectivity system — the best in the industry.

Why women will like it: No need to sacrifice monster performance just because you haul around the family.

2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack ShakerVehicle: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker

What is it: The Challenger carries the heritage flag for Dodge when it comes to performance and style. It features the same HEMI engine as found in the Charger, so the wow factor is there, but the Scat Pack Shaker trim adds exterior details like a spoiler and stripes to make sure everyone knows it’s the king.

How much: It starts at $37,495, and as tested runs $46,180.

Coolest feature: The shaker hood. If you have to ask about it, you shouldn’t be buying it.

Why women will like it: Because you’ll show the world you understand the meaning of pure American muscle.

2015-GMC-Canyon-107Vehicle: 2015 GMC Canyon SLE Crew Long Box

What is it: GMC’s new midsize truck that’s poised to take over the world. All new, the GMC offers best-in-class power from the 3.6-liter V6 engine, a max tow rating of 7,000 pounds, outstanding fuel economy, long list of safety features, and a cabin that equals any upscale sedan.

How much: The Canyon starts at $20,995, and this vehicle totaled $38,915.

Coolest feature: EZ Lift-and-Lower locking tailgate

Why women will like it: Women love trucks as much as men. This is the right pickup at the right price for all the right reasons.

2015 Infiniti QX60Vehicle: 2015 Infiniti QX60

What is it: Formerly the JX, the QX60 is a seven-passenger crossover that delivers true luxury in every sense of the word. A standard 3.5-liter V6 produces 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, but it’s also is available as a hybrid for those who like to squeeze economy out of every mile.
How much: The QX starts at $42,400, and our as-tested price was $54,690.

Coolest feature: Tire Inflation Indicator that honks the horn and flashes the lights when you’ve reached the correct pressure when adding air to the tires.

Why women will like it: The QX is elegant, sophisticated, beautiful inside, and extremely practical for both families or career women looking to impress clients.

f_type_locationVehicle: 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe

What is it: the F-Type represents everything that Jaguar stands for: sexy styling, unmatched performance, graceful design, and a heritage that let’s others know you understand how everything that has come before it has made this amazing coupe what it is today.

How much: Don’t look at the $99,500 price; just drive it. Then you won’t mind spending the $102,825 as tested.

Coolest feature: Being able to change the exhaust note, and the brap brap of the downshifts that allow you to pretend your Jackie Stewart.

Why women will like it: Because it’s the 2015 version of Cinderella’s coach. Nothing else on the road will make you feel this special.