14 Cars, 2 Days and So Many Hot New Car Choices

2015 Heels And Wheels
Just a bunch of girls sitting around talking about cars: 2015 Heels and wheels

People ask me all the time, “what is the best car?”

Sorry, I can’t tell you.

That’s because like Kindergarteners, cars these days are all beautiful, precious, wonderful and unique. They are all worthy of love, and they all frame life differently.

Like the families they come from and the expectations they are given, cars and kindergarteners blossom accordingly.

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Here’s what matters to me in a car: that time with my friends (Fadra Nally and Rene Syler) or family is time well spent

The key to finding the right car is knowing what you value, what you need and what makes you happy.

I recently had the opportunity to drive 14 different cars over the course of two days at an event just for women called Heels and Wheels. The event let me get a feel for each car, experience its values and see its unique view of the world. Yes, it was fun. But that’s not the point. The point is that your time behind the wheel is precious, so picking the car that is right for you is what matters.

Here is what I learned:

2015 GMC Canyon Mid-Sized Pick Up Truck

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The 2015 GMC Canyon mid-sized pickup truck

Our adventure started off by driving from Los Angeles International Airport to the Four Seasons at Westlake Village in a GMC Canyon with my friend Holly Reich. A mid-sized pick up truck, the Canyon (we drove the four door Crew Cab Long Box SLE) is designed to drive more like a car or an SUV than a truck, so it’s easier to park and drive, it’s filled with creature comforts and yet, it has that all-useful pickup truck bed for hauling stuff, and a powerful engine and suspension for towing.

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Checking out the rear view: SoCal mountains in the 2015 GMC Canyon’s side view mirror

This Car’s Charm: Fun and easy to drive, not too high off the ground so it was easy to get in and out of, filled with lots of great technology including IntelliLink touch screen infotainment and OnStar.

What to Consider: In-car storage isn’t as easy as with an SUV or sedan; the bed certainly has lots of room but you’ll need a cover or lockbox if you want to keep things in it.

Base price: About $27,000

Price when nicely loaded: About $39,000

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Even with handbags piled in the back center seat, we had plenty of room in the 2015 GMC Canyon From left: Holly Reich, Kelly Wysocki, Anita Burke

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

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Even competing for visibility against the Santa Monica mountains, the 2015 Kia Sorento is a standout

This was one of two hugely surprising cars in the lineup simply for the fact that this car is so nice. I mean, really, really nice. Luxury everything, advanced safety features, auto lift gate that opens when you’re standing beside it (key in pocket, of course), room for all your crew (it seats seven!) and a beautiful, comfortable drive. The car had no issue with the Mulholland Drive’s hilly, twisty path through the Santa Monica Mountains, and it accelerated smoothly getting onto the freeway.

2015 Kia Sorento

View from the driver’s seat in the 2015 Kia Sorento

This Car’s Charm: Kia’s world class design values make this an exceptionally beautiful car on the outside, too.

What to Consider: Very comfortable for four or five people but the third row is more of a ‘convenience’ row, so full sized people may not find it appealing.

Base price: $24,900 for the base model

Price when nicely loaded: About $45,000

2016 Kia Sorento

The flat floor in the back of the 2016 Kia Sorento means I can put my handbag there and it won’t turn over

Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE

2016 Kia Sorento

Finally, a Land Rover for small budgets with great taste: the 2015 Land Rover Discovery SE

If you’re one of those people who dreams of a Land Rover—pampered luxury, rugged off road capability— and the $80K+ price tag isn’t in your budget, this might be the model for you: Entry level pricing is reasonable, and nicely loaded the price is still reasonable. You get quite a lot for your money: Not only is the Discovery distinctively sporty and elegant, it’s comfortable and has some smart design features, including a dial gear selector (that leaves room for your handbag in the center console!) smart storage spaces and a third row option.

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The 2015 Land Rover Discovery SE’s dial gearshift means there’s room for your handbag on the center console

This Car’s Charm: Land Rover design and luxury at a very approachable price

What to Consider: There might not be a better time to buy Land Rover: its parent company, India-based Tata Motors, has made major investments in the company and is serious about the US market

Base price: About $37,000

Price when nicely loaded: About $41,000

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My friend Nicole loves this detail: seat belts that tuck neatly into the space between the seat and the car’s frame in the 2015 Land Rover Discovery SE

2015 Lexus RC-F

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Now that’s a dream view: the 2015 Lexus RC F and the vistas of Mulholland Drive

Breathe deep and hold on, because the Lexus RC-F will take your breath away. This little sports sedan is powerful, filled with smart luxuries and technology that makes you feel like a million bucks. And with a nicely sized back seat, you have the flexibility of bringing people along for a thrill ride.

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The interior of the 2015 Lexus RC F has all the tech and comforts you expect from a Lexus (like the mouse pad for navigating infotainment) but neatly organized so they don’t get in the way of the thrill

This Car’s Charm: Sleek, beautiful sports coupe with lots of power and roar.

What to Consider: For being a sports coupe, it was surprisingly roomy. Back seat passengers, once inside, should enjoy the ride just as much as you do.

Base price: $63,000

Price when nicely loaded: About $75,000

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Jasmine Risso and I in the 2015 Lexus RC F’s roomy cabin

Jaguar F Type Convertible

2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe

OMG: 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe

OK, get ready to giggle. A lot. Like, a whole lot. Get behind the wheel of this car, nudge the gas a bit and ~roarrrrrr~ take off in the F Type R convertible, Jaguar’s amazing new entry into the luxury sports car category. This car is a toy—a toy you’ll want to  drive all the time. It’s masterfully engineered, seriously fast and responsive; a truly great sports car.

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Little details like this pop-out door handle make the 2015 Jaguar F Type R Coupe distinctive

This Car’s Charm: Not just a beautiful convertible, but this is a serious sports car, too.

What to Consider: You’ll want to drive it everywhere but there’s not a lot of room for gear, groceries or other goodies, so a ‘stuff’ strategy might be needed

Base price: About $99,000

Price when nicely loaded: About $102,000

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Plan to have your purchases delivered: 2015 Jaguar F Type R Coupe has a smallish trunk space. You may have to keep your golf bag at the club and have your luggage delivered.

2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

2015 Lexus Nx 200T F Sport

The turbo engine boosts the 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport crossover’s engine for a nice ride over hill and dale

One of the best values in the car market right now (maybe ever?), this luxury crossover has a smallish engine with a twin turbo that makes it easy on gas and big on power; it climbed the hills and took the turns on Mulholland Drive like an experienced pro. Inside the NX 200t F Sport the interior is designed with seats that embrace you (so you’re steady and comfy when taking a road’s curves) and all the gear and gadgets you need are easily at hand.

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A wireless charging pad in the 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport lets your phone be out of sight in the center console

This Car’s Charm: All this amazing technology and power at this price.

What to Consider: Seating for 5 (but more comfortable for 4); a little on the small side for a crossover.

Base price: About $34,000

Price when nicely loaded: About $36,500

2015 Lexus Nx 200T F Sport

The distinctive tail lights on the 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

2015 Mitsibushi Outlander Sport

The 2015 Mitsubushi Outlander Sport

This economical little family car has been completely retooled with smart details, advanced safety features and some nice luxuries; people who go for “economy cars” will be completely surprised (and spoiled) by this one.

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The nicely appointed front cabin of the 2015 Mitsibushi Outlander Sport

This Car’s Charm: So many nice details for the price.

What to Consider: Mitsubishi is back in the US market in a big way; it’s a good time to take advantage of the brand’s new focus on value and customer service

Base price: About $22,695

Price when nicely loaded: About $30,000

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Plenty of headroom in the back seat of the 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

2016 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring

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The elegantly designed 2016 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring sedan keeps its sporty feel

 The Mazda 6 is a favorite of critics and car fanatics for a good reason: it’s beautiful and a ton of fun to drive. The engine and suspension in this car are pretty nicely designed, giving you the feel of a much more expensively engineered car. Add to that premium systems like the Head Up Display —a premium feature on other cars but on this one it’s standard!—media control dial and touch screen, and Bose premium sound. 

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View from the driver’s seat in the 2016 Mazda6 i Grand Touring sedan

This Car’s Charm: A real ‘driver’s car,’ the Mazda 6 i Grand Touring is also filled with creature comforts and a roomy back seat.

What to Consider: While it’s classified as a family sedan, it feels much sportier than that.

Base price: $21,500

Price when nicely loaded: About $31,000

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The Head Up Display in the 2016 Mazda6 i Grand Touring sedan projects information onto a small screen in the driver’s line of sight

2015 Dodge Challenger ‘Scat Pack’ Shaker

2015 Dodge Challenger ‘Scat Pack’ Shaker

The 2015 Dodge Challenger ‘Scat Pack’ Shaker

This is a classic American muscle car; remember when the Duke boys out-ran the sheriff in their version, the General Lee? Well, you can put on your helmet and take this one to the track: not only is the Challenger fully charged—485 horsepower— but the Scat Pack label means it’s track-rated to run a quarter mile in under 14 seconds.

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Dodge chief engineer Alison Rahm introduces the 2015 Dodge Challenger ‘Scat Pack’ Shaker (and its big sister the Dodge Charger); photo: Nicole Wakelin

This Car’s Charm: If, like MotorheadMama, the sound of a HEMI-V8 is like Barry White whispering in your ear, this is the car for you.

What to Consider: A two-door coupe, back seat passengers will enjoy the ride more than getting in and out of the car.

Base price: About $42,500

Price when nicely loaded: About $44,500

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The 2015 Dodge Challenger ‘Scat Pack’ Shaker looks great set against the Santa Monica mountains; photo: Fadra Nally

Too many great cars to drive in one day. Luckily, we’ve driven these already

It’s nearly impossible to drive and get a read on 14 cars in one day. But… lucky for us, we’d already driven and reviewed some of the great cars that were featured at Heels and Wheels. They are:

2015 Nissan Murano

Maybe one of our favorite all time cars for the amount of comfort and luxury you get for under $40,000;

2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack

Go ahead and sign up for those race classes at the track and be prepared to enjoy the thrill of 140 MPH: that’s what this car is all about, and Alison Rahm, the car’s chief engineer, made sure you’ll love it.

The 2015 Infiniti QX 60

Be prepared to fall in love, inside and out. Infiniti’s gorgeous, sinewy design language is one that you’ll fall in love with every day. And then, get inside the car and breathe deep. There’s nothing like soft, expertly crafted leather surfaces to make your blood pressure drop.

2015 Volkswagen SportWagen

It’s hard not to fall in love with this cute little family wagon; VW takes expert engineering and a sporty drive experience and opens it up for the whole family to enjoy.

2015 Buick Regal GS

Buick is a brand on a journey and there are big things ahead for the brand; this is just the start. As the commercials say, you won’t believe you’re in a Buick when you’re in a Buick, and we agree; but we also love that it’s not just the interior and overall appeal that is so beautiful, but that its systems are smartly engineered to ensure this car takes care of you where ever you are and whatever the conditions.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Heels and Wheels, which provided my travel and accommodations. Opinions and impressions expressed here are all my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss