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11 Influential Women Pick 10 Best New Cars for 2015

Female auto bloggers pick their favorites

Joni Gray
by Joni Gray
May 20, 2015
6 min. Reading Time
2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport ・  Photo by Joni Gray

2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport ・ Photo by Joni Gray

What happens when carmakers across America are asked to bring their favorite cars to a group of the most influential women car journalists to test drive? Well, at the yearly woman's car evaluation gathering, "Heels and Wheels," female employees of 12 car brands brought together 14 cars for 22 automotive journalist women to review at a two day driving event, this year held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, CA. 

The women had plenty of time to run the cars through their paces on city streets, from LA freeways to the windy roads of Mullholland Drive and Kanan Road to the beaches of Malibu. Although these drives will ultimately result in many new car online reviews, Autobytel added a bit of fun to the process by asking our journos to pick just one car they would buy if they were in the market right now. 

The cars tested were as diverse as the women who drove them: 

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

Jill Ciminillo, Drive She Said: The 2015 VW Golf SportWagen TSI

Chicago-based Jill Ciminillo has tested a lot of cars. Her popular blog in the Chicago Now news site is called, Drive, She Said, and is filled with stories and brutal opinions about new cars, sprinkled in with her angst regarding being a woman in a predominantly man's world. She also has the Instagram and Twitter handle of "Girl in the Trunk," where she fits her 4'11" petite self into trunks of all sizes. 

So, what was Jill's favorite car at Heels and Wheels? She picked the VW Golf SportWagen TSI out of the bunch. Although she would prefer a manual TDI (diesel engine), Jill said that this car would meet her family's needs, and at a starting price of $21,395, it's actually attainable. 

Jill extolled the wonders of the wagon, "It's both fun and function. It's fun to drive and sporty, but has lots of cargo if you have kids. Just because you have a family, it doesn't mean you have to compromise on the fun. Also, Girl in the Trunk is very comfortable in the back!"

Starting MSRP: $21,395 Engine/Layout: 1.8L Turbocharged FWD TSI 6-Speed Automatic  Horsepower: 170 hp @4500 rpm  Fuel Rating: 25 City/35 hwy/29combined 

 Photo by Joni Gray

Photo by Joni Gray

Amelia Dalgaard, Motorhead Mama: 2015 Lexus RC F

Amelia Dalgaard, at MotorHeadMama.com, muses about car culture from her perch in the heart of LA. Her topics include things like how Detroit signifies the coming apocolypse and she snaps fun pics of the "Freak of the Week" cars found on the streets of Los Angeles. 

But after testing the tasty rides at the driving event, Amelia imagined herself behind the wheel of the sporty Lexus RC F, more than all the others. 

After a lengthy test drive through Mullholland Drive, way North of LA, Amelia explains, "It was just perfect for smoking through the canyons." Sometimes that's all a Motorhead Mama needs. 

Starting MSRP: $62,400 Engine/Layout: 5.0 L V8, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower: 467 hp @7100 rpm  Fuel Rating: 16 city/25 hwy/19 combined

 Photo by Joni Gray

Photo by Joni Gray

Holly Reich, Motor Matters: 2015 GMC Canyon SLE Crew

Holly Reich, a veteran auto journalist and writer at Motor Matters and other car publications, is also a New Yorker. Living in Manhattan, one would not think trucks are her bag, but Holly disagrees. 

"I may be a New Yorker, but I'm a country girl under the skin. Not only that, but I like the feeling of safety and protection that only a big truck can give me." 

And with leopard-skinned boots, Holly looks right at home in her favorite ride of the day, the 2015 GMC Canyon.

Starting MSRP: $20,955 Engine/Layout: 3.6L DI DOHC V6 VVT, 4WD Horsepower: 305/227 hp @6800 rpm  Fuel Rating: 20 city/24 hwy/17 combined

 Photo by Joni Gray

Photo by Joni Gray

Nina Russin, Carspondent: 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI Shaker

Blogger and car expert, Nina Russin of Carspondent.com, is an avid athlete who runs a yearly car competition that awards the Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year to some lucky brand. But this week, Nina was all about running down rude and surley drivers on the LA freeways. To that end, she found favor with the 2015 Dodge Challenger 392 HEMI Shaker

Nina explained how this very special car made just the right statement on the road, "I just scared the pants off a BMW 7-Series driver after she cut me off on the freeway. I threw it into neutral and goosed the throttle and saw her hair fly up trying to see what was going on. Needless to say, this has become my favorite car today." 

Starting MSRP: $37,495 Engine/Layout: 6.4-liter HEMI V6 VVT/4WD Horsepower: 485 bhp@ 6,000 rpm  Fuel Rating: 15 city/25 hwy/18 combined

 Photo by Joni Gray

Photo by Joni Gray

Christen Rochon, Divas Drive in Heels: 2015 Mazda Mazda6

Savvy driver/blogger and Detroit native, Christen Rochon is the fabulous perveyor of the car blog, Divas Drive in Heels and the tech blog, Divas and Dorks. Her car site is dedicated to fabulous models and the lifestyle that goes with them, but Christen had never given Mazda a chance until this week. 

"I didn't think Mazdas were high-quality cars. I thought that they just made family cars that I wouldn't be interested in. But after driving the Mazda Mazda6, I was shocked that their car had so much control and power on the road. " 

Starting MSRP: $21,495 Engine/Layout: 2.5L SKYACTIV-G 4-Cyl/2WD Horsepower: 184 hp @5,700 rpm Fuel Rating: 28 city/40 hwy/32 combined

 Photo by Joni Gray

Photo by Joni Gray

Fadra Nalley. All Things Fadra: 2015 Nissan Murano SL

Fadra Nally, owner of AllThingsFadra.com, is a "Baltimore Mom inspired by life." When she's not blogging about parenting, pets, entertainment, beauty, healthy living and social good, she's test driving cars for families. Fadra sees cars, not only as metal tubes that get you from point A to point B, but as separate rooms in the household, safely holding her precious cargo of husband, kid and pets. Her insights are hilarious and you have to read her posts with a sarcastic attitude to "get" her. For instance, try "What Creepy Vans Taught Me About Safe Driving."

Fadra was quite sure about her pick of favorite cars in the pack - it was hands-down the 2015 Nissan Murano SL. "Having been a former Murano owner, it felt like home to me - only a home that had gone through an extreme makeover!." Murano's super-comfy seats and upgraded design were the features that firmed up her choice, "This car has the same bones as the previous one, but has gotten a great upgrade in comfort and design. Love it." 

|tarting MSRP: $29,560 Engine/Layout: 3.5L V6/FWD Horsepower: 260 hp @6,000 rpm  Fuel Rating: 21 city/28 hwy/24 combined

 Photo by Joni Gray

Photo by Joni Gray

Rene Syler and Kristin Barclay: 2015 Jaguar F-TYPE S Convertible

Both Rene Syler and Kristin Barclay chose the 2015 Jaguar F-TYPE convertible as their favorite car of the pack. And, frankly, what's not to love? 

Kristin (on left), owner/blogger of InDeepH20 (think "in deep water"), loves adventure of all kinds, and, as a Mom of two, can only dream about owning a 2-seater sports car. Her experience driving the Jag was profound, "This car has it all: sex appeal, performance, elegance, with a side of sport. This car will forever be on my bucket list to own." 

Rene (on right), blogging maven of GoodEnoughMother.com (because you don't have to be perfect, just good enough), also sees the Jaguar F-TYPE convertible as her fantasy car come true. "Driving this car is better than a facelift. It's such a departure from my everyday life - it's sexy, fun and fast!" 

Starting MSRP: $81,925 Engine/Layout: V6 Supercharged Horsepower: 340 hp @6,500 rpm  Fuel Rating: 32.9 mpg combined

 Photo by Joni Gray

Photo by Joni Gray

Alison Rahm, Dodge Chief Engineer: 2015 Dodge Charger R/T 392 Scat Pack

Alison Rahm is the exception on our list of influential women: She is not a blogger/journalist, but she is the cheif engineer for the Dodge Challenger and Charger. Although her opinion is not at all objective, it is highly informed. Alison described how much her family loves running around town in the greater Detroit area in this souped-up 4-door "family" can with a 6.4 liter V8 HEMI and how it certainly gets her a lot of attention -- sometimes more than she wants. 

"When I went to pick my kids up from school, I had to go into the office for a quick errand and when I returned to the parking lot, there was a line of Dads standing around my car, waiting to ask me questions.  

Starting MSRP: $39,995 Engine/Layout: 6.4-liter HEMI V8/RWD Horesepower: 485 bhp @6,000 rpm Fuel Rating: 15 city/25 hwy/18 combined


Cynthia Bogart, The Daily Basics: 2015 Lexus NX 200t F SPORT

Cynthia Bogart publishes an online website focusing on home, food, travel and lifestyle - The Daily Basics. She also covers the basics of the "family fleet" of cars that we all grapple over when anyone in our family is in market for a new car. After spending the day driving 16 cars back-to-back, Cynthia landed on the 2015 Lexus NX as her must-have favorite to move her and her family around the streets of Providence, Rhode Island.  "The Lexus NX is truly a sweet space to inhabit -- a great luxury family car."

Starting MSRP: $34,480 Engine/Layout: 2.0 L Turbocharged 4-cyl/FWD  Horsepower: 235 hp @4800-5600 rpm Fuel Rating: 22 City/28 hwy/25 combined 

 Photo by Joni Gray

Photo by Joni Gray

Joni Gray, Autobytel Content Editor: 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport HSE

Wrapping up our favorites, we end at my choice. As content editor here at Autobytel.com, I have attended Heels and Wheels since its beginning in 2011. Personalizing the car that would fit me best is very different from what I usually do when writing a review, so this was a very fun exercise. 

If I were car shopping at the Heels and Wheels event and had to choose between the 16 cars represented to take home and put into service, it would have to be the 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport. Land Rover finally made a vehicle that might just be attainable on a working girl's budget. Starting at just under $40,000, this sporty SUV does many of the things its big brother, the Range Rover Sport, can do and looks great doing it. 

And let's face it, haven't we all wanted the original LUV (Luxury Utility Vehicle) with a Land Rover badge in our driveway? Not just for the driveway, but for those fun occasions when you get to change the ground beneath your feet to mud, sand or snow. 

Starting MSRP: $37,995 Engine/Layout: 2.0L Turbocharged 4-Cyl AWD  Horsepower: 240 hp @5,800 rpm  Fuel Rating: 20 city/26 hwy/22 combined

 Photo by Joni Gray

Photo by Joni Gray


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