How often have you heard someone say “I’d rather have a root canal than go to a car dealership?” What is it about buying a car or just entering a dealership parking lot that gives folks sweaty palms and dry mouth?
When asked by men or women to help them purchase a vehicle, the first thing I have them do is to interview the dealership. That’s right! Park, walk in, get a feel for the culture of the facility and then ask the sales manager to match you with the kind of associate (salesperson) you want to work with. Look to see how clean and organized they are and how they display their vehicles. See how often you are approached and how they handle it when you say, “I’m just looking”.
A car is a major purchase, in fact it is the second most expensive item that most families buy, and this process should not be treated lightly. When you purchase a home you pick your realtor, someone you are comfortable with, listens to your needs and wants to know and understand your budget. You trust that person and in most cases continue to recommend new clients to them. Buying a car should be the same.
I don’t normally write about owners of dealerships, General Managers or partners, but I couldn’t help asking for an interview with Coye Pointer, the GM of Airpark Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge RAM and FIAT of Scottsdale. I’ve known Coye over the years enough for casual hellos and polite handshakes. I knew he was well liked by his peers and employees, and I greatly admired his philanthropic outreach.
He is a modest man, almost shy at first, but very committed to his business, an individual who shows up every day or makes himself available 24/7 for his staff. He likes to meet all the customers and thank them personally for purchasing from the dealership. He makes everything about everyone else, not him. He began his career in the car business in 1973 at a dealership in Dallas, Texas. He then moved to Arizona in 1992 to be the General Manager at a GMC/Mazda dealership, and a decade later accepted the position of General Manager at Airpark Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and later FIAT of Scottsdale. He was responsible for making Airpark one of the top dealers for those brands in the western region.
Coye Pointer got in to the automotive industry at a young age through the encouragement and guidance of his uncle when he lived in Texas. He told me he really enjoyed learning how he could actually help people find the right car for their needs and budget. Even after a stint as an Army Ranger, he came back and returned to the car business. I asked, “What do you say when questioned about what you do for a living?” Do you hesitate to say you work at a car dealership? His reply was, “Never!” “I am proud of what I do, I’ve been able to make a nice living, employ good people and watch them and their families grow. I’ve sold cars to families and their children and I like to keep in touch. Most important is that I’ve been blessed to be able to help people.”
I expressed to Coye that he’s considered one of the most generous dealers in town, giving back to the community including causes that would normally not get the attention he provides for them. All he said was, “We are a family at the dealership and we try to help our community whenever we can, it brings joy to everyone involved.” I then asked him, “What is your connection with Alice Cooper? He appears in your commercials and you recently received an award from his foundation?” Coye said, “It’s simple, Alice loves cars, golf and giving back to Arizona… everything I believe in and enjoy. We were introduced years ago and have a deep respect for each other’s professions and causes. Alice and his wife Sheryl Cooper are genuine people who work tirelessly for their Teen Center, Solid Rock. The children are our future and teens need a place where they feel safe and can grow.” Although Coye does not have teens of his own right now he does have two grandchildren who are very important to him and tries to spend as much time with them as possible.
After spending over an hour with Coye Pointer I could understand why he was so well liked. During the hour his door was open to his employees, vendors and customers. People couldn’t walk by his door without waving or saying hello. In fact, an employee stopped by to give him a holiday gift and said “To the best boss I’ve ever had.” Coye’s face turned a little red and gave the young man a hug and a big thank you.
From the Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge RAM store I took a short stroll over to FIAT of Scottsdale where I joined the staff for a cup of coffee and donuts. You feel so much at home you want to stay and hang out. During that time a couple purchased a FIAT convertible and the gift for doing so was a signed guitar by Alice Cooper. Nice I thought… great service, nice people, snazzy car to drive home and a signed Fender guitar by the iconic Alice Cooper. Sounds like Coye wanted everyone to have a nice holiday.
I test drive cars for a living. I meet many auto manufacturers, executives and dealer principals. The owners or General Managers set the tone or culture for a dealership. I asked Coye one last question pertaining to employment and sales training. “I see several women are employed by your dealerships, why?” Coye said, “Women generally are excellent sales associates and have the best customer service skills. We work very hard at keeping them on board and have zero tolerance for any out of line behavior or stereotyping. I conduct the sales meetings and strive constantly to educate, inform and enlighten my employees on how to be the best they can be and earn a good living.”
It was nice to sit down with a dealer like Coye Pointer; it was like talking with an old friend with great advice, a sense of humor and a very kind heart. Maybe it’s time we give dealers a chance and eliminate the sweaty palms and dry mouth and have some fun.
When I received an invitation from Toyota to test drive the new 2014 Toyota Highlander I was thrilled, and when I found out we would be doing so in Santa Barbara, California this winter, I couldn’t RSVP fast enough.
I’ve been driving Toyota Highlanders for six years and have had two three year leases. I know the first and second generation make and model very well, but having seen the photos and press, the 2014 Toyota Highlander was the one I wanted to test drive.
Santa Barbara is a beautiful, affluent California city, endowed with beach fronts and views, hilltop homes and remarkable “city bustle.” Here is where the “who’s who” of “who’s who,” including my favorite author Sue Grafton and actor Rob Lowe, call home. There is another famous icon that resides in Santa Barbara and that is Oprah Winfrey. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or were born yesterday, you know who I mean.
I decided that I would make my 48 hour long test drive of the 2014 Toyota Highlander a mission to find Oprah in the city of mission architecture and goodwill stores that resemble Bergdorf Goodman. The mission style buildings, developed after the earthquake of 1925, housed everything from dry cleaners, real estate offices and Starbucks making me want to become a barista just to stay in town.
I am neither a stalker nor paparazzi, but merely curious after finding a photo of her 85 million dollar home online. I thought how hard would it be to find a mansion of that size in a county that spans a thousand square miles and then just casually drive by? I assumed it would be on top of a mountain and so the drive began. And didn’t everyone in Santa Barbara know Oprah, served her at restaurants, did her dry cleaning or wrapped a gift or two for her TV guests?
The 2014 Toyota Highlanders were lined up in perfect order on the Canary Hotel driveway. I persuaded a fellow journalist to join me in the search for Oprah and off we went. We drove past a number of banks thinking she might be making a deposit or withdrawal that day. Of course, we figured she had “people” who did that kind of stuff for her, but I had heard from a friend in Phoenix that her in-laws see her running mundane errands, such as grocery shopping, in Santa Barbara. It was with this thought in mind that we slowed way down as we passed the local Ralph’s supermarket, which by the way looked like a church, complete with terra cotta roof and, I swear the shopping carts were made of gold. However, we didn’t see Ms. “O” at the deli counter.
The Toyota Highlander has plenty of pick up and go, as evidenced by our slowing down and speeding up while looking for Ms. Winfrey. The new Highlander should be driven not garaged, as you need to get outside and experience its many new and exciting features. Since I already own a Highlander the changes for 2014 were very obvious to me and they start with the exterior. Still a sharp looking SUV, the 2014 has a more athletic yet sleek look. The grille has been redesigned and the aerodynamic roof rails were quite obvious which added to more economical gas mileage.
The inside is where I noticed the biggest differences. Still there is seating for up to eight, but with much roomier and reclining seats in the third row. There is an added panoramic moon roof that encompassed the front and second row of seats. Stargazing would be easy whether it be the actual sphere of plasma or Oprah.
The enhanced technology includes specialties such as Entune™ Audio, Entune™ App Suite, Bluetooth with streaming music and a backup camera. The screen is large and easy to set the destinations within the navigation application. I typed in Oprah’s house under landmarks but with no results, however it did show me where to buy her magazine “O”.
The features in the Star Safety System™ consist of six active safety features that include Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force and my favorite, Toyota’s Smart Stop Technology.
There are five models that have an almost $18,000 difference but each one is a perfect match for an active couple or family of eight. They include the LE-$29,215, LE Plus-$32,740, XLE-$36, 040, Limited-$39,640 and the Hybrid for $47,300, with an average of 22-24 MPG. The Hybrid by the way is perfect for the small town of Santa Barbara where everything seemed within walking distance… except Oprah.
Ladies, I was impressed with the center console. It was very different from the last generation and it actually accommodates a handbag. I was told that engineers used a Kate Spade bag as a template for both width and height, and though I don’t have a Kate Spade bag, it fit my similar sized one from Ross. Thank you Toyota for listening to “the ladies”. It also had well designed 4-inch “shelves” located under the dash and above the glove box. You can place your keys or phone in a few places that had dividers. Thus, when the car takes a turn or sudden stop, your accessories don’t move very far. These “shelves” were illuminated with soft ambient lighting, which was quite soothing and convenient during the evening hours.
I stayed at the Canary Hotel which is a boutique hotel and houses the Finch & Fork restaurant. The restaurant is well known within the area, so I asked the chef if he had ever met Oprah or prepared a meal for her. He looked at me strangely and said, “No, I’ve never prepared a meal for her, met her or know anyone who has.” I also asked the valet, staff at the hotel, bartenders and random shopkeepers the same question. The answer was no but they did tell me other celebrities had crossed their paths.
More determined than ever, we drove the Toyota Highlander to the beach, boardwalk area, mountains, the town itself, museums, missions, and even to the Four Seasons Hotel where preparations for the wedding of the “Bachelor” couple, Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici were taking place for the upcoming weekend. I asked the TV crew if they had seen Oprah, and they just laughed.
At the restaurant Toyota took us for lunch called S Y Kitchen, which is just outside of Santa Barbara, the restaurant owner, famous for her virgin olive oil, informed me that she has tried to get her olive oil to Oprah for years but with no success. It was at this point I realized that the Highlander was my trusty side kick, and that Ms. Winfrey and Stedman need not worry about me popping in or driving by.
The new 2014 Toyota Highlander performed like a trooper through my quest to find Oprah in Santa Barbara but now it was time to leave for the airport. I joked with fellow journalists about my journey to meet the philanthropic maven I so admired. While on the plane to Phoenix I kidded with a couple who were on their way to San Antonio for holiday, nice folks who look like they stepped out of Vogue and personified Santa Barbara. While waiting for our bags, a fellow journalist said goodbye to me and jokingly said, sorry you didn’t find Oprah. The woman next to me asked if I was looking for her and informed me that she was at her house before Christmas in Montecito to purchase some furniture. She told me that Oprah lives on East Valley Road either at number 1633 or 1644. I felt my heart swell and my face turn red as I said “Oh.. nice, when you get back to Montecito, please tell her I was searching for her in my 2014 Toyota Highlander and I’ll catch her next trip.”
Volvo cars and trucks are a household name in Europe, especially Sweden. In Sweden, mom might say to Sven, “Here are the keys to the S60, please pick up your little sister.” Here in the USA, the equivalent would be “Hey Joe, here’s the keys to the Camry, can you drive yourself to practice?”
Volvo is high-end, safe and well designed vehicle catering to a select clientele with very high standards. Are you a present or future Volvo owner?
The 2014 Geneva Auto show again showcased the upcoming changes both in technology and design. The biggest news was the introduction of Volvo’s new infotainment system, a new option across the brand’s model range. It is called Sensus, in which the system uses a seven-inch touchscreen display that can even be operated with winter gloves. I can see why in Sweden or Minnesota that’s a big deal.
Volvo’s sources say the driver who connects a 3G or 4G phone can use the Sensus system to browse the internet…of course not while driving. Like other infotainment systems, Sensus also provides streaming audio through internet music sites like Pandora.
In 2014 the Volvo S60 will see a major change; a front end facelift which includes a new grille and daytime running lights. It will also have new colors to choose from as well as new interior surfaces. All the models will also see some modifications and innovations. Volvo never stops making their vehicles safer, sleeker and more stylish.
The Best of 2013 for Volvo
That’s all good for next year but we’re still in 2013 and I want to compliment Volvo for what I think was one of the best video TV commercials in the auto industry. Just when you are finally able to pronounce Jean Claude Van Damme’s name he disappears for ten years. Then one day, carrying his AARP card he proudly does a split between two Heavy Duty Volvo Trucks.
The Jean Claude Van Damme split video quickly went viral with 48.5 million views in nine days setting a record in the auto industry. All of a sudden Jean Claude is getting TV and movie offers he hasn’t had in 20 years. It also reintroduced Volvo’s image as a technology leader to 48.5 million people.
Letter from the President
After my recent article here on SmartFem, 2013 Volvo XC60 SUV is a Doggone Safe Car, about the pet cage installed in a Volvo of Phoenix XC60 SUV I received a personal note from the President of Volvo saying how much he enjoyed the article, and how Volvo does care about people and their beloved pets, including my dog “Doc”.
Holiday Cheer for VolvoBeing in tune with the Christmas spirit, I perused the Volvo internet site and found a number of unique holiday recipes and craft projects. For those of you of like mind, our Ikea geniuses have posted some traditions that may be of interest.
The one I picked and plan to make is the Lingonberry Wreath. The wreath itself is not difficult and is rather plain. However, it is the history behind the Lingonberry wreath, part of the Swedish culture, which I enjoyed. Swedish girls wear Lingonberry wreaths with candles on their heads during the celebration of St. Lucia.
Whether Volvo invents a new safety device, creates a fun and exciting video where a celebrity star performs an incredible stunt split between trucks, or a DIY project we can all assemble and enjoy, I strongly urge automotive enthusiasts and car shoppers to test drive the Volvo products. There will come a day when someone says, “Hey Mom, can I borrow your S60?” and it will be the equivalent to, “Mom can I drive your ‘vette’ tonight?”
Don’t worry; I’m not referencing a topless beach in Capri, Italy, but rather hats off to Fiat, the manufacturer of the 500c Lounge Cabrio for making such an awesome car and to Fiat of Scottsdale for providing me the opportunity to test drive it. You can’t resist taking your top down on a super sexy and fun Fiat 500 convertible no matter what time of year.
For me, driving any convertible is a vacation in of itself. I own a 2002 Thunderbird convertible, and every chance I get, I put my top down (on the car) and enjoy the sounds, smells and freedom it evokes. I think convertibles are designed for certain types of car enthusiasts. I also believe that if you’ve never driven one or been a passenger in one, you have no idea what you’re missing. There is something so European and sort of “James Bond-ish” about a convertible car on the open roads or even on the Trader Joe’s parking lot. You shouldn’t make excuses such as your hair will get messed up (wear a hat), or maybe you are afraid of the sun exposure (wear sunglasses and SPF60) or you can’t hear your phone or stereo (pump the volume up). No excuses!
The best part about the FIAT 500c is that you can take the top down in segments. Just push the open and close buttons accordingly and adjust just how much roof exposure you want; it retracts in a backward motion, not up in the air and then back like many convertible designs.
I have to admit, while cruising on the freeway during my trip up North, I struggled a little to keep up with an Italian auto cousin I saw pass me in the blink of an eye, you know the Ferrari 458 Italia? Since my intent was not to race, I just enjoyed the ride; however, when I needed to pass other less powerful and exotic vehicles, it was not a problem. Under the hood the Fiat 500c Lounge contains a 1.4 liter, Multiair 16 valve 4 cylinder engine matched with either a 5-speed manual transmission or the optional 6-speed automatic. There is plenty of get up and go in the 500c for whatever your destination and up to 40 miles per gallon freeway goes a long way.
The Fiat brand speaks for itself, both under the hood and with the exterior design. The bucket seats in my test vehicle Cabrio were comfortable and the backseat fit everything that I normally would pack on a daily basis in a SUV or a large sedan. I did one shopping excursion where I needed to use the 50/50 split fold-down-seat and that solved that space issue. The back seat was LATCH ready for the child safety seat, which I install in all my test vehicles.
The color of the Fiat was cool… Rosso Brilliate (Red Tri-Coat) and the interior was Avorio (Ivory) with heated, leather trimmed seats. The soft convertible top was tan, complete with windscreen. The technology is state of the art with Fiat’s Blue&Me hands free communication, USB port, AM/FM/CD/MP3 Alpine Premium Audio System with auxiliary audio jack and Sirius XM for one year.
I test drove the “loaded” 500c Lounge Convertible, so the price tag (with all the options) was $26,440, but the basic Cabrio starts at $19,695.
Additional 2013 Fiat 500 c Lounge Cabrio InformationEstimated Gas Mileage - 31 MPG City – 40 MPG Highway (5 speed manual) Wheels: 15-inch Aluminum Wheels All Season Tires Chrome Power Heated Mirrors Chrome Exhaust Tip Tinted Glass Windows Fog Lamps – Tire Service Kit A/C with Auto Temp. Control Driver Seat Memory Warranty: 4-Year /50,000 miles
I’ve owned six convertibles in my car lifetime and never regretted those choices. What I like about driving the Fiat Cabrio was how easy it is to park, maneuver and adjust the convertible top. I must admit I get a little more attention in the Cabrio than I do in a hard top, closed up and all tinted up sedan. It may not be for everyone, but I recommend you live a little – and take your top down now and then while on the open road.
Here it is 2013; although the shapes and sizes have changed, Volvo’s history of dedication to safety, environment and craftsmanship not only continue, but get better. Volvo is conjugated from the Latin word “volvere” which means “I roll!”
Recently I test drove the 2013 Volvo S60 T5 FWD and took it to the awards dinner for the Active Lifestyle Vehicle event. I was there with athletes who were reviewing various categories of cars, trucks and SUVs. As I pulled up in the Volvo S60 T5 I heard one of the football players say… “What is that car she’s driving?” That is the kind of reaction you get when you’ve not kept up with Volvo’s exterior transformations and technology such as City Safety.
My ride was comfortable from both inside and out, but what impressed me the most was the get up and go when passing other cars and taking sharp turns within the Local Motors factory track. It felt like a race car with perfect balance, taking corners and stopping at the drop of a feather. If you haven’t driven one of these new Volvos recently, you need to stop stereotyping the brand and their owners and try driving one. Not only is Volvo for active lifestyle owners and families, Volvo goes everywhere.
Miles Per Gallon – 21 City / 30 Highway Drivetrain: 2.5 liter turbocharged 5 Cylinder 6-Speed Geartronic Auto. Trans. W/Sport-Mode City Safety – Five 3-point safety belts – Sport Pedals Volvo – “on call” road assist – Navigation
For more details go to www.volvocars.us
Did you know that Volvo cars are 85% recyclable?
Who invented the three-point seat belt? answer: Nils Bohlin, a Swedish inventor who introduced it to Volvo in 1959.
Prior to the three-point seat belt there was a lap type belt invented in 1885 that came with hooks and had to be latched to a fixed object. Thank you Nils!
I recently returned from the Scottsdale Polo Championships with their “Horses and Horsepower” event where Volvo of Phoenix was a sponsor. How cool to watch the polo players from all over the world wearing Volvo of Phoenix on their chests. Volvo held its hood high when parked next to Ferraris and Bugatti’s. I met folks who were tailgating out of their Volvo’s just 60 feet from the International Polo match field. Volvo is safe, sexy, sturdy, sophisticated, sleek, smart and sure to please on the road or in your garage. I see Volvo S60’s rolling everywhere these days. If you meet an owner of one, just ask where they’ve been lately.
A practical review of the FIAT 500 Turbo Hatchback by Cathy Droz.
Just when I thought I had driven a cool FIAT, and established that the Italians and every other country were coming in the 500L, I discovered another FIAT 500 in my driveway to test for a week, the 2013 FIAT 500 Turbo Hatchback. Not a problem I thought, as I am getting used to a smaller car and really liking the FIAT lineup. I grabbed my purse, camera and a friend and headed to a meeting downtown.
Equipped with high heels and spray tan on my legs, I proceeded to pull out of my driveway in reverse… hum, where is reverse? Low and behold this is a stick shift 5-speed car. Not only 5-speed but turbo (there was no indication on the exterior), so when I did shift into “R” the FIAT took off like a rocket. I pulled over and took off my heels, replacing them with the slippers I keep in my purse. When you drive a manual transmission, the clutch, brake and accelerator pedals can wreak havoc with your heels and the calf portion of your spray tan disappears (don’t ask).
After a few blocks and nearly sending my friend, Cathy Burford, through the windshield a couple of times, as the car jerked, I got my groove on with the stick and loved the turbo. I didn’t realize that being in a small car and having so much power could be so “empowering.”
The Fiat 500 lineup has been expanding since the day it was born, and now offers a convertible, sport Abarth version, 500 L and the new 2013 500 Turbo, which combines the best of both the standard car and sizzling hatchback. So I say this 500 T is for the person who wants something a little faster than the regular 500 but doesn’t want to spend the $22,000 for the Abarth. The Fiat 500 Turbo has a MSRP of $19,500. Let’s just say the guys will change their mind about 500’s being for “girls.” The 500 T has low front fenders, 16-inch aluminum wheels, complete with red brake calipers, blacked out headlights with black bezels and a spoiler that gave the 500 Turbo an edgier look compared to its sisters.
I am not in to the exhaust notes or tunes my male counterparts love to talk about, but I have to admit I liked pulling away from a light next to a guy driving an Infiniti who looked down his nose at me, and not for the distance between him and me, but the expectations of my racing ability. Wow, was he shocked, because once you get the groove of shifting you can leave them in the dust.
The 500T offers the best parts of the Abarth, and leaves little to be desired. A performance tuned suspension lifted from the Italian pocket missile delivers a stiff ride, sometimes uncomfortable, but a tremendously fun experience and good for my posture.
The inside seating offered a high bubble inspired roof which allowed my 6ft 1in. husband plenty of headroom. The entertainment cluster is easy to understand and I hear Chrysler gets credit for that.
The 500T is equipped with a Beats by Dre 368-watt audio system which made listening to my music a complete experience that kept me driving to make sure I heard the end of each song. Of course, if I didn’t listen to any music I could start to like the exhaust “tunes.”
My fuel economy registered at 27 City and 33 highway mpg which is less than what the standard 500 gets, but about the same as the Abarth.
I say this Fiat T would make a good commuter car and a fun vehicle to take anywhere. I was driving so smoothly that I put my heels back on and was thrilled to see I didn’t lose a bit of my spray tan. For all these reasons I would say this was a car worth shifting for.
The 2013 FIAT 500 Turbo Hatchback as reviewed by Cathy Droz: $24,500
Cathy Droz and her yellow lab “Doc” review the sleek new 2013 Volvo XC60 SUV.
Let’s not re-invent the wheel or re-write the press on the 2013 Volvo XC60. We all know that the Volvo is the safest car on the planet. Let’s face it, Sweden gave us five things; IKEA, the Volvo, the meatballs sold in IKEA’s café, Abba and the Volvo pet cage for the 2013 XC60 SUV.
I’ve been test driving cars for a long time and just like dating, judging on first glance is not fair. The Volvo line of cars, until recently, was considered a little boxy and vanilla. Boy has that changed! Just like dating, the physical attraction may not arouse your senses the minute you meet, but once you get to know that person, there is a vision of beauty and an ethereal connection. Remember it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Let’s take the Volvo XC60 SUV model as an example. The exterior has changed, you may not recognize it at all, wondering what make and model is that cool sexy car? Just look at what the XC60 has to offer; you can get front or all-wheel drive, dual zone electronic climate control, Bluetooth capability with streaming audio and, if desired, leather seating surfaces, panoramic roof, premium sound system and rear seat entertainment system with dual DVD players. This is an SUV that will accommodate five adults on some of the most comfortable seats that any car manufacturer installs.
There is another feature that I had installed for my test drive and that is the steel cargo Pet Cage. As you can see in the attached photos the pet cage has its own lock and latch and the pure steel cage is as sturdy as the Volvo SUV itself. Why is that you say? Volvo tests its accessories the way they test their cars. This pet cage went through the same rigorous crash tests the cars do. My yellow lab “Doc” is 90 pounds and getting up there in years, however, he was able to get into the SUV with just a tad of help but fit well inside the cage and enjoyed the ride. I knew he was safe, just like the grandkids in the back seat.
Optional Volvo Pet Cage is approximately $900.
The XC60 did not drive like a top-heavy SUV but more like a very agile sedan. Volvo owners are very loyal and typically keep their cars for years. They are college educated with advanced degrees, and include engineers, pilots, nurses, physical therapists, veterinarians, fire fighters, plastic surgeons and car insurance executives. Why? Because among this group is a combined understanding of the engineering that goes into manufacturing the Volvo, and/or experience with the results after a major car crash when the occupants were not in a VOLVO.
Check out the Volvo City Safety feature, which in itself is worth a test drive. This is Volvo’s low speed collision avoidance system and is part of the Technology Package. It has adaptive cruise Control with pedestrian detection and full auto brake, collision warning with full auto brake, distance alert, driver alert control and lane departure warning. Very cool, very safe.
I have found that baby boomers and empty nesters tend to bring their pets with them on long trips, or simple jaunts to the drive thru at Starbucks on their way to the dog parks in town. Our pets deserve to be as safe as our passengers. The Volvo pet cage is optional and can be set up on the left or right side of the cargo area. The all steel cage came in three pieces and I was able to install it myself with only a little help.
Whether it’s the people you love or the pets you care about, the Volvo XC60 SUV, as well as their other models, takes care of the whole household including your dog, cat, pig or hamster; and like dating, people can change their appearance to be beautiful both inside and out.
Cathy Droz gets the opportunity to try out the new 2014 FIAT 500L
You have to love the FIAT vehicle branding. You know, the commercials with beautiful Italian women seducing nerdy guys in front of a Fiat 500 Abarth, and the most recent ads with a scene from the days of Paul Revere yelling “the Italians are coming” featuring several of the 2014 FIAT 500L in “redcoat” red. Does it make you want to rip off the bottom of your matronly dress, cut your hair and date an Italian star like Peter Facinelli? Does it actually make you want to buy a FIAT? Yep!
Since I couldn’t seduce Barney Fife or date Peter Sellers, no less Peter Facinelli, I thought it best I test drive the new 5-door 2014 FIAT 500L and see for myself what all the yelling is about. I’ve enjoyed testing the two-seater 500’s over the years, but felt I needed a bit more room for work, passengers, golf clubs and travel in general. The 500L has all that and yet is still cute, economical, sturdy and affordable with the additional room and a more muscular Italian stallion stance.
There are four models under the 500L, and even those names are unique; Pop, Easy, Trekking and Lounge. I drove the Lounge model and I can see how it got its name. The seats were comfortable, leather trimmed and heated; I tried out the heated seat, but did not use it on 112 degree days. This model has euro twin clutch, 6-speed automatic transmission, dual zone automatic temperature control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear seat armrest with cup holder, Sirius XM Satellite Radio for the first year free and 16” aluminum wheels with all-season tires. What no panini’s in the glove box?
The front of the FIAT 500L has additional width compared to its FIAT little sisters, a more athletic stance with some very cool color choices and combinations. The rear has very distinct looking tail lamps with chrome exhaust and the liftgate badge with the backup camera right in the middle of the center numeral “0”. I was pleasantly surprised with the width and depth of the front windows that extended to the side view mirrors. There were no blind spot problems considering the span of the windows and the sunroof (optional). I felt that between the glass and the sunroof; if the British or the Italians were coming, they couldn’t miss me.
Watch the Director’s Cut of Fiat’s Italian Invasion ad…
When you are in a small vehicle you worry about safety, so I was very pleased with their seven standard airbags including driver and front-passenger advanced multistage airbags, driver’s knee airbag, full-length side-curtain airbags and front seat-mounted side pelvic-thorax airbags. This and the steel cage made me feel safe when transporting people, especially children. The knee airbags are so important, especially as you get older. The other standard feature that impressed me is the ParkSense and ParkView which gives you a wide-angle view of the area behind the vehicle when backing up. I believe that should be standard on all vehicles no matter which brand or model.
Don’t let this FIAT’s size fool you, the 500L has the 60/40 split seat so you can still make trips to Lowe’s, Home Depot or take your ski’s with your vertically and safely. There is a turbo-charged powertrain engine that packs 160 horsepower and gives you an outstanding 33 highway and 25 city driving miles per gallon. I took my 500L locally to the Valley Youth Theatre and then out to Chandler for a birthday party. I got better mileage on the highway, about 35mpg, but a little less than 25mpg to and from the theatre.
Since I test drive all makes and models I would say this new 500L is comparable to the Kia Soul, MINI Countryman, Nissan CubeS and the Scion XB Base model. The L stretches 27.7 inches longer than its own brand siblings, is 5.7 inches wider and stands 5.9 inches taller. I don’t know about you, but I think the FIAT 500L is in an affordable price range starting at about $19,000 to $27,000.
All this talk about features and increase in size, let us not forget this car is fun, easy to drive, gets stares from all age groups and fits in to parking spots I normally pass by. The visual appearance of the 2014 Fiat 500L both inside and out is so exciting and you can’t stop making excuses to drive it. I say, go and test drive one and forget about any of the commercials you’ve seen. When you are in the driver’s seat, it doesn’t matter who is coming, you are the star.
For more reviews go to www.twofortheroadusa.com
2013 Toyota Highlander Limited visits Casino Del Sol Resort in Tucson, Arizona with Cathy Droz.
Vacations for me this summer were spent with the 30-something kids and grandkids. I didn’t fly anywhere exotic, tropical, European nor bizarre, but I did take one “girl trip” that made me feel like a new woman. I grabbed a girlfriend, an overnight bag, a 2013 Toyota Highlander test vehicle and took advantage of a 24-hour opportunity that allowed us to visit a resort in Tucson, Arizona. Now I know that doesn’t sound very exciting, romantic or exotic but it made me feel like I was in Vegas and Italy with a little Palm Springs thrown in.
The 2013 Highlander Limited V-6 is a mid-size SUV staple for the Toyota brand, and I can see why. It looks good enough to feel very “posh” pulling up in front of a beautiful resort deserving of the valet’s attention, while also being down to earth enough to pack full of kids, luggage, sports equipment and then tow up to 5,000 pounds. It has a third row of seating which is good for bringing along lots of girlfriends or a family of seven. The flip-up rear liftgate window provides quick access to your cargo area without opening the whole “shebang.” Critics have said that the third row of seats is good for small children only, however, I sit in the third row often (I own a 2010 Highlander) when three of my grandkids need to be in safety seats in the second row. This 5’2 menopausal body fits fine, without yelling it’s too hot or cold back here or unable to move freely to catch the sippy cup being thrown in my direction.
The fun part of a girl trip is… there are no men, kids, pets or bosses so the six cup holders were the first thing that got thumbs up. We filled them with necessities like two smart phones, two coffee filled foam cups and two water bottles. If Toyota only knew they created such a feature; “girl trip” cup holders.
It was a safe two hour driving experience to our destination; Casino Del Sol Resort in Tucson, Arizona, and why wouldn’t it be? The Highlander has anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, electronic vehicle stability and traction control systems, active anti-whiplash front head restraints, front side impact airbags, a driver knee airbag and overhead curtain airbags for all rows. The ride was smooth and filled with great music from the sound system and it was also easy to negotiate the technology for GPS, Bluetooth, Toyota Entune and the built in back-up camera.
We arrived early afternoon, leisurely driving the Highlander down the long palm tree lined entrance, with the Resort Casino and Concert venue about a half mile away. With its copper dome and ten story structure nestled in the desert, you knew you were in for a treat. Casino Del Sol Resort, which has been in existence for twenty years, recently went through a one hundred and thirty million dollar expansion which was unveiled in November, 2011. The resort is proudly owned and operated by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and is something you have to see to believe.
If you think the entrance is grand, wait until you see the rest of the property. The interior of the resort was inspired by the Arizona landscape with the feel of traveling throughout Tuscany. Just like the Highlander Hybrid model, the resort incorporates sustainability principles throughout. We express our kudos to both Toyota and Casino Del Sol Resort for their commitment to the environment.
My personal experience was beyond expectations. The Casino and resort are connected, but in the most subtle and relaxing way. This lends itself to visitors who come just for the resort atmosphere which includes the pool, spa, top rated restaurants and concert venue. If you didn’t visit to use the gaming options, (other entrances to just the casino) you wouldn’t know it was there. For example, if you booked a few days there for one of their outdoor, five thousand seat Amphitheater venues, you can walk from your room to a Tim McGraw concert.
The Highlander consistently wins awards year after year for its safety features, use of space and towing capabilities. In fact AAA has ranked the 2013 Toyota Highlander as one of the top vehicles for commuters. The Casino Del Sol has received the AAA four diamond award, putting both the Highlander and the Resort at the top of their respective categories as noted by the most prestigious ranking in the world.
As for the “girl trip” part of our visit, we did plenty… enjoyed the staff and spirits at the Prema Lounge, had the best steak dinner at PY steakhouse, breakfast at Moby’s, manicure at the spa, listened to some great band music, strolled the casino nooks and crannies with ceilings frescoed like Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. We ended our visit with a fun tête-à-tête with CEO/CFO James Burns who welcomed us upon our arrival and wished us ladies a safe trip back to Phoenix. He treated us as if we were guests in his home, and that’s what I look for in a resort.
2013 Toyota Highlander Limited
- Engine: 3.5L V-6
- Power: 270 @ 6,200 rpm
- Transmission 5-speed Auto
- Seating: 7
- Cargo 95.4 cu.ft.
- MPG – l7 city 22 highway
- Invoice on Test Vehicle: $40,863
Casino Del Sol Resort, Spa and Conference Center
- Rooms: 215 – Meeting and Convention Space: 65,000 Square Feet
- Concerts: Anselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheater (AVA) 5,000 seat open air Amphitheater on premises.
- Ballrooms: 18,000 square feet of ballrooms ( breakout to five or more)
- Golf Course: 18 -hole designed by Native American PGA player Notah Begay III
- Water Activities: Beach Pool, VIP Cabanas, Fountain light shows, Kids area
- Restaurants: Seven Restaurants Five Lounges
The Highlander was perfect for the two hour trip both there and back and easy on the eyes for posing at the resort. Casino Del Sol Resort was such a great experience and that is without a dip in the pool or a round of golf. I know I will be back very soon to play golf and I’ll be sure to take a Highlander to fit clubs and luggage for a longer stay. Not sure if I will bring my husband or make it another “Girls Trip”.
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Cathy Droz reviews the 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL from her unique perspective.
I have to admit, when I heard I was going to test drive a Nissan Altima this week, I went to the refrigerator to reheat some leftover meat and potatoes; plain and predictable was my first thought. Conversely, when I saw the 2013 Altima pull in to my driveway, I put the plate back in the fridge and whipped up some spicy chimichangas, as the 2013 3.5 SL conjured up a more festive journey.
Nissan has redesigned its Altima midsize sedan exterior with some new character lines, thereby providing a more aerodynamic profile, which in turn improved its gas mileage. The Nissan Altima, along with the Camry, Sonata and Accord, represents the basic sedan for its respective brand. These are the ones you buy because you can’t go wrong with comfort, reliability and price. However, once in a while a basic sedan stands out over the others, and that is what Nissan did with this 2013 Altima 3.5 SL.
They added some bling to the outside (showing more chrome than my niece’s braces), some paddle shifters, glass moon roof, and side view mirrors that fold in for tight garage spaces or a misjudged ATM drive thru.
I took a road trip in the Altima to the Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale, Arizona to experience the largest Butterfly Atrium in America. I am so glad I had the Altima to transport other adults and two children, both of whom needed carseats and a break from their parents.
With all the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) systems in cars I’ve driven I must say that the Altima system lets you secure LATCH compatible child restraints in the back seat without having to use seat belts or a locking clip. Securing the seats with such ease of handling as the temperature outside reached 112 degrees was a blessing.
I was able to test the agility and steering radius of the sedan the minute we approached the Butterfly Wonderland building because, unfortunately, the road ahead was closed. Traffic was being diverted to a dead end make-shift desert street where we needed to turn around and leave the area. We could see fire trucks from the road and people mulling outside in the parking lot. Cars ahead had to maneuver with two moves , going forward and reverse twice just to get out of the spot, but with the Altima just one left turn movement on the wheel and we were back to the street.
Once the seven and eight year olds in the backseat stopped whining, complaining, and neck stretching to see the fire trucks as we departed, I took the Altima on the open road to test the 3.5 Liter, V6 CVT Engine with 270 horsepower…safely of course. Promising to return in an hour to see if they reopened, I played with the paddle shifters and appreciated the active understeer control I had read so much about. I pulled up the 7-inch “Nissan Connect” screen and proceeded to use all the technology to find out if we could see some butterflies that day. The answer was yes, so back we went; parked the car and were ready to enter their conservatory rain forest where we would learn about butterflies, fog up our glasses from the misters, and have some fun.
The Nissan Altima ranges in price from $21,760 to $31,000
Butterflies can see red, green and yellow
The Altima comes in 8 different color choices (Storm Blue is my favorite)
The top butterfly flight speed is 12 miles per hour, some moths can go 25mph
This Altima gets 27 city and 38 Highway MPG with Xtronic CVT
Many butterflies taste with their feet and cannot hear
The Altima has 18-inch wheels and a Bose premium sound system that is magnificent
Many butterflies can carry 50 times their own body weight.
Butterflies have their skeletons on the outside of their bodies for protection
The Altima has side-impact and curtain air bags, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection and more.
I am not comparing the flight of the butterfly to the Altima but in many ways the evolution of a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly is how I see the Nissan Altima. Over twenty years I’ve witnessed a very plain generic sedan turn in to beautiful, well-appointed automobile and I don’t think they are done morphing yet.
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