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2014 SRT VIPER is Taking a Bite of the American Muscle Cars

2014 SRT VIPER is Taking a Bite of the American Muscle Cars 5.00/5 4 votes

Cathy's Car Corner on SmartFemThe 2014 SRT Viper (Dodge nameplate gone) is not for everyone, not only because it is financially out of reach for many people, but the feel of a 10 cylinder, 640 horsepower engine with 600 lb-ft of torque is like breaking the sound barrier or dating that bad boy in high school.   The powerful Viper muscle car is not for everyone but for some it feels so good.

SRT Viper logoWhen I hear the word Viper I think of the Viperidae, a very dangerous snake, and since I live in the deserts of Arizona I steer clear of trails where such dangerous reptiles might appear. Did you know that the venom of the viper contains proteases?  These protein-degrading enzymes subdue their prey by causing pain, necrosis, and coagulopathy while serving to immobilize the prey and ease digestion.

Well, now I know why they named this Dodge muscle car the VIPER.  From the moment you sit in the driver’s seat and hear the sound of the exhaust… you’ve been bitten by the need for speed and you are left paralyzed, subdued, and unable to believe your good fortune.  2014 SRT ViperKnowing you have the ability to pass a Corvette ZR1 on the freeway or rev your engine while at a stoplight next to a Porsche 911 Turbo makes it worth the bite.

The 2014 model is the fifth generation of the Viper and features some outstanding changes.  Obviously a New Year’s resolution, the Viper shed a good 25 pounds (wish I had) from the engine alone.  The entire vehicle weighed in about 100 pounds lighter than previous models as they changed to an all-new aluminum and carbon fiber body.  I would love to say that the shedding of pounds helped tremendously with fuel efficiency but the VIPER stands at 12 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway. That really isn’t so bad for a 640 horsepower sports car.

As to the interior of the 2014 SRT Viper, an area that I am particularly interested in, some changes have been made.  In trying to get with the times and maybe to appeal to more women, the latest Viper has a significantly more comfortable, stylish and attractive interior.  I don’t want the men to get nervous here as there is a very drive-focused, cockpit-style layout to help owners enjoy getting the most out of their driving experience with minimal distraction.  2014 SRT Viper interiorIt’s similar to that race car “cocoon” feeling or perhaps the F-35 Stealth Fighter Jet cockpit “hug.”

Additionally, the new Viper offers driver comfort in unexpected areas.  In my case, with the rapid acceleration while holding tightly on to the steering wheel, it caused me to experience white knuckles and sweaty palms.  I was grateful for the extra padding to grip and perspire on.

If you are interested in every aspect of your driving experience you will be thrilled to know that all the vital information is on a seven-inch customizable instrument cluster display. This includes full time analog tachometer readout in the center to provide performance feedback, which is the Viper philosophy.  I should get as much communication from my husband after his golf game as you get from the Viper cluster display. This reptile of a car is so high tech and performance driven you might as well wear a racing jumpsuit when cruising about town.

airparkdodgechryslerjeepThe 2014 SRT Viper driven by Cathy was provided courtesy of Coye Pointer at Airpark Dodge Ram Chrysler Jeep in Scottsdale.

The Viper is offered in two forms; the SRT Viper and the SRT Viper GTS which offers a more refined approach at harnessing the V-10’s fury.  Standard is a nine-speaker AM/FM/CD/Sirius XM stereo system with AUX/USB inputs and an SD car reader.  Included as well is Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming, U-connect infotainment system, LED daytime running lights and taillights, bi-xenon headlights, and 18 inch front wheels.

The GTS has all those and additional features. Now for the “serious” Viper owners there is the TA (or Track Attack) and those options include race track extras and packaged in the color “Crusher Orange.”

With safety as everyone’s concern, The Viper models come equipped with front airbags in addition to traction control and federally-mandated stability control.  However, side and side-curtain airbags, which are standard fare on nearly every other new car on the market, are not available. That doesn’t worry me since there is no room for the grandchildren or the dog anyway.

The Viper isn’t for the masses but if you have $100,000 or more to spend on one of the coolest American muscle cars, I say go for it.  Not only will you get the looks on the freeway and a thumb up from every teen driving a Dodge Dart and from every mommy blogger in a Caravan, but you’ll get the respect from the Lamborghini enthusiasts and ZR1 “Vette” drivers that want to race you home.

The 2014 SRT Viper is a lot of muscle car and is an adrenalin rush upon takeoff so be ready for the ride of a lifetime… you will be smitten and bitten for sure.

Cathy Droz-Two for the Road_585

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A Grand Slam for Lexus

A Grand Slam for Lexus 5.00/5 2 votes

Cathy's Car Corner on SmartFemI don’t know if it’s the opening of baseball season or what but, when I told my grandson I was testing the 2014 Lexus GS 350 Sedan he said, “Wow, Lexus makes a Grand Slam Sedan?” Let’s attribute that statement to the five precious years he’s been on this planet and the fact he plays T-Ball learning new terminology weekly. Either way, I thought to myself that the initials GS could very well stand for a Grand Slam on the part of Lexus. They developed a car filled with interior and exterior amenities way beyond the reach of Derek Jeter or Joe DiMaggio.

2014 Lexus GS 350 SedanI’ve probably test driven every Lexus to date and can’t find much wrong with any of them. I’ve always felt that Lexus was the epitome of luxury, style and comfort. I’m not sure if it’s because I get to travel behind the scenes at press meetings where I meet with the engineers, designers and technology experts or because when I drive them I feel kind of like Audrey Hepburn complete with black dress and pearls.

The craftsmanship and perfection of the Lexus brand makes me enamored with everything from their hand stitched leather steering wheels to the (tuned to perfection) sound systems. Whatever it is, I believe there is a model for you within the right price range and with appropriate amenities.

My most recent test drive in the 2014 Lexus GS Sedan was a 40 minute drive to see my 5 year old grandson take a swat at the ball and run the bases with such ease while focusing on the fundamentals his father/coach taught him. This is much like the way Lexus sprints past its competition while remaining true to its roots with great engineering and good looks.

2014 Lexus GS 350 Sedan_interior_Phoenix_AZFor 2014 the GS 350 boasts an 8-speed shift enabled automatic transmission along with the welcomed steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. You’ll find efficient LED daytime running lights, front fog/driving lights and Apple’s Siri eyes-free iPhone interface with steering wheel mounted controls. All of this has taken the Lexus GS up a notch making it quite the global brand.

What hasn’t changed is the Lexus legacy with the posh features we’ve grown to know and love such as 17 inch alloy wheels, heated reverse-tilting power mirrors and a power sunroof. There is leather upholstery and power adjustable front seats along with leather, wood, and simulated alloy cabin accents to embellish the interior. The split folding rear seatbacks add a little more room to the car’s spacious 14.3 cubic foot trunk capacity for 2014. I tested the trunk with two sets of golf clubs, a cooler filled with box juice for the team and those folding chairs you can purchase at Sam’s Club so you look like all the other millennium parents lined up at the fence watching the games.

2014 Lexus GS 350 Sedan_exterior_Phoenix_AZA Few Facts on the 2014 Lexus GS 350

  • Price Range: 47,250 – 49,950
  • Engine: 3.5L V6 – 306 Horsepower
  • GS 350 – GS 350 F Sport – GS 450 H
  • Economy (MPG) – 19 City 28 Highway

I have found safety to be the biggest concern for women when shopping for any vehicle in any price range, and they rank the GS 350 as a favorite. The GS 350 includes all wheels Antilock Brake System (ABS), traction and stability control, front and rear side-mounted airbags, front and rear head airbags and front head restraint whiplash protection. Optional safety equipment includes a blind spot alert system, Lexus’ self explanatory Intuitive Parking Assist, lane-departure warning and pre-collision preparation accompanying radar-based adaptive cruise control. The Heads Up Display can project key information to appear six feet in front of you providing you vital information. Lexus technology keeps improving to keep us more focused on the road, not on the phone or flipping for music or checking Facebook.

The cockpit of the car evokes luxury amongst the smell of leather and wood grain finishes, but if you look at the instruments and controls of the GS 350 you will see some very cool features. There is a drive mode select that allows you to turn a dial to your desired ride such as Eco, Normal and Sport S. Lexus 350 Dial for EcoThese three choices allow you to make your vehicle more responsive or efficient with the simple turn of the dial. Eco mode moderates the throttle response, engine power output and climate settings for increased fuel efficiency. Normal mode provides the optimal balance of fuel efficiency and engine performance. Sport mode alters the powertrain for faster gear changes and more dynamic throttle charting. I feel like you get three cars for the price of one… just dial for the situation or your mood.

WeddingTBallPumpkin023When I left the game on Saturday in Ahwatukee, I was impressed with a team of six year old boys and girls who were having so much fun; trying to hit a ball, run to bases they seemed oblivious to and “high- fiving” coaches who possess the patience of saints. Leaving with all of this in mind I dialed my Lexus GS 350 to normal mode because that is what this day felt like.

Out of the mouth of babes the fancy Lexus GS 350 really is a “Grand Slam” and for now on that’s what I will call it. As far as I’m concerned Lexus hit one out of the park… again.


Cathy Droz-Two for the Road_585

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Cars – Community – Cooper… meet Coye Pointer

February 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Auto, Charities, SmartFem featured content

Cars – Community – Cooper… meet Coye Pointer 3.75/5 4 votes

Cathy's Car Corner on SmartFemHow 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”.

Coye Pointer and Alice CooperA 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.

Fender Guitar FIAT of ScottsdaleFrom 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.

Searching for Oprah with the 2014 Toyota Highlander

Searching for Oprah with the 2014 Toyota Highlander 5.00/5 1 vote

Cathy's Car Corner on SmartFemWhen 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 BarbaraSanta 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?

2014 Toyota Highlander_800The 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.

2014 Toyota Highlander_800aThe 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. Oprah's Magazine OI 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.

2014 Toyota Highlander_800bLadies, 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.

Oprah's HomeMore 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.”

Cathy Droz-Two for the Road_585

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Volvo “Splits” into 2014 with Van Damme, Sensus, and Holiday Cheer

Volvo “Splits” into 2014 with Van Damme, Sensus, and Holiday Cheer 5.00/5 4 votes

Cathy's Car Corner on SmartFemVolvo 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?

Volvo S60 2014 Geneva Auto ShowThe Future Snapshot for Volvo

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

2013 Volvo XC60 SUV safe pet cage_300

“Doc” resting in the Volvo XC60

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.

lingonberry-wreath_VolvoThe 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?”

Cathy Droz-Two for the Road_585For more reviews go to and here on 


Tops Off to the Italians for the 2013 Fiat 500c Lounge Cabrio

Tops Off to the Italians for the 2013 Fiat 500c Lounge Cabrio 5.00/5 5 votes

Cathy's Car Corner on SmartFemDon’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. Fiat 500C convertibleI 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.

Fiat 500C convertible rear viewI 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. Fiat Red Convertible in front of VintageI 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 Information

Estimated Gas Mileage -  31 MPG City – 40 MPG Highway (5 speed manual)
Wheels:  15-inch Aluminum Wheels
All Season Tires
Fiat 500c LoungeChrome 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.

If you live in the Phoenix area stop by Fiat of Scottsdale at 16301 North 78th Street in Scottsdale to try one for yourself.

Cathy Droz-Two for the Road_585

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Volvo “Rolls” Everywhere! with the 2013 Volvo S60 T5 FWD Platinum

Volvo “Rolls” Everywhere! with the 2013 Volvo S60 T5 FWD Platinum 5.00/5 5 votes

Cathy's Car Corner on SmartFemHere 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. Volvo at Local MotorsAs 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.

2013 Volvo S60 T5 FWD

Base Price – $32,645 – Price Tested – $42,095.00
Volvo S60 2013Miles 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

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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 Phoenix of Volvo at Scottsdale PoloHorses 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.


Cathy Droz-Two for the Road_585For more reviews go to and here on


FIAT 500 Turbo Hatchback – Worth Shifting For

September 25, 2013 by  
Filed under Auto, Slideshow Articles, SmartFem featured content

FIAT 500 Turbo Hatchback – Worth Shifting For 5.00/5 5 votes

A practical review of the FIAT 500 Turbo Hatchback by Cathy Droz.

Fiat Turbo 500L Full View

Cathy's Car Corner on SmartFemJust 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.

FIAT 500 HeelsEquipped 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, , 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.

Fiat Turbo five speed stick shiftI 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.

Fiat Turbo ExteriorThe 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-Two for the Road_585

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“2013 Volvo XC60 SUV is a Doggone Safe Car”

September 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Auto, Slideshow Articles, SmartFem featured content

“2013 Volvo XC60 SUV is a Doggone Safe Car” 4.43/5 7 votes

Cathy Droz and her yellow lab “Doc” review the sleek new 2013 Volvo XC60 SUV.

2013 Volvo XC60 SUV Interior

Cathy's Car Corner on SmartFemLet’s not re-invent the wheel or re-write the press on the 2013 Volvo XC60We 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?  2013 Volvo XC60 SUV exterior_SmartFem_1024Just 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.    2013 Volvo XC60 SUV safe pet cage_300Why 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-Two for the Road_585

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The Italians are Coming… and everyone else!

The Italians are Coming… and everyone else! 5.00/5 4 votes

Cathy Droz gets the opportunity to try out the new 2014 FIAT 500L

Cathy's Car Corner on SmartFemYou 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!

Peter Facinelli

Peter Facinelli

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?

Fiat 500L InteriorThe 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.

Fiat Exterior yellow and white_736Since 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.


Cathy Droz-Two for the Road_585

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