Photography by ©2017 Toni Avery

My fourth year in attendance, Heels and Wheels brings woman from a multitude of mediums in the auto industry together for networking and driving the latest from OEMS. This year, the event was held in Portland, Oregon and stationed us in the middle of downtown.

Unlike the last two events, which featured a single OEM, 2017 offered a large number of automakers and their cars, from Aston Martin to Kia. Night one brought us all together to meet and mingle with day two focusing on the driving. Receiving the lineup about a week before the event, I wanted to focus on cars I’d been wanting to drive and hadn’t had the opportunity to.

A big thank you to Christine Overstreet for putting on another great event!

Jaguar F-Type SVR

After reviewing two F-Types, the first being a rear-wheel drive R and the second an all-wheel drive R convertible, I was curious to see how different the SVR is from the R.

First impressions are that the exterior is more aggressive with a larger functional rear wing made of carbon fiber, more aerodynamic additions especially at the front fascia. Performance wise, the SVR benefits from 25 more horsepower than the R and is about 150 pounds lighter. It also featured Alcantara where the driver holds the wheel, which was a nice touch.  It was difficult to tell if the added power and reduction in weight made a difference due to the fact that I was at the mercy of other drivers in front of me.

The one thing that stuck out as exceptional and improved over the R is the exhaust note. During my loan with the R, I loved the sound and thought they couldn’t improve from there….but I was proven wrong. Even in the SVR’s coupe form the exhaust was loud enough to hear inside with delicious crackles, pops and burbles. This was by far the best sounding car of the day.

Aston Martin DB11

The DB10 made in debut in the latest James Bond film Spectre and later, the DB11 came into production with similar styling. I’ve seen it a couple times in person, but hadn’t driven one yet. It was by far the prettiest car at the event. The paint was a strong metallic light blue. When the Aston Martin rep walked around the car, she mentioned that it had actual glass in it and took about 50 hours to paint the car. Everything on the car is hand assembled, which I believe just by looking at it.

The interior was also the most beautiful of any car there. It featured a dark blue and tan combination with a wave like pattern where the blue fanned out from the seat to the roof and just a touch of red stitching. The center cluster was totally different than my dad’s Vantage, with buttons substituting Drive, Reverse and Neutral. The wheel features a button for suspension and drive adjustments. This ranged from GT to Sport to Sport Plus. GT is the most neutral and comfortable mode making the cabin quiet and the ride soft. Sport heightened things a bit with a little more noise, and a slightly firmer ride. Sport Plus is where it’s at with the stiffest ride and best throttle response and noise and the wheel becomes dramatically lighter feeling and more compliant.

Going into it, I expected to fall hard for the DB11, but feel it was either the traffic or lack of open road to wind it up properly that didn’t give me that “oh wow” feeling. It was very comfortable and obviously nice to look at and sit in, but I wanted to really drive it and see what it was like. Hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to explore the DB11 further.

Lexus LC500h

After seeing a pre-production version up in Monterey last year during Car Week, I wanted to see what the LC500h was all about. The car we had at the event was also a pre-production vehicle but I don’t expect much will change from this one to the actual production car.

Design wise its quite interesting from the exterior and once you get inside there are some familiar Lexus cues. I felt the tan was just too much. It would have been more appealing to break it up with some black or a darker color. And after spending some time in it, I might actually like the cabin of the RC-F better. It also feels larger inside than I expected.

But of all the cars I drove, this one surprised me most. I have yet to review a hybrid or electric car just due to what I focus on for my audience. I expected the LC500h to feel heavy and sluggish but to my surprise, the car performed quite the opposite. It cornered nicely, felt much more nimble than expected and even had a nice engine note when put in Sport Plus mode. You could almost forget you’re driving a hybrid while driving in Sport Plus. It’s more responsive and engaging than I expected, which made it the biggest surprise of the day for me.

Jaguar F-Pace

Since its launch I was intrigued by the idea of a Jaguar SUV with styling cues borrowed from the F-Type. Being my last drive, I was interested to see how the F-Pace compared to a similar size vehicle I know very well, the Porsche Macan.

Initially, impressions of the interior weren’t great. Its roomy and fairly comfortable but just didn’t quite hit the mark for what I thought a Jaguar SUV could be, but there’s probably other configurations that make it more appealing.

But, driving dynamics is what I focus on more than appearance anyways. Taking the same route as the sports cars I was really impressed by the lack of lean into corners, even tight ones or ones I took a little quickly, it didn’t seem to have that big car lean I can’t stand. The supercharged V6 also impressed me with its quick response and interesting sound. I definitely didn’t expect it to perform like a sporty sedan but it did. The F-Pace is a nice alternative to some of the equally priced SUVs out there simply because it’s fun to drive and looks great.