HER Certified Auto Review: Hanging Out at the Hangar — 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio AWD

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By Cathy Droz –

I fell in love with this vehicle the first time I drove it. There is something about the style, the grille, the serpent and cross emblem that makes you feel like you are driving through the Italian mountains of Lake Como.

To my surprise, while visiting North Scottsdale Alfa Romeo, I watched Alice Cooper sign over 100 Guitars for the dealership’s annual giveaway, buy a CAR get a GUITAR.  As if that wasn’t enough, I went on to visit Nelson and Mitch at their Helicopter Hangar to get a beautiful shot of the Stelvio.

It was a great week of test driving this sports car but the question most people asked was, “Why is there a four-leaf clover on an Italian car?” (Maybe it was why I had such a “lucky” week.) If you too were wondering here is the why.

When Alfa Romeo has a four-leaf clover on their cars, it’s on their Quadrifoglio (performance cars) and it has more meaning than a leprechaun might imagine.

The four-leaf clover logo denoting the Quadrifoglio designation was originally used by Ugo Sivocci, a friend of Enzo Ferrari, as a good luck charm. He painted it on the grille of his Alfa Romeo RL and won the 1923 Targa Florio. Alfa Romeo began using it on all its race cars after Sivocci died in a crash a few months later.


  • Alfa DNA Pro Drive Mode System with Race Mode
  • Engine Cover with “Quadrifolglio” Badge
  • Blind-Spot and Cross-Path Detection
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Carbon Fiber Drive Shaft
  • Torque Vectoring Differential


  • 8.8-inch AM/FM/HD Radio with Navigation
  • Harman Kardon Premium Audio
  • Quadrifoglio Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel
  • Steering Column-Mounted Aluminum Paddle Shifters


  • Pirelli Brand Tires


  • Trofeo White Tri-Coat Exterior Paint
  • Driver Assistance Dynamic Package includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Lane Departure Warning, Automatic High Beam Headlamp Control, Infrared Windshield
  • Dynamic Dual Mode Exhaust
  • Colored Brake Calipers

For more information, visit www.alfaromeousa.com.

MPG: 17, City; 23, Highway

MSRP: Base Price for Vehicle, $80,245

Price of Vehicle Tested: $88,540

For additional HER Certified Auto Reviews, visit www.hercertified.com.

Photos courtesy of Alfa Romeo

HER Certified Auto Review: 2019 Camry TRD 4-Door V6 Sedan

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By Cathy Droz –

When your bestie turns 70, you take a girl’s weekend to celebrate.  We didn’t go very far, the Boulders resort in Carefree, but we needed a few drivers with cargo space or in my case, a cool car to drive around in.  You also offer to drive because everyone wanted to take a spin in my red Camry TRD, thanks to Toyota.

The Camry was introduced in 1982… and as we all said this weekend… This is not your “Mother’s Camry.” Still a leading model for the Toyota brand, this TRD was taken to a whole new level. In fact, I challenged one of the ladies to a short race against her Targa, Porsche. At one point she got behind the wheel so she could see and feel for herself the power and tenacity of the Camry.  She was impressed.

Maybe we’re turning 70 but we haven’t lost our love of cars, speed and luxury and of course the color red.  Check out the video to see just what went on that weekend.


Standard and Performance

  • 5L V6 Engine, 301 hp @6600 rpm/287 lb-ft @ 4700rpm
  • 8-speed transmission w/ paddle shifters
  • TRD tuned Front and Rear Suspension

Safety and Convenience

  • Pre collision w/pedestrian detection, lane departure alert
  • Backup Camera

Exterior and Interior

  • Audio – 7-inch Screen 6 speakers
  • Android Auto & Apple CarPlay Compatible
  • Display with TRD start up display
  • Aero Kit with Red Pin Striping, Red TRD Badge
  • Red Seatbelts
  • TRD Rear Spoiler
  • TRD Logo Headrest

For more go to www.toyota.com and www.hercertified.com for more Toyota reviews.

MSRP:  $31,040

As Tested: $32,920

The special color red is optional @ $425.00

For additional HER Certified Auto Reviews, visit www.hercertified.com.

HER Certified Auto Review: 2019 Acura ILX

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By Cathy Droz –

The 2019 Acura ILX has delivered a great deal of design and content changes. In the past, I’ve heard “enthusiasts” say that this ILX is just a Honda Civic on Steroids… Well I’m not sure what’s wrong with that.

The changes for 2019 both exterior and interior have made this sedan an under $35,000 contender.  In terms of the exterior, the most outstanding features include the addition of Acura’s signature Diamond Pentagon Grille and new 7-element Jewel Eye LED headlights, along with a new hood and front fascia. The rear sports a new deck lid, lower diffuser, exhaust outlet and LED taillights. New 17-inch wheel designs and color options. Normally a white car is too vanilla for me, but the red and black accent interior make this sharp, sexy and so HER Certified.

Interior changes include new front and rear sport seats, two-way power lumbar control on the driver’s seat, silver-finished dash trim with chrome insert, machine-finished ignition button, dual-screen infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

For more about the Acura ILX go to www.acura.com to check out the tech package = A-Spec.

Multi-View Rear camera
USB Audio Interface
Driver’s 10-way Power Seat
Heated front seats
Dual-Zone automatic Climate Control

Power Moonroof with tilt feature
Heated Power Door Mirrors
Tire Sealant and Inflator Kit
Keyless Access with Smart Entry
MSRP: $31,550
As Tested: $32,545
24 MPG City, 34 MPG Highway
Color:  Platinum White
Interior: Red

For additional HER Certified Auto Reviews, visit www.hercertified.com.

Women Love Jeeps and Trucks

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By Cathy Droz –

RAM and Jeep brands both set full-year sales records in 2018. Jeep sales were up 17 percent and RAM sales were up 7 percent. RAM gets an all-new Heavy Duty and the Jeep brand returns to the pick-up truck market with the Gladiator.

I was privileged to get a first-hand look and test drive in the new RAM and Gladiator from FIAT Chrysler Automobiles. A special treat was the Jeep Gladiator set up for camping, or in my case glamping. I had just tested the RAM 1500 Longhorn and found it easy to drive. The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty handled with the same ease and comfort. I would think adding a horse trailer would be a piece of cake.

Facts: The 2019 Ram Heavy Duty is the most powerful, most capable pickup in the segment with a towing capacity of 35,100 lbs. and payload capacity of 7,680 lbs. There is torque rating of 1,000 lb.-ft from the Cummins i-6 Turbo Diesel engine. So, if you need to tow a boat, horse trailer, RV or a small motor home, this is your truck. It also is so luxurious you can pull up to the Ritz and get out in your heels.

The all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator — claiming to be the most capable midsize truck ever. This jeep has a combination of rugged utility, authentic Jeep design, open-air freedom, clever functionality and versatility, best in class towing and 4X4 payload, advance fuel-efficient powertrains, superior on and off-road dynamics and a host of innovative safety and advanced technology features. The Jeep Gladiator can turn in to a sleeping, driving, off-road, campfire party vehicle.

Pricing was not available to us but check with your local RAM and Jeep dealer. For more information go to www.ramtrucks.com and www.jeep.com.

For additional HER Certified reviews, visit www.hercertified.com.

No Confusion with a Fusion: 2019 Fusion Energi Titanium

juliadrozserafine_headshotBy Julia Droz Serafine 

The Serafine household is filled with confusion on a daily basis. It can range anywhere from homework assignments to who does what chores on what day of the week. Piano lessons, Girl Scouts, soccer, ballet and working at our coffee shop on Saturday mornings, even with a calendar on the wall, leads to “misunderstandings.” We’ve actually made confusion a lifestyle, sort of “the new normal.”

So, if there is any way to simplify our life, well, mostly mine, sign me up! That’s exactly what the 2019 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium has accomplished! First of all, the Fusion only comes in one model trim level. I would like to thank Ford for not bombarding me with several different models and trim levels that would leave me in a further state of confusion. This happens to me all the time with the kids…they even get called the dog’s name! (What were we thinking naming the dog Holly?) Ford makes it easy and simple, just how life decisions should be (wink, wink).

Even though the SE Luxury and Platinum trim levels have been dropped, the Fusion still has well-equipped features. For me and my party of five, the most important feature is the cabin space. The Fusion definitely is equipped with plenty of room for five adults or in my case, a nine year old with five different purses with her at all times, a seven year old who is attached to her unicorn pillow, a five year old who has to take everything PAW Patrol with her when we leave the house and a linebacker for a husband.

Not only is the cabin roomy, but I found the placement of the interior instrument display very user friendly. The controls are clearly labeled, and everything is done pretty much at a glance or by voice, which thanks to today’s technology, my kids figured out how it worked before I did! The Fusion is also very functional with its lane-keeping system/alert, rear view camera, reverse sensing system and voice activated navigation. A lot of these features are only available on a higher trim model on other brands of vehicles, and at an increased price. This is the least confusing vehicle we’ve driven that comes with a reasonable price.

Saving the best feature for last, the annual fuel cost. Anywhere I can save my family money is a bonus for me. Of course, actual results will vary, but based on 15,000 miles a year, combing electric and gasoline, you are looking at an annual fuel cost of only $750! The combo of electric and gasoline gets you 103 MPGe. That’s a lot of trips to ballet and back.

The ride itself is very sturdy. The Fusion accelerates quickly, which I need getting on and off the freeway when the exit comes up quicker than anticipated. I also enjoyed the quietness of the car while driving on the highway…my kids must have been at home! The exterior of the car is “sleek and shimmering like a unicorn” Gabby remarked. It has a nice look to it from past models and this midsize gas saver gave me a luxury feel even when the kids were kicking the back of my seat.

The 2019 Ford Fusion Energi Titanium is a no-nonsense vehicle. It’s straight to the point, an easy drive and leaves the driver super confident with their choice of car. Definitely, no confusion here!

MSRP: $38,085

Price of Model Tested: $36,085 – Includes Fusion Energi Discount

Note: This is a Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle Electricity-Gasoline

For more reviews by HER Certified go to www.hercertified.com.

Living on the Edge: 2019 Ford Edge ST AWD

By Melanie Droz Shawcroft —

What do you do during all of these rainy days in the Valley? You take the 2019 Ford Edge ST AWD for a spin to the mall where you and your husband and two children can play for hours while staying dry — similar to the drive in the Edge.

Of course, the Edge performed well in the rain. With its 2.7L V6 Ecoboost engine and 8-speed auto transmission, this Ford had some pickup. A little faster than the racing car the boys rode for 20 seconds that cost one dollar. The rain-sensing wipers kept us safe and the wiper activated headlamps kept the road clear. The LED fog lamps and ST performance brake package were also perfect for our adventure. I was itching to get back in the Edge after seeing the boys in the blue racecar at the mall.

The pet store is always one of my favorite places to visit, and the Ford Edge provided plenty of space for us to bring home that Mastiff. With hands-free, foot activated liftgate, it would be easy to get our new friend in the Edge, and with leather-trimmed seats, dual zone automatic climate control and heated rear seats, this new puppy would definitely ride in style and comfort. It was important to get out of the pet store before the Mastiff became a reality, so we were off to the trampoline next.

The trampoline at the mall is Berrett’s favorite activity, and he was finally brave enough to do a back flip. With the 10 bungee cords and all the harnesses, it is hard to believe it took him so long. That contraption is nearly as safe as the 2019 Ford Edge. The trampoline, similar to the LATCH child safety system in the Edge, is missing the multiple airbags and SOS post-crash alert system. If the trampoline had the Edge safety features, we may have been able to keep our 2-year-old Spencer on for more than 12 seconds.

Next on the agenda was the play area followed by the train ride around the mall. Although the children’s play area is entertaining, it is truthfully too many kids in a confined space going 90 miles per hour, which almost always leads to a crash. The 2019 Ford Edge could survive the chaos with its lane keeping system with alert, pre-collision assist with AEB, rearview camera and reverse sensing system. Without these crucial features, Spencer took a knee to the head and had to be carried crying to the train in order to cheer him up.

The train ride was a blast for the boys — all three of them. We ended our day with the carousel, which can almost always make me nauseous. Not nearly the smooth ride of the Edge. In that 3-minute carousel ride, I surely missed the 10-way heated driver and passenger seats, leather wrapped steering wheel with cruise and audio controls and the bucket seats with sueded cloth seat inserts. The ostrich moving up and down going in a circle was just not the same.

Of course, we grabbed some ice cream on the way out to enjoy in the Edge on our way home after an exhausting day. We sure did enjoy looking out through the panoramic vista roof with ambient lighting and listening to the SIRIUS XM. It was a fabulous rainy day spent at the mall, but the relaxation, safety and convenience of the 2019 Ford Edge ST AWD made it the best ride of the day.

MSRP: $42,355

ST Package can go as high as $52,125

Day at the mall: $50

For more vehicle reviews, visit www.hercertified.com.

In a New York Minute: 2018 Mazda6

By Melanie Droz Shawcroft —

Getting ready for a classy New York wedding around the holidays is no easy feat, so it was perfect to have the stylish 2018 Mazda6 in preparation for this fabulous trip. This refined midsize sedan that has been re-engineered for 2018 features new technology, refinements in design and performance, and upgrades that make this the ideal vehicle to shop for that perfect little black dress meant for a wedding at the Bronx Botanical Gardens.

The turbocharged SKYACTIV-G 2.5T engine is one update on the 2018 Mazda6 that made it easy for me to get New York ready. Similar to keeping up with the hustle and bustle of the New York streets, the Mazda6 provided the speed I needed to get around town for my last-minute errands. The 310 lb.-ft. of torque made the drive effortless and enjoyable. Plus, the turbocharger made the adventure even more thrilling — similar to the many cab rides we took in New York while tightly gripping the handles on the side.

The Mazda6 provided a preview of the peace and quiet my husband and I would experience in New York, since our two boys were staying in Arizona with their aunt. Road and wind noise have been reduced by quieter tires and stiffer wheels, thicker floorplan and windshield, and reinforced suspension mounting points, which are just a few features to reduce the noise. If only it were so easy with 2- and 7-year-old boys.

Since I would soon be in the melting pot of the nation, it was fitting that the 2018 Mazda6 came with Nappa leather and Japanese Sen wood. Entering a higher class of competition, just like the higher heels I was not used to for the wedding, this Mazda6 with leatherette seating surfaces, brilliant silver 19-inch alloy wheels and power moonroof offers premium amenities that make this Mazda6 stand out. The UltraSuede trim, heated front seats, and gunmetal-colored grille are just a few more features that got me ready for the glitz and glam of New York City.

With my cousin’s wedding website and various wedding registries, technology has played a huge role in her New York wedding. From submitting our RSVP online and sharing pictures on social media, the technology on the Mazda6 prepared me for the “millennials” wedding. Ventilated front seats, 7.0-inch TFT gauge display, windshield-projected Active Driving Display, and 8.0-inch MAZDA CONNET informational display name just a few of the technology advances in the Mazda6. Thankfully, I had these tools leading up to the wedding.

I always get a bit nervous before flying, so it was very comforting to be driving the “2018 Top Safety Pick” recipient. My family can make fun of my nervous habits on the plane as much as they want, but none of those tendencies could be seen while driving the Mazda6. The electronic parking brake, rearview camera, blind spot monitoring and lane-departure assist were a few safety features on the new Mazda6. The Smart City Brake Support would have been super useful in New York when the cabbies would slam on the brakes going under 19mph.

The wedding in New York was phenomenal. We also enjoyed Central Park, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, a walk along Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, Rachel Ray’s dressing room, and the subway. New York made me feel alive and so did the 2018 Mazda6, which is why this upgraded sedan would have made the perfect date for a New York wedding.

MSRP: $34,750

As Tested: $36,435

Cost of a New York Wedding: $65,824

Visit www.mazda.com to learn more.

For more vehicle reviews, visit www.hercertified.com.

Drive Accordingly: 2018 Honda Accord EX-L

juliadrozserafine_headshotBy Julia Droz Serafine 

Holy sedan! I just had the opportunity to test drive a 2018 Honda Accord EX-L, I couldn’t say yes, please and thank you fast enough! Since most of the cars I test drive these days include seating for nine, captain’s chairs (my fave), tons of cup holders and a lot of folding seat options, the idea of driving an unpretentious, yet fully loaded sedan made me squeal with excitement! It is sleek, stylish and seating is plentiful, especially for my family of five. Nine times out of 10, I have at least two out of three kids with me at all times and at the rate they’re growing, especially their attitudes, the space in the Accord definitely did the trick!

Can we start with the way the car looks? I was super impressed by the sophistication of the vehicle and how it’s changed over the years. Even the girls thought they were traveling in a limo for the weekend. When I would think of a sedan, I envision a four door, boring, boxy vehicle. You know, what your retired parents might drive. Not so with the Accord’s case. The European-inspired fastback design along with 19-inch Glint Black Alloy wheels and Decklid Spoiler gives the Accord a fresh, younger look…similar to me after Botox!

*Car was parked with emergency brake on for photo.

I like to think that I’m an amazing driver, but as my children and husband have both pointed out to me in the past, it’s not exactly a strong quality (except when I’m test driving, of course!). The Honda Accord EX-L actually makes you a safe driver. It boasts a full suite of safety and driver assistive technologies such as LKAS (lane keeping assist system) — this will actually adjust the steering wheel to help you stay in your lane, (RDM) Road Departure Mitigation System — if you happen to cross over a lane without signaling, your vehicle will move you back to your starting lane, or provide braking (#drivinggoals). Add to that CMBS (Collision Mitigation Braking System), ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control), TSR (Traffic Sign Recognition), which displays speed-limit sign information to assist the driver while the vehicle is moving. The camera can recognize the speed limit sign for all to see…great for backseat drivers ages 4 through 8!

The 8-inch display audio touch screen does its job nicely and makes it so convenient to swipe my way through every Taylor Swift song until the right one is found, and listened to, over and over and over again and again.

Overall, the 2018 Honda Accord is one sedan I would own. The space is large enough for the family and the feel is impressive. And while I chauffeured my girls around town all weekend for girl scouts and birthday parties, I also filled the trunk with groceries, dog food, bicycles and a great find at the consignment shop. I didn’t mind it a bit and ACCORDing to my girls, as they mentioned several times, “This is easy to get in and out of compared yours mom, and also prettier and cleaner.”

2018 Honda Accord EX-L – As tested M.S.R.P. $30,865

For more reviews by HER Certified go to www.hercertified.com.

Pilot Your Way Back to School: 2018 Honda Pilot Elite

juliadrozserafine_headshot– By Julia Droz Serafine

It’s that time of year again. Pretty soon our kiddos will be making their way out the door to start a new school year. New outfits, folders, #2 pre-sharpened pencils, plenty of disinfecting wipes and brand-new backpacks, because according to my eight-year-old, having a new backpack every year is a “must!” New friends, old friends, AMAZING teachers and office staff, social media adds and maybe, just maybe, a new family vehicle! Kids are getting older (and bigger), supply lists are getting longer, sporting equipment and musical instruments are plentiful or maybe you’ve added another kid or two to your brood. These all sound like reasonable explanations to go and test drive a 2018 Honda Pilot Elite. Of course, no one will be going anywhere without the obligatory “first day of school” photo post! My girls usually average about 30 shots before we get all eyes open and no hair pulling. What’s your count?

Family-Friendly, High-Tech 2018 Honda Pilot Goes On-Sale

HER Certified provided me an amazing opportunity to test drive the 2018 Honda Pilot Elite. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the body style of the Pilot had taken on a sleeker look. I was never a fan of the “box” shape of years past. To me, the Pilot is a nice mix between a minivan and an SUV. It’s like a perfect child (not that I would know what that’s like). Aside from the Pilot’s beautiful exterior, the first thing that caught my eye inside were the captain’s chairs instead of a standard bench seat. I am seriously obsessed with this feature. This makes shoving, I mean, assisting the kids in and out of the vehicle a delight! A simple push of a button automatically slides the second row forward, effortlessly allowing the oldest to jump to that third row without any complaints (mom win). Not to mention the distance between the two second row captain’s chairs that keeps the car a “hitting, T-shirt pulling, scratch-free zone” for my younger two. All is well in the world.

Although it’s a short drive from our home to the Red Dot Boutique, it gave us plenty of time to enjoy the ride. The panoramic roof, in addition to the sun roof, gave us an awesome view of the incoming monsoon clouds…which lasted about 30 seconds when all eyes switched to the Blue-Ray screen showing Nick Jr.! The multi-informational display is right up front and super easy to go from text, phone call, to music…not all at once, of course!

The flexible cargo space was definitely what we needed after our major back-to-school shopping spree. And since we can’t leave Target without items we “don’t need,” per my husband, with a flip of the reversible cargo lid, we were able to hide, I mean, place the items in the deep space of the trunk. What happens in Target stays in Target.

Driving the Pilot was a treat. Not only did it ride smoothly, its 3.5-liter direct injection V-6 engine produces 280 horsepower, which definitely allows for some pick up. I am most impressed by the amount of safety features within the Pilot. The 2018 Honda Pilot has achieved top ratings from NHTSA and IIHS and is equipped with innovative safety and drivers-assistive technology including Honda Sensing. These features include Lane Keeping Assist System in which the steering wheel actually keeps you “in line,” Cross Traffic Monitor Collision Mitigation Braking System, which brings the car to a stop to avoid frontal collision, and Road Departure Mitigation System, in which the car literally hollers at you if you cross lanes without a signal!

Overall, the 2018 Honda Pilot Elite ranks high on my list of family vehicles. It has a feel of driving a large SUV without it being a large SUV (short girl problems). I appreciate the sleek design and the impressive interior features that accommodate my large and loud crew. Did I mention it has captain’s chairs? Back-to-school supplies doesn’t have to be for students only, take your list into Bell Honda today and check out the Pilot.

Prices starting at $29,516

For more reviews by HER Certified go to www.hercertified.com.

Watch Out: I’m On Weight Watchers — 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 Sel S-AWC

– By Melanie Droz Shawcroft

Well, I am officially a member of Weight Watchers. After years of looking for the right program, I think I have finally found it. I have kicked off my journey in an eight-way power adjustable leather, heated driver’s seat behind the convenient steering wheel with controls of the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander, which has encouraged me to get active and enjoy the ride — the car and my life.

I am hoping once I am successful on Weight Watchers, I won’t need the extra room; however, with the third-row seating and an easy fold-down second and third row, the Outlander offers a ton of space for family and friends or healthy groceries, gym equipment, workout gear… The power remote liftgate and cargo light make it easy to throw my stuff in the back after a late-night workout.

Although working out is key to staying healthy, Weight Watchers is all about tracking every crumb you eat. I can track my food and exercise easily with the 7” touchscreen display which can allow me to simply and safely access my Weight Watchers app. The navigation can also help me find the nearest Weight Watchers location for my weekly meeting and weigh-in. I can also access Bluetooth, Sirius XM, and so much more.

The safety of the Outlander is working overtime to keep my new slim figure protected. Winning the 2018 Top Safety Pick Award, the Outlander comes equipped with Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Assist. Hill Start Assist, Anti-lock Braking System and Brake Assist are additional safety features that allow the Outlander to basically drive itself. If only it could do my workouts!

I am definitely inspired to keep working hard so I can look as good as the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander. The power glass sunroof with sunshade and tilt features, the 18-inch two-tone alloy wheels and chrome accents are just a few of the Outlanders slick features. It isn’t all looks either – the 2.4L MIVEC 16-valve engine with electric power steering gets an average of 26 miles per gallon. I am encouraged my journey will also end with such impressive stats.

The 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty is similar to the assurance that Weight Watchers provides – it is a simple and flexible way of living – very good pairing. With an MSRP of $27,995 (my model $32,260), the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander sounds like the right SUV for someone who is ready to live their life and enjoy the ride.

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