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#CityEvocation: 2016 Range Rover Evoque

Sure, I may get the opportunity to work with a lot of car brands but don’t make the assumption that my affinity for luxury cars stems from partnerships through my blog. I am almost embarrassed to admit that my final paper in my International Business class in university was on the impact of entry luxe vehicles making it’s way into the automotive industry. I know, nerdy right but hey some girls like handbags and shoes, I just really love cars. Over the last 15 years, I’ve watched just about every premium car manufacturer add a moderately priced entry level vehicle into their line-up. What does this mean exactly? A 20something climbing the corporate ladder no longer has to wait 10 years to have the vaunted badge of a Mercedes on the hood of their car. They can now afford one for almost the same price as a fully loaded Acura or Nissan – crazy right?

2016 Range Rover Evoque

So does getting an extra luxe whip mean you’re getting entry level quality in regards to finishes, features, power, speed and after purchase service? Well the assignment I submitted to my prof many moons ago argued yes, but lot’s has changed in the industry over the last decade. Case in point, Range Rover’s tiny but mighty 2016 Evoque. Honestly, I was a bit reluctant to accept the keys to this vehicle in fear I would be underwhelmed.  “What happens if the vehicle doesn’t match up with the rest of the brand’s impressive line-up? And how can a compact SUV that is such a departure from the design of the much beloved LR4, Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models measure up?” These are the kind of questions that immediately swirled around in my mind when the opportunity came my way.  I mean, if it failed to impress, that would have made for an awkward blog post. BUT…the Range Rover Evoque is proof that one shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover or in this case, a low(er) price tag! The “Baby Rangie” launched in 2011 and is Land Rover’s most successful model ever. Shocking, isn’t it?! After reading this little fact online, I then started taking stock of the cars I saw on the streets here in Toronto. I swear, 1 in every 5 SUV’s seemed to be an Evoque. After spending quite a bit of quality time in the vehicle, it’s easy to see why it’s been a hit…a whole lot of tech, capability, and style has been crammed inside this compact SUV.

Range Rover Evoque

Range Rover Evoque

The sleek shape of the exterior turns heads on the road for sure, but it’s the car’s interior, handling and performance that won me over and more importantly sets it apart from it’s competition in the crossover category. Attention to detail was definitely paid here with brushed aluminum finishes and gorgeous double stitched oxford leather upholstery. If you’re the market to purchase, here’s a tip on interior leather choices. Go with black. Although beautiful, the lunar (white) coloured leather seats literally absorb colour from your clothes, with denim and dark coloured bottoms being the biggest stain culprits. The classy cabin layout closely resembles other Range and Jaguar models and is pretty well equipped with plenty of extras you can add on like; the luxury seating package for $1,700 (front seat heating/cooling and massage; rear seat heating), Driver Assist ($2,700) which includes parking assist, lane keeping assist, surround camera, blind spot monitor etc, in addition to a panoramic roof, privacy glass and heated steering wheel. All a must in my books, but be careful, these extras can add up quite quick. The slab sides and smaller windows gives the car a sportier aesthetic than the Audi Q5, even though it’s taller. However, the rear window is extremely shallow so I found it a bit difficult to see out of when parking, but I guess that’s what the rear cam is for, right?

Range Rover Evoque

Looking good and handling well on city streets is one thing but the true test for the Evoque was whether it can handle like a capable off-roader like it’s older siblings the Land Rover LR4, Range Rover Sport and Range Rover. Similar to the LR4 I took on my Land Rover Canada Off-Road Adventure in Montebello, Quebec earlier this year, the Evoque comes equipped with Hill Decscent Control, which gradually eases the car down a steep hill and Terrain Response, a technology that automatically changes the car’s settings for off-road driving, allowing it to easily navigate snowy, icy and hilly terrain.

Range Rover EvoquePhotography by Nathalia Allen

So here’s the skinny; my feelings towards the exterior design of the Evoque is not the way I feel about the Range Rover Sport (which I LOVE!) but it handles well, has beautiful interior design features, a size perfect for urban roads and the occasional road trip, Plus the technology I would look for in a luxury vehicle minus the hefty price tag. The price of this entry point SUV comes in at $49,990 for the base model, almost $60K less than the standard wheelbase Range Rover, which starts at $108,490 (my HSE model comes in around $56,490). To learn more about the Evoque and Land Rover’s portfolio of vehicles, head to LandRover.ca.

Land Rover Canadian Off-Road Adventure – Montebello, Quebec

Hibernot

Most car owners learn the basics of their vehicle when they purchase it – and I mean basics. Let’s face it; learning to navigate the infotainment system, pairing your iPhone and which gasoline is best suited for your engine is usually as far as it goes. However, things seem to be a little bit different when you own a Land Rover. The British luxury automotive manufacturer offers owners of it’s vehicles an opportunity to learn all the capabilities of their newly acquired Land Rover or Range Rover at one of the brand’s 32 global driving centres.

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Hibernot

Hibernot

A few weeks ago I got an off-road experience of a lifetime in quaint Montebello, Quebec, where Canada’s only Land Rover Experience School can be found nestled within the grounds of the Fairmont Chateau Montebello. Although Canadian, I’m not typically a lover of the outdoors during the winter and much prefer sun and the beach, but Land Rover Canada’s #Hibernot adventure reminded me that winter time in the north isn’t so bad. And it turns out, late night sleigh rides, ice skating and curling can be fine when you have the right group of people with you. But in all honesty, winter activities aside, I was really just there to see what Land Rover’s fleet of vehicles could do off-road.

Hibernot

The conditions on day two were absolutely perfect with a fresh blanket of thick, white snow on the ground. I was eager to explore the 65,000 of unspoiled nature that was somehow perfectly designed for car enthusiasts like Moi to navigate the technical woodland obstacles. Land Rover vehicles have a strong blood line.  For over 60 years their SUV’s have tackled the most difficult terrain across the globe. To help guide us through this experience, we had a group of expertly trained instructors who all had in-depth knowledge of our 2016 fleet; Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, Evoque, LR4 and the Discovery. They helped guide our white convoy to our training destination, but stopped midway to apply winter chains to our tires. It was at that point I realized that this was not going to be a “basic” off-road drive program.

Hibernot

Hibernot

After being assigned to my white LR4, I immediately got an “Intro to Off-Roading” from my instructor. Proper seat settings, the importance of having driver arm rests raised and out of the way, so it’s not a hinderance when navigating the terrain. Where you look is naturally where you will steer the vehicle, therefore making sure to always look 10 feet directly in front of the vehicle while driving will allow drivers to keep the car from going into a ditch – eeeek, and most importantly, “drive as slow as possible, as fast as necessary“. We typically think when driving in snowy conditions that it’s best to increase speed for momentum when in deep snow to avoid getting stuck. Turns out, that’s the absolute worst thing you can do. Increasing speed when your tires are immersed in show actually increases your probabilities of either spinning out entirely or digging yourself into a deeper hole. Keeping the vehicle moving at a deliberately slow and consistent pace is the key to winter driving success and avoiding venturing off road into a ditch in real life driving situations.

HIbernot

The LR4 has come some way since my Mother had the SUV’s predecessor the LR3. The exterior similar but more sleek and refined but it’s the interior where I saw a lot of the upgraded details. A reverse traffic detection with blind spot monitor and closing vehicle sensing. Surround camera system – so yes ladies and gents, this camera doesn’t just give you a rear camera view when backing up, you have access to 360 vision allowing you to view in front and also the sides of the car. For those of you who have always loved the vaulted roof of Land Rovers, you will really love the extended moon roof that brings in so much light into the vehicle it’s almost like your driving a cone

Hibernot

Ok, so the aesthetics are on point but what about the performance right? The 340hp, V6 engine has an eight speed automatic transmission that drives on all four wheels making it possible for the LR4 to expertly tackle the most treacherous driving conditions and toughest trails in the wilderness. Besides it’s adjustable air suspension, the car is equipped with some sophisticated technology in it’s arsenal that blew myself and the other media away. Terrain Response allowed us to manually choose the driving surface we were only for more control, which was really useful in deep snow but there was also an automatic option where the car intuitively detected it on it’s own. Most impressive was the HDC (Hill Descent Control) which allowed for a smooth and controlled descent in the rough terrain without me having to touch the break pedal at all – how crazy is that? When it’s turned on, the Land Rover descends using the ABS brake system to control each wheel’s speed.

Hibernot

Thank you Land Rover Canada for an amazing experience and giving me a deeper appreciation for these awesome vehicles. Want to learn more about the brand’s beautiful and powerful line-up? Find more details at LandRover.ca.

#FindNewRoads in Chevrolet’s 2016 Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro Six

Over the last few years, I have test drove various vehicles and have been on countless journeys but test driving one of America’s most classic cars across the desert states was an incredible way to get acquainted with the all new Chevrolet Camaro. Chances are you are too young to remember the first generation that was introduced back in 1967, but it was an instant hit and an integral part of the muscle car era and road racing. To this day, the ’67 Camaro with orange houndstooth interior is amongst my top 10 favourite cars of all time. We got the chance to spend 36 hours on an epic road trip with a pre-production car to celebrate the launch of the sixth generation Camaro.

Find New Roads Camaro

We departed Toronto last week with a quick connection in Denver to New Mexico. Here is where we commenced our “Oprah and Gayle” adventure to ‘Find New Roads’ and help Chevrolet take this special fleet of new Camaro’s across all 48 contiguous states along with over 100 other media and journalists. With very limited guidelines or rules from brand, we were challenged to learn as much as we could about the vehicles features, while trying to hit as many points of  interest within the sphere  of our driving leg.

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

We touched down in Albuquerque just in time for sundown and took the opportunity to explore the city by foot before the all the driving started the next morning. If you’re a fan of “Breaking Bad”, you would have been completely geeking out. Majority of the hit show was filmed within a 10 mile radius of where we were staying. The next morning the Chevrolet brand team informed us that the cars would be given out at random to the media and journalists on this leg of the drive. This news immediately created anxiety amongst myself and the rest of the male auto journalists. There was a mix of automatic and manual transmissions, V6’s and V8’s and one or two SS’s thrown into the mix. My desire for a manual transmission v8 came as a bit of a surprise to the rest of team. Unfortunately this time around luck was not on my side and I ended up with a Summit White V6 2.0L Turbo with an 8 speed paddle-shift automatic transmission. I mean, not a bad consolation prize but I was dying to test out the 6 speed manual. However, when we pulled out of the hotel parking lot and I heard the deep throaty sounds coming from the twin exhaust pipes, my FOMO started to disappear. This V6’s guts and responsiveness took me by surprise – in a good way.

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

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Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

With our ride packed, which we fondly called Walter White in honour of Breaking Bad’s leading character, we hit the road for five hours across New Mexico to Alamangoro to White Sands. Located at the northern end of the Chihuahuan Desert lies the Tularosa Basin. Rising from the heart of this basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders – the white sands of New Mexico. Great wave like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert here and created the largest gypsum dune field in the world. We originally had other plans to drive up north to some points of interest in Colorado but when we found out about this little gem, we diverted from our plans and headed out for a little adventure. The dunes, brilliant and white, are ever changing. They grow, crest but always advance thanks to strong southwest winds.

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

The brand portfolios within General Motors has always impressed me with their advanced technology and entertainment features, which were definitely welcomed as we racked up all that windshield time. We relied heavily on the Camaro’s OnStar system and Apple CarPlay, which you have heard me rave about before in my most recent Chevrolet posts. With just a touch of the Blue Button located on the rear view mirror, we had highway concierge at our disposal during our trip, that helped us find where we were going and even find a place to stay at our next destination in Arizona before we left White Sands. With 4G LTE Wifi and Apple CarPlay, we were able to cruise the desert and be connected to our beloved social media channels while also being able to use our iPhone functionalities that were paired through the vehicle’s instrument panel; directions via Apple Maps, sending/reading and receiving iMessages, making calls, listening to our fave tunes from both our phones and Spotify. In very remote areas there was no cell phone reception and at times the wifi signal in the car was not strong enough, but we were thankfully able to receive turn-by-turn directions to the vehicle in the wee hours of the morning to help us navigate our way across state lines.

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Find New Roads Camero

After venturing off our pre-planned route to explore the white desert sands, we were left for a quiet and lonely 9 hour ride to Sedona, Arizona. To say it was desolate was an understatement. All the towns we passed through had closed down by 7pm. Stores, restaurants and gas stations…all closed. No street lights.

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads Camaro

Find New Roads CamaroPhotos by Nathalia Allen www.amillionminds.ca

We arrived in Sedona after 3am so we had no idea what was around us when we arrived in this adorable town until we woke up the next morning and discovered that we were surrounded in the most beautiful of landscapes. With less than four hours of sleep we woke up and took advantage of the little time we had before having to hit the road to our final destination and did a bit of hiking around Red Rock.  When we got to the summit, the views of the rocky red terrain left both Nathalia and I breathless. Suddenly I became jealous of having skyscrapers as my playground at home instead of mountains. The change of scenery was just what we needed. Here’s a sneak peek at the #CamaroSix:

So here’s the skinny: in my opinion the transformer-esque coupe has an appealing body type and is significantly light, roughly 200 lbs lighter vs the 5th generation. This is partially because it rides on a version of the Alpha platform that also works well with the Cadillac ATS and CTS. Both the driver and passenger seats provided the comfort we needed during our long highway drives but as you probably imagined, the rear seats are purely ornamental and can be compared to those of a Porsche 911. Non-existant. Also, the HVAC vents were oddly placed quite low in the centre stack, so it channeled the air low towards my hand on the gear shift. It’s low profile and open front grill helped keep the Camaro grounded on all the winding desert and mountain roads. I also loved the standard features like the new Driver Mode Selector that gives you Snow/Ice, Tour and Sport modes allowing for easy adaptation to changing driving conditions plus  the leather wrapped flat bottom steering wheel was easy on the hands after several hours behind the wheel at a time.

For more information plus pricing on the 2016 Camaro 2.0L Turbo and it’s 6.2L V8 and 3.6L V6, click here. 

Automotive Review: The 2014 Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD

2014 Cadillac ATS

Summer driving is always made more pleasant with a set of sweet wheels. Thanks to General Motors, I recently enjoyed a very extended test drive experience with the 2014 Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD. The luxury automotive brand’s full sized CTS sedan, built to go head-to-head with imported competition, has increased in size this year and is now comparable to the BMW 5-series. This left room in Cadillac’s portfolio lineup for a compact luxury vehicle to compete in the entry level luxe class with the BMW 3-series and Mercedes 3 Class. A few weeks ago I picked up my ATS in Opulent Blue Metallic, which was equipped with all-wheel drive,a 2.0L turbo engine (boasting 321 hp) and the luxury collection. I literally drove it all over the GTA and as far as Montreal for a weekend jaunt in hopes to test out every single feature. As a legit car enthusiast and lucky enough to sit behind the wheel of some of the most beautiful cars manufactured, I was shocked at how much attention this little vehicle garnered at stoplights, gas stations and valets.

Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD

Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD

Exterior innovations help to make the vehicle more fuel efficient and uber quiet. Sculpted side mirrors which are firmly positioned to reduce wind noise in addition to an acoustically laminated windshield and side door glass, expertly deflects noise making this one of the quietest cabins I’ve ever driven in. The 18″ wheels, dual exhaust, illuminating door handles, and vertical LED signature lights help to make this sporty body look extra chic. In regards to the interior, I am confident that those who have never driven in a Cadillac before would be blown away by both the features and design. The vehicle was equipped with some of the most advanced safety innovations including the brand’s Driver Awareness Package. Utilizing sensors and strategically placed cameras allows for the driver’s seat to alert of the driver of potential danger via seat vibrations, in addition lane departure alerts, rear cross traffic alert, side blind zone alert, front and rear automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, which was really beneficial on the 5 hour drive to Montreal.  I could understand if some found these constant vibrations to be an annoyance while driving, but I found it to be extremely helpful. For those that would much prefer to have their rears vibrate while driving, the functional option can always be easily turned off on the auxiliary panel.

2014-Cadillac-CTS-Dashboard-Done-Small

I was also treated to an upgraded steering (that has a heated option obviously not beneficial for right now but still an amazing feature forWinter) and the much talked about CUE (Cadillac User Experience) interface aka the heart of the interior; controlling navigation, media, climate control and more. The latter combined with BOSE surround sound made listening to my favourite Sirus XM Satellite channels a really enjoyable experience.

Cadillac ATS 2.0 AWD

Outside the St. Germain Hotel in Montreal, Quebec

So here’s the skinny, the manufacturer rates the ATS 2.0T AWD’s fuel efficiency as 6.9L/100km for highway driving and 10.4L/100km with city driving, while my approximate fuel mileage came in around 6.9L/100km and 10.9L/100km respectively. For a premium vehicle, it was nice to discover that premium gasoline wasn’t mandatory but rather only “recommended”. This is a huge deal as majority of other vehicles in the luxury category require premium gasoline usually making fill-ups pretty pricey. The ATS starts at $35,695 but the ticket price for this model with the luxury collection and all other aforementioned packages/upgrades brings the price point at $49,290, which is just a smudge under the $50K sticker price for the BMW 329i xDrive with similar bells and whistles. Surprisingly, overall I preferred the ATS. Although both vehicles are almost identical in size (minus one inch), the Cadillac’s interior feels a bit roomier and it also ticks all the boxes when it comes to speed, luxurious design and functionality.

For more information on the brand’s vehicle lineup head over to Cadillac.ca and for details specs click here. To follow along all my past and present adventures with Cadillac, use the hashtag #RideInStylexCadillac on Twitter and Instagram!

Chevrolet Lifestyle Road Trip with the 2014 Chevrolet Clean Cruze Turbo Diesel

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel

As a daily commuter into the city I spend a significant amount of time in my car and an obscene amount of money on gas, which trust me I would rather spend on shoes and the Celine Trapeze handbag. When I heard Chevrolet Canada had released a diesel version to their sleek Cruze sedan, that would put my car and all other non-hybrid passenger cars gas mileage to shame, I had to find out more. And that is exactly what I did in November with Garrett Tonge, Founder of lifestyle website Gtonge1.com. Thanks to Chevrolet, Garrett and I got to take the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel on an amazing lifestyle road trip to our nation’s capital of Ottawa to explore what the city has to offer.

 

Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

Our road trip journey began at Toronto’s chic Hotel Le Germain where we quickly got acquainted with the vehicles amazing features. A road trip wouldn’t be a road trip without some great music, so armed with our best playlists, Garrett and I immediately connected our iPhones to the Cruze’s MyLink System, which let us control everything at tip of our fingers from the steering wheel and colour touchscreen display. Determined to make the most of this drive down we took the scenic route and stopped at a quaint organic coffee shop called The Human Bean and hit up a museum both in the town of Cobourg. After another three hours we arrived at our home for the next few days, The Arc Hotel, and decided to walk around the downtown area before heading to dinner at Play Food & Wine. Located in the Byward Market, this modern, tapas style restaurant uses local, seasonal and sustainable products in their dishes. We loved that resto’s Wine Director detailed her suggested wine pairings under each menu item for an optimal dining experience.

Chevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel

Day two in Ottawa started out super early with brekkie in bed and a run on the Rideau Canal (a must during the fall as the scenery is so beautiful), followed by a scenic drive to the east side of Ottawa. We then got dressed up to the nines for some sightseeing around Sparks Street, Parliament Hill, then headed for a swanky high-tea at the historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel. The amazing day was finished off with a spectacular dinner at what I would say is Ottawa’s top restaurant for both food and service, Restaurant 18. And of course there is no way we could have made this 4.5 hour trek without indulging in a famous Beavertail post dinner. If you’re unfamiliar with this national Canadian treat, its simply a fried dough pastry that is hand stretched to resemble a beaver’s tail and comes with a choice of toppings such as; nutella, peanut-butter M&M’s, whipped cream, banana slices, crumbled oreos, etc. Worth every single calorie if you ask me!

Chevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselChevrolet Cruze Turbo DieselHeading out on our last day of the road trip, still on the same tank of gas may I add, we decided to keep it low key and head over to the National Gallery of Art to check out some of the gallery’s current exhibitions. Was really pleased to see some work by one of my all-time favourite abstract artists Jackson Pollock. Before we knew it, it was time to embark on our trek back to Toronto. After a quickie lunch at the area’s oldest and tastiest vegetarian restaurant The Green Door, we hit the road singing along to music from the car’s built in XM Satellite radio. Which was a lifesaver after already listening to our playlists on the way down. I can’t think of a better vehicle to have used for this lifestyle trip. It had roomy interior with leather seats, spacious trunk space to accommodate all of our Rimowa luggage, OnStar’s auto security, car safety and navigation system, rear/back-up camera and it was super efficient in regards to gas giving us 4.2L per 100km of highway driving. Believe it or not, we returned back home without having to re-fuel after driving approximately 1,200 over the duration of the weekend. Many thanks to Chevrolet, Odyssey International and Garrett Tonge for such an amazing time and for allowing me to be a part of the #CleanDieselCruze lifestyle experience.

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