Automotive Review


The New “Head Turning” Generation of Buick

If you were born sometime in the eighties, chances are you had a grandparent, or knew someone who had a grandparent, that drove a Buick. Why? Being the oldest active automotive brand in North America and a car once known as the “Moving Couch” because of it’s plush interiors – Buick tended to attract a population of people 65 and over. But fast forward about three decades later, the brand is starting to reap the benefits of all their hard work and efforts in repositioning Buick not only as premium, but as vehicles attractive to a much younger target demographic.

Sasha Exeter - 2017 Buick Lacross - So Sasha

Sasha Exeter - 2017 Buick Lacrosse

Sasha Exeter - 2017 Buick Lacrosse
Napa Valley California in the 2017 Buick Lacrosse. Photo by Lauren McPhillips @ThisRenegadeLove

A feat thought to be impossible by many is slowly becoming more and more realistic year after year with serious financial investment from General Motors and most importantly a well appointed design team. Car companies live and die by two measures – product and pricing. Over the last couple of years, Buick has seen much success by employing a very basic strategy in regards to both: Do what others aren’t. Meaning, manufacturing high quality vehicles at a price point affordable to those who can’t quite make the leap to the luxury category. This has helped the company’s fleet not only gain the attention of the hard to impress car geeks on the auto show circuit but also attract a whole new, refreshing demographic, which I just happen to fall into – women between the ages of 25-45. As I’ve gotten older, or shall I say more mature, with major “adulting” lifestyle changes no less, I am now drawn to different vehicle amenities and attributes. I’ve bid adieu to the notion that my vehicle’s laniard symbol on the grill is the most important thing, followed by speed or where it falls within the luxury class. I remember when the BMW 3 series and Benz C-Class was the car everyone wanted post university to symbolize they’ve found their first good paying career job. Whereas now, I’m interested in seeing more value for (my) money in a car instead of it simply coasting off the prestige of it’s brand name providing the same offering as a base model Accord. Sorry Honda!

Sasha Exeter - 2017 Buick Envision
Sonoma Valley, California – Beringer Estates with the 2017 Envision. Photo by Lauren McPhillips @ThisRenegadeLove

Last year my interest was seriously piqued when I made the trek to Napa Valley, California with Lauren of This Renegade Love, for 36 hours to learn more about Buick’s 2017 Lacrosse sedan and it’s newest compact luxury SUV, Envision. The vehicle’s design cues, elegance and technology features drastically elevated the expectations of what a Buick can be.

Sasha Exeter - NYIAS - Buick Enclave Avenir
NYIAS – Javits Centre (NYC) April 2017

This month, I kept the travel a bit closer to home for the much anticipated reveal of Buick’s piéce de resistance…it’s first ever vehicle in family-oriented luxury; the 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir, which debuted at the New York International Auto Show. Similar to most other women in my age bracket, I’ve developed an interested in smart innovation and technology features but not at all prepared to sacrifice style for either of those things. So yes, I guess you can say I want it all.  Turns out, all come standard in the new Enclave Avenir and will play an integral role in setting the stage for Buick to successfully claim it’s deserved place in between the mainstream and luxury categories. How?

To make the new Enclave, we spent time in the homes of our loyal customers and the homes of competitive buyers, learning how they use their vehicles with an eye for making their lives more better, easier and more satisfying! – Global Buick Vice President, Duncan Aldred (shown below)

The exterior, which comes in five premium colours, visually sets itself apart. It’s sleek and slightly deceiving when it comes to size. Slimmer and lower bodied than it’s predecessor, plus roomier than it has been in the past. You wouldn’t guess this seven passenger SUV has more room behind it’s first row of seats than the Acura MDX, Audi Q7 and the QX60. However, it’s the interior that oozes premium, with it’s Avenir Chesnut and Ebony colour way, wood accented steering wheel and super luxe embroider first-row headrests. Pretty much what you would expect to find in vehicles 2.5 times what I predict the Avenir Enclave to be priced at, which won’t be revealed until later into the year.  And these well appointed design details are no fluke, but rather carefully curated and planned 3-4 years in advance by Buick’s highly skilled team; who looks at trends in fashion, interior and even furniture design industries to help develop a luxurious aesthetic that is also highly functional. In a way, creating consumer demands eons before we could ever dream of needing these attributes. Half a decade ago, would you ever think that you would need wireless charging capabilities for your phone, a 360-surround  vision camera system for easier parking, or a rear camera mirror that can function as a traditional mirror or a camera; virtually eliminating potential obstructions of the past like oversized headrests or passenger heads? And of course, I can’t forget access to 4G LTE wifi and Apple Car Play. All available now in the Avenir and select Buick models.

But what really blew my mind are the little things that the special teams thought to include that really enhances a family’s lifestyle and makes life easier. Think, second row SmartSlide Seats that provides easy access to the rear third row – normally a nightmare to access, especially when you have a car seat in the mix. It now has pitch slide functionality to allow you to fold the row down, even with an empty front facing child seat in it. How brilliant is that for growing families? My favourite lifestyle enhancing feature announced at the reveal is the Enclave’s air ionizer that not only eliminates odours but also provides better overall air quality – reducing bacteria, dust, viruses, pollen and debris, plus it turns out, all can significantly improve driver alertness. Are you thinking about the hassle of maintenance for this feature? I sure as hell was, but Buick has managed to find a way to manufacture this thing in a way that it requires no maintenance or filter replacement.

The most standard response from those who have seen the latest from the brand is, “That’s a Buick?!” which has ironically been their tag line and social media hashtag since switching into high gears of it’s brand repositioning. This little sneak peek across the border has left me itching with anticipation to get behind the wheel of the Enclave Avenir and the rest of the new fleet roll-out. So let’s just say my fingers are crossed for some adventures with Buick this summer!

Head to Buick.ca for more details on the 2018 Enclave Avenir or the rest of Buick’s current six car line-up.

A Peek into the Future of Cadillac

If you’re between the ages of 29-44 and in the market for a new vehicle, chances are the criterial for your next set of wheels is a far cry from what buyers  would be looking for two decades ago. Sure, back then there were those who looked for performance or prestige in a vehicle but one would never have expected to find  both at the same time in one car. The number one purchase decision isn’t just finding a car that can get you from point A to B. Although we are still concerned with reliability and comfort, seeing as though the average commute time for drivers have quadrupled in recent years, we now also look at what we drive as an extension of our personal style and must reflect our lifestyle.

I will never be shy to admit my love affair with German vehicles (Porsche will always have my heart!) but my fondness for American cars have grown over the years after getting behind the wheel of several cars within General Motor family. There has been a lot of change going on in their portfolio of brands but the most impressive to date has been the $12 billion investment from General Motors to re-establish everything about Cadillac – from brand image and messaging, dealer experience, to even it’s vehicle naming system and product portfolio, which consists of plans to release 9 (yes, 9) brand new vehicles by the year 2021.

The future of Cadillac design and technology – The Escala

There has been much talk about what these 9 cars may be but they are rumoured to consist of the following; a sub sedan (CT2 or CT1)  to compete with the Audi A3 and Mercedes Benz CLA-Class, a reimagined version of the ATS (CT3) to rival the BMW 3 series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4 and Lexus IS, an ultra luxury full size flagship sedan, a fifth generation Escalade, a B segment sub compact crossover to compete with the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, a C segment compact crossover to rival the X3, Porsche Macan and Mercedes GLC-Class, an entry full size crossover to tackle the Acura MDX, Volvo XC90, Audi Q7 and last but certainly not least, a full size flagship crossover , the Pièce de Résistance of the brand’s crossover lineup which will be a high end full size, three row CUV to rival the current Mercedes GLS-Class and upcoming BMW X7 and Audi Q9.

I got recently got acquainted with the new XT5 for a week, interested…knowing it’s job was to replace the brand’s first CUV, the SRX; with it’s sleeker exterior and sophisticated, contemporary interior. But mainly because I know the vehicle will foreshadow the future of Cadillac SUV’s to come. Inside, the cabin was surprisingly roomy, seats even proved comfy to my boyfriend during our drive to Prince Edward County, who often gets irritable during road trips. For those looking for extra cargo space for urban or out-of-town adventures, this XT5 will definitely surprise you. It seats five however when more space is needed, the adjustable rear sliding seats also fold into a 40-20-40 split for extra storage space, with a metal divider in the back that slides and locks in place to keep cargo from moving about There’s even a brilliant hidden storage compartment under the floor that is sure to please those meticulous, Type A personalities that love to keep things super organized.

The XT5′s V6 engine includes an active fuel management system that cuts down to four cylinders under light loads which is brilliant, but a less attractive feature is the “stop/start” that puts the engine in idle when you’re at a traffic light. Unlike other vehicles that also offer this feature, the XT5 does not allow you to disengage this feature, that could become a bit of an annoyance if you are not into the abrupt start every time the light turns green in rush hour traffic.

Although comfortable than most behind the wheel, winter driving can still prove to be nerving for me at times, but I felt super comfortable in my AWD model, which has three settings; front wheel drive only, sport (needed for extra handling and traction control) and AWD tasked to maintain continuous all wheel power for even the most slippery roads. For those young families concerned about safety, the Platinum edition is packed with amazing technology features within the Driver Awareness Package that also includes the most talked about tech piece, the rearview mirror camera, unique to the Platinum version. It works as a regular rear view mirror but with one simple switch, it converts into a video screen using a feed from, wait for it…a self cleaning camera in the lift gate. And the best way to give your loved ones the best passenger experience – Cadillac CUE Infotainment System with Apple Car Play capability and 4G LTE wifi hotspot.

But you’re probably thinking, “what’s up with that Escala? And when’s that coming out?” Beautiful vehicle I know, but for now just the brand’s latest concept car that has been making the rounds on the auto show circuit with it’s very own handler. Sounds a bit high maintenance, but if you’ve seen this beast in person, you would probably be more understanding of it having a babysitter.

I sat in an exclusive panel discussion put on by Cadillac during Toronto Auto Show week, moderated by Design Exchange President Shauna Levy who spoke with two of brand’s design team members, who dished the design details behind the Escala. Based on what I’ve been hearing and reading since the concept car’s debut at Pebble Beach, the goal of the Escala is to point in the direction Cadillac’s heading in and some of the features could very well be things the automotive company will debut on product models in the very near future. Could this be a prototype for the next CT8 flagship sedan model? Possibly! But what I do know is Cadillac’s design process starts three to four years in advance and inspiration is pulled globally from fashion, architecture, interior design to even accessories, to put them ahead of the game in producing colour and fabrication options. Assuming something close to this comes to market, it’s safe to say interested buyers who desire large, opulent transportation would shell out a lot of money for a car like this, so the designers have spared no expense with every single detail.

The exterior colour, called Gaia, is made up of nine layers of paint and changes colour in different lighting conditions. The spacious interior – surprisingly uses fabric, reminiscent of what you may find in bespoke suit, evoking fine tailoring and actually turns out to be more inviting and interesting than leather. A complex and labour intensive stitch pattern was created using special thread that brings the fabric to live where it meets the luxurious leather.  As for technology, the features are a marriage of understated sophistication with two curved OLED screens layered into the dash but controlled via what designers call the “Goddess Dial” located in the arm rest. Not to be outdone by the cockpit, mix modality plays throughout the rear seat entertainment system as well. Oversized screens are nestled in the two front seats and retract into the headrests, leaving only a sliver of the bottom display in view to reveal a more streamlined finish. In this mode, the passenger only sees the basic necessities – time, weather, estimated time of arrival, etc. And if that’s not enough for you, the Escala design team employed famed American designer Jason Wu to create a custom set of travel sized bags and totes specifically to appeal to what we imagine the Escala driver to be…a purveyor of luxury lifestyle who needs chic luggage for their private G5 flight.Photos by JessBaumung.com and GM Authority

Stay up to date on all things Cadillac and view vehicle portfolio and pricing at CadillacCanada.ca

#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


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.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset



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.


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.



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.


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


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.


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.


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