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How To Make The Most of Your Summer Road Trip With An Infant

When I think of summer, BBQ’s, patio hangs, and ice cream immediately comes to mind. If you’re a Canadian, I think you may also agree that summer is also about road trips and going to the cottage. I’ve surely done my fair share of road trips over the years and they can be fun, with the right company and music (I can’t drive anywhere without XM Satellite radio now), but I think a lot of first time parents or families with young kids legitimately fear the potential of endless cries, screams and hearing the ever so famous phrase, “Are we there yet?” I sooooo get that traveling with little ones can be stressful but trust me, it really doesn’t have to be.

We’ve done a few trips in our Buick Enclave Avenir so far, albeit short ones, and you know what? The car has really been a game changer for extended driving. It has given us the confidence to take Maxwell on a cross country adventure to New Brunswick and P.E.I. this month. I know a lot of you guys are going to think we are nuts but it’s too late. We’ve committed and it’s happening. To be honest, we would have 100% traveled by plane if it wasn’t for the Enclave but I think having a car that makes us feel safe on the road, has tons of space and allows for wireless entertainment powered by 4G LTE wireless can actually make this experience enjoyable instead of stressful. There’s a full suite of technology that has our back while we are on the road. OnStar totally puts our mind at ease. We have roadside assistance, automatic crash response and emergency services right at the press of the blue button. If we are in a bind with reception service on our phones and need assistance with directions, we can always rely on the a representative sending turn by turn directions to the car.

A luxury crossover this large for a family of three plus a dog probably seems like a bit of overkill. We may not require passenger seating for 7 all the time, but we can most definitely utilize the rear for additional cargo space especially on road trips. We looooooove that we have options with the configuration back there. My go-to is using the power fold third row to turn the bench seat into a 60/40 split. Guys, it collapses the back seat in seconds and it makes it easy to accommodate our luggage, Maxie’s stroller, travel crib and even larger toys. One of our best road trip strategy’s that has  been fail proof is always having one of us sitting in the back with the baby. I speak more about this in my road trip hacks below, but it helps that our middle row has extra large captain seats with SO. MUCH. LEG ROOM. It’s unreal! You kinda don’t feel like you’re missing out not riding shotgun.

Buick Enclave Avenir - So Sasha

Buick Enclave Avenir - So Sasha

And have you ever been trapped in a car for hours having to take turns charging wireless devices, not having adequate cup holders for the all the road trip bevies or feeling like you’re just drowning in stuff piling up around you…? As in the stuff that couldn’t all fit in the trunk! Well, there’s a spot to house everyone’s cup of coffee and baby bottles plus we can literally charge every single devise we bring along in the Enclave – all at the same damn time may I add. With access to 6 USB outlets and a 120V power outlet. The new spacious designs means there’s way more room for storage in the doors plus the new available compartment located conveniently under the middle console in the front row, where Réjean stores his stash of snacks.

Buick Enclave Avenir - So Sasha

This upcoming trip to New Brunswick will be the longest we’ve ever driven as a family, so I will loop back in with you guys and share the experience when we are back. If you’re considering hitting the road with your mini(s) this summer for the first time, here’s some tips to take note of that will actually make the experience fun:

  1. Plan Frequent Breaks. I learned this one the hard way on our last drive to Montreal. We may be able to drive five or six hours without stopping to use the bathroom or eat, but babies cannot. I have discovered that for daytime driving I need to plan for stops ever 2-3 hours and when traveling at night, every 3-6 hours to do diaper changes, feed, stretch legs and change clothes if necessary. That being said, when you have an extra spacious vehicle like the Enclave, you can actually save time not going into a rest stop or restaurant by doing the quick changes and feeds in the parking lot.
  2. Tag team. This is probably the most crucial – if you are not making the journey alone. While one of you is driving, the other should sit in the back with the baby. Believe me, it makes a world of a difference and that backseat caretaker can keep them occupied, prepare bottles, attend to spit-up, and play Peek-a-Boo like I have to do for Maxwell for hours (see below). It totally takes the stress of the driver too and can minimize stops.  And when the baby sleeps, whoever is in the back better get some shut eye too!

    Buick Enclave Avenir - So Sasha
    Video by Shawn Pinnock & Images by Jess Baumung
  3. Manage Your Expectations. Do yourself a favour and don’t expect that road trip to Montreal is going to take as long as it did when you were childless and single because that is just not realistic. There’s a number of things that can go wrong; inclement weather, teething pain, long weekend traffic or construction causing lane closures. Having a sense of humour about it all can ease the tension.
  4. Keep All The Necessities Close By. You will probably want to pack everything and the kitchen sink on your road trip which is fine, especially when you have the room for it but you’re not going to want to pull over and rummage through your luggage every single time your baby needs something like a diaper change, snack or toy. These things are inevitable so it makes sense to pack these essentials in a smaller, easy to access bag in the backseat. Things like; a portable changing pad, wipes, diapers, infant Advil, an extra blanket, pre-portioned bottles of formula or breast milk in a cooler bag, a couple small toys should do the trick for your little one. Don’t forget to pack one for the adults too with chargers, iPads, high protein snacks, sleep-aids, eye masks and earphones.
  5. Drive At Night. I wouldn’t normally suggest this if it’s just one parent doing the drive with kids tagging along but if you have a partner with you, driving at night is a really brilliant idea. Driving at night means your baby will spend much more time sleeping and less time crying, being hungry and wanting a diaper change. It’s not the most ideal switch for the driver because night driving can be difficult and more tiring but it’s marginally better than dealing with a screaming baby with no exit in sight. There’s some amazing features in our car that provides extra safety during night drives like Lane Keep Assist and Forward Collision Alert that keeps the car safely in the designated lane and warning you of a potential crash aheadBest the driver is probably caffeinated and pulls over to rest or switch drivers because safety is the most important thing.  Your best bet is to have your partner pack up the car while the other does the baby’s bedtime routine but instead of putting the baby in their crib, you put them into their car seat.
  6. Baby Massage. You know that stiff feeling we get in our legs and back when we have been sitting in a car for hours on end? Well babies can actually become uncomfortable too after sitting too long in her car seats. Infant massage works well on long drives so read up on some techniques and be sure the implement them during the ride or while at rest stops.  I like to massage Maxie’s legs, feet and arms while when I am in the back with her and often times it calms her down and can actually put her to sleep.

    Rear View Mirror Camera on the 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir
  7. Take Proper Precautions. I am nuts about double checking everything before going on a road trip – with or without infant. Our Buick Enclave makes it super simple for me to check the oil level and tire pressure throughout the trip on the auxiliary panel and when fuel is getting low, I can see exactly how many km’s I have until the tank is empty. Also, it’s super important when packing to not obstruct the driver’s view, especially the rear view mirror. Buick understands the need for extra safety and had the clever idea to create a rear view mirror that turns into a rear camera in those rare occasions where the trunk is packed full. It used to sound like a “nice-to-have” feature but after a few road trips I have discovered that it’s actually more of a “need-to-have” feature.

You can follow along on our upcoming cross country adventure on my social channels and I will be doing a little recap of the trip here on the blog. To learn more about Buick’s luxurious crossover, head over to Buick.ca

My Art & Sole Custom Shoemaking Experience with Buick

Cars to me is what clothes are to most people. A way to make a statement without having to say a word. This sentiment is also shared by the design team at Buick who has put a considerable amount of time to help reposition the brand and create a vehicle that represents the highest quality of Buick luxury to date. The new Enclave Avenir has single handedly changed the way the way the world, myself included, will view Buick going forward. I know some of your perceptions have already changed just from reading my blog posts and following along on my IG stories. This brand transition has been successful because Buick has been taking cues from other industries that have a high regard for craftsmanship. The design team has used interior design, fashion and beauty trends as their main source of inspiration with one simple goal in mind. To create a vehicle that would be an expression of a discerning, fashion forward and conscious consumer.

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

Buick Style Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

To celebrate this new direction and their successes with the new premium Avenir trim line found on the Enclave and Lacrosse, I was treated to an intimate evening with the Buick team and some friends at the Art & Sole Academy; the first shoemaking school in Canada that offers workshops and classes in the art of custom shoemaking. I was chauffeured to the event in a white Enclave that has the same Avenir trim as my own and it was pretty nice actually to be able to to relax and enjoy the ridiculous amounts of legroom that’s available in the middle row. Learning the ins and outs of the shoemaking process from Art & Sole’s owner Jennifer Allison was amazing but what blew all of our minds was that we all got to design a custom pair of leather driving shoes for ourselves that night. Not just any old leather either may I add. We got to choose from the same leather options that are available in the 2018 Buick Enclaves. Now  that should say something about the quality materials used inside these vehicles. We each traced and measured our the bottom of our feet and instep and then went on to choose the base style, colour of leather, leather type, uppers, lace and trim details. So fun, yes, but the plethora of options made it pretty stressful, not going to lie. Then we went on to learn a basic stitching technique for leather fabrications from Jennifer. This was definitely not my strong suit but I will soon have a custom shoe to match the interior of my Buick and that’s pretty damn cool. Before heading home, we even had personalized keychains made by the lovely chap below with our initials on it.

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event - So Sasha

BuickStyle Art & Sole Academy Event

 

Members of the GM and Buick design team were on hand and it is really inspiring to see a group of women behind this dynamic team. Over the past couple years, I have gotten to know Catherine Black, Buick Colour and Trim Design Manager who in my opinion has the coolest job ever. Black is in charge of developing concepts, colours and shapes that reflect Buick’s customer alongside the marketing, engineering, and manufacturing departments. She is also the face of the design team often called upon to brief media on some of the trends they have forecasted several years prior to vehicles hitting the auto show circuit. I actually got to chat extensively with her about the design details for the Enclave Avenir over a year ago during it’s reveal in NYC at NAIAS and she has this to say about about where the Buick teams are today,

The whole synergy and interaction between the designers, clay and digital sculptors, engineering and colour & trim is extraordinary. Together we are charged with evolving the brand and the portfolio with the timeless qualities we value most – beautiful, premium, comfortable, effortless and intelligent.”

BuickStyle Event - So Sasha
Photos by Pamela Lau for Buick Canada

My custom shoes, fingers crossed, should be arriving in the next few weeks and I can’t wait to show you guys what I designed. Even more excited  to own my very first driving shoe that will not only look great but be functional too. Want in on customizing your own pair of leather driving shoes from Buick? Starting May 15th, you can express your own personal style by customizing and designing your own, which is pretty major. They will be available in very limited quantities, but on the upside, they will be made available on www.artandsoleacademy.com/buickstyle for only $189, when trust me, they are probably worth a lot more. Head to Buick.ca to find more information on the Enclave Avenir and full portfolio of Buick’s 2018 vehicles.

This post was created in partnership with Buick Canada however all thoughts and opinions are my own

My Wellness Experience at Le Monastère des Augustines with Buick Canada

I have been going non-stop since I had Maxwell. I took two short weeks off but after that it was pretty much back to my regularly scheduled programming. Truthfully, I haven’t been feeling my best and my body has slowly been giving me signs that it’s time to slow down a bit. I’ve been craving some breathing room and a reset to figure out what my next steps were going to be to help find balance during this time of transition as a working new mom. The idea for my mindfulness getaway to Quebec City’s actually came while driving Max inside my new car. I had made the decision to upgrade to the 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir in January. The extra space and safety features were definitely a catalyst for the change but I also loved the fact it has it’s own ionizing clean air filter that eliminates dust, bacteria and pollen in a car I spend a lot of time driving my daughter around in. It is a genius idea. Then I started thinking, as blessed as I am to be able to have things like this to help enhance the quality of my family’s life, nothing will trump how my energy and well-being will affect them at the end of the day. After my short stay at Le Monastère des Augustines, I implemented five small but important things that have made significant changes in my daily life. More on this later, but first let me share with you what this magical place is all about.

Le Monastere de Augustines- So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

So with that realization, I was on the hunt for a truly unique wellness experience and discovered a real gem about eight hours drive from Toronto. Le Monastère des Augustines is a little wellness haven found in the heart of Old Quebec (Quebec City). Occupying the restored wings of the former Hôtel-Dieu de Queébec monastery, one of Quebec’s most significant historic sites, the hotel is for those who are on or looking for a true path to holistic health. The property opened it’s doors back in 2015 after three years of rehabilitation and renovations that had to meet extremely strict historical guidelines and a carefully curated team of historians and architects spent an enormous amount of time researching every square inch of the the property; to ensure it was restored respectfully to the way it was 400 years ago. Inside you’ll find:

  • A boutique with teas, wellness products, books, healthy grab & go food options and meditation accessories.
  • A museum and archives with 1 linear km of documents and rare ancient books. It houses a permanent exhibition illustrating the social and spiritual involvement in the first hospital on the continent north of Mexico and the development of Quebec’s health system as we know it today. It also has the original pharmaceutical and medical objects, works of arts and artefacts that the sisters held on to for years and donated to the monastery. There are guided tours that recreate the experience of a 17th century cloister
  • The vault, located basically underground, is where many of the movement classes take place. It’s where I did my morning sessions and it has such great energy in there. Fun fact, this room was only a quarter of the height it is now. The original floor was removed and the ground was dug out to create this large space. The hallway leading toward the vault (found below) gives you an indication of how low the ceilings are in the original building.
  • A church where the nuns still congregate daily at 5pm for mass and to sing with the choir. Guests are welcome to meditate or practice yoga on there own outside of mass hours.
  • The spa where guests can receive personalized holistic and nutrition consultation services or indulge in facials, lymphatic drainage or their preferred choice of massage therapy in 30, 60 or 90 minute durations

Le Monastère des Augustines is also a non-profit organization. When you think of a wellness retreat, dollars signs is usually the first thing that pop into your head because let’s be honest, most are grossly overpriced. All funds and donations to the monastery are actually used to protect and enhance the heritage of the Augustinian Sisters, to help with Le Monastère’s mission to promote the wellbeing of individuals and society and to make it’s services affordable and accessible to as many people as possible.

Le Monastere de Augustines - Sasha Exeter

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

I feel somewhat inclined to clarify just in case it was not clear during my stay. If you’re for a luxurious getaway with Michelin star dining with a couple of cute yoga classes sprinkled in throughout your stay, this is not the place for you.  Taking inspiration from the Augustinian Sisters, who founded the monastery nearly four centuries ago, Le Monastère des Augustines, main goal is to take care of their guests mind, body and soul through meditation, food and a specific movement series. The design, programming, and food is all about simplicity and created with distinct purpose. The rooms are without clocks, TV or docking stations for iPhone/iPods to ensure that you have zero distractions in a space that should be reserved solely for sleep. However, they do have wifi throughout the property but they encourage guests to decompress and take a tech detox during their stay. The programming for the movement series, oddly not described in much detail on their website, are all scheduled before each meal and trust me there is good reasoning behind it. I promise, more on this later. As for the food; the restaurant’s approach is based on the principles of conscious nutrition using mostly organic, local and seasonal products.

The Accommodations

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Guys, the room’s at the monastery are probably one of the coolest aspects of the hotel and are the perfect design juxtaposition between old and new. There’s a total  of 65 rooms split almost evenly between authentic rooms restored in the spirit of monasticism and contemporary rooms with modern design and amenities. After my hotel tour on IG stories, people seemed to be fascinated by the character and charm of the authentic rooms. The teeny tiny doorways are an indication of just how small the sisters of Augustine were back then and it’s just so cool to be able to see exact replica’s of what their rooms were like dating back to 1639. For reference check out Marie-Eve standing in front of an authentic suite and she is only 5’2″. The majority of the furniture in these rooms are original, historic pieces with the exception of the beds, mattresses and sink – and have all been manufactured right in Quebec, which is really cool. However, these rooms do not have their own bathrooms so guests must use communal washrooms and shower rooms during their stay.

Here’s a peek inside one of the monastery’s authentic rooms

After a quick poll on my stories, most said they loved the idea of the authentic rooms but were not thrilled about the shared washroom facilities. To be honest, the communal facilities are actually quite nice but there’s nothing like having your own with a bathroom with a deep tub for pre bedtime soaks. My contemporary room came with the just bare necessities but really well appointed. There were lavender beads in my closet giving my clothes the most beautiful scent during my stay. The wool Hudson’s Bay blankets at the bottom of the beds in this wing is a sweet added touch. And even though Le Monastère claims that luxury is not what they are about, their plush white bathrobes say otherwise.

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

The Daily Movement Program

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastère is designed in a way to ensure that all ages and fitness levels are able to participate and benefit from what’s being offered. There are no high intensity workouts in sight and the programming is based on the practice of yoga, pilates and Qing Gong. You won’t find any difficult yoga flows or reformer machines. Each of the movement classes are primarily meditation based where breathing is the main focus with gentle movements from each practice incorporated into the 45 or 90 minute classes. Personally, not exactly what I am used to as I prefer something more challenging, however it forced me to slow down and focus on opening my body through my breathe. Turns out, I actually loved it and my body responded to it really well. I followed my midday practice one day with a massage and I was surprised my legs allowed me to walk back to my room. I was complete mush and so relaxed. The series is works well for those who are just getting into meditation, amazing for older guests who require more low-key activity and I even met one woman from the east coast that was there as part of her injury rehab program prescribed and suggested by her physician.

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

The classes are strategically scheduled at the exact same times each day before meals are served in the restaurant at 7am, noon and 5:30pm. Reason being, having food in the digestive system can interrupt with the rhythm of the body while going through these movements. While practicing yoga, pilates or Qing Gong (Tai Chi), the goal should be to have your energy be centralized towards the movement and poses, instead of going towards managing the process of digestion. Practicing on an empty stomach provides the chance to efficiently harvest the energy from the energy reserves of our body such as muscles, liver and body fat – encouraging the body to efficiently burn extra calories Not to mention, twists and turns with food in your stomach can also cause issues in the digestive tract.

The Food

Le Monastere de Augustines

“Le Restaurant” as it’s simply called is where I dined during my stay with the exception of one dinner I had off site at Chez Boulay because I was told by just about everyone I met there that I had to go. Chef Christophe Perny approach to creating the menu each day is fully aligned with Le Monastère’s holistic health principles. All meals are done buffet style with the exception of lunch and there are options for everything offering vegetarian, fish and meat dishes.

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Le Monastere de Augustines - So Sasha

Done in complete silence, post yoga breakfast consists of homemade yogurts, chia seed pudding, fresh fruits, artisan breads, jams, tea and coffee. Fresh juices and smoothies are also available. The sisters ate all of their meals in silence . Doing things with a mindful intention was very important to them, even when it came to nourishing their bodies. Not talking also meant that they took their time while eating, chewed more and had better digestion. The hotel thought observing silence for all three seatings would be a bit too severe for guests so it is only mandatory for the first meal of the day. It sounds a bit dramatic but I must say, starting the day off with the awakening series followed by a quiet and nourishing breakfast, can be just the thing you need to change the trajectory of your entire day.

Lunch is hands down the best meal served in their resto and also the largest. It is a three course meal beginning with an elaborate salad bar with two soups to also choose from. Your choice of main (vegetarian, fish or meat option), ending with a guilt free dessert. The kitchen actually doesn’t contain any processed or refined sugars whatsoever. As I ploughed through my second course of lunch, our tour guide/Monastery PR Manager, Marie-Eve, shared with us the reasoning behind this decision. Eating a larger lunch, gives way to a lighter dinner that has been proven to help with digestion. This has also been linked to better sleep.

Dinner did not blow me away as much as the lunch but it met it’s purpose. Similar to the breakfast, it was buffet style with a full salad bar, soup options and mains to choose from for vegetarian, fish and meat eaters. This too was followed by dessert. The items were all of easily digestible foods and I must say, I slept so much better the first night we dined in the monastery restaurant than the following when I devoured a steak at Chez Boulay.

My Le Monastère de Augustines Take-Aways

I think a lot of people leave wellness retreats with grandiose ideas of making huge life changes when they return home and within a day they get swept right back into their old routine. While their intentions may be there, sometimes the changes are so dramatic, it’s just not feasible to see it through in the real world when you have work commitments, kids, family and friends pulling you in a million directions. So here’s what I’ve implemented since I have returned home:

Meditation. 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. I had to be honest with myself, anything longer than that with Maxwell around, just won’t get done. I make it even easier for myself and do it right in the comfort of my bed. While 15 minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, believe it is torture for those who are used to going non-stop. This is my starting point but I am hoping to make it up to an hour by summer.

A Mindfull Approach. Slowly down. Taking my time. Being more mindful with everything I do. Taking the time to enjoy every bite of food I put into my mouth and concentrating while I chew. Taking in my surroundings during my runs and walks with Maxwell. Giving my daughter my undivided attention and not being distracted by the television, cell or laptop. I mean, there will always be times where I have to check my email, answer calls or respond to a text while Maxie is around but I am doing my best to keep some special time for just me and my girl.

Le Monastere de AugustinesSilence. As much as possible. When you live with a partner and a baby it is challenging to do this but I am no longer driving with music playing while I’m alone. I’ve chosen quiet over the radio unless I have a guest riding with me. On our way back from the monastery, Jess and I listened to the spa channel on my XM satellite radio

Le Monastere de Augustines
Photography by Jess Baumung and Le Monastère

Large(er) Lunches & Lighter Dinners. Not really a hard one to implement if I’m honest but I have trimmed down my dinner portions and now opt for heavier meats for lunch sticking with fish and veggies for dinner.

More Baths Before Bed. This requires no further elaboration. One of the reason we got our place is because of the bathtub in what is now Maxie’s bathroom. Bath time done right with low lighting and lavender scented epsom salts, always leads to a great night sleep.

For more information on Le Monastère des Augustines or to book your very own unique wellness experience in the heart of Quebec City, head to www.monastere.ca. 

This post was sponsored and in partnership with Buick Canada, however all views and opinions are my own!

A Look Into My 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

LIFE UPDATE: Life seems to be moving at warp speed lately. Maxwell turned six months last week.  How this child has just celebrated half a year in the world is beyond me. Work has been busier than ever and feeling truly blessed to be able to have a career that allows me to work and spend as much time with the baby as I do. I actually have some cool new projects in the works that I can’t wait to share with all of you. I’m also back in the gym working my butt off to reach the goals I’ve set for myself post baby. Sold my first investment property a couple weeks ago and pleasantly happy with the outcome (profit). I’m now working on developing a plan to expand my real estate portfolio. Oh, and I also upgraded my car and said goodbye to my 2017 Envision earlier this month because the new 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir is on a whole other level when it comes to luxury, functionality and convenience.

 

Can you imagine being able to remote start your car, locate it in a packed parking lot or check how much fuel you have before you leave the house from an app?  What about not having to fumble with your keys to lock/unlock to the doors or get access to the truck? Wouldn’t you love to be able to charge your smartphone without needing a charger? Have you ever wanted full 360 visual access to the exterior of your car for safety or to helping you look like a boss when you’re trying to parallel park in the downtown core?  How awesome would it be to only have the cleanest air running through the cabin of your car at all times keeping your family safe from germs and viruses? If you think this sounds like the future, you’re wrong. This is what you can get in a 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir, plus SO. MUCH. MORE.

I got a sneak peek of the vehicle at its unveiling during the New York International Auto Show last spring, but the presentation barely scratched the surface when it came to all the features unique to Buick’s new range topping Avenir sub-brand. So what exactly makes the Avenir different from the rest of the 2018 Enclave models? The name, signifies an elevated trim design that can be equated to the Denali trim available in GMC vehicles, and is the Enclave’s most prestigious model offering available with unique interior and exterior treatments. The new exterior design is far sleeker and 2 inches longer than its predecessor, but I believe its the luxe design treatment inside that takes people by surprise. The contoured dashboard, woodgrain details, leather wrapped steering wheel, 8 inch colour display in the centre cluster, the Avenir logo etched into the headrests, floor mats and sill plates are all proof of the continued hard work Buick is doing to reposition the brand.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir - So Sasha

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir - So Sasha

I’ve never thought of any car I’ve owned in the past as just something that gets me from point A to B. All my vehicles in the past have reflected my personal style and I was proud to say I was the owner of a ______. However, this is the very first time I have truly been in love with a car and can’t stop talking about it to basically anyone who will listen.  Actually, anyone who has gotten a chance to ride in it with me gets out in disbelief, refusing to believe its a Buick. Some of the features have been highlighted on my Instagram stories but I literally have to hold myself back from raving about it every day in fear I will come across as inauthentic.

In less than a month, this my Enclave has become a critical part of my life and helps make even my craziest of days like today more bearable. With my hands perpetually full juggling everything under the sun for both myself and the baby, I’ve come to love the conveniences of some features like the Enclave’s Foot Activated Lift Gate that allows me to open and close the trunk by hovering my foot over the Buick logo that illuminates the ground below the hidden sensor. I also no longer stand outside in a cold parking lot, digging through my bag for my keys to unlock my doors. I think its pretty amazing l that I can simply press the unlock button on the door handle or use the MyBuick app (available for both Apple and Android), which also allows me to start the engine ensuring the temperature is perfect for Maxie before we even get in the car. I use this at least once a day usually before leaving the house in the morning or after wrapping up a meal or meetings. And let me tell you something, I’m not trying to ever go back to that cold car commute life.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir - So Sasha

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir - So Sasha

Working on the go has never been easier. The wifi hotspot literally turns the car into a mobile office, not only for myself but my passengers as well. Six USB ports throughout the vehicle, two per row, makes sure nobody is fighting for over who gets to charge their tech devices first, which sometimes happens when you have a creative team rolling with you on shoot day. Plus, I no longer have to worry about transferring that one iPhone charger I have back and forth between home and the car, thanks to the wireless charging station that is compatible with the iPhone 8.

While getting people or cargo into the back of a three-row utility vehicle is usually a nuisance, the Enclave Avenir is designed with a second row SmartSlide seat that provides easy access to the rear of the vehicle. Located on the passenger side, the SmartSlide captain seat provides pitch slide functionality to allow access even with a forward facing child seat (without the child of course) or car seat base installed using the LATCH system.

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir - So Sasha

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir - So Sasha
All smile after a quick feed and diaper change in the spacious rear cabin

2018 Buick Enclave Avenir - So Sasha

When you’re responsible for the well-being of a tiny human being, their wellness and safety on the road becomes very important. The Avenir trim model comes equipped with the  Driver Confidence II package that includes Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Safety Alert Seat, Front and Rear Park Assist, Forward Collision Alert and Following Distance Indicator. And if that wasn’t enough, on the days a full car doesn’t allow me to properly see out the rear windshield because it’s jam packed with stuff for a shoot, I not only have cameras giving me 360 views of the vehicle’s exterior but the rearview mirror also turns into a rear cam with the flick of a switch. But what really blew mind is learning how the vehicle is also a healthy choice for my family. The Enclave Avenir comes equipped with an ionizer. So yeah, it’s own air filtration system folks to ensure the cabin smells fresh and to keep allergies, dust, pollen, viruses at bay, leaving only the cleanest of air for passengers to inhale. Cue the “hands clapping” emoji.

Photography by Jess Baumung

Now it’s impossible for something to not have at least one flaw. Its just simply not possible for a car to be perfect and trust me, Réjean and I have tried our best to find something wrong but we just couldn’t find any holes to punch through. Minus the 3rd row being a  bit too tight in my personal opinion and the prices climbing quickly as you add on features (and starts at $61,000), the Enclave Avenir passes my test with flying colours so far. We thought perhaps the air filter system could possibly end up being a pain in the ass to maintain and service but after digging and reading up online, turns out that it doesn’t require any maintenance at all.

I have an upcoming road trip for a very special wellness experience next month in which I will be able to see how the car does with fuel consumption, comfort on a long haul drive and cargo space but in the meantime, you can head to www.buick.ca to learn more 2018 Enclave and Enclave Avenir.

Our Algonquin Road Trip Adventure with Buick

One very important and reoccurring discussion Réjean and I had when I was pregnant was around how we could maintain our lifestyle and continue to do the things we love like explore and travel as new parents. As much as we love our new role as mum and dad, we are still who we are as people and that shouldn’t stop just because we have a little one. With Maxwell more adjusted to traveling in the car, more specifically her car seat, we were finally ready to take on a short road trip last month. Now, Réjean being from a small town in eastern Canada, he loves being up north out of the city and has been begging me to go camping for as long as I can remember. As for me, I couldn’t be more of a city girl and my idea of camping is literally staying at a hotel without 5 star amenities. We truly couldn’t be more different in that sense but we promised each other we would take turns on choosing our family adventures and after a game of rock, paper, scissors; Réj won the right to choose the first one. And I am kinda glad he did because we had a ball and laughed our butts off the entire time.

So Algonquin bound we were with a newborn and probably way more camping equipment than we probably needed. I thought if I was going to try this camping thing out, I want to have everything on hand to make it a legit experience. But just let me be clear… instead of jumping into my camping experience two feet at a time, I decided it was best to just dip my proverbial big toe in first. With it nearing the end of November, a baby on board and me not knowing how I was going to handle the remote wilderness, it made sense to keep the trip short and sweet, LOL. I was pumped though. Not only was it our first family road trip. It was also the first time we did a long(ish) journey in our Buick Envision and I don’t feel like a vehicle really becomes part of you and your family until you’ve done a road trip in it.

The greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s the memories you make along the way with the ones you love!”

Buick Envision

Now just to show you how little I know about camping, I had assumed that you just sort of roll up to a campsite and basically set up wherever you like but apparently it’s not much different than booking a hotel stay. This I didn’t discover until the day before we were set to leave. Large Provincial parks and sites like Algonquin Park, you are usually required to either book online or via phone for a camp plot on your lake of choice (and yes, there are multiple lakes to choose from). Your choice is based on whether you would like electricity or not, access to showers, car access or if you are REALLY into the outdoors; a walk-in site. The latter is where you have to hike for miles to the interior to set up shop. Yup, no thanks…I prefer to be on the perimeter where I still have access to cell reception. I imagine that availability could be tough during the summer high season. After October, all of Algonquin’s parks are closed for the season, with the exception of Mew Lake, which can be used for both day and overnight camping. Lucky for us, not many people wanted to be out there in 11 degrees so we basically had the site to ourselves minus another couple and a gentleman who clearly looked like it was not their first time to the rodeo.

Whenever I venture far north into cottage country, I always fear that I will get lost somehow, but, this time getting there was the least of my worries. Our Buick Envision is equipped with OnStar and it was a great opportunity to test out the service and request turn-by-turn directions directly to the car at the touch of a button. Accessible via the infotainment system home menu or the small blue button located on the rear view mirror, OnStar is literally acts as a safety net, providing drivers with access to a live advisor who can provide assistance for just about anything, around the clock. In our case – directions to Algonquin’s Mew Lake, so we could worry less about missing a turn and just take in the beautiful scenery around us. The best part, seeing as though we skipped town on a workday, I was able to check emails and get some work done, while Réjean was behind the wheel thanks to OnStar’s 4G LTE wifi hotspot.

Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision - So Sasha

So you’re probably wondering what does one pack for a day camping trip with a three month old baby right? We literally brought as much equipment as the car could fit, which turned out to be quite a lot of stuff. For a crossover SUV, the trunk has considerable cargo space. My friend and photographer Jess came along on the journey too and he had ample space in the backseat to relax and keep Maxie entertained on the drive. I am still amazed at how the Buick was able to design a mid-size crossover with the interior of a full-size SUV. The extra room in the backseat also came in handy as it was converted into a nursing and changing station for the baby throughout the day. I ran the car to keep it warm and toasty for her during these breaks.

I turned to MEC (basically a camping and outdoor MECCA) for all of the family’s needs from apparel, sleeping solutions and even cooking supplies. I know this sounds quite extra for a day trip but you just never know. Trying anything new with a baby can cause some anxiety so getting everything we needed under one roof made life so much easier. We bundled up in layers – sweaters and lightweight vests underneath our down Patagonia jackets that kept us surprisingly warm. We wore thermal tights as a base layer underneath wind breaking pants that were also waterproof in case of rain, which it did not thank God! Maxie was in this snowsuit the entire time, with the exception of on the drive to and from. I know some of you were worried about Max being out there in the cold but funny enough, she was the warmest out of the four of us the entire day.

Buick Envision Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision Buick Envision - So Sasha

What We’re Wearing:

On Me: Women’s Patagonia Jacket  // Women’s Sandbagger Pants // Women’s Salomon Hiking Boots // Unisex MEC Glide XC Mitts // ClimaHeat Tights // Soft Wool Toque (sold out) similar here

On Réjean: Unisex MEC Glide XC Mitts // Men’s Osolo Backpacking Boots // Men’s Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket // MEC Cragalot Backpack

After obtaining our park permit and getting our plot assigned by the site attendant we decided it was best to start setting up the tent right away in case Maxie and I wanted to take a nap in there. One of the reasons why camping intimidated me so much in the past was because I always thought it would be such a chore to pitch a tent. I doubt I would have been able to do it without Réjean but it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. We used the MEC Cabin 4 Tent. It’s super spacious and has plenty of head room, so we didn’t have to crouch to get in and out, plus we were able to stand up to make changing our clothes easier. It sleeps four comfortably and has double doors allowing us to roll up one, so we could have a nice view of the lake. Our Mallard -5 Sleeping Bags were designed specifically for the weather conditions of November and were insulated with 650 duck down fill – #CozyAF!

Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision Buick Envision - So Sasha Buick Envision

I know it must look like we nailed this trip but if you happened to be following along on my IG stories, you would know that there were a couple mishaps along the way. But hey, it made for some very entertaining moments to say the least. I definitely was not going to be eating tuna out of a can during my first camping trip so we prepped a large container of vegetables with olive oil and seasoning to go along with fish and steak we planned to grill at the site for lunch and dinner. I went up there smug and very impressed with myself remembering to scoop up a cooking grill when getting our MEC Camp Together Cooler but once we decided to get a fire going we realized with had no lighter, no gas tank or lighter fluid for the grill to get things going. Hands down the BIGGEST fail. Réjean literally had to purchase firewood, steal some flames from a neighbouring site and run back to our plot with burning firewood in his hands (as I followed and creepily documented it for Instagram stories of course!) A whole two hours later and we finally got a pit going enough to cook all our food.  The result. Slightly overcooked as it was hard to gauge cooking time over an open flame but having the meat and fish wrapped in foil paper somehow kept it moist. No word of a lie, it just as good as any BBQ steak I’ve ever had.

Buick Envision - So Sasha

These MEC Delux Camping Chairs were awesome. Comes with a built-in bottle opener, a cup holder that deploys when you need it and even comes with a pillow that can be adjusted to provide extra neck or back support

Very different from my type of adventure for sure but it was kind of nice being up there, away from the craziness of the city. Even the air smelled cleaner somehow. The campground actually prohibits music because sound travels so easily up there. Annoying at first because I had plans on using the car’s wifi to listen to the Spotify playlist I created specifically for the trip but in the end I was happy we couldn’t. It was just so peaceful and forced us to actually talk and connect – something that hasn’t been happening a lot lately due to our crazy busy schedules. Max was a total angel and made camping with a newborn easy for this mama bear. Clearly she won’t remember any of this but I am just so happy that we are able to do these things as a family and document it all so when she’s older she can look back at how much she did so early on in her life. My hope is that these experiences will set the foundation for a well rounded, well traveled little girl who will forever be curious, wanting to learn more about life.

Buick Envision
Photography by Jess Baumung

SHOP OUR FAVE CAMPING CLOTHING GEAR

Interested in learning more about our spacious crossover? Head over to www.Buick.ca for more information.
This post was created in partnership with Buick Canada. All opinions and views are my own.

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

2017 GMC Acadia Whistler, BC Experience

With fast paced lifestyles being the norm these days and car consumers becoming far more discerning each year, it’s not surprising that drivers are looking for much more out of vehicles now more than ever before. We need more cargo/storage capacity. Additional space for more passengers. Want better fuel efficiency. Desire a luxury aesthetic with premium finishes. We’re intrigued by next generation technology (who ever thought we would be living in a world with 4G LTE wifi in cars?!). Or require 4WD capabilities for winter driving conditions. I mean, the list of Canadian customers reasons for purchasing a vehicle can just go on and on. In the past I viewed cars similar to the way I looked at real estate and men. It sounds odd and funny but ti’s true. I believed that there was no perfect vehicle, house or man – and finding one that ticked all the boxes wasn’t realistic. For years car customers have sacrificed in one way or another. Twenty years ago, if space was high on your priority list, you were probably sacrificing on style by having to choose a minivan to accommodate a family of 7. Wanting better performance meant a heavier vehicle frame and increased engine size; resulting in poor fuel efficiency. Japanese and German vehicles were known for their style and design, but it was the American manufacturers that were known for comfort. Fast forward two decades and we may be moving towards a world where it’s possible to get your whole wish list in one vehicle.

2017 GMC Acadia

2017 GMC Acadia

2017 GMC Acadia

2017 GMC Acadia

Last week I ventured all the way to beautiful Whistler, British Columbia for a couple days of adventure and to discover the all new 2017 GMC Acadia. Our drive from Whistler commenced from Vancouver Airport, where we headed up the scenic Sea to Sky highway, giving us our first taste of the brand’s most innovative Acadia to date. On our itinerary during our surprise filled visit with GM Canada…an unbelievable outdoor experience that included learning how to ride like the mountain bike pros on the GMC sponsored Pump Track, an exclusive ride inside the Guinness World Record Breaking Peak to Peak Gondola that spans the entire distance between Whistler and Blackcomb, lunch overlooking a breathtaking vista of snowcapped mountains at Christine’s on Blackcomb, an ATV off-road excursion with RZR Tours at Cougar Mountain and dinner at Whistler’s premier dine dining and award winning restaurant Bearfoot Bistro. And if that wasn’t enough, after our delicious four course meal at Bearfoot, we headed to the restaurant’s lower level where patrons will find the Ketel One Ice Room – the world’s coldest vodka tasting room and only sub-zero vodka room in Canada. If you followed my trip on snapchat, you most likely saw our group donning white Canada Goose parkas to help us brave the -32C (-25) temps in there, while we sampled a few of the vodka’s in their 50 plus collection.

2017 GMC Acadia

2017 GMC Acadia

2017 GMC Acadia

2017 GMC Acadia

2017 GMC Acadia

GMC, a brand known for it’s professional grade heritage, bold features and craftsmanship, has refined the latest Acadia with the help of premium finishes, innovative features and tons of space options for both passengers and cargo. Here’s a quick look inside the 2017 GMC Acadia:

The revised mid-sized SUV’s exterior has modern updates with sculptural lines that made our motorcade of Acadia’s stand out as we made our way up the winding highway. But it’s the car’s interior and tech features that really stand out in my opinion. It may not look like it from the outside, but this cross over fits up to 7 passengers quite comfortably despite losing a bit of interior room compared to it’s previous year’s model, thanks to premium seating and the vehicle’s easy access to it’s 3rd row. How? With the assistance of Acadia’s fold flat 2nd row seats that allows you to be ready for whatever your next adventure might be. You can go right ahead and file the enhanced second-row Smart Slide® seats under “Mind Blown”. This row can tip, pitch and slide forward even when a child seat is attached. Shocking I know! And this should go without saying, but this feature is only recommended when a child is NOT strapped into it’s car seat. If more cargo space is what you really need, designers have placed built-in seat release levers to make it super simple to fold the second row seats completely flat from the back of the car.

For those of you have have kiddies or nieces and nephews you look after on weekends like I do, the comprehensive suite of available Driver Alert and Active Safety Technologies to help protect drivers from the unexpected on the road, would blow you away. With the increase in deaths of babies being inadvertently left behind in cars, the Acadia has the industry first “Rear Seat Alert System” that reminds drivers that items and/or children may still be in the vehicle’s 2nd or 3rd row seats. Knowing you have the added safety of sensors, radars and cameras to help detect potential crash situations, can bring comfort to drivers with young children and babies on board. Other notable technologies that are a first for the Acadia that can even probably help with yearly insurance fees are the Front Park Assist, Lane Change Alert and Lane Keep Assist, Knee Airbags and much more.

2017 GMC Acadia

2017 GMC Acadia

2017 GMC Acadia

I’m not sure about you, but I’m always a fan of anything that makes long road trips bearable or working on the road manageable and GM’s fleet was ahead of it’s time introducing 4G LTW wifi connectivity via OnStar, Apple Car Play capabilities (allowing drivers to utilize all the functionalities of their iPhone or Android devices to make calls, send texts, listen to music and access maps all displayed on an 8″ colour touch audio system), plus Five USB ports ensures everyone is happily connected and charging.

A common worry for those moving from a car to cross over or SUV is no doubt gas mileage and rightfully so. Advanced design and engineering as allowed the 2017 Acadia to be over 700 lbs lighter than it’s predecessor, resulting in better fuel economy. You will find fuel range for the Acadia different depending on the model and engine size of course. For car buyers who’s priority is fuel efficiency the clear choice is the 2.5L engine getting drivers 11.0/9.2/10.2 L/100km (City/Highway/Combined). If fuel efficiency take a back seat to performance, then the 3.6L V6 engine with 310 horsepower plus active fuel management is the way to go with 13.0/9.3/11.3 (City/Highway/Combined) L/100km.

The 2017 GMC Acadia is already available in showrooms now in Canada and price points for the base 4-cylinder front drive only Acadia SL start at $29,995, with the top line Acadia Denali AWD starting at $47,845. For more information on all Acadia models head to GMCCanada.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

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.

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

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.

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