Ah where do I begin?
I’ve always loved cars. Since my early childhood, the thought of being in a ‘cool’ car or even playing with toy cars was exhilarating. Road trips still really excite me – and in fact, I’m usually the guy that offers to drive because it’s simply enjoyable. Fast forward to today, I’m excited to bring on an automotive section to the blog, where it’ll describe my experiences with exciting vehicles and everything beyond that. When I had the opportunity to be an ambassador for Toyota Canada’s #TowardsTomorrow campaign, I was beyond ecstatic!
The campaign focuses on changing the traditional landscape in which people explore and research cars before they buy them. Contrary to the standard ‘walk in to the dealership and buy’ method, Toyota knows that consumers today are doing their research in different ways – especially online, and the brand has come up with interactive and informative ‘brand galleries’ that merge technology, features and fun to bridge the online and real-world shopping experience. It offers consumers the ability to interact with the vehicles and their features before even considering a purchase. When I visited the brand’s Hillcrest Mall brand gallery (ongoing from November 1st – January 30th), I got a first-hand experience of how the brand gallery works and what it has to offer. Each gallery is located in an existing store location within a mall and consists of 5 engaging components.
- The Toyota Virtual Reality Experience: Using a 2017 Corolla iM controlled through a virtual reality system, visitors can experience three advanced safety technologies. These are the Toyota Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert, and Automatic High Beams – all part of the “Toyota Safety Sense” (TSS) bundle of technologies that is being built into the majority of Toyota’s 2017 models.
- The Joy of Play: A unique virtual reality experience that allows guests to use their own hands in a three-dimensional world to explore and play with Toyota vehicles in an exciting way!
- Toyota Safety Sense Learning Station: Video content and a learning gallery where Toyota Safety Sense – Toyota’s suite of advanced safety technologies are brought to life through a variety of everyday driving situations.
- Vehicle Exploration: Each brand gallery will feature four different 2017 Toyota models popular with urban drivers in each market area, from the Toyota 86 sport coupe, to the Corolla iM sport hatch, the Corolla sedan, the Prius hybrid lift-back, or the RAV4 Hybrid.
- Other features in each brand gallery include a Kidz Zone, a secure cell phone charging tower, Toyota swag, a contest to win a new Toyota Corolla iM, and more.
There’s also the ability to test drive the vehicles from Friday-Sunday during the mall/gallery hours. (The models are limited based on their popularity and availability within each region) You can check out a brand gallery near you to experience what I did (trust me, you’ll want to give the Virtual Reality a try – it’s tons of fun, especially if you need a break from shopping).
Here are the locations of the brand galleries, which are only located in Quebec, Ontario and BC. I encourage you to pop in and have a look, even if it’s just for fun!
- Carrefour Laval
3035 Boulevard le Carrefour, Laval PQ H7T 1C8
Hours: M-F 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Sat 9 a.m. – 5 p. m., Sun 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Hillcrest Mall
9350 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill ON L4C 5G2
Hours: M-F 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Sat 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- Tsawwassen Mills
5000 Canoe Pass Way, Tsawwassen, BC V4M 0B3
Hours: M-Sat 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Sun 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
The 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Beyond that, I was fortunate enough to test drive the 2017 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid for a while and experience what it had to offer from a hands-on point of view. Boy was I amazed!
Aesthetically, it hasn’t changed much from the 2016 model. It maintains the sleek and refined edge that newer Toyota vehicles have adopted, which in my opinion is really attractive. It’s also got that bold feel of an SUV, so you get that added confidence being in a slightly larger vehicle. To my surprise, this didn’t sacrifice fuel efficiency however. Based on a few Corollas I’ve rented and driven in the past while, it was really up to par with them – which was awesome (I averaged around 7L/100km – not bad, right?).
What I was most excited about was the new addition of standardized safety features, found in Toyota Safety Sense and more. You no longer need to buy the premium models to receive premium safety features, which is very beneficial to all consumers. Thankfully, I never had to use them in emergency situations, but certain features like the bird’s eye view camera and lane departure alert were very helpful in most general cases. The bird’s eye view camera is a cool feature that uses multiple cameras located on the vehicle to project a top view-real-time image of your position. It allowed me to parallel park very easily – and I could definitely see it coming in handy during other tight spots. The lane departure alert signal was probably one of the most noticeable and helpful features, since it reduced the amount of focus I had to use when checking blind spots. It essentially signals you with a light on the mirror, any time there is a vehicle approaching from either side. Really makes a difference when you’re given limited vision due to harsh weather conditions.
Now for the most exciting part!
I took the RAV4 Hybrid out for various occasions, from grocery shopping to a mini-road trip, and it was tons of fun doing either. The RAV4 Hybrid serves as a great vehicle for day-to-day use as it is compact yet spacious. It’s also very comfortable for long rides as it is surprisingly a smooth and quiet ride. On one occasion, I ended up driving up past Georgetown and into Caledon to drop off my good friend, Sean Pollock. (he also happens to be the great photographer behind all these photos!) We managed to snap a bunch of beautiful shots on our way up, but we decided to keep going to explore the empty roads on this misty Saturday afternoon. It was quite enjoyable being in a vehicle that could go beyond the standard road. We took it off road a few times and were amazed at how well the RAV4 Hybrid fit into many different lifestyle scenarios.
Overall, the experience was unique and adventurous. It will be very exciting to see what Toyota will come up with in the next little while, especially after creating a new way to experience an automobile. Although this is my first experience reviewing a vehicle and it’s lifestyle aspects in detail, it’s really quite daunting to see what Toyota vehicles are capable of and how the overall experience can go beyond the car itself.
I want to thank the amazing people at Toyota for bringing such an innovative experience to myself and everyone else. I’m honored to be one of the few Towards Tomorrow ambassadors for Toyota Canada. Be sure to check out @toyotacanada on instagram, as well as the hashtags #wheretoyotatakesme and #towardstomorrow
Thanks for reading guys! Stay tuned for more!