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Acura 2103 ILX Hybrid and ILX Technology

auto, GEAR By June 4, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , No Comments

acura ilxThere’s a joke now about me as I test drive vehicles.  Unlike other auto journalists, it takes about an hour for me to take all of the kid stuff out of my own car and transfer it to the tester.  Car seats, sporting equipment, groceries, garbage, dried cheerios and dirty coffee mugs make their way into the clean new car as everyone around me chuckles.  Luckily whenever I drive an Acura, I feel so much like a princess that I don’t mind the extra work.  I drove the Acura ILX Hybrid (MSRP $35,050) and ILX Technology (MSRP$32,350) back to back and was delighted by what I found.

Though they are different to drive (and a tad distracting if you watch the dials as much as I do), hybrids are winning my love at the moment.  Typically it’s all about the environment and the time and money you save at the gas pumps, but as an under-appreciated mom, I have other reasons.  I feel like I’m in control; of how I use the fuel, how I drive, and the noise level within the car. I also feel good about myself for simply driving a hybrid (and am able to park in hybrid-only parking spots).  That’s nice too.

That aside, here’s what I loved about both vehicles:

1.  The Valet key is genius. The removable key portion ensures that the valet or a burglar can’t get into trunk if the ‘valet’ option is switched off.  For this reason there is no passthru on the trunk on hybrid.  (Skiiers beware).
2.  Flat tire seal repair kit for the hybrid ensures you have no need to change a tire on the side of road.  Perfect safety for women!
3.  There’s a hard drive in the vehicle so that when you insert a cd it will copy your music and store it on the hard drive (150 cd capacity).
4.  Like in Hondas, there is a flat back floor which gives backseat passengers more room – especially if someone is sitting between two carseats.
5.  Pant protector and the double seal on doors ensures that you don’t get oil and grease on your new designer jeans.
6.  Seat warmers remember last setting so nobody can play a joke on you by making your backside too hot..  Ditto for the navigation system with voice recognition.
7.  The push button start, while leaving the key in your purse is a must for moms.
8.  The look is super sporty with a low profile and great viz.
9.  Rear windows are nice and low so that the kids can see out (hopefully avoiding some car screaming time).
10.  The SMS text message function reads you texts as you drive, and you are also able to respond with a few stock responses such as ‘I’ll text later, I’m driving’.  Much fun can be had with passengers in the back seat depending on the propriety of incoming text messages.
11.  There is a “feedback” system in the Hybrid that lets a driver know how well they are performing.  A big green ball grows larger if you drive sensibly and shrinks if you don’t.  So try to limit the shrinkage.

1.  I thought the trunk of the hybrid was small, as the battery is behind the back seat (or perhaps I carry around too much junk…)
2.  Totally not a drawback with the vehicles but either with my kids or my ineptitude as a Mom.  Where does all of the kid-dirt come from?  I am SO glad I don’t have to clean the car after a week of driving. What’s with the blue playdoh?

The Verdict?

Loved both of these vehicles and for the extra couple of thousand dollars, I’d choose the Acura ILX Hybrid.  The savings in fuel, the rear spoiler and the self-love you’ll receive make it a slam dunk.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Test Drive of the BMW X5

auto, GEAR By May 18, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

BMW X5This car positively purrs and it a fantastic ‘mom-mobile’.  The BMW X5 is roomy and offers a ton of family-friendly features that make it a great option if your bank account can handle the hefty price tag.

Kid’s Perspective: They LOVED the extra-large panoramic moonroof

– The bluetooth and phonebook sync with both our Blackberry and iPhone was exceptional and worked with the wisp of a touch.
– The forward-to-reverse on the gear shift is a bit counter-intuitive but it’s a BMW thing and you get used to it.
– Lots of room between 2 carseats
– Adaptive headlights follow the direction of the wheels for extreme safety
– Ambient lighting when it’s dark outside
– Sun-reflective seats so even when it’s burning hot outside, the seats stay cool.

Trunk: Clamshell-style and the lower part is quite high so hard to get stroller in if you’re short.  There’s a ton of room for groceries and a big stroller.

The Glitz: Carry the key in your purse and doors are unlocked just by touching the door handle.  I must for a mom carrying groceries, a toddler and a diaper bag.

The Glamour: You can get into the car in stilettos, drive fast and look sexy.

Would it Make a Good Push Present? Absolutely.

BMW Canada

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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A Snowy Ski Vacation With the BMW X3

auto, Canada, GEAR, ROAM By January 22, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

bmw x3Picking up and dropping off media vehicles with kids in tow is always an adventure.  Especially at the incredibly spotless and organized Brian Jessel BMW.  Thank goodness the staff are wonderful – and so are the snacks at the café..  Thankfully the kids also quieted down completely once I initiated the ‘tracking device’ in the BMW X3 (aka. navigation).  They felt like spies.  And the backup cameras tell you when you are close to an obstacle in the front or back, which kept them watching the dashboard throughout the drive.

My first test for the X3 was to Big White Resort for a media familiarization trip.  Despite not having snow tires on the icy Coquihalla highway, we hugged the road.  The AWD and XDrive gave us so much piece of mind!  Reaching Kelowna and heading up the steep hill to Big White, the outdoor temperature was frigid.  Seat warmers, amazing defogging technology and a bit of Gamgam-style seat-dancing kept us happy and warm.

Big White BMWThe next day I met our guide and ran (skiied) right into a sign outside the main building.  It was an ad for an X3 on a ski vacation!  Can I ever pick my stories, huh?  Unlike the photo, I didn’t test it on the ski runs both for fear of getting in trouble from our Big White hosts, but I also didn’t want the vehicle to take all of my fresh powder.

In the city, the X3 handled equally as beautifully and the kids became quite addicted to driving in the spacious back seats.  From their perspective?  The tray tables.  The cup holders.  The huge sunroof, low windows that allow them to see out and of course the ‘tracking device’ make it a favourite.  Giving back our ‘borrowed car’ made them quite grumpy (until the Jedi sword fight in the dealership parking lot broke out and then I was more concerned for the vehicles than the kids).

What I liked:

Console bmw_X31.  E-mails, calendar entries, tasks and SMS messages will appear wirelessly on the Control Display so you can pretend you are in ‘your office’ when you’re doing something fun like, well, heading out on a ski vacation..
2. BMW xDrive is able to recognize difficult road surfaces through sensors in the chassis and reacts within a fraction of a second.
3.  Plug in a USB cable to the audio system and you can even see cover art from your albums projected on the screen.
4. Bluetooth Sync with phone address book and stream audio from your smartphone
5.  The circular dial for switching radio, navigation and media is easy to use and safe, as it’s where your hand naturally reaches.
5.  The extra long sunroof thrilled the whole family
6.  Rear and forward sensors provided so much safety while parking (you never have to do a ‘Kramer’, bumping cars on either end).
7.  Sleek extrerior lines make you feel like a rock star.
8.  Great visibility
9.  Lane Departure Warning helps you avoid dangerous situations.
10.  And most important: Storage.  Even 1.5 litre water bottles and ANY sized coffee cup.  We know moms don’t go for the tiny ones…

The only ‘drawback’ for me to this vehicle would be a huge plus for most.  The eco mode turned the car off at stop lights to save fuel.  It was so quiet I kept thinking the car had turned off and wanted to re-start the engine.  The pickup when you press the gas took a while to get used to.  You can turn it off, though, so it really is a mut point.  On the Control Display you can read how ECO PRO Mode is actively lowering energy consumption and following the tips can enable you to achieve a reduction in fuel consumption of up to 20 %. Cool.

In all?  Along with my new Ride snowboard gear, perfect lipgloss and twin-tipped skis, the BMW X3 is the only other equipment I’ll need for my next ski vacation.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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The 2013 Honda Accord Unveiling in Santa Barbara

auto, GEAR, ROAM, USA By October 9, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

At the 2013 Honda Accord Unveiling in Santa Barbara, I realized that I am really not an auto writer.  I know.  Our readers have known that for ages.  But as I was grilled on social media by die-hard car journalists from the LA Times and highly technical publications, I realized that as a mom, my perspective is very unique and valid.  I admit, though, that I dropped a few comments like “What is torque again?” (With a valleygirl accent and a hair twirl) just to get their shocked reactions.  Snicker.

As a mom I look for vehicles with style and family-friendliness.  The 2013 Accord comes in a plug-in hybrid, coupe or sedan versions.  I drove them all, and also the manual transmission model.   Wow.  These things purred.  Peppy, spirited and fun to drive, I think I may have to take a look at investing in Honda stock.  Here’s what I loved about the new Accord.

Honda Link 2013 Accord1.  Honda Link.  I could go on and on.  Honda Link is a cloud-based system that connects you (safely) to the web.  Voice recognition, text messaging, audiobooks, digital music content, hand-picked radio stations, restaurant searches and Facebook audio feeds without having to mess with your mobile phone… perfect for kids and passengers.  You really shouldn’t tweet and drive, BTW.  And Honda is so safe they won’t even let you set up your Bluetooth or wireless texting sync when the car is moving.

2.  The plug-in hybrid.  Talk about quiet.  And fast.  It reminded me of driving my husband’s Jaguar.  Seriously.  (Except I kept forgetting the car was on and trying to restart).  When it comes to recharging, Honda says the Accord plug-in can get a full recharge in an hour from a 240-volt charger.

3.  Quiet.  The interior is so quiet that you have to blast music so you don’t lull off to sleep.  Great for babies.  There are lots of reasons for the lack of interior noise – one is that the dashboard is only one piece so not as much wind gets in.  The engine is coated in a sound-deafening shield-thingy too.

4.  Similarly, there is little drag.  The ‘sideburns’ of the car and exterior styling make it look fabulously sporty, but also improve the performance.  The coupe is sportiest of all, of course, and offers parents with teens going off to University enough room in the back for visits home while helping them combat the empty-nest state with a huge amount of cool factor.

Accord 2013 LED Lights5.  I can honestly say that I have never driven a car with a more responsive steering system.  It made me a little dizzy, as I like to ‘bop to the music’ and tend to ‘steer’ to the beat.   Another reason the auto writers were gaping at me. (And I was the only one driving in stilettos, of course).

6.  Holy trunk room.  We were joking that you could fit a couple of bodies in there.  The trunk was easy to close with one hand if you had groceries, an infant or multiple Vuitton sachels in the other.

7.  Lots of attention was paid to details such as where the stitching on the steering wheel falls as you grip it.  The luxury-lover in me was pretty happy with the design elements.

Lane Watch Honda8.  The side mirrors could be on the space shuttle they are so technical.  Not that a shuttle has side mirrors, but whatever..  To eliminate blind spots, Honda has developed a camera called LaneWatch™ that ‘sees’ into the next lane.  The image flashes onto your 8 inch dashboard LCD screen so you are never blind.  They’ve kind of fixed every frustration about driving, allowing you to have confidence in your ability and thereby be a safer driver.  Pretty smart.  If only Honda could make my hair look good when I don’t blowdry.  And make all of the mirrors in the world make me look skinny.  Ok.  I digress.

9.  There is an option to turn the Accord’s Lane Departure Warning sensor on or off.  Once I figured it out, I was really impressed.  And realized that I’m not a very good driver. Driving along I couldn’t figure out what was beeping at me.  Every time I got too close to a line on either side without putting on my indicator signal, I thought there were birds in the car.  Back to driving school for me. (Or maybe fewer riveting conversations with my drive partner Tanya Gordon).

10.  The forward collision warning was incredible.  And there is also a turbo-break thing that happens.  When the car senses you breaking suddenly, it will put even more force into the brakes, ensuring you stop on a dime.  (Which was incredibly fortunate when a distracted mom pulled over in a dangerous spot on the side of a  vineyard road and her toddler ran into the street.)  My heart is still racing.

11.  Talking to the car was a blast.  “XM Channel 72” and the sounds of Broadway filled the vehicle.  Better still – it only recognizes one voice at a time so my kids wouldn’t be able to change the tunes to the Disney Channel every five minutes!

Technical Stuff:

The 2.4-liter, 185 horsepower four-cylinder engine is rated at 27 MPG in city driving and 36 on the highway.  For the V-6 engine, the highway rating is 34 MPG and city rating is 21 MPG.  Pretty great – especially for a vehicle that handles beautifully and can go from zero to 60 MPH in a quick 5.6 seconds (Motor Trend).

Our take?  Honda enthusiasts, Moms, kids and tech-lovers will snap it up.  Fast.  And we’d certainly want it as a push present.

Honda Accord


Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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The 2013 Chevy Malibu hits the Cabot Trail

auto, GEAR By September 19, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia and am embarrassed that I’d never been to Cape Breton.  I have been yearning to drive the Cabot Trail.  My chance finally came when the 2013 Chevy Malibu hits the Cabot Trail with spectacular September weather, lobsters and whales.

Those of you who follow my auto stories know that I’m not too technical.  I know what a Mom needs, what it means to be family-friendly, and how important style is to exhausted parents who always considered themselves cool.  I’ve never even written about gas mileage.  You do what you have to do as a Mom.  Space, sightlines, safety and cargo seem to trump everything else.  So I was SHOCKED that not only did this 4-cyllindar peppy Malibu have what it took to be a family vehicle, but I drove around the entire Cabot Trail (501 kilometers) on just under ¾ of a tank.  Wow.  For the people who understand these things, it gets 8.1 L/100km city 5.3 L/100km hwy.

I tend to have fun on these trips.  I’ll save you from stories about Celtic step dancing, lobster cracking and singing with the fiddler… and will go straight to off-roading.

Drive Partner: Let’s take the quick route to the Normaway Inn in the Margaree River.

Me: Hmmm. Looking at the map, I think we can bypass the paved road and get there even faster if we follow this one-lane dirt path.  There’s a fork somewhere that we have to find though….unless it is grown over.

Drive Partner: OK but if we get murdered/lost it’s your fault.  I wonder if Onstar can track us here.  (it could)

40 minutes later, after picking apples out the window of the car while giggling incessantly, we realized that it wasn’t much shorter.  But we gave the car quite the run! I can honestly say that the shocks are great after going over potholes and puddles the size of apple barrels.  You should have seen the caked-on dirt when we arrived.  Now that’s driving!  And we took the road less traveled. Walt would be proud.

What I liked about the 2013 Malibu:

  1. The touch screen allowed you to select options, sync your phone, change the XM station and was very easy to use.  Unfortunately there was no twitter on the screen.  (With a lack of Rogers cellular service in northern Cape Breton, all of us social media geeks could not text, phone or use the MiFi units in the cars.  It was amusing to see us slowly crumble as the stress of ‘going dark’ set in.  I admit – I was the worst of all of us and met many a bed and breakfast owner as I begged for wifi passwords.)
  2. So thank GOODNESS for OnStar Hands Free Calling.  Because it is phone via satellite, it had our backs.  In a humourous way, we all kept ducking out to ‘sit in the car’ so that we could call our children.  The owner at Cheticamp’s great Horseback riding excursion – Little Pond Stables – screamed “One of your Malibu’s is ringing!!”
  3. The Driver’s window touch feature allowed for straight up and down with one push or pull– convienient at drive-thrus and toll booths.
  4. A button on the trunk allows it to open by pushing from the outside if car is unlocked.
  5. James Bond alert.  There’s a hiding spot and sync feature for your phone in the dash – right behind the flip-up Mylink screen.
  6. The remote start on the key fob would be great on the cold winter days. This feature is standard on 1LT and up.
  7.  It’s super roomy (ie you can breastfeed easily in the front or back seat).
  8. The rear backup camera is standard – even on the base models.  My own car only beeps when I get close to something while reversing and I was so used to the beep I almost crashed while forgetting to look at the rearview camera.  Laugh.  Blush.  Just kidding.  The rear camera is available in the Power Convenience or Entertainment Packages on the 1LT, 2LT and LTZ models.
  9. USB connectivity allows you to upload a favourite photo onto the screen – perfect for a family road trip.
  10.  The sunroof was quiet when opened and didn’t distract the driver as some noisy sunroofs do.
  11. There are 10 standard airbags.
  12. There are blockers in the grille and specially shaped side mirrors to help reduce drag.  Unless you’re on a one-lane dirt road, in which case you probably won’t notice. Both Malibu Eco models have aerodynamic shutters that open and close depending on the speed of the vehicle for aerodynamic reasons.
  13.  The LTZ offers a lane departure warning and forward collision alert that are available in the Advanced Safety Package.  Oh.  That’s what those beeps were for.  Usually these features only exist on much higher-end vehicles.
  14. The Cabot Trail isn’t the easiest drive.  If you’re not completely distracted by the beauty, way too full from the poutine covered in chesse/gravy/onions/peas/ground beef, or staring at the piles of empty roadside lobster traps, you are jigging down hills with windy curves and hairpin turns.  And here’s me forgetting my Grace Kelly hair scarf.  But I do know that the Malibu hugs the road.  Tight.

The All-New Chevy Malibu

Disclosure: UrbanMommies was hosted on a drive trip through the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia.  As always, our opinions are our own.

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Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Chevrolet Spark Test Drive

auto, GEAR By August 28, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

I couldn’t possibly test a vehicle without the kids in tow.  I thought this Chevrolet Spark Test Drive would be a tough one for the boys, as the car was so compact (awesome for squeezing into city parking spots). But for the urban driver?  Amazing.

Safety-wise, the 10 airbags, great sight lines and Onstar phone services provide the driver with a ton of confidence.  You can’t really beat Onstar (and not just to ask a live person to send directions to the vehicle for the nearest Starbucks).  My kids know that if Mommy is ever in trouble, they press the red button and wait for emergency response crews who will track the car via GPS.  The peace of mind is priceless.

With USB connectivity for his tunes combined with great maneuverability and talent, my husband was able to back up within 1.5 inches of a pylon and became the proud recipient of the award for this feat (as opposed to the actual pylon award he received in recreational hockey).  I was thrilled to be able to tweet that my dear husband ‘won with an inch and a half!’.

The verdict?  A great economical and compact choice for big-city driving.  It may not be the best option for schlepping gear and multiple kiddos on playdates if you need more than 31.2 cubic feet of volume, but did I mention it comes in pink?

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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The Honda CR-V

auto, GEAR By August 22, 2012 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

I had the pleasure of driving with Yoyomama’s Annemarie Templeman-Kluit over the Sea to Sky Highway in a Honda CR-V.  Final destination: the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.  I was never very familiar with Honda, and after meeting Steven Weber and getting a mini-university education on the innovations within the CR-V, I feel like an expert.  (And I kind of geeked out while I listened.)  Wow!  Cool!  What’s a powertrain again?  (And why would all these car companies advertise the warranty on one when most of us have no clue what it is?)

We began our trip by loading the car.  Piles and piles of coolers, carseats, suitcases, beach balls, canoe paddles and hockey bags were piled on the floor.  I looked at the pile skeptically and took photos as Annemarie loaded up.  Ha ha.  But it all fit! I was shocked at how much space there was.

During the drive, we played jokes on each other with the voice-activated commands which culminated in Annemarie raising the passenger seat temperature so high that I was sweltering.  I later got her back but driving so quickly that she got a bit nauseus while Tweeting.  The car was so quiet we couldn’t stop gabbing.

Favourite things about the Honda CR-V:

  1. Noise cancelling wrap on engine.  It’s called something fancy but I just know how quiet the car is to drive.
  2. No bump in backseat floor because the stabilizers are on the sides of the car and Honda has figured out how to place the drive shaft lower down.  This allows for much more leg room if there is a passenger in the middle.
  3. The rear doors open 90 degrees, which helps immensely when loading kids into car seats.
  4. Voice activated commands so if you don’t like the person in the passenger seat, you can alter their temperature so they are uncomfortable.  Plus it only works with your own voice so your kids can’t change the music to ‘Wheels on the bus’.
  5. Storage to die for.
  6. Really smooth ride.
  7. You can put photos from usb onto your screen – perfect for a road trip!
  8. ECON mode saves on gas but the car lost a bit of pep.  Pedal to the metal baby.
  9. The backup camera has 3 lines and the dotted one shows you how far you can back up and still open the hatch.  So smart.
  10. You can pull a lever and the seats and headrests flip and fold down.  There’s another strap on the side of the car so you could pull the seats from this area too.
  11. There are mud flaps on the door so you don’t get mud and grease on your Gucci pants.
  12. The ice blue colour of our vehicle was like Elizabeth Taylor’s eyes and I think it made me look taller.
  13. The car was pretty high off the ground and had great visibility.  The windows are also low so kids can see out even if they are small.  I’ve always found that this helps distract the children who tend to dislike car rides.
  14. The front looked stylish and kind of reminded me or Mr. Moustache (not that I’m addicted to Angry Birds).
  15. There was bluetooth connectivity for syncing music wirelessly from your phone.  You can also sync texts to the car!


And the verdict?  Loved it.  Safety is obviously a huge priority for Honda, and the CRV is a great, spacious family choice.

Would it make a good Push Present?  Yup.  And she’ll still feel super-sporty and fabulous.

 Disclosure: UrbanMommies drove the Honda CR-V for 2 days and was hosted for meals and hotel accommodation.  As always, our opinions are our own.


Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Test Drives: Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

auto, GEAR By May 18, 2012 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

This is not your grandfather’s sedan.  Touch screen, usb ports and detailed backup camera.  The embroidered Lincoln logo on the leather seats ensures you never forget you’re in a classy ride.  It’s hard not to feel like a rockstar while driving this car.

What we liked:

1.   It’s like a tank.  You are king of the road.
2.   It’s amazing on gas.  4.6 L/100 km in the city and 5.4 on the highway.  Estimated yearly fuel cost? $1,050.  (I think that’s what I currently pay monthly…)
3.  You feel like a techy brainiac while you drive.  You can see the fuel consumption and the gadgetry is exquisite, as are the AV capabilities.  “With nearly 10 gigabytes of hard drive storage for a music jukebox and built-in photo gallery, the system goes beyond functional to flat-out fun. You can access up to 2,400 of your favourite songs and view stored photos.”
4.  The drivers’ seat goes super-high for a short woman.  The seat has a 10-way adjustment.
5.  The trunk fits at least 20 bags of groceries.  Rock solid.
6.  Voice-activated navigation that shows up on the LCD screen and includes landmarks.

Not so much:

1.  Despite the sleek exterior and cool tech, I still felt old.  It could be because more grey hairs are sprouting though.
2.  The carseats were difficult to latch.  But I think that’s because of the cushy seats.  Still – the “Latch” system needs some work.

And would it make a good push present?

Absolutely.  Just don’t let the kiddos draw on the seats – they are covered in Bridge of Weir leather that comes from the British Isles.

Disclosure: UrbanMommies Media testdrove this vehicle for a one-week period.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Unique Holiday Gift Picks for Dad

auto, fitness, GEAR, home By November 27, 2011 Tags: , , , 14 Comments

Incidentally, we love the guys so much we actually came up with 11 top 10 gifts.  Or something.  If he’s a baseball fan you can get the cufflinks for his fav team.  Whiskey ‘rocks’ and a pizza stone.  The wine chiller is pretty good too.  And who doesn’t need a knit R2D2 hat? Lucky men.

1.  Whiskey Lovers Set

2.  Hidden message collar stays

3.  Corkcicle

4.  New York Mets Cufflinks

5.  Emile Henri Pizza Stone

6.  R2D2 Hat

7.  Hudson’s Bay Co. Burton Snowboard

8.  Victorinox Swiss Army Dive Master 500 meter Watch

9.  Go Pro HD Camera Helmet

10. The Big Green Egg Smoker

11.  Stand-up Paddleboard


Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Testdrives: The Modern Road Trip with Chevrolet Orlando

auto, Disney, GEAR, ROAM, USA By September 12, 2011 Tags: , , , , , 5 Comments

So I was invited on this amazing trip that was sponsored by General Motors and included my whole family.  We flew to Orlando, stayed in a stunning home, saw various Orlando attractions and drove a Chevrolet Orlando from Florida to Toronto in the span of 3 days.  The only part I was worried about was the long drive with the kids.  My husband is injured and unable to drive, so I was on the hook for it all.  I was shocked at how enjoyable it was.  It was the quintessential Modern Road Trip.

Not only did we love the car, but the technology that was placed in the vehicle enhanced the trip to an incredible degree.   The gadgets helped endlessly with ‘Are we there yet?’, fighting in the backseat and getting lost.  The only issue was that it was a bit too easy.  Too comfy.  Compared to old-school road trips, where part of the fun is getting lost and having a good old-fashioned family feud about whose fault it was, we were all blissful.  Next time we’d research a few fun things to do off the beaten track and incorporate tech-free hours.  It never really occurred to us that the point of a road trip is that you see things along the way – not just your end destination.  Channeling the movie ‘Cars‘: “All you see on the interstate is the interstate”.  That being said… for the hours you have to put in getting from point A to point B… here’s what got us through.

Components of the Modern Roadtrip:

1.  iPads.  Each child in the back of the car was given an iPad and a credit for iTunes.  And here I was thinking that my next vehicle had to have AV installed.  For the cost of a couple of first-generation iPads and back-of-the-seat attachments, the kids can look at movies as well as find the golden eggs in Angry Birds.  That’s modern.  (Maybe not great parenting but modern all the same).

2.  OnStar – Oh WOW – where have I been?  I feel so secure and I loved talking to a real person.  OnStar got us to Disney and home, though I am so bad at paying attention, my hubby still had to remind me to change lanes.  After a few days I realized that you could also dial friends and family.  I think that’s when my driving deteriorated.

3.  MiFi: Rogers MiFi created a hotspot in the car so that laptops and iPads could be connected to the internet.  If I hadn’t been driving I would have been seriously geeking out…

4.   Sirius XM radio – we made a pact.  If I drive I got to listen to Broadway the whole time..  And Martha Stewart, and favourites from Y2K.  (I was actually nice and changed the channel once in a while).  But I still sang at the top of my lungs as the Appalacian Mountains whisked by.

5.  The backup sensor.  As a tech innovation I have to mention it.  Great tool – especially when someone walks unexpectedly behind the car.  I’ve driven a few cars with video backup and I like the simple beep better.  Less visual distraction.

6.  The USB hookup.  iPods can be connected directly to the car, and you are able to see your whole playlist on the stereo controls.  The best?  There’s a hidden compartment for the music player so you don’t even have to worry about it being stolen when you leave the car.  (Or look at cords all the time).

7.  The fold-down seats.  Popping carseats in and out was super-easy, and all seats in the back folded down flat with tremendous ease.  You don’t even have to jimmy the headrests off – they duck down when you pull the lever.  Because of our fun accommodations as we drove through Savannah and West Virginia, we didn’t actually sleep in the car, but with this feature, you could create a campout in the back.  Think of all of the fun you could have as a family hangin’ in the trunk.

Part of the success of the trip was the vehicle itself.  I haven’t been asked to write anything about it, but I was so impressed that I feel like gushing.  For the past few years we have been test driving BMWs, Land Rovers, Porsches and lots of family vehicles.  (Well, expensive family vehicles.)  We’re starting to develop a pretty clear idea of essentials for busy moms and families.  In terms of the Chevrolet Orlando, we gave it a high score.  Here’s why:

1.  Carseats clipped in easily.
2.  Good visibility and windows that were large.
3.  The backup sensor (we’re usually pretty tired).
4.  Not only can the stroller get into the trunk with ease, but there was a ton of room for our shopping after a trip to Target.  (Much room needed, believe me).
5.  You can you see the kids in the back seat (the Orlando has a childview mirror)
6.  7 seats with the option of putting 6 up so that there is still storage in the trunk.
7.  Don’t laugh.  It’s important.  I didn’t break a nail or two when opening the driver door quickly.  The handle is long-nail-friendly.
8.  The technology was amazing – electrical ports front and back, and USB.
9.  Drink holders in the armrest in the back for the kids.
10.  Automatically locks when you put the car in drive.
11. Windshield wipers covered a big surface area.
12.  OnStar handsfree calling and Navigation – knowing where you’re going reduces stress.
13.  Low back windows in order to increase kids’ visibility – it keeps them entertained.
14.  Don’t laugh again.  I liked the look of the car.  I want a friendly-looking beast of a vehicle.
15.  I loved the driver’s armrest.
16.  Ease of cruise control rocked – right on the steering wheel.
17. All seatbelt clips had fabric around them which prevented mini lego pieces (and Cheerios, and smarties… ) falling into Neverland (excuse the Disney reference).
18.  The material of the seats seems totally durable and dried really well when we soaked it.  With rainwater.  Stop snickering.
19.  The seats go very high up for short/vertically challenged people.
20.  Directional compass right on console is so helpful for those of us who are navigationally impaired.
21.  Easily cleanable cockpit without many places for dust and schmutz to collect.
22.  You can put a drink in each of the doors.
23.  You can open the trunk hatch with one hand when you’re carrying a baby as well as groceries.
24.  The driver’s seat goes really far back in case you need to use the car as a nursing/feeding place.
25.  Especially with seats 6 and 7 down, the back makes a great diaper change area.

Mom stuff that’s crucial – wouldn’t you agree?  In all, we loved the car and also the idea of a family roadtrip.  We became closer as a family and saw areas of North America that we have only ever heard about.  Now, if only we could find the rest of those Golden Eggs.

Disclosure: UrbanMommies was provided air and car travel, accommodation, meals and one day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.  For more insights, we Tweeted under the hashtag #chevyorlando.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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