I knew heading into it that the Lexus Master Class would be a blast! For starters, I had never driven in Toronto, let alone experienced it from the front seat of a Lexus. I couldn’t wait to switch into “Sports Mode”, open the sunroof and explore cool corners of the city. Add ten excited bloggers/friends into the equation, an entire fleet of the 2017 Lexus IS, an itinerary of epic destinations and I knew I was in for an amazing time.

Before I get into all the places we went, I thought I’d talk about how we got around. I’m not the most car-savvy person out there, but I’ll tell you all my impressions of the 2017 Lexus IS after driving it for a week. The cabin is a super comfortable place to sit, we drove for nearly three hours straight on our way to the Bruce Peninsula last weekend without ever feeling tired or sore. The adjustable seats are a dream, the climate control and stereo are perfect, and we had almost no road noise from outside. Ian also told me that part of the reason it’s so quiet is that the eight speed transmission lets it cruise at highway speeds without the engine having to rev very high. The intelligent cruise control is awesome, the car keeps a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you, and speeds up and slows down according to what the driver ahead is doing. One of the coolest features is the vibration on the steering wheel which lets you know when you’re veering out of your own lane a little. Also, the blind spot indicators in your side mirrors show when someone is approaching beside you, so it was never a surprise to see a car all of a sudden right beside me on the highway. All the displays are directed toward the driver and the controls are super intuitive, I never had to struggle to find any buttons or change from the radio channel to my bluetooth, even though the IS was new to me. The car had so much power and such good brakes that I felt confident in the heart of the city as well as country roads or big highways, but the way the car helps you be more aware of your surroundings really made all the difference. The styling of the car was also really appealing to me. It makes a statement without being obnoxious, which is how I like to be in all aspects of my life (wardrobe included).

The Lexus Master Class started bright and early with check-in and breakfast at Le Germain Maple Leaf Square where we learned that the Master Class would involve various stops throughout the city in which we would meet and learn from various “masters” of their respective craft and how their skills and philosophy tie into Lexus’ core values of Omotenashi, Takumi Craftsmanship, Brave Design, Exhilarating Performance and Imaginative Technology. As a marketing geek, I loved this unique approach to giving us the inside scoop on the company.

Le Germain Maple Leaf Square, our first stop, exceeded their title as “The Master of Hospitality”. Canada’s first boutique hotel, Le Germain has perfected the art of making guests feel at home. We circled back to the hotel at the end of the day where we were fortunate to spend the night in one of their beautiful wood finished rooms with a calming minimal feel. They’ve eradicated check-out times which I’m convinced is the coolest hotel initiative ever. Similarly to the hospitality of Le Germain, with its intuitive layout and safety features, the car would anticipate and address my needs before they even entered my mind.

We got our vehicles, an entire fleet of Lexus IS, and headed off to the next destination.  The driver-focused IS had me comfortable in seconds, and I felt right at home behind the wheel as we drove off.

Our second stop was to meet the “Master of Design”, Ania Taubenfligel, Co-Founder of Triarchy Denim. After five successful years in the denim industry, Ania and her brothers decided to halt production to research and implement a more sustainable means of manufacturing. It turns out that denim manufacturing is one of the biggest water pollutants in the world with upwards of 1800 gallons used to make just one pair of jeans. Talk about crazy! Fortunately, Triarchy Denim was able to find a manufacturer in Mexico City with a closed circuit process that filters the used water with natural bacteria, so that it can be used again and again. It’s awesome to find role models in industries like textiles and automotive who take social responsibility personally and prove that you can still be successful. By partnering with Ania Taubenfligel from Triarchy, Lexus shows how their company pairs bold design with social responsibility.

I love being the passenger in the Lexus IS because of the amazing custom speaker collaboration with sound guru Mark Levinson; playing at being a DJ is the BEST! We rocked out to all the fun jams via Bluetooth from my phone.

Our next destination was Cheese Boutique which was essentially my food dreams and more in a single room. Afrim Pristine, “The Master of Cheese” is current owner of his family’s 50 year old business. This man’s passion for cheese was potentially more extreme than mine for clothes (and that’s really saying something). At 32, he has been inducted as the world’s youngest “Maître Fromager”, a very exclusive title granted by the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers (fancy!).

We tasted a number of incredible cheeses, each one seemingly better than the one before. We even got to taste from one of four of the world’s biggest cheeses, cut from the only one outside of Italy! Afrim is aging it for 15 years before he sells it, but we were lucky and got to try a bite. Then there were the meats which were just as extraordinary. Add in some gelato and donuts and well… I was happy to be back relaxing in the car en route to the next spot.

My driving partner for the day was Sam from The Beckerman Blog. I first heard about her back when I lived in Thailand because one of my good friends there, Courtney Bentley, knows Sam well. Courtney always said she had fashion blogger friends in Canada, but I never thought that I would actually be in Toronto, as a fashion blogger, hanging with this girl that Courtney always talked about. Crazy how the world works, and obviously we had to FaceTime Courtney to share our excitement. It was an honour to share a car with you, Sam!

Our next stop on the itinerary was the photography studio of George Pimentel, regarded as one of Canada’s most renowned celebrity and red carpet photographers: a true “Master of Moments”. With my passion for both photography and fashion, getting to experience his studio filled with the most beautiful red carpet event photos was wonderful. To top it off, I got my very own portraits by Pimentel seen below. I was so awkward and nervous, but he captured it perfectly. Such a special moment!

The next stop on our agenda was Spirit of York Distillery Co. where we met with Simon Ho, the “Master of Mixology”. His style (check out that shirt), combined with love, passion and knowledge for spirits created a fun and enjoyable atmosphere in which to learn about their craft. They even have this totally cool “Bitters Library” where you get to create your own mixture of bitters. I made one with Lavender and Grapefruit. I sampled both Vodka and Gin at this stop, so I just want to point out that Lexus drivers took over for the remainder of the journey. Like Afrim, Simon’s enthusiasm and passion for Spirit of York’s products was infectious, and the Japanese concept of Takumi craftsmanship is alive with them.

The final stop of the day was at Café Cancan to enjoy a meal by the “Master of Cuisine”, Victor Barry. Before we even got to the food, this place had stolen my heart with its blush interior and flamingo print walls. After a restorative glass of champagne, I sat down to dinner simply bursting with happiness. As Chef Barry introduced us to his first course, all the enjoyment of the day came together in one magical bite. From the white asparagus to the lobster, the duck and then the best strawberries I’ve ever had (each paired with a different wine), this meal was divine. Victor Barry’s incredible feast at Café Cancan delighted me experientially and down to the smallest detail. Like the IS, everything about his restaurant puts you in the frame of mind to experience something wonderful that the craftsmen have chosen. The view from the cabin, the smell and feel of the leather prepare you for the excitement of the drive, like the perfect colours, aperitifs, and courtesy of the staff at Café Cancan.

All in all, my experience with The Lexus IS was great. The changes to the 2017 Lexus IS design are strong and forward thinking. The obsessive care they take in presenting their creations to the world is inspiring, and similar care can be seen throughout the IS, like the way that each model has been individually engineered for sound, or the way that every button and control is intuitively placed so that as the driver I can focus 100% of my energy on the road.

What an amazing experience it was! I will be dreaming of the Lexus IS often.

Many thanks to Lexus Canada for partnering on this post. Although it was sponsored, all opinions are my own.