First off, we were picked up at the Airport by Greenville Marriott. We were treated like Kings, I loved every minute of it. My friend Pat and I were treated to a very nice dinner, inside the Marriott, covered by BMW.
Next morning we wake up, to yet another meal covered by BMW. A great breakfast, with omelets made right in front of us. We were then taken by the Hotel to the BMW Performance center where our day of fun started.
Our Hotel Room
Complimentary copy of BMW Magazine
The Marriott shuttle to BMW
We got to the center and kept being told, this day is for YOU! So enjoy it.
The group of 8 of us were put into a short 15 minute classroom session to tell us about our day, and about the technologies in the car. We all got our car of choice, Pat in the 335, I took an M coupe. We were instructed by two instructors with walkie talkies in each car.
First session was learning what DSC does and what its like to not have it. The group got to go on the skid pad one on one with the instructor in the passenger seat, and maybe a passenger in the back. First two spin outs without it, then run as fast as you can with DSC on. I was able to sit in the back after my turn and take pics of the car on the other side. Was a blast to get spun around in the 335s.
Our instructor giving directions before the first drive.
Driving onto the skid pad
During this next session we all got to drive our cars at 40, then 45, then 50 (pat and I hit ~55-60 each time )
It was to teach what the ABS system does. The right side is slick wet concrete supposed to be ice. The left is asphalt.
Obviously the pictures are kinda lame because you just see all our cars just driving past then coming to a stop, the real experience was in the drivers seat. The fun part came when the instructor pulled the DSC/ABS fuses in his car and then did the same thing we all had several times. This is how it went.
After the braking exercises we broke up into two groups of four. The day we were there, a company had scheduled 200 people to take the driving school where we usually would be. SO, we got to use BMW NAs proving grounds track. (even our instructors have never used it) This was really really cool, its a one mile per side with a large turn around at each side. As you have noticed, it was really wet and rainy the day we were driving. The M coupe, a 135, and two 335s were in the group. We started off hitting around 100MPH down the straights, then going about 55 on the corners. As we got used to the cars, and knowing their capabilities, we started going faster on the straights. Pat and I had a little battle and hit 140 before the corner. Sorry that there are no pictures of this, the M coupe was a handful with very worn out tires, race worn brakes and a manual. Taking pictures at 140mph was not going to work. One of my favorite parts about this was there were speed limit signs that said
After this, we all jumped into a group of X3s, took a small off road course and headed to the factory. We walked through the museum and got to see a bit of BMWs history.
At this point, they took away my camera and we took an hour guided tour through Spartanburgs X5/X6 factory. This was the highlight of the entire trip for me, and I had to keep pushing my jaw up, I was constantly drooling and in awe. To see how the robots all work together, and constantly weld, glue, and rivet the X5 and X6s together was astonishing. Every 50th car was pulled off the line and all of the welds were checked by hand, for quality control. If something was wrong, they would stop the line immediately and trace down the problem. We walked through the assembly line part where hundreds of workers add all of the inside of the vehicle. The cars are painted with the doors, then they are removed and sent to separate parts of the factory to be put together. There are transmitters in the doors and vehicle that way the doors will always end back up with the original car they were painted on.
The workers make 320 cars per shift, and there are two ten hour shifts per day. Another cool point was that everything is in sequenced order. As the vehicle rolled down the line, the part the worker needed was the exact one in line. If the X5 was coming up didnt have a sunroof, the next headliner in the stack didnt have the cutout. If the next X6 coming down was the Xdrive50 it had the right wheels coming up in the line. The carpets were all stacked in the right order. BMW also does NOT build a car until it has been ordered, and paid for. That way there is never excess cars at the end of the build year.
After the factory tour we all hopped back into our X3s and went onto the Offroad course. It consisted of a lot of off camber hills, a couple two wheel excursions, deep water (above the doorline) and some crazy sideways stuff. Again I was driving, and it was difficult to take pictures, but I did my best. Pat hated the X3s, but after the offroad course he got out and said holy shit, that was shocking, I had no idea it could do that! For that car to handle the way it does, then be able to do some offroading like that was awesome. They arent rock crawlers, but they can handle something like 45 degrees of sideways tilt and still not roll. The hill descent control was really slick, it keeps the vehicle from going too fast downhill without the use of the service brakes. VERY COOL.
This is where the rest of our group were delivered their new cars and we got a training session in a 335 with iDrive. After that Pat and I had a couple hours to kill, so we started walking around the center. Around the back we found their tire center (a shit load of worn out track tires). The body shop, where there were many many wrecked vehicles. And... the new E90 Facelift, including the new Diesel engine.
I saw a Silver E90 and went, oh cool those are those wheels they are going to put on the facelift.... HOLY SHIT ITS THE FACELIFT!!!! I ran over and drooled all over it, asked for the keys, but it was a customers car. He was to pick it up the next week. So I was not allowed to unlock, or start the vehicle.
We then sat on the couches up front until our delivery specialist pulled up in a Sepang Bronze M5 and let me drive us to the airport to go home. I love the V-10 engine with SMG, such a blast to drive.
So after a flight to three and half hour flight to Atlanta, 30 minute flight to Spartanburg, one night in a hotel, and seven hours at the Performance center, I can say I will NEVER forget this experience. I had a BLAST and hope that I can do it again in my lifetime.