BMW is hosting six Ultimate Driving Experience events around the U.S. this summer and fall that puts drivers behind the wheel of the 2017 540i, the first of five planned 5 Series models in the lineup's seventh generation.
The events provide five driving events that showcase the entire lineup from the M2 to the B7 Alpina with BMW instructors offering tips and more in-depth training to attendees.
AutomotiveFleet.com attended the Southern California event, which ran from May 11 to 21 on 50 acres of concrete outdoor parking across from the Santa Anita Park horse racing track in Arcadia. The event drew about 4,500 attendees.
To quicken the pulse, the event offered an Autocross course with BMW driving instructors coaching us through straightaways and hard cornering in the 540i and M4 with "floor it" and "brake" at strategic points. No cones were harmed during the exercise.
The 540i capably managed the course with more refinement than the high-revving M4, which provided enough raw power to knock down an elephant. We skipped the Car Control Clinic, Teen Driving School, and VIP Nights, but participated in the Street Drives with some of BMW's higher-end models.
The streets of Arcadia provided an apt setting for cornering with BMW's Alpina B7 xDrive, a modified 7 Series with an enhanced luxury interior and a twin-turbo 4.4L V-8 that makes 600 hp. The car, which retails for over $82,000, provides a 0-60 mph time of 3.6 seconds.
The M6 Gran Coupe is powered by that same engine block that's set up with a 560-hp rating. This one's another powerhouse that quickly picks up speed on longer straightaways.
Lastly, we drove the i8 plug-in hybrid supercar with a 357-hp powertrain that includes a three-cylinder gasoline engine. The car's butterfly door will turn heads, and getting into the vehicle takes a unique approach that invovles backing your way in to the lower seating position.
The rear cargo space is the size of a shoebox, but buyers aren't aquiring this $140,000 vehicle for long road trips. It has a range of about 250 miles.
During the event, BMW's lead driving instructor, Rich Beam, provided some cogent tips to increase safe operation of the vehicles. He offered tips such as "keep your eyes up," "look where you want to go," and "don't look at obstacles" because "we steer where we stare."
Beam provided an excellent explanation of understeer and oversteer and ways to recover from those situations. For an understeer situation where the driver has not turned quickly enough on a curve, Beam advised this driver not to add more steering, keep their eyes on the intended path, and keep off the gas. For an oversteer situation with too much steering, Beam advised that driver to correct, pause, and recover.
BMW is offering four more events in San Francisco (Aug. 11 to 17), Dallas (Sept. 2 to 10), Chicago (Oct. 14 to 22), and New York City (Nov. 2 to 12). If you're in those areas on those dates, you can sign up for the events here.