There are days in one’s life which are forever remembered thanks to a very memorable event that transpired. May 17th 2012 was one of those day for me; a truly epic day.
Before getting into the events of what was a very special day, a tip of the hat in the direction of Ryan Amico and Francesca
that are the dynamic duo that make Steve Thomas BMW, Camarillo, CA
the gold standard of M car sales and service. It seems surreal that there is actually a dealership with individuals that behave as those two do so often as to have created a widespread reputation for delivering excellence in a sector of the sales market that is renowned for unscrupulous types. Both have earned my respect and appreciation for the manner in which every aspect of the proceedings were handled from their end. A lot of negatives are spoken about California, but in my opinion, the best BMW dealership in the USA is in Camarillo; just an email or phone call away. Many thanks to Ryan and Francesca. You two are the best!
Now to S. Carolina.
It began before the wake up call or alarm were scheduled to rouse me at 6 AM. While some claim to get no sleep during the night preceding a day in which a new BMW is going to be driven home from the BMW Performance Center, I was able to sleep but at 5:22 AM was suddenly awake. There was no point in doing anything but preparing to vacate the room so as to have time for some breakfast and then make the 7:40 shuttle bus to the Performance Center. A short time later, I was with nine others that were going to pick up cars aboard the shuttle bus. The driver, put everyone in the mood by driving that bus as if were a roadster. We rocked and rolled, were delighted to have used the seatbelts, and all conversation ceased as everyone's thoughts turned to considering the odds of the shuttle bus successfully negotiating the next turn.
We arrived at the PC without incident. No one, and do mean no one, tipped the shuttle bus driver. I think most were too scared out of their wits to remember proper decorum. The shuttle bus driver didn’t seem bothered, but did his damnedest to lay some rubber when he drove off. The shuttle bus only hiccupped then lumbered off.
Everyone is peering through the glass hoping to see their own vehicle. LOL
Approaching the entrance, two vehicles were visible through the glass in addition to a number of staff that awaited us. We entered and were greeted. A glance to the car on the left and I was wondering “Did someone else order exactly what I ordered?” That looks like an M3 and a black one at that. :heart skips a beat:
Snapped upon arrival.
A quick roll call confirmed all present, and then it was off to the briefing room. There, Andy, Ray and Donnie gave us an overview of the day’s driving activities.
Then it was outside to drive someone else’s car, burn someone else’s gas, and use up someone else’s tires.
My toy for the day = Melbourne Red M3 DCT w/ Carbon Fiber Roof and an interior that would make a Scotsman's heart smile.
We were split into two groups of five with every owner being given a vehicle that was same model as the one purchased. From that point on, it was our group of five vehicles plus Andy in a 335i for the skid pad, abs-panic braking/avoidance activity and road course. The abs session was relatively short, and by far the most humorous of the events as Andy was constantly on the radio goading the drivers to stop braking like a chauffer or demanding they stop worrying about spilling their coffee and crush the damn brake pedal. Finally, it was road course, as fast as you care to go, but NO PASSING. Drivers that were about to be passed were called IN to make way for faster cars. We lapped for the better part of half an hour. On track was a 550i, a 335i and a pair of X5s plus the M3 DCT that I was driving.
About DCT: Very quick upshifts and downshifts. If anything, second gear is a little too short for my liking while third is a little too tall for the track. The car was in MDM which enabled some play with the rear end. After “learning” the track plus a few more laps a rhythm was found. In spite of the pounding the brakes absorbed lap after lap, there was not the slightest fading.
The car: In a word -- beast. What a joy it was to drive WOT without a care in the world and without ever once sensing that the car wanted to do anything more than to keep doing that for the rest of the day; which would have required a number of fuel stops as I went through almost a half a tank of gas.
After all the fun the two groups were brought back together and informed that it was time for the “Hot Lap”. Pairs piled into E60 M5s driven by Andy, Ray, and Donnie. The last hot lap was Donnie’s taking me along for a ride that would make the most wicked roller coaster ride seem like a horse and buggy ride. Every upshift was a whack in the kidneys. Every left or right was a gut punch thanks to the highly efficient side bolsters inflating in milliseconds. As we rode, I asked Donnie, “What do I tell the guys about your driving; how many tenths are you demanding from the M5?” Donnie: “Ten”. (BTW, Donnie’s in Atlanta this weekend, driving in the race.) To conclude the lap, a victory drift around the skid pad with all computer driving aids still switched off was a helluva ride. It was full opposite lock with Donnie simply stabbing the accelerator to steer the car.
At that point, it was time for the owners to go to their new cars to receive the bumper to bumper introduction to their car from one of the staff members. While Andy was grabbing a Temp Plate, I took some pics (hardly worthy of a photoshoot, but…)
Somehow, Andy, who had directed our group earlier in the morning, was paired with me to go over the M3. Too shorten this up a bit…Andy knew what he was talking about. The iDrive is a breeze. I love it. Ultimately we had to move the car outside to confirm satellite radio activation. So, out it went with Andy behind the wheel.
After about an hour and a half with the M3, we joined the others for lunch. Andy and I were at a table with Jonathan and Elizabeth, a couple from Ft Lauderdale, who were picking up an X5. Among a number of topics raised and discussed, were manual transmissions. Curiously, BMW Performance Center has no cars on site for customers to drive that are manuals. The logic is that the automatics cannot be broken which means money saved…a lot of money saved.
After lunch, it was off to the off-road course. Through a water canal, up a grade, balancing the X cars on two wheels, up a rocky slope, down an off-camber spiraling rocky slope, through some mud holes and down a couple of pig trails and we had completed the driving activities without creating work orders for the body shop.
Everyone was then asked to drive their new cars behind Arnold to BMW Museum.
There we were introduced to Rick who promptly seized our cellphones and cameras, gave us a ticket in their place and had us put on headsets and safety glasses. Next stop: Where X cars are born. Some two hours were spent in the facility. The word massive is an insult to the place -- 3M sq.ft. One thing that was pointed out to us was that there is a simple way of identifying the X cars bound for Europe. If the X car is de-badged, it is going to Europe as de-badging the X cars has become vogue.
A brief look around the museum concluded the day in Spartanburg, and began the journey back to Florida of some 500 miles.
The trip was uneventful, but a few things are noted that might
1. Break in period recommendations were followed -- <5..5k rpm and < 105 mph.
2. Interstate highway most of the way, plus a couple of towns with lights and 30 minutes in stop and go Atlanta traffic yet overall consumption was a surprising 21.7 mpg. When the car was driven out of the building, the odometer reading was 000001.3 <--- the lowest odometer reading I've ever had on any new car including BMWs.
3. First stop for fuel in the car’s life = A forty-something man walks up and says “How fast have you had it?” Me: “Maybe 85. It’s being broken in by the book.” The man: “Those are fast.” Me: “That’s what I’ve heard.” The man: “I have a 5.0 liter Mustang. The other day I saw an M3, pulled up beside it and ran with him to 130 mph. Then he just left me like I was sitting still.” Me: “Is that so?” The man: “Yeah. Now I know to leave them alone.” Me: “You be safe.” The man: “Yeah.” Then walks into the store. I’m thinking, WTF? He’s racing on highways.
4. The first question asked of a BMW Performance Staff when we walked in to meet each other was by a gentleman that had ordered an X5 with M Package, “What is name of that color (pointing at Jerez Black)?” Staff: Jerez Black” X5 Man: “I don’t remember seeing that on the paint options”. Staff: “Jerez Black is an M3 exclusive color; cannot be special ordered for any other BMW model.” The man: “That is the prettiest paint I have ever seen.” All I could do was try to keep from smiling too much as at that point no vehicles had been declared to be this person’s or that one’s. The gentleman later asked to drive the M3 when I parked it after driving the road course. He did three laps, got out and said, “That car would kill me, but I already love it!”
5. One gentleman had experienced European delivery two years ago. In the museum after everything we had done, he commented that the BMW Performance Center experience was “much better” than the ED. I asked, “Why do you say that?” to which he replied, “You can drive your car home!”
Finally, a word about the staff and the experience overall: The staff makes happen that which customers tend to think cannot be experienced in this world. The experience has effectively killed off any thought of ever driving home a car from a BMW dealer. The instructors, all from a litany of racing experiences, are top notch. They communicate effectively; not just drive like bats out of hell. A Thank You to all would not truly convey the sense of gratitude that I, and I suspect others, feel toward the world class job that the staff deliver to BMW customers.
Yesterday, I picked up the M3 after having some SunTek CXP 18 (side glass) and CXP 35 (rear windshield) installed, took it down to the water and watched the sun set on the first full day of having this wonderful car here in Florida. Life was good, now it’s better.