I get to do a lot of cool stuff for my job, but attending the BMW Performance Center (for the Ultimate BMW Driving Experience) in Greer, South Carolina, was one of the best. Nine other bloggers and I had this opportunity during our Travel South USA Conference. While I’ve never been a BMW owner, I can certainly see it in my future. Familiarizing myself with their vehicles is one of the reasons why. Here are the rest.
Our group was taken to one of the BMW classrooms (at the BMW Performance Center) for 60 minutes of instruction and safety education on the Ultimate Driving Machine®. We learned some of BMW’s key features and what makes the vehicles so special. The curriculum was to explain BMW’s stability control, wet skidpad (understeering and oversteering), lane change, panic braking, and great road-course lapping tactics.
Another vital part of the learning experience was how BMW could teach drivers how to react to road and weather conditions, making it almost a science for driving. Then, there were the specks that followed, which is always most interesting to me, such as one in eight who attend the BMW driving course will own one within a year, and I think two more in eight will within three years. I love statistics and fun facts like that!
Driving modules for the M School include:
- Classroom safety, vision, and control
- Vehicle capabilities
- M Car Performance Characteristics
- Cornering through entry, apex and exit
- Timed laps
- Skip pad and drifting
- Brake, downshift, corner entry exercises
- Rat race on wet track
Taking to the Road
Off-road, that is! Our first mission was to learn off-road skills while driving the BMW X5. The off-road course is geared to simulate bad weather conditions, but we had just had several days of rain, making it more realistic. We buddied up, and my friend Kevin, a great travel and music writer, and I took to our ride. We followed the lead car that our instructor was in and did what he told us via radio. The vehicles have been adjusted for the driving school, so there isn’t as much danger involved as being in the same life situation.
Our course took us over very rough roads with ruts dug out and filled with water. We climbed rock walls in our BMW SUV that looked too slippery. We clicked our cars into Hill Descent Control for that maneuver, which automatically braked for us as we slowly banged our way down the hill. The car driver sets the speed in which to get down the hill, and in our case, we chose three to five mph. I breathed a sigh of relief when that was done.
We then traveled through more crazy road scenarios, including tight corners and fast straightaways. When it came time to summit a big hill and brake so that the car was standing on two wheels only, I opted out and took the route around it. The exercise’s point was to see that BMWs are fashioned to be functional, not just trendy and stylish. I was more than impressed!
This part of the course concluded with a hot lap with one of the instructors as they drifted and accelerated around the track.
An Adventurous Game
Our BMW Experience instructor, Derek, was just a little crazy, which I liked and hated all at the same time. He had us all play a game, rat race, where two cars chased each other around an empty lot to qualify for the fastest driver. The course was oval-shaped and some of the driver’s speeds looked extreme from what I thought. Again, I’m no spoilsport but am not fascinated by fast driving, so I gladly let my opponent win that one. It was nail-biting to sit by and watch as my friends chased each other rapidly to claim the title. I was glad when it was over.
Ask for Derek to be your instructor. You will have a more-than-memorable experience.
My Favorite Driving Experience
Kevin and I made perfect partners because we felt about the same way about driving. He didn’t want to drive at all, so I got to take his turn as well. I love going on long road trips, and driving is one of my happy places, so this experience was super fun for me. I appreciated the experience I got at the M School Performance Drive, where drivers must adapt to different vehicles on the handling course. For those of you who aren’t familiar with BMW, the M cars are the “zenith of BMW.”
For this portion of the driving school, we each drove three different BMW “M” models to see how differently they handled. We followed an obstacle course and listened to our instructor’s commands on when to accelerate, brake hard, etc. as we sped our way to the finish line. I love for a little bit of speed when the road conditions are favorable, so I was a natural at this part. It felt so exhilarating to be behind the wheel of cars with unbelievable dynamics and that grip the road so well.
The cars we test drove were an M2, M5, and M850i. BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) was one of the best-selling items on the cars as far as I’m concerned. I felt very safe while the car held to sharp curves and quick braking.
Course Costs and Specs
The BMW Driving School has been open in Greer, South Carolina for more than 20 years. In 2015, a second course opened in Thermal, California. The driving school course is typically two days at $3595, but we had a shortened version due to time constraints. Sessions run from two hours to multiple days; motorcycle and teen-driving courses are also available.
You can also drive your new BMW off the showroom floor in Greer, which is included in the price of a custom-ordered BMW. What it entails is for your new car to be shipped to this location, while perks include:
- Breakfast and Dinner for Two
- One night’s stay at the Greenville Marriott
- A visit to the BMW Factory
- Test-drive around the BMW track
It is a really big deal as they have your car looking all lovely in the glass BMW showroom, waiting for its new owner. We saw two people come to get their new vehicles, and I was so excited for them.
Fun fact: Since its opening in 1994, this BMW location has produced 3,327,128 vehicles for over 140 different countries.
BMW: More Than a Well-Made Machine
I had so much fun at the BMW Performance Center Driving school! I learned a lot about driving and the powerful BMW automobiles on my visit. I have a new appreciation for how well these automobiles are made. Another valuable lesson is that the car is only as good as the driver’s knowledge. Many of our vehicles come with bells and whistles, but we are responsible for learning to use them.
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Thank you, BMW, for a super cool experience and great memories. Thanks to Discover South Carolina and BMW for hosting my BMW experience.
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