So, after seriously considering the 2007 BMW 550i and opting for the motorcycles instead, I finally broke down and bought the 2008 this summer. Our trip to Europe presented an opportunity that was just too good to pass up, so I gave it a shot.
Everything worked out spectacularly. European Delivery saved me a bunch, and enabled us to tour Germany and Austria in style for a few days. Details on that trip are still pending.
After dropping the car off with the shipping agency in Munich in early September, it finally made its way to the New Jersey shores in October, and was trucked to Spartanburg, SC. A circuitous route... but bare with me, and you'll understand the method to my madness.
Thursday, 10/25, I grabbed a rental car and headed for Greenville, SC (immediately adjacent to the BMW plant in Spartanburg, SC, braving 500 miles of rainy weather, traffic, and dark highways, praying that it would clear by the morning.
Cutting to the chase... The next morning, with a group of five couples, I headed to the BMW Performance Delivery center just a couple miles down the road from the hotel.
Upon arrival, what should we all behold but my car, proudly displayed in the lobby of the delivery center with placards reading "PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH -- THIS IS A CUSTOMER'S NEW VEHICLE." With the second "comfort access key" in my pocket, it was all I could do to resist gently touching the door handle to deactivate the alarm and make the lights flash. "That's my car, baby!! ;-)" (But, I resisted the temptation to show off.)
After brief introductions, and a quick performance driver training session we headed to the track, and to copies of our cars ready for abuse.
Unfortunately, 550i Sport editions were in short supply, so I was stuck with an M5... a 500 BHP, 0-60 in 4.5 seconds monster! Yeah baby!
With heads-up display, paddle shifting, and various performance tuning controls set, I was ready!
First up, pushing the cars as hard as we could on a small portion of the race track. From someone else's "hot lap" experience, here's a rough idea of what it looked like from the inside; with Donnie Isley:
Then, it was time for ABS brake testing, and practice turning while braking:
And then, over to the skid pad. First, without DSC:
Then, with DSC:
I took delivery of my car; personally shown every bell and whistle by Donnie. After wrapping up, he drove it out of the lobby, and handed over the keys, BMW coffee and other goodies.
I had just enough time to zip over to the Zentrum museum, drive on the sidewalk (whee!) and park behind the row of 650is driven over by the rest of the group.
I sorta missed the opportunity to drive one of the 650is over... but with my 550i parked behind the group, how could I complain. Really!?
After a quick tour of the museum, and lunch complements of the delivery center, we headed back on the track.
While some of us waited for lunch to settle, Donnie ran hot-laps with each couple. Here's Donnie's final hot-lap for our group, from the outside:
I then headed over to the X5 course with Jim Davis.
The course really demonstrated that the X5 is a true four-wheel drive off-road vehicle. Nice!
After wrapping up the drive in the X5, and saying farewells to Donnie, Jim, and the gang, I was back in my shiny new 550i for the 500 mile return trip home.
I'd recommend spending more time in Greenville. But, even if you have to make the whole tour in less than 36 hours, I still recommend it! The experience of a lifetime!