AutoMatters & More: BMW Ultimate Driving Experience

BMW has long been known for its iconic slogan “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” This slogan was developed by Bob Lutz way back in 1973, when he was BMW’s Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing. Back then big, lumbering American cars dominated in the U.S. auto market. “The Ultimate Driving Machine” ad campaign was created to appeal to a new, younger generation, to differentiate BMW automobiles from the competition by emphasizing the driving experience (you can read more about the history of this massively successful ad campaign here.).

Capitalizing on this slogan, BMW’s new Ultimate Driving Experience is touring the U.S. to introduce the all-new BMW 5 Series to potential customers. The event’s adrenalin-charged introductory video (above) begins with a high-energy announcer asking “Can you drive, like really drive?” as a BMW speeds – tires squealing – around an autocross course (learn more and register at https://ude.bmwusa.com).

In the Ultimate Driver competition, first you will attend a classroom session where you will be schooled in the fine art of autocrossing. Then you, along with an instructor, will drive multiple laps in the BMW 5 Series around an autocross course. Here you can “push BMWs to their limits” and learn a few things about high performance driving including how to corner, when to brake and when to accelerate.

There is also a teen driving course and an optional (for a fee) driving event that they call the M Car Control Clinic.

Additionally at the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience there are a variety of BMW models available to test drive on the streets surrounding the venues. Inside a large, tented lounge you may enjoy refreshments, peruse displays showcasing BMW accessories and lifestyle items, and get a close look at the bullet hole-riddled BMW 5 Series from “The Escape.”

“The Escape” is a high production value, tense, exciting action adventure drama from BMW Films. It features Clive Owen reprising his role as The Driver, Jon Bernthal as a machine gun-wielding bad guy named Holt and Dakota Fanning as Lily (below).

Rather than attend the press preview of the tour, I signed up on the consumers’ website so as to experience this event as you might. Overall this is a very good event but BMW missed several significant opportunities to make this even better and, in the process, further drive sales of their all-new BMW 5 Series. On the autocross course, where we drove multiple laps in two different 5 Series sedans (540i xDrive all wheel drive and 540i rear wheel drive) with 8-speed automatic transmissions (significant lag on hard acceleration), we were accompanied by a professional driving instructor.

Throughout every lap of the course he repeated instructions about how to autocross: get as close as you can to the orange apex cones, brake hard and in a straight line, look ahead where you want the car to go (the car will follow your eyes) and so forth. While continual instruction might be ideal if the primary goal of this event were to teach us how to autocross, doing so on each and every lap distracts from the Ultimate Driving Experience. If you attend I suggest that you ask your instructor to let you drive your one timed, competitive lap without that instruction.

Years ago I attended several similar events hosted by other auto manufacturers. One that comes to mind was called “Rev It Up,” which promoted the Mazda6 in 2003 and the Mazda3 in 2004. At “Rev It Up” drivers paid a small entry fee to compete in an autocross. Like BMW’s autocross, where you compete on the autocross course to try to become the “Ultimate Driver,” the quickest competitors overall could win exceptional prizes.

Another suggestion that I’d make to BMW is to begin and/or end the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience classroom session by playing trailers from “The Escape.” That would really get the adrenalin pumping and generate excitement.

At speed in a BMW 5 Series at the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience
At speed in a BMW 5 Series sedan on the autocross course.

The all-new, seventh generation BMW 5 Series (go to bmwusa.com) features an improved chassis to optimize weight distribution for near perfect balance, enhanced steering to provide precise feedback, a 75% larger head-up display that provides easier use of the navigation system, interactive iDrive 6.0 with optional Gesture Control that displays live content and understands natural speech patterns, and an “Active Lane Keeping Assistant” that uses camera sensors to detect lane markings and keep your vehicle towards the center of the lane.

BMW i3 BMW i3 to test drive.

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Copyright © 2017 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #489

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