It’s called the BMW Driving Experience—an edition of which was held locally last week—and it throws the spotlight on BMW M models’ potential. Since the carmaker deems the venue on which this purpose would be best served is on a racetrack, the activity becomes exactly that—a driving experience rather than being merely a flurry of disparate product demonstrations.
To ensure that the event lives up to the German brand’s reputed high standards and obsessive attention to detail, Philippine BMW distributor Asian Carmakers Corp. engaged the services of race driver JP Tuason (who also heads the Tuason Racing School) to devise and oversee the various on-track activities at the Clark International Speedway, as well as make sense of the techie stuff that comes with the high-performance cars. Now what qualified Tuason for such functions? He has recently been appointed one of among only 160 M-certified driving instructors on the planet after completing a rigorous training course at the BMW Driving Academy in Munich, Germany, and Salzburg, Austria.
As the norm is in events like this, a rudimentary driver briefing had to be dispensed with first, lest the overzealous participants ruin the day for everybody—if not ruin some pricey metal. After that, a series of driving exercises—the usual ABS-inducing brake-stomping and evasion test, a low-speed yet frantic weave around some orange cones, some racing-line learning around Clark—aboard more common BMWs like the 118d and 320d, prepared the drivers for the harder stuff that came next.
And it was a good idea, this, except for the simple fact that it was hard to prepare for cars like a spanking new X5 M, the M5, and the hit 1 Series M Coupé. Or even for a blinding yellow Z4 sDrive35is that was offered for the taking as well. Not to get overzealous? Tough, too.
Because, for instance, participants could choose between a pair of 1 Ms (if they’re good at driving stick) or the Z4 (if they’re more at home tugging paddle shifters) in a time-attack race on a section of the Clark track—the area around the tricky “corkscrew,” to be specific. It was a short blast, true, but it was enough to give drivers an idea of just how athletic the 1 M’s chassis is. Surely, the Z4 doled out its own brand of fun in this exercise—both cars pack 340 horsepower, after all—but it’s the 1 M’s size, weight and lightning responses that made it the quicker car of the two.
And then there were the full-on lapping sessions by day’s end. The activity followed the usual pace-car format, or one in which participants form a train behind a lead car driven by an instructor. The better the participants drive, the faster the instructor goes. It takes a bit of luck sometimes to get grouped with the quicker drivers, but then in the BMW driving gig you simply cue for the next session until everybody has gotten their M-powered fill.
That’s right. Participants simply need to line up and they get to drive the 560-horsepower M5, the 555-horsepower X5 M, 1 M or the Z4. As hard as they possibly could, too, provided they stayed relatively sane and didn’t try anything that was patently stupid. If this wasn’t driving nirvana, it came pretty close.
Yes, it was just a driving gig. And BMW’s M models are just cars.