2019 BMW Group Test Fest: Technological Products of Mastery


Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Aficionados of German and British elite machines, welcome to the 2019 BMW Group Test Fest at the BMW Performance Center West in Palm Springs, CA for a few exciting days on track, off-road and in the streets with a squadron of the BMW Group’s finest. So here you go, take the keys to any test vehicle you like including the Cullinan, M5, MINI Cooper JCW Hardtop, Z4, M850i xDrive, M4 CS, M2 Competition, X2 M35i or M4 CS to name a few. Accordingly, we chose wisely!

For the automotive journalists in attendance like myself the occasion was akin to kids at Disney World where you literally become overwhelmed with exhilaration. On site we were able to test a vast majority of vehicles produced by BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce such as the super-luxury Cullinan SUV. In addition, there were an array of product displays and world premieres including that of the 2020 ALPINA B7 presented by Andreas Bovensiepen, President/Owner ALPINA.

At the BMW Performance Center West customers witness directly the performance and handling capabilities of their dream rides in various conditions and driving scenarios. For example, there are a dozen BMW and MINI course options for the 11,000 guests attending the facility every year. From teen driving schools, to car control basics, to M track drives, BMW enthusiasts have the opportunity to experience it all. You can even off-road with X utilities like the highly proficient, go-anywhere X5 Sports Activity Vehicle. Albeit, track driving on the South Palm Circuit is probably what every driver’s intentions are.

Some of the vehicles on hand from BMW were the 2019 BMW X2 M35i, 2019 BMW M2 Competition, 2019 BMW M4 CS, 2019 M5 Competition, 2019 BMW M850i xDrive Coupe, 2019 BMW 330i, 2019 BMW X5 xDrive 40i, 2019 BMW Z4 30i, 2020 BMW M340i xDrive, 2020 BMW 7 Series, 2019 X7 xDrive50i, 2019 530e iPerformance and the 2019 BMW M850i xDrive Convertible and 2019 BMW i8 Roadster that Automotive Rhythms unfortunately didn’t evaluate since it was raining incessantly all day. Nevertheless, I still managed to get behind the wheel of more than a few Ultimate Driving Machines.

In addition to giving us a crash course on Autonomous Driving — which I am still apprehensive about — and Electrification (5th generation powertrain) engineering techniques, BMW Motorrad also had the latest 2-wheelers on set, Michelin was on deck to showcase its strategic partnership with BMW motorsports, Future M Models were showcased, Historic Race Cars were available and the MINI Autocross on the wet course with a MINI Cooper JCW Hardtop proved just how exciting, stable and performance-oriented these small wonders are. Moreover, the interiors are spacious and engaging with a spice of futuristic touches. My 6’8” drive partner, Brian Armstead, had no qualms fitting in comfortably. For street driving the media also had the option to take out a MINI Cooper JCW Knights Edition, MINI Cooper 4-door Hardtop Oxford Edition, MINI Cooper 2-door Hardtop Oxford Edition, MINI Clubman Starlight Blue Edition or the MINI Countryman PHEV. A First Generation MINI Cooper JCW GP was also available for runs inside the facility.

With too many vehicles to attribute specific descriptions, here are a few models that we hold dear to our hearts, bring heat and create sporty euphoria.

2020 ALPINA B7 World Premiere

We were honored by the unveiling of the highly touted 2020 ALPINA B7 at Test Fest since the select media group enjoyed exclusive time with the German touring sedan. Representing in the ALPINA Green metallic signature hue (ALPINA Blue metallic is the other), the sedan properly showcased its formula of sporty elegance. ALPINA enhanced the new B7 with greater efficiency and power distribution from the new 4.4-liter V8 which releases 600-horsepower for a remarkable 3.5-second 0-60 mph time and 205 mph top speed. The motor also churns out 590 lb.-ft of torque between 2000-5000 rpm and is paired with the new reinforced ZF-8HP76 Sport-Automatic transmission. ALPINA says there is absolutely no interruption from upshifts during acceleration.

Adding to the allure of this latest generation B7 are new ALPINA 20” wheels, a new front spoiler design and newfangled rear apron with quad, stainless steel tailpipes, ALPINA Blue LED instrumentation, hand-finished ALPINA LAVALINA sports steering wheel, a 4WD steering system with ALPINA calibration and a rear-biased AWD system. Expect a $140,000 price tag and availability in late spring.

All-New 2019 BMW 8 Series Coupe

 The 2019 M850i xDrive Coupe basically replaces the 6 Series while offering sportier attributes, enhanced innovation and elevated performance as I discovered at Test Fest. Its potent TwinPower Turbo 4.4-liter V8 is backed by 523-horsepower and 553 lb-ft torque. BMW paired the V8 with their latest 8-speed Steptronic Sport transmission. Trust me, this Bimmer flies when you need it to. xDrive AWD and Michelin 245/35R20 front and 275/30R20 rear rubber encasing 20” M light-alloy wheels allowed the M850i to remain calmly planted during aggressive accelerations in the rain. Moreover, the M850i xDrive Coupe can reach 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph. SPORT and SPORT+ modes actuated via the Driving Experience Control switch provide a more exhilarating thrill ride while ECO Pro and COMFORT modes allow the 8 Series to relax when cruising.

Inside you will recognize that most of the controls are flush with haptic feedback. BMW cleaned up the layout by removing many of the physical knobs. Basically, the volume control and the iDrive rotary dial are all that remain. Merino Individual Leather upholstery and newly developed sports seats make long drives bearable and exciting. The crystal gear shifter is pretty charismatic and the 16-speaker Bowers & Wilkins Diamond Surround Sound System with 1,375 watts distributes mesmerizing sound quality. A wireless charge pad for your smartphone is also at your disposal. But don’t expect to bring along rear passengers because this is basically an insurance 4-seater coupe. The back seat is only spacious enough for briefcases. Yet, they do fold flat.

2019 Roll-Royce Cullinan Experience

Here we go; it’s the automotive cream of the crop for patrons of high society, benefactors of the luxury elite and modern-day aristocrats that respect the quintessence of naturally occurring British opulence. Respectfully, we escorted the grandiose Rolls-Royce Cullinan out of the city and into the countryside for extensive driving pleasures. Dubbed after the grandest diamond ever discovered, the ultra-luxury, all-terrain British SUV is blessed with a collection of Bespoke amenities such as the Viewing Suite and Recreation Module. Whether off-roading or Cali cruising in Palm Springs, euphoria is manifested from the 6.75-liter Twin-Turbo V12 which sends 563 horsepower and 627 lb.-ft. of torque to the innovative AWD. The big boy even has all-wheel steering to help maneuver that wide body. Brilliant!

Bespoke Audio custom-built and designed by Rolls-Royce keeps the auditory senses elevated and solid wood painstakingly crafted from a single tree so all patterns and seams match perfectly enlightens the view. Over 500 engineers and craftsmen worked on the manifestation of Cullinan with directives aligning with the expectations of owners’ psyches. I’ve been to the factory in Goodwood to witness first-hand the artistry that goes into commissioning each Rolls-Royce model, and as company executives would say, “luxury travel is now effortless, everywhere.”

2019 BMW M5 Competition Sedan

The 2019 BMW M5 Competition Sedan is wicked and sinister. By far it was our most exhilarating Bimmer experience in Palm Springs. The M5’s racing tuned-suspension was felt immediately on the country backroads and the 617 horses and 553 lb.-ft. of torque released from the TwinPower Turbo 4.4-liter V8 engine left me in a state of nirvana. You’ll hit 60 mph from standstill in just 3.1 seconds. Anticipate a 189-mph top speed with the optional M Driver’s Package. And don’t worry, the super grabby M compound brakes with 6-piston fixed calipers will slow you down with precision. Customizable red M1 and M2 performance tabs, exclusive 20” M light-alloy rims (275/35 R 20 front and 285/35 R 20 rear tires), M Sport exhaust system, 8-speed M Steptronic transmission and M xDrive AWD further add to the performance traits of the 2019 BMW M5 Competition Sedan. Keep in mind this is not a competition package but now an actual model. More brute force power, stiffer suspension and enhanced performance tuning is what you receive in this $110,995 road runner.

As you can see I highly enjoyed my day in the rain at the 2019 BMW Group Test Fest. Of course, I could have used a few more days for evaluations, but the premise of the event has clearly been personified with the selected shinning examples. BMW, now please deliver a few of the aforementioned to our office!

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