Smoking tires, a soap-and-water-slicked skid pad, a 16’ tall ramp, and three separate skill courses were combined in Foxboro, MA to let consumers evaluate BMW’s latest sports cars. Sitting in 3 Series and 5 Series models, as well as the all-new i3 and M3, driving enthusiasts had their eyes wide open to the capabilities of BMW performance.
To set the stage, BMW took over a massive parking lot across from Gillette Stadium and transformed it with tents, cones, and other accouterments to emulate a test track for an entire week. While the New England Patriots practiced at their stadium, cars were driven to the sky and spun like tops. When drivers enter the event space they first witness a massive metal structure in front of three tents which house a movie theater, the BMW gallery — including the all-new i8 — and a classroom. It becomes clear that the monument is actually a ramp that resembles an amusement park roller coaster. But that’s not the best part. As folks fill out registration forms to drive they can hear clicking and clacking of metal emanating from X5s toppling over the ramp with precision. A BMW staffer pilots the SUV up and over the ramp with passengers strapped in. Guests can take photos, look out the window at the two-story drop, or listen in as guides help the driver position his wheels through a walkie-talkie discussion. The slow-speed ride is thrilling, but also impressive how well the Bimmers climb and descend. Yet, this is just one of a few adventures at the Ultimate Driving Experience.
Next up was the skid pad. Buckets of soapy water were tossed on a padded, blue surface. The goal was for the BMW driver to accelerate slowly onto the pad. Then the accelerator is stomped on making the rear wheels spin like crazy. That’s with traction control OFF. Another pass at the pad allows the driver to slide the car sideways and spin the wheels even faster. Then, to illustrate the technology, the driver engages traction control and the BMW takes control as the wheels slowly grip the surface.
After getting a feel for what the cars can do in those two technical tests, it was on to the driving school and autocross. According to BMW the course helps drivers develop confidence and handling expertise. Each participant was guided by a professional driving instructor. The instruction covers advanced driving theories and defensive driving techniques. Then guests have the chance to finish their session with hot laps around the track marked by hundreds of cones.
By the end of one session, the track looked like someone had painted black stripes of rubber on it. The result of squealing tires and cars being pressed to their limit. Multiple turns throw cars left and right while tires hang onto the surface and whip drivers around at speeds up to 65 mph. It might not sound fast, but the longest straight was less than a football field in length.
Speaking of sports, the late-day driving session during Automotive Rhythms’ (AR) visit featured a few special guests. Kyle Arrington, cornerback for the New England Patriots and Alan Anderson, shooting guard for the Brooklyn Nets enjoyed the thrills and were originally unaware of the performance threshold of BMWs. With pro athletes, there’s always an air of competition around and that session was no different. Both Kyle and Alan roared around the track with confidence and delighting the BMW guests on hand. Since it wasn’t an officially judged race between the two, we can’t declare a winner here. But be sure if you come across Kyle, Alan or even AR’s Kimatni at another event, they’ll let you know who took the checkered flag.
Additional sessions at the BMW test track included a car-control clinic, a teen driver school, and traditional test drives around the region. While I didn’t get a chance to take the i8 on the track and race against Kyle or Alan, just being there and watching was loads of fun. Kudos to BMW for putting together a social and informative event.