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m|u Presents... 09-05-2007 05:00 AM

TRW has "The BMW Experience"
TRW has "The BMW Experience"

Words and images by Tom "theroyalwe" Davis

The BMW Experience is a seminar/driving event held by BMWUSA for BMW Center Personnel. They've held four such events across the country and the last one was here in Philly. I'll skip the explanation of what happened on Day One because it won't really matter to people that aren't in the business.

For Day Two BMW rented the entire grounds of Englishtown Raceway Park in Old Bridge Township, NJ. To make things a bit interesting, the day started with rain. Some might be dissuaded by this, but I personally enjoy the added difficulty and easy drifting brought on by the rain, a pair of soaked Pumas aside.

As we approached the main tent, we were greeted by two fantastic cars:

A BMW M6...

and the #22 PTG BMW M3-GTR...

Once inside the tent, I'm immediately greeted by the BMW V12 LMR!

To my left was a sweet BMW 2002tii...

And to my right, a gorgeous M5...

After we sat down at our tables there was the usual introductory speech to get us psyched for some good stuff to come. I wandered up to the stage, where a car sat undercover along with two odd cars on each side.

To the left...

And to the right, a 5-Series...

Hm... I wonder what's different here...

Now, that's pretty cool, but my attention was quickly stolen by what was hiding under the cover...

None other than the BMW 135i Coupe. More on that here.

My group of seven started off in the 6- and 7-Series booth, where a beautiful 750Li and 760Li sat. On the 6 side, they had the new 2008 models that we won't see for a few months!

It was dark so you can't see too well. but believe me, the new sport package wheels and subtle changes to the exterior are very nice!

This year, the 6 gets slightly sharper lines, more aggressive rocker panels from the M6 and, just like most of the other new models, the reflectors were moved from the side of the headlight to a static reflector on the fenders. The rear ends have also been re-designed by moving the rear brake light onto the decklid and out of the rear window. The decklid is also more concave, which gives it a more aggressive rear-end.

Another very important change this year is the removal of the SMG option on the 6-Series and the now-standard ZF 'Sport Automatic' with paddle shifters and surprisingly quick shifting.

On to the driving!

We were given the opportunity to drive the 750Li, 760Li, 650i and 650i convertible to the limits. This may have been my single biggest surprise for the day: DAMN, the 750Li can handle!

After driving the 6-Series, we went off to a run in the 'future' vehicles. These were a group of diesel 5-Series' with Active Cruise Control and Lane Departure Warning. I proceeded to drive the 535d like I stole it.

I can go on for days about the engine... but lets just say that when the diesels get to the US next year, they will really kick ass! Expect the X5 diesel to dominate the market... if they can build enough, that is.

We also had an inside session on the technology behind the diesels and the new Hydrogen 7...

I was pleasantly surprised at how far along the hydrogen project has come. As long as everything else falls into place, expect to see these cars within the next five years!

Next, we went off to do some hard driving in the X5, X3, and 335xi to demonstrate how they handle on the skidpad and track.

It's also important to note the ability of the xDrive system in hard driving. Keep in mind that the course was soaked with big puddles and the skidpad actually needed sand on the edge just to force the slippage. It was almost impossible to pull off any real traction loss without sand. Impressive!

Now on to the 5-Series and 3-Series RWD...

We got to drive the 335i convertible, 535i, 535d and a 330i with the BMW Performance Short Shift Kit and exhaust, among other modifications.
That was a ton of fun... until I overstepped their tolerance for drift and was told to calm down. The diesel again outperformed my expectations.
Those 290+hp and 400+ ft lbs of torque keep those back tires jumping and the DSC light flashing!

After a delicious (free) lunch, I took the opportunity to take some more pictures of the 135i Coupe, as well as these pictures of cut-outs and tech demonstrations.

That's a tiny turbo they put in the 335/535/135 engine!

Valvetronic/Dual VANOS...

ZF Automatic Transmission...

With my indoor photos complete, we were greeted outside by five M5's waiting to whisk us away to the track...

When we arrived at the tent, we drove Z4's at full speed on the road course, with the instructor in the passenger seat coaching us on how to improve. This portion of the day went by much faster than I would have liked.

We finished off the driving session with some more seriously hot laps in the M5 (instructors driving unfortunately). Once we got back from that session, we wrapped it up with a debriefing and said goodbye to our friends from the other centers and headed back home, reminiscing on an experience we won't soon forget. µ

m|u Presents... 09-05-2007 05:19 AM

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