BMW’s Final Driving Expertise Electrifies Washington, D.C.

This previous weekend, BMW’s touring automotive occasion, the Final Driving Expertise (UDE), visited the parking plenty of Washington D.C.’s soon-to-be-demolished RFK Stadium. When you’ve by no means heard of the UDE, BMW describes it as an “immersive driving expertise led by BMW skilled driving instructors,” hitting 26 coast-to-coast stops within the U.S.

This was my second time attending BMW’s UDE, with my first in June of 2015. Eight years has seemingly passed by within the blink of a watch, and I recall the 2015 occasion together with avenue drives in BMW demonstration automobiles, a steep ascent and descent course in an X5, and a timed autocross, the place yours actually took FTD whereas driving a inventory 4 Sequence Gran Coupe. It was a hoot! When factoring within the low price of $0 for UDE tickets (it’s a free occasion), you higher consider I used to be wanting ahead to attending once more.

The “Raise Ticket” occasion on the 2015 Final Driving Expertise.

This 12 months’s UDE focuses on BMW’s electrical automobiles. There’s an “iX Expertise”, an untimed autocross, and a fleet of demonstration automobiles that may be taken out for a spin, together with i4s, Z4s, M850is, X5Ms, and extra!

Listed below are simply a number of the BMWs that have been accessible to take out for a “avenue drive.”

Since automotive experiences are at all times extra enjoyable shared with a good friend, I saddled up with fellow BMW nut and CCA member Douglas Lerner for this UDE. Lerner says, “I’ve heard in regards to the Final Driving Expertise through the years by way of communication from BMW, however I by no means attended.” What was completely different this time? “What me this 12 months was that I’ve by no means pushed an electrical automobile—and it appears like the entire fleet goes electrical—so I wished to expertise [BMW’s latest electric offerings] for myself,” Lerner displays.

Regardless of late-morning Friday D.C. visitors, Lerner and I arrived proper on time, half-hour earlier than our 11:30 a.m. autocross reservation. This gave us ample alternative to take a look at BMW’s show automobiles, lots of which I hadn’t seen in individual previous to this occasion.

My 1998 E36 M3 Sedan (with five-speed handbook) was our chariot of alternative for this automotive journey.

Of the automobiles being showcased, the brand new M2 sat on the entrance of the pack (which I believe seems to be nice in individual, by the way in which). I can’t get sufficient of the M2’s profile silhouette and beefy manufacturing unit fenders. The brand new 7 Sequence with narrowed headlights and enormous grille made an look. I’ve solely seen a number of iXs within the wild, and perhaps solely a handful of M4 Competitors convertibles, but it surely’s at all times a pleasure seeing these machines up shut and private. On the finish of the lineup, the brand new XM stood out amongst the others with its BMW wheel caps aligned completely for the show. I’m unsure whether or not the middle caps are self-leveling or if somebody adjusted these after parking it, but it surely was a pleasant contact.

A lineup of latest BMWs, together with the brand new 7 Sequence, XM, and M2, with the deserted RFK Stadium as a backdrop.

When our group was referred to as for autocross, Lerner and I made our approach to the designated ready space, which was additionally a first-rate viewing location for the iX Expertise. Right here, a course is ready up for attendees to drive the 516-horsepower iX, testing the car’s acceleration, braking, and maneuverability by way of a course of cones. We noticed a black iX launch and launch HARD. The entrance of the car pointed to the sky because the rear squatted low. You’d anticipate to listen to a motor screaming primarily based on how rapidly it shot out of the gate, however there have been solely sounds of rubber barely clinging to pavement because the iX is absolutely electrical.

Houston, we’re prepared for launch.

After being dazzled by this show of acceleration, we continued ahead to the autocross course the place W.G. Giles, a veteran UDE organizer, addressed the group. Giles does all the things from working the tent the place attendees wait to drive to driving instruction, and even designing the tracks. He says, “I’ve been concerned with the Final Driving Expertise for nearly 24 years now. I got here in on the bottom ground in Chicago, the place we began in 1998. It’s been an excellent program, and we actually take pleasure in what we do.”

W.G. Giles overlooks a scorching autocross course.

Giles instructed our occasion of efficiency seekers that we might obtain three instructed runs on the autocross course, switching between i4 M50s and 330es. He additionally laid down some fundamentals for these simply dipping their toes into efficiency driving: hold your eyes up, look the place you need to go, and hold your inputs clean. After watching an teacher drive the course at pace, it was showtime.

John Takehara (left) and our creator (proper) after a primary run within the 330e.

For my first stint, I hopped right into a Portimao Blue Metallic 330e with teacher John Takehara. We lined up on the beginning field marked with two tall yellow cones. As soon as the automobile in entrance of us was half manner down the observe, it was time to shred some tires on RFK’s tough pavement. The 330e was properly balanced and with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with built-in electrical motor that produces 288 horsepower and 258 pound-feet, it’s fast—sub six second 0-60 fast. Takehara identified areas the place I may enhance my line, the place to put into the throttle, and the place to brake. After two laps across the course, I pulled again into the staging lane, grinning ear to ear.

A 330e whooshes by way of the cones.

The i4 M50 was subsequent. I had pushed one a number of weeks prior when assembly a good friend, Barry Bocaner, for lunch. Bocaner tossed me the keys after we ate, asking, “Have you ever ever pushed an i4 M50?” Whereas I didn’t thrash his automobile round any enjoyable corners, I did faucet into the ability band, which is immense. Now that I used to be in a UDE demo automobile, it was time to occasion. Although I’ll have partied a bit of too exhausting as a result of after complimenting my driving on the primary lap, my teacher was eagerly pulling the digital parking brake on the second lap. With nice energy comes duty—to the tune of 536 horsepower and 586 pound-feet within the i4 M50—and I suppose I wasn’t as accountable as I may have been. With a 3.3-second 0-60 time, it’s definitely the quickest car I’ve ever pushed.

With nice energy comes nice duty.

For my third and remaining run, I hoped to snag the identical i4 M50 from my second run, to point out the teacher that I had mirrored and realized the error of my methods. Whereas I did get into an i4 M50, it wasn’t the identical one. I reigned in my high-voltage heroics, stored my eyes up, utilized clean inputs in steering, throttle, and brakes, which resulted in my greatest driving of the morning. And—wow!—these automobiles can scoot.

The brand new XM!

After our three runs, I reconnected with W.G. Giles about BMW’s Final Driving Occasion. He works all however two of the 26 cities the UDE visits between March and Thanksgiving, so I requested what’s his favourite. Giles laughs, “Properly, that’s a troublesome query. I base my metropolis on what meals I like the perfect. To be trustworthy with you, I’ve a whole lot of enjoyable once we exit west. There’s the California loop and in addition some nice barbecue down in Texas. However I’m joyful we have been in a position to do the D.C. occasion this 12 months. Usually we’re out at Fedex Area, however that wasn’t accessible this 12 months. So, we got here [to RFK Stadium], which is very nice as a result of we’re near city.”

Mmmmm 2. Beefy fenders.

Of his favourite BMWs to drive, Giles says, “Properly, being a retired rally automobile driver and racer, I actually benefit from the true M fashions, just like the M3s, M2s—all that great things. However in the case of what we’re doing out right here right now, I actually love the 330e as a result of it’s very nimble. It’s an excellent automobile with good stability. Although, I’m hooked on the 536 horsepower and 586 pound-feet in that i4 M50.”

The balanced 330e carves corners with ease.

After a few hours driving and spectating, Lerner and I headed again dwelling to Virginia. Because it was 2:00 p.m. and neither of us had eaten, we determined to cease for wings and chat extra about our time at RFK Stadium. Over lunch, Lerner shared Giles’ sentiments. “I just like the i4 M50 for its energy—which was fairly wonderful. The 330e was a bit extra drivable, in that it felt extra like what I’m used to driving, so whereas not wow’d by the ability, the dynamics have been extra acquainted, in order that was enjoyable,” Lerner says. Would he come again subsequent 12 months to have one other go? “Yeah, and I’d be most fascinated about driving M automobiles in fact–trace trace.” That makes two of us, Lerner!

Lerner opted to journey together with one of many execs for his remaining run of the day. Spectacular!

So for those who’re intrigued by an satisfying expertise enjoying with efficiency automobiles on BMW’s dime, head on over to the Final Driving Expertise web site and see after they’re coming to a metropolis close to you. You received’t be disillusioned! —Mike Bevels

[Photos by Mike Bevels.]

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