Sorry it's taken a while to post this but we just moved and it took forever for Comcast to get the internet working. Anyway, last Friday was the day I'd been waiting for since the 1M was a rumor over two years ago. I just happened to pick a dealership that was getting an early allocation so once the 1M was officially announced in December; I put down a deposit at BMW of Alexandria in early January. I got a production number 3 weeks later then anxiously watched my car move from "Start of Production" in early March to "At Preparation Center" in April
What I didn't know when I chose PDC delivery was that due to high demand for this option, my delivery date would be delayed by 3 weeks. However, the experience was well worth the wait. I was notified by PDC in mid May that my PDC delivery date was June 3rd. The notice provided details of what to expect, told me to arrive the day before and that they would arrange my hotel stay and pick us up from the airport.
My wife and I flew from Rockville, connected in Charlotte, then arrived at the small airport in Greer about 3:30 in the afternoon. Upon arrival we called the Marriott and were informed that a car was waiting outside of baggage claim. Sure enough, Doug was waiting for us in a beautiful 5-series GT and took us on the short drive to the hotel in Spartanburg. Once there the VIP treatment continued as we were greeted by name at the front desk, given drink coupons for the hotel bar, provided with information about our free dinner and breakfast in the hotel restaurant, given a schedule of events from PDC, then escorted to our room.
The Spartanburg hotel is very nice and the room was clean and comfortable. After settling in to our room, we were starving so we took Doug up on this offer to drop us off at a local restaurant (California Dreamin - very good) and pick us up when we were ready. Back at the hotel my wife treated herself to a massage in the hotel spa while I took a short nap. A little after 7:00 we hit the hotel bar for a beer before dinner. Our reservation was for 7:30 but as we were already comfortable at the bar, we just at there and were glad we did as we met several other BMW recipients, including Doug McClean who was there to pick up a 3-series wagon with M-package. We had a great time talking about cars and what the next day would bring.
After a terrific breakfast including cooked-to-order omelets and everything else one could ever want, we met the PDC shuttle bus out front. After a short roll-call, our group of 12 departed for the short 10-minute trip to PDC.
Upon arrival, we were greeted and introduced to the staff then escorted to the classroom for a short block of instruction by Donnie (aka "Will-Win2Day"), the lead driving instructor. He reviewed each of the driving events we would participate in and keyed on having us "look where you want the car to go". He also wanted us to remember three letters in regards to the cars we'd be driving, N.Y.C. - "Not Your Car". Upon hearing this I assumed that was his way of telling us to be careful with the cars... then he surprised us all by expanded on the comment by saying "so drive'em like you stole'em, and have fun!". That's when I knew this day would be a blast... and it most certainly was.
We were then escorted out of the back of the building where we were divided into two groups of 6, consisting of 3 couples in each one. Donnie was the instructor for our group and introduced each couple to the car they'd be driving. Donnie, having spent the previous 3 days completing the break-in miles on the PDC's 1M, was very excited to tell my wife and I all about the car and how much he'd enjoyed driving it through the hills of the Carolinas.
After each couple was introduced to their cars and we completed a radio check (walkie-talkie's in each car), we followed Donnie out on to the track for our first event, the ABS braking lane. Once at the lane, we exited our respective vehicles and were given a short talk about how the BMW ABS system works, stopping distances given various speeds, and the fact that even under full braking, the excellent BMW system would allow you to steer even while applying full braking power. The lane consisted of a coned driving lane that was straight for 50 feet or so, then turned sharply to the left. Donnie demonstrated driving down the straight then slamming on the brakes and steering into the corner with the brake pedal pressed as hard as possible. He demonstrated first at 30mph, then 40mph, then at 50mph, and had us note how much more your stopping distance increased with each 10mph (a lot). We then took turns completing the exercise in our vehicles at 25mph, then at 50mph. I can't tell you how surprised I was the first time I got to hit he accelerator in the 1M. The power surge slams you back in your seat starting at only 2000 rpm! In fact I had some trouble keeping it to only 50mph for my turns as the car accelerates so much faster than the little tricked out Scion xD I'd been driving for the past year. As you would imagine, the terrific M3 brakes on the 1M stopped us hard, fast, and controllably, even going into the sharp turn. This was a terrific intro to the car and inspired a lot of confidence in our ability to stop quickly but know that we could still control where we stopped!
The next event was the most fun for me... not so much for my sweet wife, Leigh, as it was the road course. This course is a small, mostly circular section of the track with short straights, a slalom section, and blue cones marking the apexes and yellow cones marking the exits. As it was a pretty short course, Donnie told me to just keep the 1M in 2nd the whole time. He monitored and talked to us via radio as each of the three vehicles in our group were started 15 seconds or so apart. Donnie had me lead and told me to "hit it, get some!"... this precisely when my wife stopped having fun, the incredible acceleration and sound of the 1M under full throttle, while intoxicating to me, scared her half to death! In fact, as my confidence and speed quickly increased by the end of the 3rd lap and I was giggling like a ten year old, I suddenly realized that she was white as a ghost and had a look of abject horror on her face and looked like she was going to hurl
. I slowed down and signaled to Donnie that I needed to pull off the track and drop her off. After dropping off my terrified passenger I was able to catch up to the other vehicles every two laps or so and would be directed to pull over to give them time to get back ahead of me (x3, 335, and a 5-series, I think... not really sure, I was in my own little world of driving bliss. The acceleration of the 1M was a surprise each time I applied max power, the handling was lightening fast, and I was especially surprised at how much front-end grip our meaty front tires had in tight turns. That was a blast
Next, we followed Donnie to the skid-pad which is just a giant painted circle of concrete, complete with sprinklers which kept it wet and slippery. The purpose of this event was to show us how well the BMW stability control works. We did this event in a sedan with Donnie in the front seat as each person in the group took their turn driving first with stability control off (doing some fantastic 360's each time - we felt like stunt drivers), then turning it on and repeating. It was truly amazing how even with full-throttle, they system automatically modulates power to keep you in complete control with very little skidding at all. Again, really, really fun.
After this event, our group took a break to be formally introduced to each of our personal cars. My beautiful black sapphire 1M was parked in the front lobby of the building where Donnie spent about 20 minutes telling me all about the car and teaching us what every single button, menu, and dial did, as well as how to activate the different suspension settings. As I didn't order nav, our intro was significantly shorter than the others in the group so after Donnie affixed my temporary plates, we hit the BMW shop and loaded up on M t-shirts and hats.[/font][/color]
A few minutes later, at 11:30, all groups met back up in the cafeteria for lunch. We had quite a selection of choices including several meat entrees’ and sides, made-to-order burgers or sandwiches, and a great salad bar. The food was great and we were honored that Donnie joined us at our table for the meal and we had a great time talking about all things BMW
After lunch it was time for "Hot-Laps". This is where each couple gets the take a couple of laps around the entire road course in an M5 driven by one of the BMW instructors... with all electronic nannies turned off! I will preface the explanation of this event by saying that as a typical car guy, I sometimes labor under the delusion that I can drive... after the first 15 seconds in a car driven by these guys, that delusion quickly and decidedly evaporated. All I can say is Holy Crap they can drive!!! The power of 500+ hp 5 is shocking to say the least, and driving at full throttle down a straight then going into alternating drifts at speed is better than any amusement park ride you will ever experience. My wife did manage to enjoy it fairly well and noted that it was not as scary since, unlike driving with me, she "trusted" the pros.... thanks Honey, my male ego probably needed a reality check any way!
Next it was time for the off-road event. Each couple was assigned a beautiful x5 and spent the next 20 minutes or so following the off-road instructor through the course. The speeds were very slow but it was absolutely amazing to see how capable these vehicles are as we drove through water, at crazy angles, and up and down steep slopes. These vehicles are so amazing off-oad, my wife and I commented that it was almost sad that most probably will never leave the pavement
Next we got in our own vehicles and convoyed across the highway to the BMW production facility for a guided tour. Continuing the VIP treatment, we were allowed to park on the sidewalk close to the door of the museum which is in the building just in front of the factory building we would be touring. Once inside, we were given special ID badges, then we exchanged our phones and cameras for protective glasses and were lead into the factory to see the production lines for all x3's, x5's, and x6's (they make them all there and ship them all over the world). It was a long 90 minute tour but was absolutely amazing. The plant is nearly 100% automated with humans mostly just feeding the robots parts (we felt like we were in a scene from the Matrix). We were impressed that throughout the facility, there were signs posted for the employees reminding them about various facets of quality as well as digital signs indicating production output vs scheduled. In fact one sign I saw really impressed me as a former Quality Manager, at a portion of the line where they install the steering system a sign read "A customer reported an unusual sound, investigate" - I think it's great that BMW cares so much about quality and empowers its employees to take ownership of it at every station. Another interesting tidbit we learned was that the employees work in teams and rotate stations every two hours. This gives each employee a well rounded skill set and keeps them from getting bored and from suffering from repetitive movement injuries. I'd seen many car factories operate on TV but seeing one as advanced as this one in person was really fascinating. The tour ended at 3:15, we were bid fond farewell, and we headed out front for photos in our cars in front of the factory then said goodbye to our fellow BMW owners which we had become surprisingly close to after just a day together.[/font][/color]
The roadtrip home to Maryland. Well, weeks earlier I went online to Griotts and ordered some protective car film just for this trip... and forgot it! So before leaving town, we hit the local Home Depot and spent almost an hour covering the front of the car with blue painter's tape (not as neatly as Dan did his and we paid for it by having to re-tape quite a bit of it at every stop).
The 1M while very fast and great handling, was remarkably quiet and comfortable on the seemingly short 500+ mile trip back to Rockville... I smiled the whole way home. Dang I'm glad I bought this car, I absolutely love it. As for PDC delivery, I highly recommend it. You are treated like a rock star the entire time, the hotel is great, the instructors are super nice and very helpful (thanks Donnie), PDC is incredible, the driving is a blast, and the factory tour is fascinating. Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I highly recommend it!