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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Now that I have your attention, I am certainly kidding!

However, yesterday I had one of the most enjoyable "automobile driving experiences" I have ever had. :wroom:

"BMW Sponsored Ultimate Driving Experience"

<o =""></o>I had just gotten back yesterday late in the afternoon when I wrote this:

<o =""></o>A good friend of mine received one of the “by invitation only” sign up cards a few weeks ago to test drive a variety of BMWs, but more importantly to put an E90 Sport Package 330I thru it's paces on an autocross circuit. My good friend was kind enough to invite me (many many thanks Robb!!!!!!). Well, we just got back and let me just say “What an absolute blast!” I had no idea what an awesome time I was in for!

I have had a few BMW’s including my current Imola 02 M5 and my recently sold E36 M3, and a little while back I sold my beloved 89 325IS. But, I never took any of these cars on an Autocross circuit or for a driving day or anything – well, shame on me!!!!

In <st1:city w:st="on"><st1 ="">Denver this event </st1></st1:city>was held in the north parking lot at Invesco field (the Bronco’s stadium). The day started out pretty mildly with Robb and I both test driving a couple cars, Robb a 545I and me a 4.4 X5 – both nice cars. But then we were up for the event of the day – Robb and I were on for a 1:30pm slot and we were ushered into a tent and sat down with about 25 other very excited potential BMW 330I auto crossers.

After everyone sat down a gentleman came forward to give us a very nice preview of what we were going to experience, and naturally gave us the expected pitch of how awesome the new 3 series, and went over some of the unique features the car has (I was a little surprised as I learned quite a few things). Next, we were told a little bit more about what our day was going to be like. He said that each team of three were going to be accompanied by an experienced BMW race car driver - I don’t know of any of these gentlemen (oh yes and one lady) but they were all very good instructors (and excellent drivers as we were going to find out too) who gave each of us basic instruction on how to best negotiate the autocross track we were on and tips on how to improve our track times. The instructor that Robb and I had was very very good. We were told that we were to above all else have a great time and to, by all means, drive the 330I as fast as we possibly could! He did state that the idea was to keep within the cones as much as possible. Then we were told that in addition to auto crossing the 330I, we were all going to get to compare the BMW to similar models offered by the competition, the newest Infiniti G35 and the latest Audi A4 3.2 Quattro! Wow, nobody knew this was going to be part of the event at all because they had hidden the Audis and the Infinitis up to the point where we went down to the autocross track.

Well, now to the driving! I confess, I am 100% new to auto crossing, but after this event, I am completely hooked! We had an absolute blast. OK, I am getting excited. We had 8 teams of three (2 teams per professional driver). Each BMW team leader was assigned 1 BMW, 1 Audi and 1 Infiniti. BTW, all three vehicles were automatics, which in retrospect, was the only way they could have accomplished an event like this with drivers of widely varying experience levels. We started out in the BMW. The 330I was setup in the middle traction control position. In our car Robb was 1<sup>st</sup> then I and then a gentleman named Paul (who was an original owner of an 88 325IS). Did I mention that Robb drives an 02 M3 Vert with SMG? Well, we all thoroughly enjoyed the dickens out of the 330I – tires squealing, cones flying and brakes screeching, what a time. I couldn’t believe how hot those poor tires were when we had finished our 9 or so laps (they had already told us that a set of tires last about 50 miles. By the time each of us finished our 3<sup>rd</sup> lap (with very helpful tips interjected along the way by our BMW coach) all three of us were becoming pretty comfortable with the 330I and each of us had improved considerably.

We all got out of the BMW and we had a little break while our BMW team captain took out his 2<sup>nd</sup> group of three students. Robb and Paul and I had a little break, which was a nice time to compare notes. When these three students were done he came back to get us and told us it was now time for the Infiniti. We went in the same order. I couldn’t believe it as Robb tried to get the Infiniti into any semblance of performance through the corners – he soon learned that it just wasn’t going to go thru the corners very fast. I was next so I knew by observing Robb that I was going to have to take it easy thru the corners, but I just couldn’t believe the difference, the Infiniti felt like a big old 70’s Buick Electra in comparison. I will add that we all thought it had a nicely finished interior which we all had plenty of time to look at as we galumphed around the track.

Now for the Audi – we were all pretty excited to try out the A4 Quattro. Robb was first again but I was surprised as he was having similar problems as in the Infiniti. It also was noticeably slower than both the BMW and the Infiniti (the Infiniti was rated at 280HP and the BMW and Audi were both rated the same at 255HP). BTW, if the Infiniti was faster in a straight line I didn’t notice it, and it certainly didn’t make up for the extremely poor (in comparison to the BMW) handling. Anyway, back to the A4 – I would say we all enjoyed the handling of the Audi more than the Infiniti, but I was shocked at how far the Audi was from the 330I. The Audi was definitely closer to the Infiniti than it was to the 330I!
<o =""></o>
If I had to rate the overall enjoyment and sheer ability to get around the track in a manner that felt natural and controlled, I would rate the three cars as follows:

BMW 330I – Let’s just say it was a 10 :M5launch:

Audio A4 3.2 Quattro – 6 or 7 :crying2:

Infiniti G35 – 5 :crying:

At the end of the program they gave two little prizes (a little BMW autocross pylon), one for the “most improved” driver and one for the driver exhibiting the “best performance” (which was of course was simply a subjective rating). I was amazed beyond belief when I was given the “best performance” award.

After this awesome day, I am now considering how and when to get my M5 onto an autocross course. I have to admit, unless I had been given the opportunity to push someone else’s car this hard, I probably would never have considered this – I know this may sound ridiculous to some of you, but I am accustomed to babying the dickens out of my BMWs.

Since I haven’t tried it yet, I would love to hear other M5 board members experiences their first time out onto a track with their beloved M5!

Steve
 

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With the fragile M5 clutch, I don't think I'll ever autocross mine.

Now, the Corvette on the other hand :1:
 

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I guess they were doing this all over the place, because I did the same thing in Houston on Saturday (except we only got 1 laps in each of the cars after two sighting laps at a moderate pace in the 330). I actually rated the A4 worse than the G35. With the big heavy engine hanging out over the front axle the A4 plowed through the turns like a pig, and was prone to turning into a trike in the corners, and the all wheel drive didn't really help it shoot out of corners. The 330 was by far the funnest, most stable of the group, and I actually liked the active steering. It was fun thrashing on a car that wasn't my M5!!

I actually didn't get an invitation, and saw the sign earlier in the week and called my SA, and he said just try to stop by, so I went by on Friday and they said show up early on Saturday and got on the waiting list, and maybe we can get you in. I showed up and got in the first session. I jumped the first couple of people because they only has one spot left, and everyone ahead of me came with a friend they wanted to do this together with, so they passed. Sometimes you just get lucky:haha:. One of the guys in my group did this last year when they had the X3, now that is a little scary.

I too was hooked, and very pumped about doing something similar again SOON!!!

Oh- And the hot laps with the instructors turning the traction control off, and driving full out was cool to experience both in the car, and watching from the tents.
 

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I am actually really impressed with the E90's. My bud just picked up an E90 325 sport 6spd, and that car is a great handler! I took it down my favorite moutain road, and my first time driving it I got to about 7/10's the speed I would have taken my E39 down, and I daily drove my E39 (it was a 528 though). Very cool cars indeed.
The G35's are fun, but if they are anything like many of their products they have too much understeer. It's fine if you are used to dealing with it, but when you jump from something like an E90 to a G35 the understeer beings annoying. Great marketing ploy by BMW.
:cheers:
 

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I'm going to be looking for the program with the 330, sounds good. I went to one where we drove X3's and after a spirited 'off course experience' with me at the wheel I grew annoyed with the sound of a cell phone ringing. Who the heck was using a cell phone during these runs? Turns out it is "On Star" calling ME to see if everything was ok! How embarasssing.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I liked the active steering too. The course we had was very tight which gave the 330 even more of an advantage. There was absolutely no question which car was the easiest to "run the course". I had the distinct impression that the 330 could have kept up with either of the other two cars using about 60% - 70% of the effort - it was that much easier to drive!

03BeastCharmer said:
I guess they were doing this all over the place, because I did the same thing in Houston on Saturday (except we only got 1 laps in each of the cars after two sighting laps at a moderate pace in the 330). I actually rated the A4 worse than the G35. With the big heavy engine hanging out over the front axle the A4 plowed through the turns like a pig, and was prone to turning into a trike in the corners, and the all wheel drive didn't really help it shoot out of corners. The 330 was by far the funnest, most stable of the group, and I actually liked the active steering. It was fun thrashing on a car that wasn't my M5!!

I actually didn't get an invitation, and saw the sign earlier in the week and called my SA, and he said just try to stop by, so I went by on Friday and they said show up early on Saturday and got on the waiting list, and maybe we can get you in. I showed up and got in the first session. I jumped the first couple of people because they only has one spot left, and everyone ahead of me came with a friend they wanted to do this together with, so they passed. Sometimes you just get lucky:haha:. One of the guys in my group did this last year when they had the X3, now that is a little scary.

I too was hooked, and very pumped about doing something similar again SOON!!!

Oh- And the hot laps with the instructors turning the traction control off, and driving full out was cool to experience both in the car, and watching from the tents.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I can see where the G35 might be "fun" in a straight line, or around very modest corners, but the G35s we drove really "gave up" quickly when the cornering became even modestly aggressive. The car was simply annoying in the corners - it had incredible body roll and the suspension felt very "caved in" and the tires were screaming and popping whenever things got a little tough in the corners.

BmwNut said:
I am actually really impressed with the E90's. My bud just picked up an E90 325 sport 6spd, and that car is a great handler! I took it down my favorite moutain road, and my first time driving it I got to about 7/10's the speed I would have taken my E39 down, and I daily drove my E39 (it was a 528 though). Very cool cars indeed.
The G35's are fun, but if they are anything like many of their products they have too much understeer. It's fine if you are used to dealing with it, but when you jump from something like an E90 to a G35 the understeer beings annoying. Great marketing ploy by BMW.
:cheers:
 

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sarends: You must have just missed the thread started by Donnie Isley (willwin2day) last week inviting Denver area members to drop by the UDE. Hope you got a chance to meet him and work with him. He, along with all of the other Performance Center instructors, are consumate professionals who help to make these programs immensely rewarding.

Glad to see you guys getting pumped up by the Ultimate Driving Experience, which is based upon the very successful and well received programs offered through the Performance Center in South Carolina, and staffed by Performance Center instructors.

After receiving the invitation from BMW via email I immediately signed myself and my wife up for it, and was surprised to see the slots fill within hours of receiving the invitation. Some dealerships may still have paper invitations they are holding, so it is worth checking with them if one has not received the invitation electronically.

:cheers:
 

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KWP said:
With the fragile M5 clutch, I don't think I'll ever autocross mine....
Ohhh nooooo! - that would be a hugely wasted opportunity for an absolute blast. With a flying start (so no need for riding the clutch out of the hole) and the torquey S62 motor, the car was happy staying in second gear. No hole shots and no shifting - very gentle on the clutch! Now the tires, well that's a different story....
 

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KWP said:
With the fragile M5 clutch, I don't think I'll ever autocross mine.

Now, the Corvette on the other hand :1:
Actually, the M5 holds its own on the autocross track. I spanked a younger guy (relatively.. I'm 28.. he was probably 20 or 21) in an M3 and was about 4-5 seconds off the pace of the better drivers there. And like Elevens said, just kept it in 2nd the whole time (except the launch).. but I had the habit of hitting the clutch every time I hit the brakes, so my diff probably didn't like it too much. Lessons learned!

I posted some pics here.

But the UDE events are always fun. The last one I went to was when the E46 3 series was being put out.. but it's such a rush to autocross. Even better when comparing cars!!
 

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Great write up. I participated in a very similar event some years ago when the cars were e46s but they didn't bring other mfr's cars to that one. It was a blast, and reading your post brought back fond memories. During my event, they timed the laps and the cone for "best performance" went to the person with the fastest lap. Well! A tiny orange cone with that label has been sitting proudly on my desk since then! :M5launch:
 

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Discussion Starter #14
They must be using the same cones - mine is an orange one about 6" high and I am told it was made out of genuine BMW autocross cone rubber (ha) :cheers:

Need4Spd said:
Great write up. I participated in a very similar event some years ago when the cars were e46s but they didn't bring other mfr's cars to that one. It was a blast, and reading your post brought back fond memories. During my event, they timed the laps and the cone for "best performance" went to the person with the fastest lap. Well! A tiny orange cone with that label has been sitting proudly on my desk since then! :M5launch:
 

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sarends said:
They must be using the same cones - mine is an orange one about 6" high and I am told it was made out of genuine BMW autocross cone rubber (ha) :cheers:
we should see how many of us have those cones! I have one from a similar event when the e46 came out, and one when i did the traveling M5 driving experience. fun to pound on someone elses car!
Mike
 

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I will have to say that the E90 is an incredible car and handles its own on the track as well as the street.

How do I know you may ask? Well I'll tell you ;) Myself and Donnie (willwin2day) Had the opportunity to drive the new E90 for 1600 mi. on the street, To and from Indy where we were driving in the Car and Driver 50th celebration events. If you know Donnie Or if you saw him at the UDE, You may have heard this story. Its kind of long but we love to tell it.

We were supposed to be driving the Mclaren F1, PTG M3 and the M1 for hot laps that people had paid for. We had started the hot laps, Donnie in the M3 and Tom Milner Jr. in the Mclaren. M1 ended up not going out. I think Donnie gave about 5-8 hot laps when it started to rain....

Car and Driver stopped the hot laps, slicks suck in the rain ?????? But porshe was there with the Carrera GT and there were Vipers and SLR's, All with street tires but when they, C&D, shut the event down that was it for ALL of them.They did not even attemp to go on the track. Well not BMW.

Donnie, myself and some other BMW folks put our heads together and decided that if C&D would let us we would go get the 4 E90's with manual trans. we had brought for the auto X and give hot laps in those, they had street tires. After all these people were having to stand in the rain and heat and wonder what C&D was going to do to honor the tickets they had paid for.

Well C&D said sure, If your want to put the 330's out there go ahead.....It was on. Donnie and I put together some very cool laps in which we were passing and sliding door to door at.....well lets just say fast enough to make a LOT of smoke and use up 6 new tires on 4 cars. The people LOVED it. And the E90's were running like they were made for the track. Unbeleivable.

So the rain stops and C&D puts the race cars back on the track along with all the other cars. Well, to our amazement. We had people giving up their tickets to ride in ALL the other cars to ride with us in the E90's. Thats right. Changing their tickets from the Mclaren, the SLR and the Carrera GT to ride in a bone stock, showroom condition E90 and they LOVED it. In the end we ran out of cars and tires before we could get to all the people that wanted a lap in the E90.

So. with all that said. I came away from that day with a new respect for the New 3. As donnie and I drove back that Sunday in our 330, which did not go on the track, The majority of our conversation revolved around the incredible E90. Can't wait for the M version. OMG !!! :eek:
 

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MrDrifter;
The C&D event story is awesome! I know how you guys can drive in the rain. Experience on the PC wet skid pad paid off :)

Do you know when a UDE might be coming to the south east?

Sarends;
The M5 would do well at an autocross but it would feel big & heavy compared to an e90 3 series. Not likely as bad as the G35. As already mentioned, tire wear is the concern, not clutches (unless you get too anxious and blow the launch).
The M5 shows its best stuff on a big track. A performance driving school with a car club is the way to do that. I've done several tracks in the south east. Roebling road is my favorite M5 track with long sweeping curves and a straight that allows 140 mph! However add brake fade and pad wear to the list of consumables on a track. It is truely amazing to ride in the M5 on a track with an experienced or professional driver.
 

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Richard in NC said:
MrDrifter;
The C&D event story is awesome! I know how you guys can drive in the rain. Experience on the PC wet skid pad paid off :)

Do you know when a UDE might be coming to the south east?

Sarends;
The M5 would do well at an autocross but it would feel big & heavy compared to an e90 3 series. Not likely as bad as the G35. As already mentioned, tire wear is the concern, not clutches (unless you get too anxious and blow the launch).
The M5 shows its best stuff on a big track. A performance driving school with a car club is the way to do that. I've done several tracks in the south east. Roebling road is my favorite M5 track with long sweeping curves and a straight that allows 140 mph! However add brake fade and pad wear to the list of consumables on a track. It is truely amazing to ride in the M5 on a track with an experienced or professional driver.
Not sure about the UDE in the SE. I can find out tomorrow.
 

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The majority of our conversation revolved around the incredible E90. Can't wait for the M version. OMG !!!
I know what you mean. We rented an E90 on our recent trip to France. The car was an incredible handler despite the body lean, and it was only a 320td, a DIESEL! The M version should be awesome. :M5launch:
 

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Hey, Mr. Drifter, great to see another PC pro on the M5Board :M5thumbs:

Were you working the M5DE two Summers ago with Ben Spies in attendance? If so, my brother and I were the ones in the Alpine White M5.

You and Donnie sure made an impression at Indy, it appears, but then again, I would not have expected anything less.

Will you be working the Minnesota UDE this weekend? I know that Donnie is not scheduled to be here. We are eagerly looking forward to putting the e90 through its paces on Friday :wroom:


:cheers:
 
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