Drives: 2012 650i xDrive M Sport Coupe
Join Date: Jan 2012
My BMW Weekend - PCD + 2-Day Car Control Course
Here are the links to some reviews I wrote regarding my PCD for my 650xi coupe and the 2-day car control course. Just thought I'd share.
I recently took delivery of a 2012 650i xDrive Coupe, and I am completely in love with the car. This is my first BMW, and I wanted to have the full BMW experience so PCD was not an option.
If you plan on purchasing a BMW at any point in the future I would highly recommend taking advantage of PCD. Getting a BMW is great and loads of fun, but PCD adds one more level of excitement to the BMW Experience.
I did what is called the One-on-One, or 101. It is essentially the PCD without the delivery part. That essentially means that you get the entire experience but you do not pick up your car at the Performance Center. The only thing I missed out on was the time with the product specialist and seeing my shiny new car sitting in/outside of the Performance Center. I was still able to ask the specialists a few questions while at the Performance Center, so I really didn’t miss much. I took delivery of my coupe a week and a half before my 101 at my dealership, and my Client Advisor went through the key features of the vehicle at that time. I did the 101 instead of the full PCD because I would have had to wait an extra month due to scheduling of PCD. I’m not quite sure about how the scheduling works and why the 101 was available sooner, but it really worked perfectly for me. Also, the 101 gave me more flexibility with scheduling, so I was able to do my 101 on a Friday and the 2-day car control course Saturday and Sunday – perfect weekend.
Here is the breakdown of my PCD/101:
I received an e-mail from the Performance Center confirming the date of my PCD/101. It had an attachment called the “travel form” essentially provides them with information about you and your guest, the room configuration you would like, etc.
I arrived at the Greenville Marriott Thursday evening and went to dinner at Giatu, the in-house restaurant. BMW pays for the room for the night prior to the PCD/101 as well as the meal at Giatu (they cover you and one guest). I was impressed with the menu offered. It was a special menu for BMW PCD participants, but it was still a very nice menu. It included a salad, entrée items like Shrimp and Grits, Pasta, Fish, Steak, etc. (> 5 options), and a dessert (2 options). The next morning I went down for the buffet (again, covered for you and a guest). It was a very nice selection, but I was glad BMW was picking up the tab (about $15 per person). After breakfast I got on the shuttle with the other PCD customers and headed over to the Performance Center. It was a 15 minute trip on one of Marriott’s big shuttle buses.
We were delivered at the front door of the Performance Center and greeted by the staff (professional drivers, product specialists, etc.). The new BMWs of those taking delivery were parked inside the facility on display – very impressive looking with the high ceilings and the glass walls. We were then taken to a classroom for a short orientation prior to heading to the track.
The orientation was a quick overview of basic driving skills and techniques. We then went outside to our cars - one of the cars in their fleet that is similar to the car we purchased. I had a 650i convertible (I purchased a 650xi coupe). Another person who had an M3 cabriolet was given an M3 sedan. Not identical, but very similar. I actually liked having the convertible, non-M Sport, non-xDrive version, as I was able to compare it to my 650xi M Sport coupe that I had been driving for over a week.
We got in our cars and were split into groups for four different exercises:
1) Slalom Course (weaving through cones).
2) Handling Course (portion of the track with several corners with cones to indicate the line to take through each corner).
3) Emergency Stop Situation (engaging ABS at different speeds and steering while the system is engaged).
4) Skid Pad (polished, wet concrete driving in circles with and without DSC; did this in a 3 Series – funny they didn’t let me take the 6er out there – and got to spin out without the system and the effectiveness of the system).
Next we went to the Zentrum/Factory. I thought they’d shuttle us over there as a group, but that would be missing out on a prime marketing opportunity. Instead, they had a row of X5s, and they told us to hop into one with our guest and follow our guide down the road to the factory. Once we got there we drove up on the sidewalk and parked in front of the Zentrum.
We went in for the factory tour and were guided through the entire facility (paint, body, assembly, etc.) by a tour guide who navigated us through the maze and made sure that we didn’t get skewered by a forklift. We then left the factory and were told that we could come back later to tour the Zentrum and the gift shop.
Next, we hopped back into our X5s and headed back to the Performance Center. Instead of going directly back, we were taken to the off-road course and guided through it. It was a lot of fun seeing what the X5 can do. I had heard/read reviews saying that the X5 was great in rain, snow, and ice but not a true off-roader. This in mind, I didn’t have very high expectations – I was shocked. The course included one or two hills that caused the car to tilt to the point where I thought it was going to roll, but it handled the course brilliantly. We were also taken through a pool of standing water (about 20” deep, I believe). They also showed us how the Hill Descent Control works. It was a pretty cool system, and I especially liked seeing it in action since my xDrive coupe has the feature (although this course would rip off the low M Sport body kit on the front of my coupe). It was a little weird pulling my foot away from the brake as I headed down a steep slope, but the system handled it brilliantly. This was a great detour that was a lot of fun and served its purpose (in the eyes of BMW) of impressing the heck out of us with regard to the X5’s capabilities and BMW engineering in general.
After we reluctantly handed over the keys to our X5s we went back inside the Performance Center for lunch. It was a great buffet with a number of options.
After lunch those who did PCD were given their cars and had their sessions with the Product Specialists. Those of us doing 101 were done for the day (about 1:30 p.m.) and sent on our way. At this point we went back to the Zentrum to look at the exhibits. The museum is smaller than I expected, but the displays were interesting and definitely worth going back for. My day finished around 3:00 p.m.
This is really a great program that I would highly recommend, especially since you only pay for travel expenses. The track exercises were an abbreviated version of day one of the 2-day car control course with the added bonus of doing it in a car similar to your own (the course uses 135i and 335i cars for the first day’s exercises).
Sorry this review is so lengthy, but I wanted to try to answer questions for those of you considering PCD and provide a little more information than is available on the website. Hope this helps.
Note: I would like to thank BMW of Mobile (Mobile, AL) for making the arrangements for my trip and coordinating my 101 with the 2-day course to build a fantastic Bimmer-filled weekend. I would highly recommend BMW of Mobile as they have been professional and helpful through the entire ordering, negotiating, and delivery process.
PRIMARY CARS: 335i Sedan & 135i Coupe
OTHER CARS: X6 M, M3 coupe, 550i sedan, Z4is roadster, & X5 xDrive50i
INTRODUCTION: Last weekend I went to the Performance Center for Performance Center Delivery (technically called 101 since I took delivery of my car at my dealership the week before) of my 650i xDrive Coupe in addition to the 2-Day Car Control course. I had an amazing 3-day weekend that was jam-packed with everything BMW. For more information on my PCD/101, I did another write-up about that specifically (see the PCD thread). I stayed at the Greenville Marriott for the four nights of my trip, and it worked out very well as it is close the the PC – and there is a Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts two minutes away
The course started around 8:30 Saturday morning. We met in the dining area to sign the waivers, provide our driver license info, etc., and then went straight to the classroom. We took a break for lunch each day around 12:30 and were provided with a buffet. The food was very good, and there was a decent variety of options – definitely not just a selection of deli sandwiches. We went back to the classroom for a few minutes to discuss the next few exercises then hit the track again. We finished each day around 4:00 p.m.
CLASSROOM: The course began with an introduction to all of the instructors – names, driving/racing records, and a little biography. We had three instructors, and they were all extremely nice, knowledgeable, and entertaining (one of the best parts of the course was their hilarious commentary over the radios).
We (11 people in the class) were split into two groups and assigned partners. We stayed in these groups for the next two days. The two groups allowed for alternating between exercises, which meant less time waiting in line. We would use the 135i coupes for some exercises and the 335i sedans for others. We would do each exercise and then switch drivers, and our partners would then do the same thing. Although this meant we spent half of the car time in the passenger’s seat, it was helpful as you got to watch someone else and hear the feedback from the instructors.
Here are a few of the topics they touched on during the classroom periods:
- Proper seating position (mirrors, steering wheel, dead pedal, etc.).
- Eyes where you intend to go, steering wheel grip, etc.
- Car dynamics (tires, acceleration, braking, steering, car response to driver input, oversteer/understeer).
- Review of the exercises (diagrams and videos of the exercises, and they talked us through what we’d be doing).
ON THE TRACK: We split off into groups and followed the instructors out onto the track and followed them to the portion of track where we would do the exercise. Once we got to the area we’d be using, we slowly followed the instructor through the course, and they talked us through what we were supposed to do. The instructors then demonstrated the exercise at the proper speed. We had immediate feedback from the instructors via radios in the cars. Each car had a radio, and we could hear the instructors talking to us as well as the other people in our group. The commentary/constructive criticism was extremely helpful so we could constantly adjust our techniques during each run through the exercise. As mentioned above, the gentle teasing and sarcastic commentary over the radios was a very amusing aspect of the course.
1. Slalom – 135i & 335i – handling warm up. Swerving through a line of cones at progressively faster speeds.
2. Emergency (ABS) Stop (35 – 50 mph) – 335i – practicing emergency braking and steering during such a situation. We were told to accelerate to a specific speed then slam on the brakes once we got to some cones and steer through a corner of the track (this showed the ability to steer during hard braking).
3. Handling course – 135i – this course was a loop that started with a slalom followed by two corners (one that was extremely tight), and then there was a longer stretch with two curves that allowed us to get up to speed. At the end of this course there was a brake box that we were supposed to do an ABS stop in the box. We did this course with dynamic traction (DTC) control activated (this is the limited traction setting – dynamic stability control is the full traction/stability setting) that allows for a little slip. This was one of my favorite exercises as it was timed and provided a quantitative value to see our improvement while the instructors were watching and telling us how to improve… it also provided a bit of friendly competition
4. Skid Pad – 335i – we got into the cars (3 people + 1 instructor) and did circles around the skid pad without traction control (300 feet in diameter ring of wet, polished concrete). The instructor was in the passenger’s seat and told us how to adjust our speed to induce oversteer/understeer (with the help of the instructor pulling the parking brake to induce the oversteer). We then had to implement the proper driving inputs to recover from the oversteer/understeer. There was a lot of spinning the first day, especially while trying to recover from oversteer. It was a lot of fun sitting in the backseat spinning around – comforting knowing that there wasn't traffic or obstacles to hit. We each got numerous opportunities to try to recover from the situation.
5. Emergency Lane Change – 135i – the purpose of this exercise is to practice changing lanes in an emergency situation where there isn’t time to brake. A course was set up with cones showing one lane, then we’d have to flick the wheel to switch to the left lane and complete an ABS stop. The instructor called a speed out to us, and we accelerated to that speed then tried to complete swerve and brake.
6. Rat Race – 335i – we were taken to a wide open expanse of wet asphalt with an oval set up with cones. We had a competition, two at a time, racing around the oval track (sans traction control) until we had a winner. This exercise resulted in lots of sliding and lots of fun.
1. Slalom – 135i & 335i – same as above as a warm up, but we swapped cars from yesterday.
2. Highway Emergency (ABS) Stop (55 – 70 mph) – 335i – this time we got up to some decent speeds to practice ABS braking on the highway and steering during these situations. At these speeds steering is very important, and it was a lot more apparent that you can control where the car goes while braking. We started by slamming on the brakes at a set of cones and steering around a corner as we braked. This showed the different distances it required to come to a complete stop from various (high) speeds. After a few runs at different speeds they got rid of the cones and set up another brake box, and we were supposed to decide where we had to slam on the brakes to stop in the box.
3. Slalom and turn – 135i – we took off from the line, drove through a slalom of offset cones, then pull a 180 degree turn that was very tight and wet, then returning through the slalom and completing an ABS stop in a brake box at the end. This was one of my favorite exercises. We were told our times (and the times of the others) after each run, and we had to adjust our speed, steering, and braking. This was amazing fun that really got my hear racing as I tried to beat my time as well as the times of others. Making the wet, tight turn was the hardest in terms of steering and braking, but it was also very difficult to go straight from the slalom into the brake box that was not much larger than the car (stopping beyond the box – or hitting a cone – counted as a 2 second penalty).
4. Skid Pad – this was the same as the previous day, but everyone in our car seemed to do much better. I was able to recover from every understeer situation and about 14 of 15 oversteer situations. I was glad I had the second day so I had a little more experience and practice, and I am much more comfortable with the maneuver should I ever find myself in such a situation.
5. Emergency Double Lane Change – 135i – this exercise was the same as the single lane change yesterday, but this time we had to change from the right lane to the left lane then back to the right lane and then complete an ABS stop. I really enjoyed this exercise, but several cones were harmed in the process. I found it to be easier than the single change, but this may have been due to more practice since the previous day.
6. Other Roads Course – X5 xDrive50i – we were taken to the off-road course in a fleet of X5s and taken through a number of challenges, including some steep inclines, standing water, and very bumpy roads. This exercise really highlighted the capabilities of xDrive in shifting power to the wheels with the most grip. There were a number of times when at least one wheel was in the air. Watching the person in front of me go down the steepest incline was a bit scary watching it from the bottom. The car actually tilts at the top of a hill where the back right wheel comes over a foot off the ground – it really looks like the car is going to flip. They also took the opportunity to show off the Hill Descent Control (HDC) feature that controls the car’s speed and braking down steep inclines as well as the Auto H (automatic hold) feature that engages the parking brake when sitting in traffic. This was obviously a set up to show off the capabilities of the X5, albeit on a course designed specifically for the car. Nevertheless, I was impressed, and it definitely showed that xDrive works beyond rain and snow.
7. Final Laps – X6 M, M3, 550i, & Z4is – we were taken to the largest portion of the track that we had used to that point. We alternated cars and did approximately two laps per car. This was probably the highlight of the course as it allowed us to pick up some speed in some cars with legit power. I thoroughly enjoyed running these laps, but I wish we had more time in each car. Learning a new portion of track required practicing different corners, and this was especially difficult with different cars every two laps – big difference between a 555 hp, 2.5 ton X6 M and a 340 hp Z4is roadster. Nevertheless, this was a lot of fun, and it was great being able to play in a variety of Bimmers. *Note: these are not necessarily the cars that they use for this portion of every course. They said they tailored their selection to our group, and they have about 120 cars in the fleet. I’m not sure which other cars they use, but they did say that they don't use the M5s and other cars that are out of production – they only use the M5s for the instructors and the M courses.
8. Hot Laps – M5 (2010) – the drivers took us around the track in its entirety – not exactly a leisurely spin. These guys were good… very good. They pulled some amazing stunts and made a lot of smoke and noise.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I would highly recommend this course. It is a car control/defensive driving course, not a racing/fast driving course – that would be the M Course, which I cannot wait to do. This was my first time on a track, and I found this course extremely educational for driving on and off the track. I would highly recommend the 2-day course instead of the 1-day, assuming that the 1-day is pretty much the same as the first day of the 2-day course. I say this not because there was necessarily anything wrong with the first day, but I found the second day to make what we learned the first day to make more sense. I feel that I would have been slightly disappointed if I left after one day and did not have a second day to practice what we learned. The second day also allowed us to drive some different cars around the track rather than the 1 Series and 3 Series only. They are great cars, but BMW definitely has a lot more to offer.
Hope this is helpful to any of you interested in taking the course!