Enthusiasts’ Thoughts – Spring 2017: Performance Center Delivery
by Larry Engel
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll always need some sort of practical vehicle in my life – something that can haul a lot of stuff and get us places in tough weather. We went a year or two without one after the kids got through school and Karin didn’t want to drive a “mommymobile”. She’s been driving her young and fun Mini Coopers since 2009 when she put her foot down and didn’t allow me to replace our first X3 with another one.
After two years of running to Home Depot and the town conservation center in a toy car (or the M3), I decided we had to have a practical vehicle and ordered a 2011 X3. We took Performance Center Delivery at the Factory in Greer, SC. Performance Center Delivery is what this article is really about, but I’m not ready to tell that part of this story just yet.
We leased the X3. It was a “loaded” 28i. I was never in love with it. It had an early version of the electric steering rack, and I’m happy to report that they’re much better today. In addition, it was one of the last applications of the N52 series engine. Frankly, a turbocharged four does a better job of getting a 4,000 pound vehicle off the line than a lovely naturally aspirated six that was designed to propel small sedans and fun cars.
This brings me to the X3’s replacement. When the lease expired in 2014, number one son had moved from Vermont (which reinforced my rationale for choosing a SUV over a more practical minivan) to California. Grandchild number two was also on the way. Since we were assured that California wasn’t a permanent home and they were likely to end up back in New England at some point, I weighed the situation and ran down to my local BMW store and ordered a 2014 X5 with the optional third row. You know, because it was practical and could hold my growing family. Oh, and one other thing – it was a diesel! And oh yeah, it gave me reason for another Performance Center Delivery! (The real reason for this article.)
This is the part of the story where I tell you that you’re crazy if you’re shopping for an X5 and you don’t at least consider the diesel option. The car is fantastic! The combination of low end torque coupled to an exceptional 8 speed automatic allows this heavyweight to glide through traffic. It doesn’t hurt that I get 34 mpg on most trips! It’s absolutely the best highway cruiser/ hauler I’ve ever owned (and I’m pretty old). For my purposes (long trips and occasional need for 7 passenger seating) there’s no better vehicle on the market. If I used this vehicle for mostly short trips and didn’t need the third row, I’d probably go for the 40e version (ask Chapter President Jeff Caldwell how he likes his), but the diesel is perfect for my needs. (This is the point at which I give a shout out to VW – thanks so much for screwing up the future of this wonderful technology. I’ll probably never forgive you. Here’s to you VW, and the horse you rode in on! I hope you choke on your particulates! They tried to get the X535d to fail an emissions test, but they couldn’t. Clean diesel does exist.)
Anyway, back to the original premise for this story. (I’m sure Bulletin Editor Jerry Faber is relieved that I’m finally getting to the point.) My intent was to buy the 2014 X5 when the lease expired. It really was. But there were a couple of options that I didn’t check off on that one, and I really missed them. Leasing allows a do-over on stuff like that. Mostly though, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to take Performance Center Delivery if I bought it out of the lease. When the dealer called me to let me know they could do a pull-ahead and a new one would have a lower monthly payment, I knew what the outcome would be.
On March 27th, a few short weeks after ordering it, we took delivery of our new 2017 X5 35d at the Performance Center in Greer, SC. The experience remains one of the great joys of buying a new BMW, particularly one that’s built here in the US. All you need to do is arrange it through your dealer when you order the car and then get yourself to Greenville-Spartanburg airport on the designated date. We flew in on a Sunday. We had instructions to call the Greenville Marriott when we arrived. They picked us up in a lovely loaded X5 50i and rolled out the red carpet when we arrived at the hotel. We had drinks and a very nice dinner on BMW and retired for the night. We were instructed to have the breakfast buffet on Monday morning and be ready to travel to the Performance Center at 7:45.
The bus ride to the Performance Center is always full of anticipation and excitement. As you arrive, several new vehicles can be seen in the delivery bays, which are glass walled cubicles in the front of the building. (This time we had an afternoon delivery, so ours wasn’t visible when we arrived. On our two previous deliveries, we could see our car through the window when we arrived. (You can look, but you can’t touch!)
Upon arrival you check in and sign waivers. You’re led into a classroom and they give you a short overview of the day. Next, you head out back to begin having fun! “Out back” is basically a test track/skid pad/ handling course where you’re guided through several exercises, most of which are driven in a vehicle similar to the one you’re buying. You get to use their cars because they want yours to remain pristine, at least until you leave the property. They lead you through an emergency braking exercise and a handling course that’s part race track, part autocross course. It’s tons of fun! (In the case of the X5, literally 2 ½ tons of fun! It’s unbelievable how well these things handle when you push them!) They also do a wet skid pad exercise with a 430i. The objective is to showcase the DSC system. You do a lurid spin with the system off and then they engage it and your fun is done, but the vehicle stays under control. They use a RWD 430i because the X-drive vehicles won’t spin.
When the driving exercises were done, we drove across the highway for a plant tour. It’s always amazing to see how cars are assembled. It’s such a complex ballet of high-tech machines and human effort. Watching the process really makes you appreciate how modern car manufacturing has evolved.
After the plant tour, we went back across the highway and did the off-road course in our borrowed X5s. It’s really fun to see what these vehicles are capable of. We drove through a 20 inch deep stream, climbed hills so steep the only thing we could see ahead of us was sky, and descended grades from which we were sure we’d slide off sideways!
Next was a great lunch at the Performance Center, and then we were escorted into one of the delivery bays to see our new X5 35d for the first time. Part of the deal is to get a full explanation of the systems in your new BMW from a product expert. Since this was our second F15 X5, we concentrated on the updated electronics, which have made huge advances in just the last three years. After they answer every question you can think of about your new car, they open the front of the delivery cubicle and you drive out into the real world for your next adventure. Karin and I spent another night in Greenville and enjoyed a fantastic dinner at Hall’s Chop House before heading to Charleston for a few days and then driving home. For anyone considering a new BMW, and especially a SAV made in South Carolina, do yourself a favor and consider Performance Center Delivery. You won’t regret it!