Enthusiasts’ Thoughts – Spring 2017: Performance Center Delivery


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.

Photo #1 – Arriving at the Performance Center. Photo by Larry Engel

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!

Photo #2 – Testing the off-roading capabilities of an X5. Photo by Larry Engel

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!

President’s Corner – Winter 2017


Performance Center Delivery

By Jeff Caldwell

I sincerely hope my column finds all of you well and enjoying 2017 to the fullest. Yes, it’s winter and despite putting appropriate tires on our cars there has been little chance to use them. I suppose no snow to speak of is a good thing, although there is a part of me that longs to enjoy an empty parking lot in the name of car control practice. I really hope I didn’t just jinx it. If we get a foot of snow next week, you can blame me! [You hereby are blamed – JF]

Speaking of snow and ice, I am willing to bet many of you reading this are proud owners of one of BMW’s line of Sport Activity Vehicles, like the X3 or X5. We all know these BMW “trucks” are great in bad weather, but also deliver a comfortable and refined driving experience in dry conditions. For many of us, the X vehicles are a perfect marriage of utility, convenience and driving pleasure. With that in mind, my wife and I ordered a new 2017 X3 MSport back in September of 2016 for delivery at the BMW factory in Greenville, SC. We had always wanted to do Performance Center Delivery and this was the perfect opportunity. Without hesitation, I would recommend the experience to anyone. It was truly fabulous. Let me take you through it.

We arrived at the Greenville airport and collected our luggage. Shortly after exiting the terminal, we were greeted by a brand- new BMW X5 and driver from the Greenville Marriott. As part of the new vehicle delivery experience, BMW provides transportation from the airport and accommodations at the Marriott. Our driver was well versed in the Performance Center Delivery process and gave us a nice overview of what to expect. Upon arrival at the hotel, we were checked in and made our dinner reservation at the hotel restaurant. BMW includes dinner and breakfast the following morning as part of the experience. Quite a nice touch and the food was fantastic! If you like seafood, get the blackened Grouper. You can thank me later.

Following a restful nights’ sleep and filling breakfast, we were whisked away in an X5 to the BMW Performance Center. The Performance Center is located adjacent to the BMW factory and serves not only as a site for vehicle delivery, but also a testing and training facility. It is home to the BMW M School and Performance Driving School. BMW has built their own track, skid pad and off road course. You can’t miss the fleet of new M3s parked outside when you arrive! The building is beautiful and very European in its design. Across the front are delivery bays, which are essentially glass rooms where excited BMW owners meet their new cars for the first time. Despite our enthusiasm, we would have to wait to be united with our new X3. BMW had a lot more in store for us. Upon entering the building, we were greeted by Derek Leonard who was our performance driving instructor for the morning. My wife and I know Derek from racing, so it was extra special that we were able to schedule our delivery with him. Without wasting a moment, we did a short introduction meeting and then headed out to the track to do some driving. It’s worth mentioning that none of the track or off-road driving is in your own car. BMW provides a vehicle nearly identical to yours so no worries about breaking your new baby. Derek directed us to an X3 sitting outside and off we went. First up, a braking exercise. It’s very interesting to feel and understand how advanced and capable BMWs are with respect to stopping. From the braking exercise, we moved on to car control and eventually a small road course on the track. We did slalom, braking, sweeping turns and everything in between. I was amazed at how well the X3 handled all we threw at it. The X3 has excellent balance for a sport utility. We truly tested the limits and had a great time doing it. From the road course, we moved to the skid pad. The purpose of the skid pad exercise was to demonstrate BMW’s traction control systems. With traction control on (how you normally drive on the street) it was impossible to get the car to spin, even when trying to on the wet pavement. Turn the traction control off and watch out! We were spinning like crazy! Turn it back on…no spins. Super technology and I feel safer knowing these systems are working for me every time I get behind the wheel. Thanks BMW!

After several hours driving (and spinning), Derek took us on a ride in a new M3. I’m not talking about a Sunday drive. This was a wild ride on the road course, complete with smoking tires, drifting and sideways sliding on the skid pad. I must say we were pretty impressed. BMW had certainly put together a memorable experience and there was more to come! Once we composed ourselves from the M3 ride, we met up with Arnold, another delivery specialist who jumped back into the X3 with us. We were heading to the off-road course. Yes! We had been waiting for this.

The off-road course is a series of hills, obstacles and water crossings designed to test our X3. In addition, it offered Arnold a chance to show us the features and capability of our new vehicle. We were in awe of the X3 as it wound through the course, up and down hills and tipped sideways over obstacles. Arnold drove through the course first, then we both got to take a turn bouncing around and splashing through the water. Such great fun and the X3 handled it all with ease. Sadly, we had run out of time or we’d have done the course again! Arnold dropped us off back at the building and we were treated to a fantastic lunch. We also met Willi, who would deliver our new X3, and dined with many of the Performance Center employees. As you can imagine our anticipation was growing with every passing moment. Shortly after lunch it was time to meet our new X3.

We were escorted by Willi to one of the glass delivery bays and there she was…our brand new 2017 X3 MSport! For the next two hours, we received a detailed education on our new vehicle and all of its features. Willi helped us pair our phones, set up the navigation and the BMW Connected app. We learned about all the X3 had to offer. When we had no further questions, and had thoroughly exhausted Willi it was time for us to load up our luggage and depart in our new BMW. What a day!

It should come as no surprise that we found this to be an incredible experience. BMW has really engineered it to be fun, educational and exciting. The best part is it’s complimentary on any new BMW. All you have to do is get yourself to Greenville, SC and BMW takes care of the rest. You don’t even need to be taking delivery on an X3, X4, X5 or X6. Any new BMW is eligible for delivery at the Performance Center. As a matter of fact, there was a customer picking up a new 7 series on the day we were there. So, the next time you order a new BMW be sure to add Performance Center Delivery. You’ll be glad you did. Tell them the NJ Chapter sent you!

Cheers friends. From everyone at the chapter, we wish you a wonderful 2017. Come join us for an event or meeting sometime. We’d love to see you!

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