BMW Performance Driving School | Greer, SC
Getting thrown around in an M3, decked out in M-badged gear, catered to and given expert advice by professional BMW instructors was truly a five-star experience.
I purchased my first BMW a year and a half ago – an E46 ZHP. I made sure to get it thoroughly inspected at Crown BMW before handing over the cash. They assured me my “poor man’s M3” was in perfect shape and so I became a BMW owner. (Best. Decision. Ever.)
I fell in love with my ZHP and naturally started eyeing M cars. I’d already made plans to attend BMW’s Performance Driving School in the next year or so – not only to test drive the M cars, but to also prove to my husband once and for all that I AM the better driver. 😉 Well, that’s what I planned anyway.
Please tell me – how in the world did I receive a complimentary invitation from Crown BMW to attend their Performance Drive Event last week?! I mean, who gets invited to BMW’s Driving School? Not only invited, but offered a complete experience?!
What We Received
Transportation – They shuttled us by luxury coach to and from driving school – that’s 8 hours roundtrip!
Catering – All meals were catered. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Meals were served on the bus, as well as at BMW’s facility.
Driving Experience – We were allowed to drift, race, redline and compete in these high-performance machines. We even went off road, through knee-high water and over (what seemed to be) cliffs!
Swag Bag – We received bags filled with driving school t-shirts, embroidered hats, ///M pens and keychains.
Tell me, how does life work again? Yes, I’m in the middle of starting a business. Yes, I should be spending every waking moment at my office. No, I do not call my grandma as much as I promised … BUT yes. I went to driving school. Best. Day. Ever.
We were instructed by Yazmin Lee, the lovely event coordinator, to meet at the dealership at 8:00 am for boarding. It is important to note that I had no idea what we were going to do. I had no idea what to expect or what the agenda was for the day. I just knew we were visiting the facility and that was perfectly fine with me! Hell, I was just excited for the chance to watch these cars on the track. I barely slept the night before.
8:00 AM | Breakfast.
We arrived at the dealership on-time (an amazing accomplishment for me) and quickly met Yazmin. We signed in and immediately boarded the bus. Out of about 40 guests, we were two of the younger ones there.
Breakfast was served shortly after. We were offered a variety of bagels and muffins, sausage biscuits, fruit, soda, water, coffee and orange juice. This was much more food than I expected! Not to mention – the caterer, Ed Currie (of Exclamations Catering) was a treat. He was funny, personable and made the long bus ride more enjoyable. What did I do to deserve this?
For the next 4 hours, I just sat there. Staring. Restless. Anxious. I’m one who prefers ample time to mentally prepare for things. I need to know what I’m doing before I do it. This time, I had no clue what was in store …
12:00 PM | Lunch.
We arrived at the facility around noon and lined up for lunch. There was pasta, salad, lots of sandwich options, chips, cookies, soda, coffee and bottled water. The outdoor eating area was perfect. My sandwich was amazing. I’m not sure about the other food, as I was too nervous to get past my sandwich. The bottled water and coffee cups were beautifully branded. (You know I love little details.) Even the bathrooms were impressive, as they had thick cloths to dry my hands with and sinks I had to figure out how to use. My hands were clean, my belly was full, there were a fleet of M cars waiting and I was ready.
1:00 PM | Briefing.
As we gathered for our briefing, we were welcomed by an instructor (my favorite!), Andy Van Cleef. The first thing I noticed was a liability form sitting on my table. That’s when I knew shit was about to get real.
Andy began by introducing himself and the other driving instructors. I was thoroughly impressed, as each instructor had awesome driving and racing experience. For example, Andy was a professional go-cart driver and former NASCAR engine specialist before joining BMW. This definitely reassured me I was safe and in good hands.
He then gave a quick driving lesson, discussing the importance of braking before turning, emphasizing to always look at the spot you want to go next and raving about the power these cars have. I could tell he was excited, passionate and doing something he loves. This made the experience better for me – I rarely find someone who shares my obsession with these cars!
Now it was time for the agenda. All I heard was “off-road” “timed” “race” “lap” … deep breath. I signed the liability form and headed outside.
1:30 PM | Er mah gerd.
Off-Road Course | X5
We were chosen to complete the off-road course first, which was perfect. Off-roading is not really my thing, but I knew Chris would love it so he drove first. I jumped in, pulled out the GoPro and the worst thing happened … my GoPro would not power on! Do you know how upset this made me?! I won’t elaborate on the anger and madness that rushed through my veins … but I eventually pulled out my trusty iPhone and captured a few moments throughout the day. (I’m still pretty upset about this.)
Off-roading proved amazing and was a bit scary at times! The instructor coached us through every obstacle by communicating through radios positioned in every car. We took the X5’s through water I’m afraid of drowning in, over close-to-being cliffs … I mean, the wheels would lift completely off the ground and these vehicles wouldn’t break a sweat!
After the first course, we were allowed to ‘free flow’ and go wherever we wanted. This was awesome because babe and I were allowed to have our own ‘private experience’ at our own pace. We were able to visit each course and had plenty of time to enjoy them. It was perfect.
Rat Race on Skid Pad | 650i
We chose the Rat Race course next, which took place on a wet skid pad. Chris insisted we race each other (which I was a bit intimidated by), but hey! This is what I came to do! … and guess what? I beat him! He’d spin out and we’d reset – then I’d beat him again. It was too easy! Surprising … but easy.
Timed Lap | M235i
The timed lap was next. We jumped in our cars and followed the instructor as she showed us the course. All participants were to battle each other and given 3 laps to put up the fastest time possible. Those with the 3 best times received a ‘trophy’ … and no, I didn’t get one. Although I was only 0.2 seconds behind Chris, I still had an ‘average’ time. Not great, but not bad either … and I am 100% satisfied with that.
Hot Lap | M3
This was by far the most intense thing I’ve ever experienced. A hot lap in an M3, driven by Andy Van Cleef? Words cannot describe this experience. I just know I made all kinds of weird noises, accidentally cursed a little and secretly wished I’d worn a more supportive bra. Andy instantly became my hero.
Performance Lap | M3
My last event. The most anticipated moment. I drove my dream car! … and it was everything I’d ever imagined! The power these cars have, how safe I feel in them. The stability, the precision, the beauty. I was so excited, got a little out of control and was ‘scolded’ by an instructor for being a bit rough. I apologized under my breath, knocked over a cone because I didn’t brake fast enough before turning and continued to have the time of my life.
4:00 PM | I’m tired.
Of course I was a bit sad my adventure was ending, but I was exhausted. We gathered in the classroom one last time, filled out a survey and were surprised with swag bags. (Yay for swag bags!) These included driving school t-shirts, embroidered hats, ///M pens and keychains. I shook Andy’s hand and headed towards the bus.
I bet you wouldn’t believe this … We were served food the entire 4-hour trip back to Greensboro. It never ended! We were fed bacon wraps, chicken salad spoons, spinach things, a variety of subs and chips, shrimp cocktails, lots of chocolate, soda, water, juice and more! I mean, Exclamations Catering really outdid themselves! Ed, the caterer, continuously walked the bus back and forth serving people for hours – even during stop-and-go traffic. He was such a delight, such an awesome, upbeat presence. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience (or better food)!
Wow. That was definitely one of the sickest experiences of my life. I was allowed to drive my dream car … like actually drive it. I was given instruction and feedback from certified, driving experts. I was given a swag bag and endlessly catered to. We were treated like royalty. BMW truly went out of their way to make sure we had a first class experience. I can’t wait for round two!
A special thanks to our amazing hosts: