Every year, BMW North America holds an open house for the local Northern New Jersey Region of the BMW Car Club of America at their Mountvale, NJ, 92 acre campus. This year’s event started outside their technical training center with an impromptu car show. BMW NA displayed some of their new cars placed alongside the main entrance. The members formed a BMW-only corral in an adjacent parking lot, displaying their cars nose out concours style. The members were clustered in small groups in the light early evening mist happily discussing each car as they walked down the line.
Promptly at 6PM, the doors were thrown open and the amassed faithful were treated to a cold buffet sponsored generously by BMW. While the crowd (I estimate it to be in the hundreds) noshed, we were given the schedule for the evening. First, there would be small group walking tours led by a BMW NA employee to show off each of the work shop cum classrooms in the high-tech facility. Next, mini classes would be held in selected shops to show off some exciting new models. At the end of the mini classes, an unveiling of a special car and finally teh topper of the evening would be a large group session for door prize give-aways and a “some holds barred” Q & A with the assembled BMW experts.
My group was led by National Technical Training Leader, David Rice. He showed us the Rolls Royce shop (did you know BMW owns RR?), the body shops (yes, plural – chassis repair, assembly and paint) separated by function – each a model for what BMW NA expects the dealers to have if they want to do certified body repairs. And while I’m not a motorcycle rider, the BMW motorcycle training shop was filled to the gills with seriously cool machines. Our tour lasted about 30 minutes and along the way we saw the stunning new 6 Series convertible, got a quick sneak peek at the new X1 and got a tempting look at the 135M, BMW’s latest hot rod.
The mini classes started shortly afterward with small groups being led – one group at a time – into each of the 4 different shops with new products on display. My group’s first stop was at the all new X1, a smaller, more fuel efficient version of the extremely popular X3. It is still so secret, the BMW Rondels (i.e., the badges) were taped over in an attempt to disguise its true identity. While it’s clearly smaller than the X3, in person, it looked “right sized” to my eyes. The space inside looked to be about the same as a 3 Series but rear seat room would cramped if there was a 6 footer at the wheel and a 6 footer in the back. The big news is that there will be a new 4 Cylinder turbo engine as the standard power plant making 240HP and delivering 20% better fuel economy than the base in-line 6. The best news is the amazingly flat torque curve with max torque (260 lb-ft) coming on at a mere 1,250 RPM – that allows excellent drivability. The X1 looks like a winner. Can’t wait to drive it.
Next we got a look at the red hot 135M – BMW’s new pocket rocket. 335 turbo charged horses in an aggressive compact shape. But don’t let the size fool you. Under the bulging skin, its suspension is 100% pure M3. The really good news, it is ONLY offered with a slick shifting Getrag 6-speed. Can I get a fist bump? The bad news is that a fully optioned 135M will run $54K and production of this model will stop December 31, 2011. Buy some lottery tickets and then get your orders in now, my friend.
Next up was a tour of the recently redesigned X3 – clearly a more refined and upscale SAV (Sports Activity Vehicle) than the previous releases. I will be doing a full road test soon so look for that report here some time this summer.
Lastly, we were shown the new 6 series convertible. The “wow” factor is there in spades. I can see David Niven cruising the Cote d’Azur with a Pirelli Calendar model riding shotgun. It is an elegant ride but for me the coolest thing is that it’s also available with a proper 6 speed manual transmission. Our guide boasted that the 6 speed option is only available in the USA and that her team lobbied hard for it. She received a well-deserved round of applause from the group. At $100K, I don’t think I’ll be getting one soon, but it would definitely be on my “if I won the lottery” list.
We were then all grouped for a look see at the new M3 clad in a limited edition flat black paint scheme. And, no, you can’t have one… They are only making a few and they are all sold…
Finally, we all grouped together for some generous give aways and a fun Q&A. The ground rules were simple, no new product questions!
There were quite a few die-hard BMW questions and there was even a quick poll – your favorite car of teh night. No surprise, the 135M took top honors in a landslide.
What I personally learned is that BMW is still an an exciting car company with plans for lots of new exciting products in the pipeline. And, you can read about it right here!