BMW’s Performance Center delivery program provides buyers of new BMWs a more interesting alternative than picking the car up at a local dealership. To add value to the experience (and to give people some reason to travel to the Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina area), BMW provides a one night hotel stay including dinner and breakfast, followed by a day at the factory and test track, where several events take place. Following instruction from a professional performance driving instructor, participating owners get a plant tour, and, finally, delivery of their new vehicles. What follows, in several installments, is the onging story of my personal BMW Performance Center delivery experience.
Day One began very early. My flight options were not good, my best option being a 6:50 AM flight from Orlando up to Greenville-Spartanburg. This meant getting up before 4:00 AM and leaving the house at 5:00 AM. (Thanks to intrepid friend Bob, who braved the early morning to give me a ride to the airport.) Arriving at 8:19 AM, I thought there might be issues with the hotel about early room availability, particularly if they were 100% the prior night. As it turned out, there were no problems.
I arrived on schedule, picking up my one checked bag from the baggage claim. Having flown up in a “regional” jet, there was space for only a small carry-on on the plane. My larger bag wouldn’t fit. I needed more than an overnight bag in order to bring along my hiking boots so that I could spend some quality time in the North Carolina mountains after the car was delivered. I also brought a lot of “stuff” with which to load up the new M3 when I eventually get it—electronic stuff mainly, like my iPod, my Garmin eTrex Vista C (for navigation in the car and on hiking trails–I didn’t order the navigation system on the M3 because I couldn’t take it with me on the trail!), etc., but also umbrellas and general stuff. That way, I wouldn’t feel like I was driving somebody else’s BMW! But I digress.
I called the Marriott hotel from the airport, as instructed. I was pleasantly and efficiently greeted by a receptionist who asked me to hold while she radioed the driver who would do my pick-up. She then came back and said that the driver would meet me outside the baggage claim area in a green BMW in 10-15 minutes, and that his name is Kevin. He arrived on schedule, taking my bags and handing me an envelope with my BMW itinerary as I climbed into the green 525i. Turns out that Kevin is an ex-New York law enforcement officer. Having lived in New York at one point, I tend to like New Yorkers. Thus, I enjoyed chatting with Kevin on the way to the Marriott
At the hotel, Kevin led me to a young, blonde receptionist and said to me, “She’d be a model in New York, wouldn’t she?” I had to agree with him about that. Tongue in cheek, I asked her which agency she’s with. She intoned that she was not really a model. I looked at Kevin and said, “Oh. I didn’t know that.” I gave Kevin a tip but he told me he would be taking me and my bags up to the room. So, I said, “Gimme back that tip. You never know what can happen between here and the room! Besides, I don’t give tips to guys who drive BMWs.” Anyhow, check-in was easy—nothing to sign or anything—I was merely handed a key by a beautiful blonde. Kevin took me up to the room, showing me the amenities along the way. When we got to the room, he did the usual bellman routine and took my reservation for the dinner BMW was to provide. (And, yes, I gave him the tip.)
(What’s the politically correct nomenclature for what used to be a “bellboy” now? Bellperson? Guest Relations Assistant? Guest Ingress Engineer?)
My day was pretty mundane. I did some work, took a nap, had lunch, and caught up on e-mail. The hotel provides wireless Internet access free of charge. Enough talk about my boring day. Let me tell you what I will be picking up tomorrow.
My BMW is an Imola Red/Imola Red M3 with premium package, 6-speed manual, width-adjustable power front seats, and xenon headlamps. As I mentioned before, it does not have the navigation system. I didn’t go for the competition package, because I don’t think I’ll be doing much competing. For the same reason—and because I’m an old geezer who is a traditionalist—I didn’t go for the sequential manual gearbox. (The more I think about it, the more I think its omission might have been a mistake, because its multiple programs are intriguing to an eldergeek like me! However, if you get it, you can’t get cruise control.) Why red over red? Because there’s too much red over black going on out there. Besides, if you’ve ever plunked your butt into a black leather seat after a car had been sitting for an hour or two in the blazing Florida sun, you would avoid black like the Black Plague! Why red in the first place? Because it’s my second childhood—that’s why! I get a lot of unsolicited advice from family, friends, and neighbors about why I shouldn’t buy a red car—statistically, they are involved in more accidents, they get pulled over more by cops, etc., etc.—but, damnit, I want my Imola Red M3 and I will damn well get it! Besides, as I tell them, it’s not the red CARS that get pulled over and that get into accidents, it’s the dicks and dicquinas DRIVING the red cars!
So, that is what I’m here for and tomorrow I shall have it. The driving instruction, plant tour, etc., should be done by mid-afternoon. I’m told that I can expect to leave with my new RED M3 sometime between 3:00 and 4:00 PM.
At 7 PM, I went to the dining room for my complimentary dinner. The staff there were very pleasant, as were the staff I encountered in all the other areas of the hotel. A pleasant staff is usually enough to guarantee a good lodging experience by itself, even if the room and food are disappointing. In this case it was gravy, because the room was fine—a typical Marriott room including the obligatory Book of Mormon—and the dinner was excellent. The limited BMW menu has enough choices to make it interesting. There were two types of salads, four entrees (chicken, steak, salmon, and vegetarian), and two desserts. I highly recommend the salmon. I lubricated the pathway for dinner with a few doses of Johnny Walker Black on the rocks; alas, BMW does not pay for booze. They do, however, pay a 19% tip on the dinner, which I augmented because I thought my server did a great job.
I noticed that a glassed-in section of the dining room had placards on the windows saying “BMW 6 Series.” Kevin, my driver and bellman at check-in time, had told me that there had been a huge 6-Series group in the hotel this week. According to my server at dinner, the group had departed around the time I arrived this morning—20 couples. BMW must have decided to do a mass, homogeneous orientation for 6-Series owners or something. I found out that there were only approximately five groups of people taking delivery tomorrow. I had a brief chat with one on the way out of the restaurant; they would be getting an X5. So, with one M3, one X5, and three unknowns, tomorrow’s session will be heterogeneous. I understand that people who pick up X3s and X5s at the Performance Center get to do the off-road course, which I would love to do. However, I doubt that BMW USA is about to let me come up and do the course in my Grand Cherokee!
My only concern about tomorrow is the weather. A line of strong thunderstorms moved through the area today, and thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow and the weekend. The rain probabilities are on the order of 50-60%. This should make the road course particularly interesting!
So, that’s it for tonight. Tomorrow morning, BMW buys me breakfast at the hotel. Then, I check out and board the shuttle to the plant at 7:45 AM. I’ll definitely be posting an account of the days activities soon. After I get the car, I’m heading up to Boone, NC for a couple of days of mountain hiking if the weather cooperates. I’ll take the back roads up there for the most part, to enhance the bonding experience with the new M3, and to comply with its break-in requirements. I also intend to spend some time driving the Blue Ridge Parkway and I will slowly work my way back to Florida next week. I’ll write about all those experiences here. Of course, I’ll be posting pictures, as well! So, please stay tuned.
See you tomorrow.