Each Wednesday night, automotive radical Berry Lowman and his team…
BY William W. Hopper, Guest Contributor | @wwhopper
We recently participated in the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience (UDE) at FedEx Field just outside of Washington, DC, where the German brand’s emphasis on driving its vehicles outshone its desire to get attendees to purchase one of their machines (well, initially).
It’s true – Driving IS Believing
With a goal of sharing its products first-hand with Americans everywhere, BMW kicked off its 10-city UDE tour across the nation this Spring. We learned quickly that the event hashtag #DrivingIsBelieving adequately and accurately described our overall experience.
For those who want to experience the cars but opt not to drive, there are ride-a-longs in an X5, BMW’s large SUV. Our female instructor described the one one we rode in–a high-end M model–as “dressed in lipstick and heels”. Riding along as a passenger allows attendees to experience the X5’s auto-hold brake system, keeping the car in place while stopped on an incline, as well as hill decent control, which keeps the car at a set speed descending a hill.
What’s so great about the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience?No hard sales pitch, no price tags, really nothing more than getting you into their vehicles–all of them–and driving.
Not that you’d ever get tired of being inside their cars, but at the off chance you need a breather, BMW provides a luxurious area for guests to sit down and relax, complete with snacks, a display of classic BMW vehicles, a social media wall and a BMW clothing shop.
Back out on the tarmac there are plenty of opportunities to test drive the BMW model of your choice on local roads, giving you a real-world understanding of the vehicles and how they perform in everyday situations.
A persuasive approach to telling teens to drive safely
The BMW Ultimate Driving Experience is all about driving, whether in organized classes, street drives or ride-a-longs with professional drivers. A part of the event that you do not want to miss is the BMW Corporate Teen Driving School–similar to what the BMW Club of America does in the Street Smart program sponsored by Tire Rack, it gets kids comfortable behind the wheel in the safety of a closed course.
Having professional drivers talk to teens and give them hands-on experience through three different driving exercises proved to be much more effective than hearing safe driving tips from the usual suspects (i.e. their parents and safety advocates). Who knew that by putting these teens on a closed course in BMW 2 Series Coupes and X3 SUVs, cars they might be able to own one day, would be so persuasive?
The group of teen drivers present on the day we attended UDE witnessed in-car maneuvers that demonstrated how unsafe it is to use a phone while driving. We appreciated that BMW emphasized this point throughout the Teen Driving segment, including several “Don’t TxT & Drive” signs.
Possibly the most exciting portion of the event for novice and experienced drivers alike, was the car control clinic where the pilot learns how to handle a BMW in sopping wet conditions on the road. The stations includes a wet surface skid pad, and the instructors tell the driver to go full throttle into a turn on that skid pad. This goes completely against human nature. But not to worry, if the car skids out, then the instructor shows them how to correct it, including lessons emergency braking and understanding how the car handles in difficult situations as the weight transfers between the four wheels, such as braking during a turn.
Should you attend a BMW UDE event near you? Heck yes.
The UDE event is designed for the entire family to become familiar with different BMW models. While not an “in-your-face” sales promotion, there are BMW Product Managers on hand to answer any consumer-oriented questions you might have. The real emphasis is getting attendees behind the wheel to drive the vehicles, which in our opinion sell themselves.
A day or so later, expect to receive a thank-you email encouraging you to visit a new BMW dealer, along with an offer for an exclusive BMW Ultimate Driving Allowance towards the purchase or lease of a new BMW.
These events will be happening across the country from now through November, so find out where the nearest event is to you.
All in all, everyone who attends the Ultimate Driving Experience has the chance to improve their driving ability, even if not driving home in a shiny, new BMW.
About the Author: William West Hopper hails from Washington, DC, owns an automotive marketing company and also owns an interior design installation company. William also works closely with Be Car Chic editor Melanie Batenchuk as the Gala Director for the Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA). We recently profiled his driving style through our “How I Drive” series. Learn more about William!
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