Whether it’s ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’, ‘Joy’ or ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’, the taglines of BMW are essentials that serve as a foundation and inspiration for itself to create the lineup of cars that it makes. And while there are some visionary cars in BMW’s lineup such as the BMW 8 Series and the BMW M1 that have inspired the Bavarian carmaker’s orginality, BMW has never taken driver training (pleasure or safety) for granted.
The leaders’ leader
The one thing that’s present in all BMW cars is dynamism. Chances are, whether you know it or not, you’ve come across this very technical vigour that belies the monumentality of the larger truth: BMW cars have the ability to simultaneously evoke feelings, both delightful and satisfying, for drivers and passengers alike.
Still, for the magnitude of its influence on fans, potential buyers and owners, BMW ensures that drivers, experienced or not, have the opportunity to learn how it feels to have total control of a car in dangerous situations and conditions.
That’s where BMW Driving Academy Maisach comes into play. Located some 30km west of Munich, Germany, the former airport has been home to the BMW Driving Academy and one of the largest road-safety training sites in Southern Germany for the last five years.
Starting cold and easy
After the necessary safety briefing was conducted, we warmed ourselves up with the BMW M2 Coupe – our weapon of choice for that afternoon – through countless rounds on the mini slalom course.
According to our 43-year old BWM Driving Experience instructor Marcus Willhardt, the warming up exercise isn’t just to get us used to the car but also to make sure we’re used to holding and turning the steering wheel the ‘right way’.
You and I both know drivers should grip the steering wheel at the nine and three o’clock positions. And while this is an easy task, it’s full-locking the wheel and turning it back to its centre position that’s tricky. We’re far too used to doing it with a single hand or even completely releasing the wheel for it to self-centre. It obviously took a while for me to get used to driving ‘correctly’.
Getting hot and heavy
With water constantly flowing on a large portion of the tarmac, stomping on the brake pedal is crucial for this exercise. Not depressing hard, but stomping. This is the braking drill.
Simulating real-life situations using cones, we attacked the wet tarmac at different speeds (30km/h, 60km/h and pedal to the metal) to understand how far apart our braking distance can actually be despite just driving 30km/h faster. In order to make things interesting, Marcus placed a cone at a distance and instructed us not to hit it. Needless to say, I was a cone killer and a serial one at it.
One key takeaway that he made me realise was the sitting position. I was seated too far from the pedal, even if I was somewhat confortable. After I adjusted my seat, I made an improvement of 5m in braking distance. And as you can imagine, I didn’t just depressed the brake pedal. I stomped my entire right foot on it.
Shake it up and twist and shout
The slalom course has always been part of driving experiences and academies and the BMW Driving Academy Maisach is no exception. The reason being the slalom course is devised to simulate a person, animal or an object suddenly leaping in front of your car.
The idea is to swerve left and right steadily while focusing on what’s in front of you as well as taking note of your hand positioning on the steering wheel. This helps you to identify, overcome or avoid any critical situations while driving in real world conditions.
We were timed for our slalom course but given my lack of driving skills and probably lack of sleep, I wasn’t the fastest. But this course certainly allowed me to better understand the M2’s dynamics and made me realise it isn’t just about speed, but consistency as well.
There’s no denying that shuffling requires a lot practice and a lot of good music too. Same goes for drifting. And I’m not joking about the music. Going sideways is an easy task but maintaining a drift is a challenge that demands not just concentration but also patience. That’s where the soothing good music comes into the picture.
This wet course, which has a diameter of 42m, isn’t completely about drifting. Instead, it’s a practical that simulates the handling of your car on wet surfaces. It also allows you to learn how to better control your car should you understeer or oversteer.
Once we knew how and when to control the steering in the event of an understeer or an oversteer, we decided to have our own personal drift show. Although I managed to maintain a drift for good 10 seconds, I’m embarrassed to say it took me about 25 tries before succeeding.
The need for speed
There’s more to the driving academy than just slalom and drifting. This last part of the training is where the thrill starts to spill as we take our BMW M2 Coupes and hit the well-designed 1.8km circuit.
With Marcus leading the cars, we were gunning through the circuit at speeds I have never before experienced in most driving academies I have attended. According to him, we showed obvious signs that we were experienced drivers and thus had a lot of faith and trust in us driving hard.
No complains really, considering the Bimmer had ample opportunities to boast its capabilities and I had plenty of time to absorb and understand the car better on multiple occasions. At the end of the day, there’s no doubting that the BMW M2 Coupe is both delightful and satisfying for a driver like myself.