Not too many catchphrases stick to one’s mind as well as “The ultimate driving machine”, and though it was quite a strong claim, we can be certain it did compel and intrigue a lot of people into trying out and eventually buying a BMW. Many marquees tried to match or even beat that claim, though no one was heard refuting it. “Sheer driving pleasure”, BMW’s current tag line, might have toned it down a bit but had more or less the same effect. True enough, BMWs are indeed a breed apart in terms of how they handle and perform, as this writer had experienced testing them through the years from the 1st generation Z4 to the X6 but all within Philippine roads, with the exception of a few limited runs for tire tests overseas. Finally, an opportunity rolled-in and I was able to get a proper test drive in its native Vaterland… er, Fatherland. And proper turned out to be a big understatement.
A group of over 50 new and repeat customers of BMW were flown by Asian Carmakers Corp. (ACC, official distributor of BMW in the Philippines) all the way to München, or Munich as it’s more commonly known, as reward for acquiring their latest 3 and 1 series cars. C! Publisher Kevin Limjoco and I were fortunate to be able to tag along and share in the experience. The clincher was, that we flew-in as an advanced party meant to party in advance. With a couple of brand spanking new Beemers reserved to be picked-up by us, it certainly turned out to be one.
True enough, the one assigned to me was in a very tight red outfit, curvaceous, and had a real wild streak. -Very sexy indeed. High heels? Dunno what you’re talkin’ about. I was handed the keys to a BMW M3 Coupe unceremoniously by a man with a clipboard from the test car dispatch of the fleet service center. After keying-in our destination on the GPS, I thrust my pointer at the start/stop button, and an almost alarming V8 growl disrupted the clinical silence of the huge garage. Okay, it wasn’t just almost alarming. With Kevin in a 528i, we set out for the Sheraton Munich Arabella Hotel, looking forward to a nice traditional Munich dinner.
Welcomed by no less than ACC’s president himself Mr. Bobby Rosales, we checked-in, settled down, then all toasty in our heavy jackets, we braved the 10-degree weather and headed straight to the heart of Munich. It was difficult to distinguish which of the buildings that flanked the inner cobblestoned streets were old or new, as most of them were ornately decorated… ironically in that nippy autumn clime, it seemed like the warmest city in Germany that I’ve ever been in. Finally, we reached the famous Hofbräuhaus München. Buzzed merrymaking permeated the air and it was good to know we had reservations, for the huge place was clearly packed, with many hopefuls outside waiting to be seated. -And for good reason. Hofbräuhaus has been around for well over a century, and their traditional cuisine and exclusive bier are much sought after. I’d made my choice early on: Pork knuckle, Sauerkraut, and a fresh pint of their dark draft. The knuckle served sumptuously crispy was a bonus- it being big enough for 2 full meals, a bit too much. Good thing the beer was superb, as it helped wash down most of my enormous forkfuls. A vegan certainly I’m not.
Day 2- and the rest of the group weren’t scheduled to arrive ‘til dinnertime, so with at least 8 hours of free time, there was naturally only one thing to do with a GPS-equipped M3 Coupe with a tankful of fuel. Prominent BMW dealer Paolo Borromeo and his lovely wife Yael arrived the day we did, and happened to be at the tail end of their European honeymoon. They were keen to join-in on my little adventure. We agreed on a destination that wasn’t in any of the leaflets we snatched from the hotel lobby… Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, just about 200km away. Wunderbar!
The highlight of my trip happened right in the middle of the Autobahn. With the sound of the M3’s high-revving 414hp V8 seeping into the cabin, and the exhilaration laced with a tiny tinge of panic from flooring the throttle, I felt facial cramps set in from that perennial silly grin on my face. Those quad pipes sure belt-out a fitting soundtrack for it, like a song’s climactic guitar solo when we grazed 220kph. Exiting the Autobahn and past some very nice backroad twisties and rolling hills, postcard perfect landscapes of quaint Bavaria slowly unraveled. And there it was, the very castle that inspired the one in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. I could’ve stayed and snapped a hundred more photos if we didn’t have to make it back by dinner, but then again, the drive was just as beckoning.
Day 3’s itinerary had two very significant spots for us to visit in one destination- the BMW Welt, and the BMW Museum. The Welt bears a somewhat low-key description of its main function, in relation to its gargantuan size. It’s the main delivery center for customers to pick up their brand new BMWs, but it’s so designed that the experience of doing so would be quite dramatic and unforgettable. On a mezzanine that only new customers are allowed special access to, their brand-new gleaming BMWs are formally presented and turned-over one at a time. From the serene pathways to the rotating platform, to the dedicated ramp that spirals down to the exit, the new owner would relish the experience of fetching his new baby from the Welt- and most likely experience it all over again with his next one in the future. One could see why with the super structure’s 16,500-square meter floor area, its 20,000-ton roof that seems magically suspended, and a unique and awe-inspiring architecture that vividly showcases BMW’s latest line-up, bleeding edge technology and brand philosophy.
If you’re a true-blue lover of all things BMW, then a thick scarf and some tissue are items you can’t be without when visiting the BMW museum. The scarf is to wrap around your neck a few times to keep your jaw from falling open, and the tissue- well, you’d need something to wipe those tears of joy when you stroke the bonnet of the M1, or several other important BMWs that stir your passion. It’s just a bridge’s walk away from the ark-like Welt, but a tremendous way to cap off an amazing experience!
There’s a German saying… but I (cough) can’t understand it. Instead, all my senses were thoroughly stimulated almost beyond capacity- which made me appreciate all the more, why the Bavarian icon simply is.
Model & Variant – BMW M3 Coupe
Engine: 3,999cc, V8, DOHC 32v, VALVETRONIC, 7-Speed Dual Clutch Transmission
Max Power: 420 bhp @ 8300 rpm
Max Torque: 295 lb ft @ 3900 rpm0-100 Km/H: 4.8sec.
Top Speed: 250 km/h (155 mph)
Fuel Mileage: 5.6 km/l (City), 10.9 km/l (Highway)
Price As Tested: Php8,350,000.00