BMW lets the Alister & Paine crew loose on their racetrack…see what havoc ensued as we hit the pedal to the metal.

BMW Performance Driving

[review]People can be described two ways; physically, the cold hard facts, or spiritually, the Soul of the Man.  A car can be broken down to stats; “chrome wheeled fuel injected” to quote Bruce Springsteen, or one can search for the Soul of the Machine. And believe me, as theologically unsound as it may be, a BMW most definitely has a soul.

Soul. Speed. Style. Swagger. Adrenaline. Suicidal luxury. Social exclusivity. Finesse. Heart pounding. Foot pumping. Eyes focused. Hands smooth. Road trembling. Gliding. Stretching. Faster. Harder. Better. Smoother. Escape. Freedom. Flying. Higher. Harder. FASTER.


My eyes scan the open racetrack and my breath hitches as I fly over the asphalt, debating the consequences of not turning and taking this power to the streets. A shade of reality colors my cheeks and I slam the ever obedient brakes. The 414 horsepower of the BMW M3 below my body growls in hunger and anticipation as the road shivers at the force of us. Cones quiver and jump out of my way as I round the corner like a graceful bat out of hell. Skid track sprinklers recognize defeat before my impeccable wipers brush their tears aside like a forgotten girl at prom. This monstrous beauty of an automobile is a malleable machine, turning into a trick pony on the cones and a speed demon on the straight-aways. (Which, incidentally, are not nearly long enough.)

I am, of course, talking about a day at the M Course BMW Performance Driving School in South Carolina. The once in a million opportunity involves driving M3, M5, and M6 models around the BMW racecourse, including learning the skills required to command uncertain conditions stimulated in skid tracks and the precision involved in braking and speeding with a driving demon. Oh yes, and we got to race a bit.

We arrived at the BMW Performance Center bright and early on a Tuesday morning, finding our instructors for the day to be retired racetrack drivers, including a few stunt guys from Talladaga Nights. We were definitely in the right hands and at the right place. First course was a lesson in braking points and turning, the general basics to cover their ass if/when some idiot(like me) decides to create their own straightaway, and then they let us loose at the mercy of our BMWs. What a mercy to be at.

Alister & Paine Journalists tear up the BMW M6 at the BMW Performance Center
Alister & Paine Journalists tear up the BMW M6 at the BMW Performance Center

M Series cars are impeccable pieces of machinery. The M6 boasts a 5.0-liter V-10 engine capable of generating 500-horsepower and 383 lb./ft. of torque. That kind of driving force tests your self control and exhilaration, let me tell you. I’ve always felt like it would be amazing to fly off the face of the earth, but this machine gives me the power to feel the possibility.

The M Series began as a hybrid of sorts-a race ready production vehicle. The idea behind the car is to take the amenities and utilities of a production car and add it to the performance of a real sports car. BMW M or just M (short for Motorsport) was incredibly innovative when BMW founded the company in 1972. M doesn’t fuck around. This isn’t about dropping a powerful engine into a vehicle and developing a different shock absorber. All the components are specifically designed to cater to the overall vehicle concept. And it works. Hell yeah, it works.

Break it down like you would a woman. Complimentary, not chauvinistically please. Think about it. These cars are made only of the highest quality. Nothing is ever tacky or overstated. An internal confidence emanates without constant reassurance. The maintenance is minimal. Insecurities are nonexistent. The car is aware of its many talents, where it can take you and how to get there. Persuasion is not needed. Nagging does not exist. An M5 will do exactly what you say, when you say it. Where else can you find that kind of character in something referred to with a feminine pronoun?

The power of the throttle alone is addicting. The 5.0-liter power plant in the M5 and M6 boasts 500 horsepower at 7750 rpm – an astounding 100 horsepower per liter of displacement, and over 100 horsepower more than its legendary predecessor. Equipped with BMW’s most powerful engine-management computer, the V-10 engine 383 lb-ft torque at 6100 rpm and redlines at 8250 rpm. While sprinting from 0-60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, the engine has minimum vibration. But when it comes time to brake-what a rush.

For the M3 a suitably solid braking system was specifically developed featuring large compound disc brakes and electronic anti-lock stopping power. The configuration reduces the thermal load on discs, increasing their performance and service life, while an electrically-driven pump provides the system’s vacuum power. Basically, I can go as fast as I want and stop when I want and forget all about those pesky rules about running into telephone poles and such. Well, not quite. But close enough….

At the end of the day, I’m vaguely aware of my hands on the steering wheel in front of me.  I know it must be my foot pushing down on the gas pedal. I’m sure the speedometer cannot be broken as it reads over 111 mph. I’m positive that I must be the one switching gears sports car style as I paddle through first to third. And yet, I’m absolutely certain that this car is not moving when I say to move. Rather, my M6 is reading my mind. We move in cohesive unison, a unit of power and beauty. As I resign myself to braking for one last time, a skid track tear lands and I return the keys resentfully.

I think this is an addiction I’ll keep.

Check out the BMW Performance Center for yourself… the One Day M Course is $1,295… and worth every penny.

One of our journalists takes the M5 out on the Skid Pad for some power-sliding

Photos and article by Jenna Marie Bostock.

*Tried & Tested. Alister & Paine practices old-school journalistic integrity. We only write from experience–never press releases. If we haven’t tried it and loved it you won’t find it in our magazine.