Want to drive a brand new 2012 328i and raise money for the US Olympics team in the process? It’s as simple as going to BMWUSA.com and signing up for the BMW Drive for Team USA. There are packs of new F30 BMWs criss-crossing the U.S. from dealer to dealer, hosting fundraising events while benefiting the participants and Team USA. Just as BMW AG is sponsoring the 2012 London Olympics, BMW USA is sponsoring USA athletes and Team USA.

Currently BMW North America is hosting the Drive for Team USA where with every test drive BMW NA donates $10 up to a total of $200,000. On top of all that participants get a $1,000 off a new BMW if they take delivery with in certain time frame this year.

Currently there are six teams of BMW NA cars crossing the country in groups of nine cars with nine BMW employees. Each team consists of four 2012 BMW 328is that are loaded with nearly every option and adorned with Olympic ring decals on the doors along with a Mercedes C250, an Audi A4 2.0 TFSI and a Lexus IS 250. Also along for the ride in the groups of nine is a heavily modified 328i with performance goodies and a 2012 X5 as a cargo vehicle. Unfortunately the F30 328i with performance accessories is for looks only and not for test drives. In order to give participants of the Drive for Team USA the ability to really compare the new F30 328i BMW actually brought the competitors to the fight. Meaning you can drive the 328i and get out of it and hop right in an Audi A4 and get an immediate seat of the pants impression of all the entry level luxury crowd.

Participants get a killer experience free of any sales pressure. I got a white 328i all to myself and the BMW employees’ only concern was that I had all my questions answered about the car before I left. Surprisingly during the portion when I checked in and gave my drivers license, BMW said their insurance would cover myself and the car provided I stayed on the route and obeyed traffic laws. Pretty cool. I am so used to being asked for proof of insurance before going on a test drive.

The route I took was a familiar and safe one with mostly right turns and only one left at a stoplight with a dedicated turn signal. It wasn’t terribly long but was a good mix of highway driving and some in town stop-and-go stuff too. I was really amazed how for the first time in a BMW, the base model was a rock star. Usually the base model 3 series is merely transportation to me because its so handicapped with lack of power. Anyone remember the E46 323i with an automatic? No such “bad Karma” with the new N20 four-cylinder turbocharged in the base 3 kicking up 240 horses. The combo of wide torque curve with a rapid shifting 8-speed automatic transmission seemed quite potent and hustled the 328i around. For what I think is one of the best reviews of the new F30 3 Series see Shawn Molnar’s review from Spain here.

The white 328i I drove literally was not missing any options. It had the Cold Weather Package, the Premium Package, the Driver Assistance Package which includes the ever annoying Lane Departure Warning as well as a useful Blind Spot Detection. It even had the Parking Package which includes top and side view cameras,Park Distance Control and a rear view camera. BMW finally added comfort access to the Premium Package. It’s still technically an option but at least one that many F30s will come with. My tester also had the Technology Package which included Head-Up Display as well as navigation. When I was pulling out of the dealership taking in all the options, I almost thought I was driving a 5 Series. After I got a block away, I stopped and paired my iPhone with the iDrive so I could Bluetooth stream my music during the drive. BMW has this tech nailed and I love it, and BMW apps.

I don’t know that I found the ECO Pro, Comfort and Sport + settings all that useful. ECO Pro was annoying and seemed to me a ploy to fool the feds. Kills the driving joy in it for me. Comfort was only a stop gap to get to Sport + for me. I would just leave it in Sport+ if it were mine. The on ramp to the interstate was great, the last time I had a German car flying through so many gears was a 2012 Porsche 911S with PDK which only has seven forward gears.

When I got back from the test drive and got out of the 328i, I was immediately drawn to the red F30 Sport Line 328i with the tons of BMW Performance goodies on it. The $650 BMW M Performance Carbon Fiber cap set looked great. Well would have looked even better if they’d cleaned the bugs off of it from their drive between dealerships. The BMW M Performance double Spoke 405M 20” lightweight forged wheels looked absolutely killer. I don’t know if they look $4,750 without tires killer, but they looked awesome nonetheless, especially with the $2,300 BMW M Performance Brake System in red. The best looking and the least expensive BMW M Performance option I noted on it was the Black Kidney Grilles for a very reasonable $130, second place was the Sport Stripes for $250. They really looked great on the Melbourne Red Metallic. What this car had that I couldn’t find in the catalog was the M Sport Exhaust.

All in all, it was a great way to have some fun driving the brand new F30 3 Series while raising money for the US Olympic team. Add into that refreshments, absolutely no sales pressure and spending an afternoon with some great German cars with the idea of $1000 off a new one. Made for a great afternoon.

More information at www.bmwusa.com/driveforteamusa