There’s no shortage of articles on BMW European Delivery and how to get the most out of it. Check out the European Delivery section for. What to do, what not to do, warnings, twists, turns and of course all of the excitement. As we’ve discussed in a previous article (“BMW European Delivery: One of the Most Unique Ways to Buy a Car”) BMW European Delivery can be the adventure of a lifetime. If you’re thinking of taking advantage of this amazing program, I’m excited to share my lessons and learnings from my 7th “Once in a Lifetime” experience.
Of course, the epicenter of BMW testing history is the Nurburgring. No BMW European Delivery is complete without a visit to the ‘Ring. To avid fan like me, a visit to the Nurburgring like a honey badger finding a truckload of honey.
This is the “how to” guide in preparing for your first Nurburgring experience as part of the European Delivery program, surviving it safely, while pushing the car to its limits and enjoying an experience you’ll never forget..
- Break In period for driver and car
- Unlearn old habits
- Learn the software and test the settings
- Anticipate other drivers
- Know the limits and how to push them
- Singular focus – the track ahead.
Break In Period
BMW recommends a break in period for all new cars. You’ll quickly find the break-in experience is as much for the driver as it is for the car. The manual states: “don’t exceed 4,500 rpm for the first 1,200 miles”. And stay below 100 miles per hour and to “avoid full load or kickdown under all circumstances.” here’s a way to enjoy the break-in period and get the most out of it. My recommendation: vary your driving speed as you leave BMW Welt and head south on the A95 to Ettal. Set the nav system to: Ettal Abbey, Kaiser-Ludwig-Platz, Ettal, Germany (which appears as “Kloster Ettal” in German) as shown here.
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Drive the car in the highest gear possible (like 6th or 7th) so that the valve and seals have a chance to seat under high compression, low rev driving
This is about 180 Km round trip to Munich and back. Drive the car in the highest gear possible (like 6th or 7th) so that the valve and seals have a chance to seat under high compression, low rev driving. In southern Bavaria, this German Province features a wide variety of hills and grades, as well as autobahn driving coupled with stunning views at every turn. If you’re looking to experience the autobahn for the first time, and get used to all of the cars features, and how the other drivers on the autobahn behave this drive to Ettal on the A95 is for you. If you can’t wait to wake up every sleeping cow along the Bavarian countryside with the dull roar of a BMW 5 or 6 Series, the alternative destination is Schloss Elmau which is at In Elmau 2 82493 Krün Germany as shown her.
It leaves you in a perfect position to decide whether or not to continue onto Innsbruck. Both drives are on excellent, low traffic roads and only have snow for during the winter, while affording great views. Optimal fuel economy is about 70Mph / 2600 RPM, and the M3 drinks the fuel, so why not optimize for economy when you can’t stick your foot into it? Ask the folks at BMW Welt to set you up with a 1000 km service appointment with a dealer while you are there in Munich. This is much easier to do with Germans who have easy access to the internet, know the BMW dealership network, and can cc you on email confirming the appointment vs. having to arrange it on your cell phone at $1 Euro/min roaming.
Unlearn Old Habits
Driving a 2011 E90 for 4 years, one develops some habits. Some are good, some aren’t so good. I quickly realized that I must reset my driving style to take on this new challenge as the E90 is a different animal than the F80. Don’t slouch. The E90 seats are particularly comfortable. The F80 feels ready to race, and does not compromise this feel for comfort. In the F80 things happen fast, even faster than the E90. If you’re slouching, it is going to take just that much longer to sit up, react and respond to the road, the car or the situation ahead.
Downshifting is another habit to unlearn. The E90 has a 4.0 L V-8. The F80, a 3.0L inline 6 cylinder with bi-turbos. The habit of controlling the speed of the E90 with the big engine via downshift on the DCT doesn’t work quite as well in the F80. The redline on the F80 is a full 800RPM lower than its predecessor, this difference combined with a much lighter chassis means you’ll need to leave the car a few more car lengths until you’ve adapted. The balance, weight shifting, traction control, and suspension are all different on the F80 vs. the E90. Less body roll than the E90 makes for different entry and exit points in the turns.
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I don’t recommend challenging the Nurburgring until all options, settings and safety features are understood.
Learn the Software
The on-board iDrive systems offer a host of other safety features and software which can be distracting or confusing if you’re not expecting so many choices.
First, let’s talk about the most important one: the M-Drive settings. The F80 BMW offers. In my case, the F80 is equipped with the M double-clutch transmission with DriveLogic, which has two settings: Sequential and Drive mode. There are three settings for the Dynamic Stability Control: On, M-Dynamic Mode (MDM), and Off. The dynamic driving systems including M Engine Dynamics Control (settings: Efficient, Sport and Sport Plus), Adaptive M suspension, (settings: Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus), Servotronic (settings: Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus). Together these systems make for more than 50 potential combinations, which I grew to love with time and experience! There’s also a shift light setting that appears on the Heads Up Display when in the M-Mode. Programming these settings into two pre-set configurations is done for you by BMW and accessible via the M Drive 1 and 2 on the steering wheel, but you can always modify them via the iDrive. You can also choose to display the current setting configuration on the instrument cluster. Learn more about the different settings, configurations and the research behind it on bmw.com.
Second, lane departure warnings, auto-brake, active blind spot detection, cruise control and a heads up display. While everything isn’t dinging you at once, take an extra day or two to test the settings to determine individual preferences But, I don’t recommend challenging the Nurburgring until all options, settings and safety features are understood. We will get to why in just a bit. The manual doesn’t do the settings orientation justice, so if you really want to dig into it, the full tech specs and a ton of data on the why and how on the F80 is found here at the BMW M3 Sedan Specifications Page at BMW.com. The M-buttons on the steering wheel, one was for most aggressive setting and the other for only slightly aggressive as set by BMW. In the end, these settings are individual preference, so just familiarize yourself with how they work, how the car drives and most importantly, how you can respond to inputs to and from the vehicle in high speed situations.
Even if you are not driving the M3, any BMW will have various settings to optimize and learn before you get onto the track.
Anticipate other Drivers
Nowhere is this principal more important than when preparing for or driving on the Nurburgring. But there is plenty of opportunity to practice this both at home and on the autobahn. Drivers do crazy things. They don’t check before merging. They pull out into the left lane going 100kph when everyone else is going 180kph. On the ring, people still do crazy things, they are just usually more skilled at it, as shown in this video at about minute 8:50. But most importantly, remember that the co-efficient of sliding friction is less than that of static friction, which means any driver in control of a car can likely stop faster than the car sliding out of control. Another way to anticipate other drivers is to meet and talk with them when walking the entrance to the Nordschleife. On this trip, a great talker with a brand new M4 decided he was so pro he could take the Nurburgring without the traction control on. On my next lap, this Titanium Silver F80 M4 was missing its front end after inducing an oversteer condition in the Hazenbach section of the ‘Ring. Fortunately, he didn’t take out any other cars but apparently he wasn’t as good a driver as he was a talker.
Know the Limits
Now that the car is broken in and you’ve taken it to the BMW you scheduled the 1000 km inspection and service with, receiving a clean bill of health. You’re familiar with the car and all she has to offer. You understand the different settings and how they affect performance. You’ve disabled the safety features (lane departure, auto-braking) so they are not constantly dinging at you when a car is in front or on the side. You’ve setup the M buttons on the steering wheel to the pre-selected configurations for aggressive driving. WARNING: Whatever you else you do, be sure to leave the vehicle in M-Dynamic mode on the DSC. With as much torque as the S55 delivers, you can bust the rear wheels lose at the wrong instant. The temptation of the no DSC should be weighed against ruining the whole trip. Just because you are in the Ultimate Driving Machine, it doesn’t mean that the laws of physics are suspended. The car’s performance envelope is big. It delivers superb handling, straight line braking and acceleration like few others. It’s tuned to be an ace. But you’re new to driving it, especially if this is your first time on the ‘Ring. Clear, cool dry days are your friend while on the ‘Ring. Wet, windy or foggy days are not. Do a few warm up laps to get a feel for the car before she shows you what she can really do. Most accidents at the ‘Ring are due to the driver out-driving his or her experience and skill level. Rarely are they due to mechanical failure, or track deficiencies noted as causes of accidents.
Singular Focus – the track ahead
When driving on an environment such as the ‘Ring, a good practice is a singular focus. It’s not a good practice to be fiddling with the settings now, or getting Lane Departure warnings or the Collision warning kicking in at full throttle. Make sure you have the car setup and configured the way you want so the singular focus can be the road ahead. Speaking of the road ahead, that’s where you should be looking not where you are, or what are you afraid of hitting. By focusing on the road ahead and where you want the car to go, you’ll avoid he turmoil beside and behind you. While this doesn’t mean ignore your rear view or side view mirror, or be unsafe by not allowing faster cars to pass, focus your mind and your eyes on how to drive the car to the next apex. Be looking way ahead since this track is fast, furious and is full of surprises. When you’re on the ‘Ring, forget about everything else. Steer to the apex and then look for the next apex. When approaching the carousel, enter at an angle so the energy of the turn is fed into the force holding the car down, not pulling it out of the turn. Break in a straight line and accelerate out of the turn. Don’t use the brakes uphill, just focus on managing and balancing the speed and capabilities of the car with your capabilities at a driver. There will be plenty of kisses left in the sweetheart, you don’t have to use them all up on your first visit to the ‘Ring.
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Pick up an extra quart of oil when you take the car in for its 1,000 km service.
Other Helpful Tips
Car Washes: There aren’t car washes open in Germany on Sunday. For whatever reason, this is true. There are three main car washes close to the ‘Ring (two in Barweiler and one in Adenau). A clean windshield is advantageous to your day on the ‘Ring, so I recommend car washing when they are open (M-S 8am – 8pm). The Aral Station in Aral in Barweiler (An der Bundesstraße 258 53534 Barweiler) does have a power wash wand in the back as shown in the red circle on Figure 5.0 and the front as shown in Figure 5.1.
You won’t know it’s there unless someone shows you. Use the wand if it is a Sunday.
Extra Oil: The BMW M3 drinks oil. Especially on hot days at the track. Pick up an extra quart of oil when you take the car in for its 1,000 km service. It sucks to be at the track with a low oil indicator illuminated.
Where to Stay: While there are many options on where to stay, I recommend the RingHaus which is within walking distance to the Nordschleife entrance. This is important because you never know when the track is going to be closed or open. Check the schedule here, but even if it is open, the track may temporarily be closed while a wreck is cleared, which happens several times per day, in which case, everyone is forced off the track to wait. It is convenient to go back to your room, get refreshed, or have lunch while the track is being worked on. When it’s open, it’s just a quick walk to your car. If you’re in a town outside of Nurburg, this is harder to do. More time will be spent in line than on the ‘Ring.
While BMW European Delivery is a great program, the real highlight for avid drivers is the trip to the Nurburgring. Just be prepared. Understand how well you can drive and manage that to the adeptly capable BMW in your possession. Don’t drive beyond your abilities or be distracted by the many options presented to you. When you’re at the ‘Ring the most important thing is to focus on the driving the road ahead of you and taking the steps to be prepared for when you arrive. Check out the other articles if you’re looking for a host of other adventures during your time on a BMW European Delivery.
Special thanks to Sean LaFramboise at www.seanlaframboise.com for the many excellent photos in this spread, who as a Nurburgring virgin, did exceptionally well in capturing its spirit. Check out the rest of the gallery here.