Who knew (or cared) that this weekend is the swan song for Grand-Am racing? They’ve merged with ALMS and next year will run a combined series. The BMW Car Club had an event this weekend for members today at Lime Rock Park and I figured, “Tricia’s at work…the weather is perfect…I’ve never seen Grand-Am races…and Lime Rock is BMW’s ‘home track’ in the US.”
So I drove to CT today — the color in the Berkshires is just starting — and had a blast.
If you like fast cars and the ear-splitting noise they make, today was an 11.
I thought this M3 was spectacular. Turner is based in Mass. and had a huge presence at Lime Rock — along with some tricked out cars, including an Alpine White F30 335i “project car” (like my car) that had me drooling.
This is the lone Lotus car on the first lap…
And this is one of the Porsches on the second lap after the Lotus lost it on the esses and caused about three cars to pile up and smash into each other.
You all know I am crazed about cars. Cars in the morning…cars at night…fast cars…faster cars. Cars I can’t afford. Cars I hate. Cars that I can’t get into or out of. Cars that aren’t green. Cars that don’t have red leather interiors. Black cars. Silver cars. Especially silver cars.
Ask my girls: the DVR overflows with recorded shows from Velocity. The, ahem,reading rack is full of brochures for cars I am dreaming about. Even Porsche sends me 911 literature because they don’t know we’re fans of private schools for our kids.
Still, my first love are BMWs. But I have to buy them in Europe. Trust me, it’s the only way you’ll ever get a car delivered new that has the tires inflated to factory spec at delivery. The urge to buy a car this way is so strong, I’ve even done it with Tricia’s Volvo.
It’ll be no surprise that I jumped at the chance to write about my most recent BMW European Delivery experience for the Boston Chapter of the BMW Car Club of America. Take a look and tell me if you think I have a second career coming up as an auto journalist — or tell me I’ve died and gone to heaven. It’s the same message.
Anyone who has ever ordered a BMW for European Delivery and eventual shipping home knows this part of the drill. You’ve gone to BMW Welt in Munich, picked up an amazing car, had a blast and dropped it off. You knew that waiting for it was going to be hard — everyone says so and besides, you’ve done this twice before.
But none of that makes a damn bit of difference. You can’t stand it. It almost physically hurts waiting for that ship to, literally, come in.
You try everything: more sports, more work, more time with the better half, more time at BMWCCA events. Nothing helps.
You are reduced to re-reading the manual and buying accessories as an excuse to go to the dealer to sit in a car like yours — which of course only makes it worse.
You know you have reached bottom — and are ready for the seven-step redelivery depression alleviation program — when the real-time ship tracking sites become the most-visited tab in your browser.
Nobody (except those as crazed as you who hang out in the Bimmerfest European Delivery forums) has any idea what’s going on in your mind — and if they had any idea, you’d get a lifetime prescription for Xanax.
Wanna know what’s in my head right now? How’s this: “Was scheduled on Asian Vision into Newark on 8/23/2012, but now the car is on Topeka also due on 8/23/2012. Two weeks and counting.”
Apologies in advance. But I want to share with you my lastest fantasy: a lovely blue BMW M5. I had about 30 minutes of seat time in the previous generation M5 (the engine was a V10!) and ever since, to steal a phrase from Jimmy Carter, I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times with this car.
However, I am limited to watching YouTube videos of the car. Really, I don’t post that much car porn. But digital car porn is as close to verisimilitude as other kinds of, ahem, stuff you can get on the ‘net. And it’s G-rated. So, enjoy.
Well, it’s come to this: cheap, tawdry misappropriations of poetic metaphors.
Yesterday, something happened in my car that made it run rough and have no power. Come to find out today (thanks to an emergency visit to my pals at Village European) that the #4 ignition coil is dead. Prudence dictates that if one coil needs replacement, all should be replaced. And, since we’ve got the engine cover open, it’s advisable to replace all the spark plugs as well. (After all, who wants to spark a nearly dead plug? [And if you don't get that joke, I can't help you.])
Oh well…since you have the car, you might as well replace the front pads and rotors; there was only a few millimeters of surface left. All right…go ahead and change the oil, too, while you have it here. You know what? After the dealer aligned the car last spring, I couldn’t stand the way it drove, so do you mind also putting it on the rack?
To accurately describe the feeling one gets contemplating the cost of repairing a late-model BMW, I am forced to (mis)use the poetic term “mortal coil.” Usually, the term refers to the stress and frustrations of daily living.
Today, however, all I can think about is my BMW’s mortal ignition coils — they live fast and die young.
Everyone knows I am a big fan of BMWs; I’m already lusting after a new F30 3 Series, even though they haven’t been officially introduced into the US as yet. I especially enjoy seeing models we can’t get in the US when I am traveling. So, I am always on the lookout for unusual BMWs.
Well, I hit the jackpot this week. We were in Stockholm on December 6, 2011 to visit the Nobel Museum and its amazing Marie Curie exhibit. Behind the museum, I stumbled upon a mother lode of big, black BMW 750s with official decals and German (Munich) plates that were obviously being used to ferry Nobel laureates to and fro in Stockholm. As you may know, the Nobel Prize ceremony is always on December 10 — the day Alfred Nobel died. So I imagine these limos were taking people to the ceremony prep. Imagine being a laureate and being treated to a tour of Stockholm in these babies! (And, with the prize money, being able to afford to buy one!)
Click on the play button to play the little slide show in your browser, or click on an image to open the slide show in Picasa Web.
When I first bought my 330i with the notorious iDrive (which, by the way, is very, very cool), I was stuck by the fact that the car seemed to be less a mechanical device than a digital one with wheels. That impression has only been confirmed over the last three years as the car has needed just three oils changes but half a dozen reprogrammings. When the car is reprogrammed, it takes the dealer more than a day and, if it crashes, not only does it have to be restarted, but the frakkin’ car (what am I going to do when Battlestar Galactica ends??) won’t even start until the entire image is properly downloaded. OK, I gotta admit I think that’s kinda cool, especially when the dealer does it on his nickel and you get a BMW loaner to drive for two days.
But that isn’t what’s pissed me off. What gets my goat is that for the last three years, each reprogramming has added new functionality. The dealer doesn’t know what’s in the new release of E90 software. BMW keeps it a secret. They seem to see this as service and not as a benefit to owners. We upgrade our computers, why doesn’t BMW encourage us to update our cars?
Want some examples? Here’s partial list of functionality that’s been added to my car over the several reprogrammings it has had:
MP3 was added to the CD player
Color schemes in the graphics display were changed
iDrive performance was improved
A new automatic ventilation program was added to the climate control
New commands were added to the voice control system
Mileage has improved by about 3%
So, what am I bitching about? Simple: if I didn’t have these things done under warranty repairs, I’d have never received them. Dealers won’t upgrade the car on request; you have to have a warranty problem. Plus, they have no idea what’s in these updates; they simply apply them when instructed to solve a problem — even a problem that has nothing to do with the lack of functionality provided in the updates. BMW never makes the list of enhancements public. My question is: why?
Think of the revenue stream from upgrades from people who own a 2006 model which, when produced, didn’t have a timer to start the ventilation system on hot days, but which through the magic of software can be made to have it. (This actually happened in my last update and I had to download a manual for a 2007 model to figure out how it works!)
I know why BMW is the best brand in the world. But nothing’s perfect…I suspect it’s more than a little German to keep adding functionality to older products but keep it a secret. Oracle, IBM and Microsoft people: sleep well tonight. BMW isn’t about to steal your maintenance agreements.