For those just jumping into this story, the summary is I’m a long-time member here, and after years and years of research and saving, I’m finally making a very special purchase for me. Due to a degenerative neuromuscular disease, and getting pretty sick last year during COVID, I’m needing a new car that’s easier for me to drive and get in and out of. And for the same reasons, this will be the last car I ever buy. So I wanted to do it right, and make this very special.
Details of my background, the car ordering, and modifications can be found in this post HERE
I had originally ordered an X7 Dark Shadow model, but had a very bad experience with sales at BMW of Anchorage. (details in this post HERE if you want to read). Wasn’t able to source an X7 with a broker, but ended up getting a great sale from “BMW David” Aviles. He was able to get me 10% off, before another $5k incentives I qualify for. He can be a little tricky to get ahold of, but once we set up the deal, the process was great, good communication and follow-up.
Part of making this special, I chose to do a Performance Center Delivery (my first one) straight from the factory in Greenville, SC, and then drive literally cross-continent back to Alaska. I could have paid extra for the vehicle to be shipped all the way home, but intentionally decided to go this direction. In addition to just getting out of the stupid house from COVID, I’ll finally be experiencing the popular PCD, and then getting a big road trip to reconnect with America, and see some sights—some new, some I’ve seen before.
I figured if I’m going to be isolated during this COVID period, I’d rather isolate seeing the world by myself from the inside a new kick-ass BMW, instead of sitting on my couch trapped in my house. I got arguably the best BMW ever made for such a road trip, and it seems fitting, taking the biggest BMW model back home to the biggest state in the union.
(granted, it’s still not a Wagon Family Truckster in Metallic P)
Will be posting updates every couple of days, including pictures of the car, landscapes, and food eateries of interest. This will become a HUGE thread, with me repeatedly throwing stuff in, the next 3-4 weeks. Anticipate having some particularly good stuff to share in Texas, and beautiful national parks in the Southwest states. Shout if you have any particular recommendations of food and sights along the route I posted above.
As I go along, I’ll give my thoughts on the car, options, accessories and mods, and products I’m using, for those who are interested.
There will be too much to keep packing all into this initial post, so the updates will have to be throughout this thread as I go along. Sorry that it will make for a little less concise and organized reading.
Being such a long trip, I’m going to keep the travel fun and manageable. It won’t be a mad dash, driving 12 hours a day in the shortest line. I’ll be keeping the days around or below 500 miles each, with some detours and extra stops to enjoy the sights. No real events planned, to keep COVID safe, and will stay flexible for the potential of trip disruptions from weather, COVID, and maybe even the Canadian border.
After placing the order, the hardest part was waiting for the car. I eventually got a solid delivery date, and have been making tons of travel plans. BMW David made it just about as easy as it could be, and all I had to do was buy an airline ticket.
For those that don’t know, the PCD program is one of the best deals going. FREE for any BMW buyer, any model you order, you can take delivery at the SC BMW factory and Performance Center. Hotel, food, transportation shuttles, awesome track and off-road driving time, professional driving instruction, concierge introduction of your new car and all it can do—it’s all provided for two people, and paid for by BMW. All you have to do is get yourself to Greenville, SC, and get your new BMW home. Spoiler—it was so awesome, I don’t know why anyone WOULDN’T do a PCD, that has the practicality of getting their new Bimmer home from SC.
So my trip started, leaving my beloved Imola Red 2004 BMW 330i w/ZHP in the February Alaska snow, and driving to the airport. Shortly, I was seeing my house again from the air as I was off to the lower 48.
(and yes, my house really is in that picture)
(Denali, at 20,308′, the largest mountain on the N. American continent, visible during departure)
After a couple connections, my flight arrived in the small but very nice Greenville/Spartanburg airport (GSP). Less than 15 minutes after the jet wheels kissed the pavement, I had my bags and got picked up by the Greenville Marriott in a new X5. BMW provides three X5’s to the Marriott, specifically for picking up new owners doing a PCD delivery. Brian the driver was great, knowing who I was, taking care of the bags, and walking me through check-in, straight to the room. He even refused a tip.
The Marriott is nice, a solid 3+ star hotel. Nothing overly fancy, but clean and remodeled over the years. Nice restaurant in the lobby where the meals are served, and very friendly staff. I got the vibe that both BMW and Marriott push friendly, quality customer service together for this experience, and actively work to keep it up. The only nitpicky complaint I had, the hotel soaps provided (I don’t think it’s soft water) are the kind that leave a greasy soap film on your body that you have to scrub off. That’s it. Everything else great.
COVID was addressed throughout the whole PCD experience, staying safe with masks, social distancing, and creative staff presence. It put a little different and modified flavor on the PCD from what I understand others have experienced, but didn’t prevent any portion.
Marriott serves dinner from 6-9 PM, all covered by BMW. From the menu, you can choose a soup or salad, one entre, and a dessert. A drink is also included.
The house salad was great. I chose the strip steak which wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t overwhelmed. During dinner, other people also arrived to the restaurant, who kind of had that “BMW owner look”. It was kind of fun guessing who was there for the PCD. My waitress did say most of them were there for the PCD, and it was a bigger group than they’ve hosted lately.
The pecan pie was to die for. Best part of dinner.
The next morning, eggs are to-order, accompanied by a very small buffet of fruit, yogurt, etc. Everyone is loaded on a hotel shuttle about 7:40, and you’re off to the Performance Center.
A short 15 min drive, and we arrived at the Performance Center. As we pulled up, you could see two windowed delivery bays with vehicles to be delivered. No hesitation, I instantly recognized mine as the first one we pulled by. (far one in that pic, looking back after we pulled up) So exciting!
Turns out, we had a group of 8 deliveries, all X cars, which I thought was cool. We had two X7’s, five X5’s, and one X3. Nice people from all around, but mostly the Carolinas/Georgia.
Being that it’s the latter part of winter, I’ve been steadily watching the weather recently with some angst, as a big storm just swept the lower 48. But timing was great, and weather for the PCD was a sunny 72 degrees Fahrenheit, not a cloud in the blue sky. Absolutely beautiful.
After a roll call, we gathered in a classroom for short introductions, rules, and goals. Great people all around at the Performance Center, instructors and not, that all made the day great. We broke up into groups and headed straight to the track for the driving exercises. All activities of the day were “challenge by choice” meaning the instructors wouldn’t make you do anything you wouldn’t want to do. But if you’re driving, they really pushed you to grow your skills in the short time, and explore the limits of the vehicle performance. Several people either chose not to do a certain exercise, or got motion sick and just opted out of something, which was fine. Generally, that meant more track time for the rest of us!
First exercise for my group was the circular skid pad with our instructor Laura. It’s wetted down as you can see, and one at a time, you drive an M340i that’s suited for the exercise, with the instructor in the passenger seat. The point is to show you how DSC really does save your butt.
First, you drive the skid pad circle at a controlled 25 MPH. Then, with DSC off, the instructor has you punch the accelerator to the floor, causing the rear end to break free, and you spin out. (tip: when you break the rear end free, have some fun and push the spin, and you can do a 360). Already having fun, from this exercise on through the rest of the day, I had a perma-grin on my face.
You do this a couple times, then turn DSC on. Now, from the same 25 MPH condition, when you floor it, DSC kicks in, and you only get a wobble. Direct proof.
For the next two exercises, you get into a BMW-provided car that’s the same model you just bought. Common question—NO, you don’t drive your own car you own. You get to push the limits of someone else’s car, on someone else’s tires, saving the wear and tear on your new baby. Hell, I wouldn’t want to take my brand new Bimmer straight on a track even if they offered, especially before she’s broken in.
So I got into a BMWUSA-owned X7 M50i, and we did a braking exercise to show ABS. Starting at 40 MPH and working upwards in 5 MPH increments, we’d drive hard in a cone lane, slam max brakes at a cone-designated point, then steer through a curve while coming to a full stop. One gentleman at 60 MPH lost a little control and went into the dirt, but hey… wasn’t any foul. (I don’t have any pics of this exercise)
Last exercise of this module, we did a mini-autocross course using only a small portion of the center’s track. The instructor led us single-file in our cars around the track a couple times, at a slow pace, then moderate, giving tips of braking points and suggested lines, emphasizing the cone meanings and importance of looking ahead on the track. Then you’re set free on your own. I steadily got the feel for the X7 and the track, building speed. And I tore. It. Up.
Nobody would argue the X7 is a track vehicle. The point isn’t really to learn track skills using the beast. It’s to see what the X7’s capable of, using somebody else’s car. For such a big, bulky vehicle with 5,600 lbs of heft, it performed amazingly. Granted, I’m no track expert, with rather limited experience, but as a pilot, I do have some coordination skills that help. It was amazing to throw that beast around a track, and even weaving the slalom or squealing tires around a curve, I never felt like “holy crap, this big boy is going to break loose”, or “this body roll is just too much”. The car really hid its weight and bulk, keeping it tight, the M50i providing more than enough power.
The PCD takes everybody, from the soccer mom that has never driven a BMW or sports car, to the track expert that is picking up his 25th BMW. It was gratifying afterwards, that Laura told me, “you really pushed that X7 to its limits!”
We capped off the track time with a hot lap. The instructors love this just as much, or more than the students, as they get to let loose their inner speed demons. You ride passenger as an instructor takes you in an M5 Competition around the extended road course, driving like a bat out of hell. Lots of drifting, hard braking, maybe a spin. Showing you what the car can really do when driven by a professional that knows what they’re doing.
Next, we split the class in half. My half did the off-road course and car delivery first. Everybody got in an X5 for the off-road course. Sadly, they only use X5’s for this portion, and I couldn’t try an X7, as the instructors said they only have 4 of them and they need to keep them for the track. But they assured me the X7 would drive the course just like an X5.
Noteworthy to point out that the X5’s all had stock road tires. No mods for off-road. The instructor led us single-file on an elephant walk through the course. A point of balancing on 2-wheels with the right front and left rear wheels off the ground. Driving in water that goes just above the exhaust pipes. Steep hills, tilting the vehicle sideways. Using Hill Descent Control down slick river rocks. The X5’s handled them like champs.
All day, the instructors talked to us in our cars via walkie-talkies. The only times they were in the same car as us was for the skid pad exercise, and the hot lap.
And then… it was time.
Last edited by Wild Blue; Today at 10:32 AM..