The first was a BMW XPo (billed as Torque) at the ASEANA Power Station along Macapagal Avenue (Pasay City) that showcased in particular BMW's newest diesel machines - the X5 3.0d seven-seater, the X3 3.0d Exclusive, 530d Sport and the 120d - and BMW's newest two-wheelers (the G650 X and R1200 series of motorbikes).
The second was a strictly-for-the-media BMW Active Product Experience, in which motoring scribes were given the rare opportunity to drive the full BMW automobile range, all under the watch of BMW AG certified product trainer Herbert Grunsteidl. This event ensured a good theoretical understanding and appreciation of technical parameters and driving physics, converting classroom knowledge into practical exercises and ensuring greater supremacy in taking on demanding situations at the wheel.
Writers, editors and producers alike were grouped into clusters of 11 to 13-strong, with this writer's particular group beginning with a slalom weave through cones placed longitudinally at certain intervals. Participants zigzagged through the cones at 40-50 kph and drove straight back to the starting point, with the exercise displaying the amazing stability of the 7-Series, the X5 and the X3 during hard cornering, despite trying conditions due to intermittent rain.
Next up was a braking exercise in which scribes had to launch the cars one by one from rest, hitting 60 kph and stomping hard on the brakes just to wake up the anti-lock braking system. Then they were to accelerate to 60 kph again, then give all their foot efforts to the middle pedal while maneuvering the car through a tricky left-right chicane shaped by a number of cones. "It simulates the feeling of being surprised, with everything in fast chaos all around you. BMW's version of ABS and its myriad active safety systems helps a lot, because it gives the one behind the wheel that additional time to react," said BMW driver training instructor Georges Ramirez.
Soon after, then came an exercise that showed the unique capability of the (primarily) Bridgestone-shod run-flat tires on the BMW 3-Series. Scribes were made to drive two 320i units through a slalom course, with one 320i shod with run flats and the other with conventional tires. Then participants were made to discern which car had a deflated tire, and what wheel in particular had the deflation. "Run-flat tires are built with stiffer sidewalls that can bear the weight of the vehicle even when the pressure within the tire is greatly reduced. The sidewalls are typically constructed of layers of rubber and a heat-resistant cord that prevent the side-walls from folding or creasing, and the bead around the edge of the tire is also specialized to grip the wheel rim to avoid detaching, an advantage during high-speed situations," said Grunsteidl.
Next was the day's highlight, two laps in BMW's ultimate brash power display - the current iterations of the M5 and the M3 Coupe. With Grunsteidl at the wheel and scribes riding shotgun, Grunsteidl made both cars dance inches close to the ASEANA Power Station's concrete gutters, using a delicate yet forceful mix of throttle and steering to induce sustained drifts in a special course fit for only three cars parked side by side. The increasingly angry buzz of the M5's 5.0L V10 and the M3 Coupe's 4.0L V8 on acceleration were cacophonies like no other, evoking an epiphany similar to the last minute and five seconds of the 1812 Overture. Each gearshift (be it upshift or downshift, with Grunsteidl using the sequential manual gearbox paddle shifters on the M5's steering wheel and the M3's six speed manual - delivered a savage burst of thrust running down the spine, all at a dizzying rate of backward inertia. But, mind you, Herr Herbert made it clear that most of the M5/M3 "tango" was made with Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) on, as without DTC the "dance" would become more of a disaster.
Many a manufacturer - and people in certain high places - can claim that their vehicles or capabilities have more than enough power. But for it to be maximized, it should be used correctly for general public beneficial purposes. And for one day, BMW showed the country what power (and torque) is like, if harnessed properly for sheer driving pleasure.