To think they should be jaded over here at Marbella and all the Playas of the Costa del Sol in Spain. The sailing set, the open top sports car set, the jet set and even old ladies who shop at the condo comestibles store just before the shutters go down for Siesta time, they were all looking at me. Well, it can only be the car I was driving. And I have a different one for every day that I'll be spending here.
To be fair, the BMW 645Ci, just launched at the Frankfurt Motor show is really a new sight on Europe’s roads and the international press has been coming to and going from this part of Europe as the climate and the road conditions offer more latitude to appreciate a car’s abilities than the wet and/or freezing conditions in more Northern climes. Now I appreciate why cardigan-draped Modena Spyder or 911 Cabrio owners on the Marina eyed the 645Ci. Never mind if mine was of the same dark gray metallic color among the thirty coupes prowling the mountains of Andalusia and coasts around Malaga.
For a big machine, it is at home in point and squirt driving. Keep pressing that pedal and in just a matter of a few seconds, you’re bang up the electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. This is easy to do on Spain’s lightly trafficked Autopistas run by private concessions that collect toll with slot machine like efficiency via E-pass like transponders. Achieving the same speed on the twisting narrower mountain A-roads and N-dual carriageways was no sweat as one can always rely on the anchors to shed 200km/h velocities whenever a tractor merges in at 40km/h or even come to a full stop to let the odd shepherd cross the road with his flock of sheep.
BMW said it has new fangled adaptive steering. All I can remember is that it gave me large steering angles on small inputs while parking in Marbella and the converse of small angle changes from slightly large steering inputs on the twisty road from the olive farm of Molinos de las Pilas to Cartama. It sure made me work the Bridgestone Potenzas much harder. The 645Ci is was easy to pose along with the young and the beautiful local residents, both the half-year round and all year round variety. But tomorrow is another kind of adventure.
The next day's destination was west of Ronda: Camp X-3 – a real camp on the 1,100 meter tundra-esque peaks around Gaucin from where you can see Gibraltar and Morocco across the Mediterranean. The place, complete with a wooden deck for the barbecue lunch, a huge tent with electronic and cut away displays of the X3, an extensive off road track specially built for the occasion and real multi-basin multi-cabin his and her Loo made of wood without a Portalet in sight. In typical attention to detail, not only did we have young ushers and usherettes guiding us on the track. There was even a ramp for a car wash, to make our X3’s clean for our trip back to home - Hotel Byblos Andaluz.
The ads say that BMWs are such sheer driving pleasure that one can truly have fun even while doing 8km/h. Feet off the floor with cruise control like steering buttons doing what the usual drive-by-wire gas pedal usually does, I was going downhill on a 45degree muddy track. With 1.8tons of BMW sculpture, one would be courting disaster but not with HDC (hill descent control). And for the uphill muddy bits, the same all knowing guardian angel-cum-genie of a back-up driver called a computer will be there to do your every driving whim, keeping you out of trouble, short of making you a cuppa. Was I detached from the driving environment? With all that mud plugging, I didn't mind it at all as the car was its own expert.
After the barbecue lunch, it was back to paved roads that threaded past inhabited caves as old as the Inquisition. We sped through endless twisting and deserted roads, sewing together the peaks of the Sierra Bermeja, without missing the view of the sun glinting off the Med 1,100m below. So comfortably rapid it was, a local stud in an elder Audi A6 thought I was intimidating him to race along the back roads en route Mijas. On the Autopistas, silent cruising at 220km/h was easy though one has to watch out for the white and dark green Nissan Patrols, Mistrals or Peugeot vans of the Guardia Civil Trafico.
On my last day, I wanted to cap off my Costa del Sol adventure with something even more hedonistic than arriving in the Marina of Punta Banus in Marbella in a chauffeur driven 730i the night before. That limo had the new double pane windows which banishes my complaints of audible tire slap though it wreaks havoc on the Telepiaje E-pass transponder. After the light hearted pleasures of the newish town of Fuengirola and burgeoning buffets of Byblos Hotel in Mijas, I took a 6 speed manual 530 rocket of a diesel station wagon to where I think it was most appropriate – the Polo field of Sotogrande, a place that represent the ultimate in living on the Costa del Sol and which Ayala España has every reason to be proud of. There at the grandstand of the Polo field were Ayala Azulejos tiles, exactly like those at Calatagan Polo Club in Batangas.
More and more Englishmen and Germans live here that even Pablo Picasso airport in Malaga has turned tri-lingual. As the coastline and even the dry mountain farm land of Andalusia are peppered with boom cranes and multi storey condos and the dust of endless condo construction with signs upon signs of outlets selling tiles and used construction equipment spoil the view, I am even reminded of home. Will this boom inflate into the dreaded property bubble? With great food and really kind people, and of course the sheer driving pleasure of being able to drive to the extreme, why not make this place home? Now what was the Spanish line that the Austrian descent governor of California used to say in his movies?