July 30, 2023

From Gerald R. Lucas

The Ultimate (EV) Driving Experience, 2023

Another summer brings another visit by BMW for their Ultimate Driving Experience. Giles and I usually attend, and this year was no exception. In fact, even though part of our track time was rained out, this year’s might have been my favorite since we started attending them decades ago. (I think our first one was in St. Petersburg when I was still in graduate school. Giles, correct me if I’m wrong.) Why my favorite? Well, the cars obviously.

Inside the i4.
The BMW iX M60.

I drove three vehicles: the i4 M50, the 330e, and the iX M60. See the trend? All of these models are electrified: the former and latter are full EVs and the 330e is a plugin hybrid. I really liked them all—especially the iX. And while I had my doubts about the current design language of BMW’s new offerings, I’m happy to report that in-person they really impress.

The i4 and 330e are competent and comfortable sedans—just like my 2015 325i, but better. The i4 I took by myself on a road test, and it was brilliant. Super fast with that electric motor immediate power. I even liked the faux engine noise which seemed to appeal to the juvenile thrill of flooring the accelerator. The giant curved, twin LCDs are beautiful, too, just the right size to be impressive and present but not dominate or distract your attention. I even liked the “Brooklyn Grey Metallic” exterior.

For my autocross time, I drove the 330e. I was only able to take it around the track a couple of times, and I received some good pointers (reminders?) by my driving coach Leslie. Since it was a bit of a rush, I didn’t have enough time to get familiar with the car, but it handled the track with aplomb.

Finally, Giles and I took the iX out on the road together. It seemed to me like a mature and further-refined i3. It was fast and solid—a true pleasure to drive. It was like the i4 but better. Definitely bigger, but not slower. Giles and I both had fun pushing it as much as we could within legal limits. Yes, I would take this as a daily driver any day. Alas, with the $100K pricetag, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. Still, maybe a late-model i3 first, then a gently-used iX later on? It could happen.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our pregame lunch at Tierra Mia in Hampton, GA. They had a great menu, and I had the enchilada trio. I can’t resist the mole! Like Animal Farm last week, this was another stellar find by Giles. He’s going to pick all of our restaurants from now on. Giles even drove, so an extra thanks to him.

If you have the opportunity, take advantage of this event. It’s a fun, no-pressure time. BMW obviously spends some coin bringing these cars and experts to us. It’s not a sales event; they just want to show off their engineering. That is enough to sell me.