The Hottest Cars From BMW Test Fest

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The hot ticket this month for auto journalists was an invite to the second annual BMW Test Fest in Thermal, CA. It’s an all-you-can eat chance to drive, in one day, most of BMW Group’s line. This year, BMW added its other brands: Mini, Rolls-Royce, and BMW Motorrad (motorcycles). You haven’t lived until you see a $ 400,000 Rolls-Royce cross a man-made stream more than a foot deep and emerge unscathed.

Since this is the Ultimate Driving Machine company, the drives included both scenic public roads outside Palm Springs and a racetrack, BMW Performance Center West, that most days is a training facility for owners or intenders of BMW Group vehicles, as well as a proving ground for BMW racecars, and a racetrack. Here are some of our favorites.

BMW Performance Center West is one of many facilities being developed in North America for car owners of most of the leading sports/performance brands. The idea is to give them a chance to enhance their skills in the relative safety of the racetrack, and then transfer those skills to safer, more informed street driving and dealing with emergency situations. (BMW also has one at its factory in Spartanburg, SC.) There are also off-roading courses for the likes of Land Rover.

Many of the facilities do corporate days. But more importantly, they also do training — for a fee — of teen drivers, to give them the skills that can’t be learned in high school driver’s ed, or in a commercial course that teaches you to pass a test, not deal with a blown tire at highway speeds or the loss of control on a snowy road.

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