Category Archives: Events

BMW To Unveil World Premiere Concept Car at the Monterey Car Week 2017

After an eighteen year hiatus, the ‘8 Series’ name returns to the BMW portfolio with the BMW Concept 8 Series shown on the Concept Lawn at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance this year. The BMW Concept 8 Series serves as a preview of a forthcoming BMW model – the new BMW 8 Series Coupe, slated for launch in 2018.

“The number 8 and cars like the Z8 Roadster and i8 have represented the pinnacle of sports performance and exclusivity at BMW,” explains Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG Harald Krüger. “The forthcoming BMW 8 Series Coupe will demonstrate that razor-sharp dynamics and modern luxury can go hand-in-hand. This will be the next model in the expansion of our luxury-car offering and will raise the benchmark for coupes in the segment. In the process, we will strengthen our claim to leadership in the luxury class.”

The BMW Concept 8 Series reveals much of what is yet to come. “The BMW Concept 8 Series is our take on a full-blooded high-end driving machine,” says Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design. “It is a luxurious sports car which embodies both unadulterated dynamics and modern luxury like arguably no other. For me, it’s a slice of pure automotive fascination.” The BMW Concept 8 Series makes its North American debut after being first shown at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in late May. The BMW Concept 8 Series will be shown publicly at The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering on Friday August 18th and on the Concept Lawn at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday August 20th.

The aforementioned World Premiere BMW Concept vehicle also previews a new model that will come to market in 2018. The World Premiere BMW Concept will have its only North American public showing on the Concept Lawn of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday August 20th.

BMW will again participate in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion this year campaigning two historic cars driven by notable drivers. The famous 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL #25 will, one last time, be driven by former BMW of North America President Ludwig Willisch while the 1972 ALPINA 2002ti will be driven by none other than Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW Group Head of Design.

Cooper Tire RS3-G1 Test Part 2: Lucas Oil School of Racing

“We’re confident we can put our street tire on an open-wheel race car,” said Scott Jamieson, director of product management

So, I got to drive the new Cooper Tire RS3-G1 on the street (See Cooper Tire RS3-G1 Part 1: BMW 528i in Florida). It was pretty good. The next test for the new rubber was to show what it does on the track. Luckily for us, Palm Beach International Raceway is only a short distance inland. PBIR also features the Lucas Oil School of Racing, headed by chief instructor Randy Buck, who would be giving us instruction today along with his team of instructors and racers, Gerardo Bonilla, Jonatan Jorge, and upcoming IndyCar star RC Enerson. Cooper also brought in Indy Lights race winner and test driver Ryan Hampton, well as Johnny Unser (yes, one of those Unser’s) of IndyCar and CART fame.

The cars being used were GR11’s, built by Ray Formula Cars. The design is very akin to a classic Formula Ford racer, which gives off an immediate retro cool. Right behind the driver is a 2.0 liter four-cylinder from Elite Engines making around 140 BHP, but in a package weighing just a hair over 1,000 pounds. That makes for a better power-to-weight ratio than an M4…

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And of course, the tires. They would be wearing the same Cooper G1’s we had driven yesterday on the street. Yes, that’s right, we are using all-season street tires on a racing car, as a testament to the performance credentials of this new shoe. “We’re confident we can put our street tire on an open-wheel race car,” said Scott Jamieson, director of product management. And they’re only dinky 205/55 16 incher’s too! This should be interesting. Cooper does have real racing pedigree as well, supplying tires for and sponsoring the Mazda Road to Indy, three series of open-wheel racing that lead up to the Verizon IndyCar Series.

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Now to the track…

We first started with some basic instruction and early, slow lapping sessions to get accustomed to the cars. For example, I found out I wasn’t using even half of the braking potential and was too busy with the wheel on corner entry. Eventually we were given more freedom and let loose for some open lapping in the afternoon. And the first impressions? Lots of initial grip with a responsive turn in. But once speed (confidence and courage) is built up in the corners, you can feel them start slipping, but in a most progressive manner. The GR11’s natural balance is overt oversteer, requiring lots of quick steering inputs (a dab of ‘oppo) to keep going in the right direction. Never once though did I feel like I was about to lose the car.

Trail braking is a must  to help settle the machine, whilst also prompting the rear to rotate to the apex. Gradually apply the throttle on the way out and rear steps out ever so slightly in a few corners. Acceleration was brisk with quick, somewhat jolting gear changes from the sequential box, but that only added to the drama in a good way. There is a clutch pedal for getting underway, but after that it’s not needed. A slight lift on upshifts is necessary to help smooth them out and prolong the life of the internals. Software is present as well for blipping on downshifts, also sounding very nice to the ears. The four cylinder made all the right noises too, being a loud, brash mechanical wail, nothing like the cheap aftermarket muffler on your neighborhood lowered Civic.

Curious though was the lack of tire squeal even when sliding around, but the feedback through both the wheel and through the seat was good enough to let me know what exuberances the car was up to. Braking performance was superb too, suffering only one quick lockup. But the best aspect was the consistent performance throughout the day, as the tires did not suffer any degradation of any kind. Inspecting the rubber after lapping, they looked as good as new. Cooper also is boastful about the amount of rubber packed into the shoulder of the tire. This benefit becomes clear as the tire deforms less under hard lateral load, becoming more forgiving and predictable. When it does, there’s still a large viable, square contact patch.

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Overall, just what a terrific day. And boy are these cars a workout to drive. All the controls are heavy without any power assistance and the lateral forces do beat you up. I’ve never had such respect for a racing driver’s fitness before. I can’t imagine the physical stress one’s body goes through when driving an LMP1 car at 3G’s in a corner… I was walking a bit like Richard III the next day.

Now, the Cooper Tire RS3-G1 then. I can safely say they performed better than my old set of Kuhmo UHP all-seasons would have on the track. Yes, there was a lot of movement through the chassis, but I think that was more down to the balance and inherent characteristics of the car itself rather than the tires. A testament to the tires though for how easy and fun it was controlling  and wrangling it around corners. I always had a fear that a car like this would be dead; you simply steer and pin the throttle and let the car do everything. It was so much more than that. Grippier tires would have surely dulled the experience. The Cooper’s were lively, to describe it simply. What about that 1G of grip? Onboard footage and telemetry shows that was easily achieved and surpassed in corners.

If you have a daily you occasionally track or autocross, these tires could be the do-it-all solution. And especially with Miata guys, who race and track frequently, not only would these perform reasonably well, but last a long time as well, especially given a Miata’s similar light weight. If equipped on my E46, I wouldn’t once doubt them before heading to a canyon or track. And I must highlight again the responsiveness, grip, and forgiving nature of the rubber.

Wrapping up, from a day of street and track driving, if you’re looking for an UHP all-season tire, put the Cooper Tire RS3-G1 up on your list. I don’t think you’ll regret it and besides the warranty, Cooper Tire gives a free 45-day road test. Are there better tires? Yes, but they’ll be more expensive. Also, a huge shout out to Randy and his team at the Lucas Oil School of Racing. The track, cars, and people were fantastic. The school also plans to continue using the same RS3-G1s for all future racing school events. But for now, after a day of track driving in the hot liquid-soup air, the only thing I wanted next was to enjoy a cold Heineken and some beach therapy to recover.

Cooper Tire RS3-G1 Part 1: BMW 528i in Florida

“So, Ryan, what was the humidity like?” was one of the first questions I asked a best friend who just came back from six months in Orlando at the Disney College Program. “You just sweat constantly,” was his answer. I for one have never been to Florida, let alone the East Coast. In other words, I haven’t a clue what humidity is. I’m spoiled by the dry nature of California, especially having spent my University years in breezy Santa Barbara. So when I got an e-mail to head to Palm Beach International Raceway in Palm Beach, Florida to test a BMW 528i and Cooper Tire’s new RS3-G1 tire on both road and track, I was ecstatic for such an event. Then sank in the realization of the climate and season. Let me tell you plainly, humidity sucks. Luckily, not so much the car and tire, and who cares when it involves track driving.

“The RS3-G1 is a marvel of Cooper’s greatest cutting-edge technologies,” said Scott Jamieson, the company’s Director of Product Management for North America.

Now, let’s talk about why I’m really here. Cooper Tire and Rubber Company has just released their all-new, do-everything tire, the RS3-G1. It’s an all-season, ultra high performance, non run-flat shoe that joins the expanding genre of the like, along with Kumho, Continental, Pirelli, and Michelin. However, the Cooper has something going for it, and it’s all in the name: G1. It’s called the G1 because it can hold 1g of lateral grip, something unheard of in a tire designed to not only work in perfect climates. And this is an all-season tire, too; When it rains or even in light snow, you won’t be wishing you had opted for xDrive. The deep sipes and grooves in the tread also work to give consistent performance throughout the life of the tire help water displacing.

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It’ll be interesting to see how the tires do on the 5-series, a car that comes standard, like nearly all new BMW’s, with run-flat tires. And not everyone loves run-flat tires. They’re expensive and can compromise ride quality and handling. However, they do offer the unique advantage of being able to still drive moderate distances even after a puncture. But the real question is, does the new Cooper make the 5 a better driving car? It does, but more on why later.

So, the car then. It’s a BMW 528i. Yes, it’s the same 528i that has been in production for over 5 years now. And yes, the new 5er is due out in showrooms early next year, but it’s never too late to once get a feel of what has been a great sales success for BMW. If you’ve been thinking about adding a 5 to your stable, now is the time to buy as dealer’s will likely be discounting heavily to make way for the new species. Right off the bat though, has the new Cooper G1 transformed the car? No. Is it better? Yes, not by much, but having a non-RFT sticking to the road is an improvement.

What’s the 5 like? I’ll just make a list. Hence, thing’s I like about the F10 5-series: the steering is better than a 3-series, offering more weight and accuracy. The thinner, leather-wrapped wheel is better to hold in my hands as well versus the thick and squishy M-sport wheel. The seats are very comfortable and offer decent support even for my thin frame. The small 2 liter four pot makes plenty of power even for a car of this size and masks turbo lag surprisingly well, also achieving 34.5 MPG on a crowded freeway run. And the 8-speed ZF gearbox is seamless enough to make you think it’s not even there. iDrive is also probably the best infotainment system of its kind.

BMW 528i Test Car

What I don’t like about the current 5… the steering is still not good, being too numb and pondering for an Ultimate Driving Machine. Imagine browsing for a show on Netflix, it just doesn’t know quite what it wants. The standard sheet metal is far too mundane with little drama; the optional M-sport package helps a lot in the looks department. The interior is dated. And the engine sounds like a diesel from the outside. It’s almost like having unknowing bystanders ask if your dry-clutch Ducati is broken, but no, that’s just the sound. And unlike the Ducati clutch clatter, it’s not exactly cool and exotic.

But do I dislike the 5? Heavens no. It’s a lovely car to mosey around town and do freeways, but it’s just not quite a real BMW. It could be brilliant, but blame BMW’s product planners and engineers for making a car that is more mass appealing. In other words, they made it too much like a Mercedes. But driving through both sun and rain in Palm Beach, it was a very nice place to be. And serious kudos to iDrive 4.2, which is now being dropped in favor of the new 5.0 system. Embarking on a small road rally, meeting at various checkpoints such as parks and Ragtops, a motoring museum, the navigation and voice recognition is a breeze to use. Want to find something? Say “Points of Interest,” wait a few seconds and then say, “Oceanfront Beach Park, Boynton Beach” and takes you right there. The A/C also works wonders in the high humidity of Florida’s summers. The car in general is just a nice place to be. And especially when, at this moment, I do not want it to be a sharp track-tool or B-road carver. If you want that, BMW also sells several for that purpose too. But for cruising around, the 5 works.

Which now brings us to the tires. And they’re good. Compared directly to the OE run-flats found on all new 5’s, the ride quality is slightly improved. Where run-flats can give a sense of crashing over imperfections, the Cooper’s are less harsh over potholes and road reflectors. They’re also very quiet on the 528i, with there being so little road noise. And I do think the steering response is better on this example as well. It’s a comfortable car made more comfortable. However, if you hit a nail, you better stop.

Why should you consider the Cooper Tire’s RS3-G1? The ride and comfort seems to be pretty darn good and they’re backed up by a staggering 50,000 mile tread-wear warranty when fitted in a square setup. So, for those whose climate requires all-season rubber, and especially running square setups, you can’t go wrong. And they’re going to be priced significantly cheaper than the Michelin equivalent too. Even on staggered wheels, a 25,000-mile guarantee is included. In this regard it could be a highly desirable option for those with older BMW’s such as E36’s and E46’s. Furthermore, it comes with GlideMount technology that makes mounting tires much easier. For those stretching tires, this could be handy.

Bet now you’re wondering about the performance of the tire. What about that 1G of grip? Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to drive the cars hard on the street, but did get to hammer open-wheel cars the next day wearing the same rubber. Part 2 at Palm Beach International Raceway, coming soon.

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