Friday, October 5, 2012

2012 ED Review

Part 1…M5 review

Now that I have been back home here in the OC for a couple weeks (and caught up on work - got to pay for the car and vacation) I've had the chance to get my European Delivery documentation complete.  What a trip!  I must start by saying a couple things right off the bat…

1.  If you are hesitating about doing a European Delivery because of driving in do not sweat it, and go for it!  It is not all that bad, and, your insurance covers damage to your beloved BMW.  

2.  The people here on this board are some of the most well spoken and versed people regarding travel planning around.  Fantastic knowledge base and I very much thank all of you that helped with advice and guidance on our itinerary.

Now, one more shameless plug.  Jon Shafer at Santa Barbara BMW is a rock star.  Bought a few cars in my time and I have to say this was the most painless and professional experience I have ever had.  Considering the market conditions around the new car I was purchasing there was much room for a CA to pull some stunts, especially someone who you were working with remotely over the phone and email.  Thanks Jon.

Disclaimer…this is LONG with many pictures.  Feel free to flame me for it!  Our trip took us from Munich, to the Berner Oberland in Switzerland, over the Grimsel, Furka, and Gotthard passes to Italy and Lake Como, and a trip down the autostrada to Villefranche-sur-Mer in France.

Don't really quite know the best way to do this, so I am going to talk about the car first (yes!) and then our trip.  If it was not for the car, we would not have been in Europe, now, would we? :)

M5 Review

F10 M5.  One amazing ride.  I ordered my car May 11th and took delivery on September 10th.  It is Alpine White/Full Sakhir Orange with Piano Black trim.  It has all the options except the driver assistance package, rear seat entertainment and B&O sound.  Previously I was fortunate to have an E60 M5 which I picked up in early 2008.  I also have to let everyone know that the E60 was my first bimmer - as luck would have it the deal that I cut on the lease was less expensive than the M3 that I was originally looking at - but enough of that car.  

The new F10 M5 is better than the former car IN EVERY WAY - HANDS DOWN.  All of the folks talking about the active sound, the fact that it is larger/heavier, the loss of the high-revving V10, blah, blah, blah, have either not driven it, or, are stirring the pot.  The sum of the parts on this new car allow it to do some really amazing things.  Granted, it is large, however, that size seems to disappear once behind the wheel.  The combination of the active rear differential, the instantaneous torque, connected steering (while in sport plus engine and sport steering settings), great brakes and aggressive exhaust note make for an engaging and predictable driving experience.  

Although I did not abuse my car while in Europe I did drive the F10 M5 last October at the Ascari track in Spain.  My opinion was forged from that experience and the nearly 800 miles I put on the odometer while in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and France.  Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, let me provide you these facts:

  • The car pulls very hard from nearly a stand still - and it does not stop until red-line.  Although there is a drop off (based on the figures provided by BMW) the butt dyne does not pick it up.  I feel that this is entirely due to the fact that the thrust from ~5500-6500RPM is unbelievable.

  • Turbo lag.  Yes, I do feel that there is a bit of lag while in efficient settings, i.e., when tooling around town.  If the car is setup with the more aggressive sport or sport plus it is nearly nonexistent and after there is any load on the engine forget about it all together.  That includes passing on the highway and entering/exiting some of the more challenging turns at Ascari.

  • 20" rims make for a slightly more rough ride than the 19"s that were on the E60.  Still not bad, but, if you are expecting the same type of ride from the OEM setup as the E60, better go with the 19"s on the F10.  IMHO, I liked the more rough ride from the 20's and here in SoCal the roads are still good enough to not worry about damaging the wheels (until CA files bankruptcy, that is).

  • Rear Diff.  I don't know exactly what the white coats at ///M did in software and with the systems integration, but they work miracles.  I think that this new system, which takes into consideration many variables and proactively adjusts the lock, combined with the rear end bolted directly to the chassis, make for a very predictable driver.  On the track last year it was very clear that this entire system is better than the M3 (which we also drove on the circuit) and is clearly why this big sedan outpaces the smaller, more nimble brethren.  Disclaimer…I did not get a chance to drive with DSC off (abiding by the 24h+ rule with my car), but I am interested to see just how good it is at some point.  2 day ///M school? 

  • DCT.  Enough said.  Well, almost.  I do still miss the, well, abusive nature of S6 on the SMG.  That was just too fun.  Don't get much of that on the DCT.  When you think of pulling the paddle it has already shifted and it is SMOOTH.  Didn't get to stomping on it during the ED run-in, but did in Spain. 

  • Exhaust note is very aggressive.  IMHO more so than the stock E60, as the F10 says something even at low revs.  I could never hear my E60 unless the windows were down and in a tunnel or near a wall.  Not so with the F10.  Just roll down the window and be subjected to a great note.  Time was paid to this and as such I am rethinking my initial thoughts to replace the OEM with an Akra setup.  Larger tips would be nice.  Side story.  While we were in Monaco we got stuck in some traffic behind a large wedding caravan.  I normally don't do this, but with all of the youngsters celebrating outside the church I slipped it into neutral and revved it. Everyone turned and started jumping up and down.  Now, I don't know if it is was the group of people, the fact that they had not seen an F10 M5 before (unlikely, considering Monaco), or that here in OC M5's are a dime a dozen, but the old car's OEM note never received any attention.  Not so with this monster.

I am not going into the electronics, materials, or fit and finish of the interior.  They are all topnotch and others have done a fantastic job reviewing these elsewhere.  Base sound was better than expected but for the record I am not an audiophile.  Bluetooth audio sucked.  It was unreliable and frequently had garbled playback, could have been my old iPhone 3GS.  I do not know but I won't be using it so this is a non-issue for me.  Piano black is killer and as reported by others is a dust magnet.  Probably going to put a swifter duster in the glovebox :)  

Part 2 - Days 1, 2, and Delivery

WOW!!!!  What an experience.  The folks at the Welt took very good care of my family including my two kids (8 and 5).  They went above and beyond to assist us with getting our newly purchased boosters from the store to the delivery area (on a very busy Monday morning), gave them extra toy cars and Motorsport bears (which they proudly display on their school backpacks).  Rolf, our delivery professional somehow knew that I had a previous M5.  How I have no idea, and, as such he tailored the delivery to the similarities and differences between the E60 and the F10.  That was awesome, as I have a short attention span and did not want to go into detail on items that I did not need (read want) to review. 

Some comments and suggestions for those who are thinking of doing a European Delivery, or, have one scheduled:

  1. If you can, check in and do your shopping the day before or get there early for your delivery.  It goes VERY fast and IMHO I wish that we had more time to just savor the moment.  
  2. If you want a picture of your name on the marquis stating your delivery time take it right as you show up.  I missed getting a pic with my name due to the small talk with Rolf :(
  3. Test fit your bags in the car that you are going to pickup before leaving for Europe.  We were OK as I knew our 4x international bags would fit, but if we took 4x US carry-on size rollers we would have been pressed for space.
  4. If you have kids, take them!  Like I mentioned above, the Welt went above and beyond for my little ones.  Not a problem whatsoever.
  5. In the event that Rolf or Peter do not take you to the Welt and swing by ADAC, just buy the vest(s) and other items at the Welt.  Time is money, and after picking up the car the last thing I wanted to do was go to another place to get what we needed.
  6. DO IT!!!  Don't think if you can, just make it happen.  If we are lucky enough in the future to get another BMW, I will definitely be doing the ED again.  Yes, it has been difficult to drop the car and now have to wait up to 2.5 months to get it, but it is SO worth it.

On to some pictures :)

Day 1 and 2:  Departure and Munich.

Custom Bag Tag…One for me (Driver), wife (DJ), and kids (Historian - my reader 8 y/o, and navigator - my 5 y/o who loves maps).

Marienplatz and Glockinspiel from St. Peter's.


The Chinesischer Turm at the Englischer Garten.  Too many beers here so we missed the BMW Museum.  Oh well, have to save something for next time.  But the beer was good!

Day 3:  Delivery Day!!!

First view of the Welt coming out of the U-Bahn station.  Heart rate pumping…my ///M is close!

Check-in, signing my docs!

Breakfast, Welt-style.  Love the Weisswurst, tasty.

Me and the new ride!

The family…with Rex.  Car is named after a storm trooper captain from Star Wars, the clone wars series.  My daughter is a huge fan…I had to look it up.

Ceremonial key handover.  The look on my face describes it all :)

One of the ///M pre-victory lap

Victory lap complete, out into the beautiful Munich sunshine.

Future racing driver?  "Daddy, look at the intercoolers!"

Part 3 - Days 3 and 4

Days three and four were spent driving from Munich to Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland and enjoying the Berner Oberland.  And what a drive it was.  The car was wonderful on the Autobahn, both from a passing perspective and cruiser.  Very comfortable.  Bummer the weather was not great for the drive, but, it did clear for our full day spent in Murren and taking the cable cars/gondolas around the Jungfrau area.

We stayed at the Hotel Alpina in Murren.  If you are considering a place to stay, I highly suggest this hotel.  The owner, and her son were fantastic.  They kept the kitchen open late on our first night there (we checked in just before 9PM).  Food was good.  Small, ski-resort rooms.  But they came with a staggering view out on the balcony.  Nearly a straight drop down to the valley floor.  I've spent some time in the Sierras and the Rockies both hiking and snowboarding and I can say without a doubt that Alps are all that and a bag of chips.  This area is definitely on our list to return, both in the summer and winter for snow sports.

On the road to Interlaken, Switzerland

Heading into the Lauterbrunnen valley from Interlaken.

Home for the next two days.  Goodnight Rex.

By the time we were on the cable car up to Murren, it was dark.  We had no idea what awaited us the next morning.  So…I was up with the dawn patrol to see (and pray the weather was good) and was greeted by this.  Unbelievable!  (Sorry for the dust bunny)

In camera panorama from the Fuji X100 (loved this little camera). from the Piz Gloria station on the Shilthorn.  The picture does not do justice to immense scale and beauty.  Truly phenomenal, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Can you tell that my kids are a big fan of cheese? 

Part 4 - Days 5 through 7

Building up to the trip this was probably my second most anticipated leg after picking up the car.  Reason?  The drive.  Instead of taking the shorter route to Italy and Lake Como via the Gotthard tunnel, I had to drive some passes.  In doing our trip prep, the Grimsel and Furka passes footed the bill.  This drive would take us South over the Grimsel and then East over the Furka, ending at the Gotthard pass.  On paper, and youtube, this was definitely going to be good :)  Once on the lake, we were set to spend two full days doing absolutely nothing…and we did.

When we woke up the morning of day five the weather was not good.  It had rained pretty much all night and I was worried about the weather and the status of the passes.  Checked that morning the Swiss trucking website ( which showed all three open with no closures.  Since it was raining hard we decided to leave Lauterbrunnen and hit the road.  I fueled up and off we went.  No traffic.  Made it to the Grimsel very quickly, and we found it snowing on the summit.  Not good.  But from the reading that I have done since we got back, this is not unexpected, and, is actually common.  So, we took our time.  Slippery, so we took it easy.  I had also planed for this to be all caught on my GoPro Hero, with my moto mount.  Since the weather was so bad, I skipped this.  If I ever get a chance to go back and it is clear, I will definitely be filing this drive.  Oh well, you can't win them all!

At the Grimsel summit.  There is a large reservoir out there, somewhere :) 

But, once we got over the pass, it cleared, the temperature rose significantly, and, the road was fairly dry….Looking back up to the summit of the Grimsel…

Here is an in-camera pano of the Furka (left) and Grimsel (right).  What a couple fun roads to drive, particularly the Furka.  It was really, really good.  One of the best, if not the best mountain pass road that I have driven.

Stopped for lunch at the Hotel Belvedere.  Great food…had the kaese spaetzle.  MMM!

From there, we drove down the Furka…which I have to admit was a bit sketchy.  Small road. Fortunately, I think that everyone stayed away due to the bad weather.  Just a couple bikers, and, only one tour bus.  We really wanted to get to the hotel in Bellagio (Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni) before dinner, so once we got back in the car I decided to put the camera away for a bit and concentrate on getting us there as quickly as possible.  

What can you say about Lake Como that has not been said.  Amazing.  No wonder the super wealthy folks have vacation homes there.  But…the roads are crazy small.  I mean really, really small.  So, after a tour along the north side of the lake, we made it to Menaggio to catch our ferry, and now our fourth mode of transportation (plane, subway, car, and boat).

On our arrival to Bellagio, the navigation and the printed maps all said to drive the same way from the ferry terminal.  And it was crazy.  Traffic limited zone.  Given this was the only way to the hotel, we decided to proceed after going around the block once to see if there was any alternative.  Wow.  People were literally standing in the doorways of shops as we drove through.  We totally thought this was a closed area and we should not have been driving there.  Turns out, we were supposed to be there, and, it was THE only way to get to the hotel.  Here is a pic of the street we drove down!

Weather was a bit windy but clear the next day, so we decided to do some window shopping and go to Varenna for a sunset.  Weather was perfect for our last full day in Bellagio.  Sat at the pool all day.  Mom and dad relaxed, and the kids played on the diving board and swam.  Decompress!!!  

M5 Tucked away in the secure garage.  When they said secure, they meant it.  There was a bollard that allowed access in/out.  With it up, there was NO way the car was getting out.  They had no problem with me parking the car myself.  Turns out that there was an ED'er right next to me!  Anyone on this board's car?

Part 5…Days 8, 9 and 10

Saturday morning we hopped into the car and took off for our longest drive of the trip, taking us from Bellagio, south to Milan, and finally southwest to France (Villefrache-sur-Mer) with quick stop in Monaco.  Off we went.  Weather was perfect for a nice drive.  

I thought that the roads on the northern side of the lake were small.  Wow…so glad that we did this on a Saturday morning.  No construction, only two tour busses.  Lots of cyclists.  Here is a small video from the GoPro of the first part of the drive:

Once we got through the stunningly beautiful lake drive (that frankly I caught very little of, due to concentrating on driving) the rest was easy.  I did not find the autostrada bad at all.  I will say though, that everyone speeds.  Didn't matter if there were cameras or not.  I decided to adhere to the limits, just in case.  

Monaco.  Didn't spend much time here at all.  Small snack next to Le Casino, a bit of gas to get me to the Nice drop off on Monday with a 1/4 tank or less, and a couple pictures!

Probably one of the best pictures from our vacation.  I was kind of against it, but in the end, I agreed with my wife that when in Rome, act as the Romans.  So, I dropped her off without a phone (stupid) and proceeded to try and get back around to Le Casino…damn, Monte Carlo traffic.  After 30 minutes and what I believe were two illegal left turns, we made it around and the wife snapped the picture.  Classic.

From Monte Carlo to Villefranche-sur-Mer we drove the Moyneene Corniche.  Stunning.  We stayed at the Welcome Hotel.  Fantastic place.  Months prior I had sent an email asking about a secure garage.  Upon check in, not only did they remember that I had requested this, but they also remembered that I asked to park the car myself.  WOW.  They had two garages - literally garages in an residential building - where they could park cars.  One was a tandem (with two cars, including a brand new Jaguar XJ) and a single, which was mine.  Cool!!!!

The market in front of the hotel, and, the garage housing my car :)

Along the harbor

Beach day!

The morning of our departure.  Unreal sunrise over the harbor.

On our departure day, we decided to give ourselves ample time to get loaded up, drive to Nice, wash the car, and drop it off.  Glad that we did.  I read that Nice traffic was crazy.  Wow.  Indeed.  Took a couple wrong turns (our first real wrong turns of the trip) and it cost us some time.  I had decided early on that we would wash the car by the airport at the Total station, drop off my wife and 5 y/o, and then drop off the car.  The plan worked out perfectly.  The nice lady working at the station new exactly what we were doing at the car wash.  I asked for three codes (so I could wash the car, err, properly) and she smiled, and said, "the BMW!"  I smiled, said merci, and washed the car up.  Brought some bug squash (glad I did) and got all of them off, plus the dirt on the lower doors, rear bumper, and wheels.  It looked pretty good when I was done.  Not perfect, but heck, this is vacation right?

From the airport to TT Car Transit is literally less than five minutes, and had one onramp.  Took the liberty of flexing the M to get up to speed…as a final hurrah before dropping it off and saying au revoir.  The final picture was of the odometer.  701 miles, and dropped off with just under a 1/4 tank.  Perfect.  No scratches, dings, or curbed rims.  Handed them the key that was programmed with no M settings, signed my docs, and off we went.

In summary, it was an experience of a lifetime.  Really good fun.  Way better than I expected and my wife and kids were blown away.  Again, thanks to everyone here on the board and I hope that what I provided here (while long-winded) proves helpful to those who are thinking about doing their first ED, those doing ED and considering heading to the Berner Oberland, those considering the Grimsel and Furka passes, or someone thinking about just heading to Europe.  

Once I take delivery, I'll be posting some helpful hints to augment some of the information out there on tracking the ship you are on, etc.  Hopefully that will be sometime around the first week of November.

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