Taking a drive at BMW M School

Like many of you, I drive a car every day – it’s something we do without thinking about it too much. Gas on the right, brake on the left, grab the wheel, and off we go.

But what about when driving becomes a sport, and tenths of a second are the difference between winning and losing? I took a trip down to South Carolina and the BMW Performance Driving School’s Two-Day M School to help retrain my driving brain.

M stands for motorsport, and M School means I got to drive the high-performance models from BMW’s lineup. Make no mistake – an M5 with 617 horsepower is not to be trifled with unless you have some confidence and know-how, and that’s what the School and its instructors teach you in spades.

We’re not talking about parallel parking or even accident avoidance here though. M School is all about proper vision. You go where you look, and if you are looking at that cone on the side of the road, guess where you’re ending up? So keep those eyes up and out. Brakes are also a big factor – to go fast around a track, you must slow down and maintain control.

Sometimes weather conditions aren’t ideal, and for that we head to the wet skid pad to practice what to do when a car loses grip entirely. Drifting through a turn, basically controlled slipping, is the goal here. The instructors encourage you to drive past the limit and experience for yourself how to drive right on the edge. Yes, I spun out, but I also recovered from it and then avoided it altogether.

Speaking of the instructors, each has a background in racing, and each has a unique way of explaining particular exercises to you without making you feel like a dummy. They were the reason I felt comfortable doing 120 mph in that M5.

Now you might be thinking “I’ll never go that fast on the road” – and you’d be right. But the lessons work as well at 40 mph as they do at 100. Though still far away, I can promise you that my daughter will be taking BMW’s Teen School when it’s time for her to drive, from the very same instructors.

So I had the time of my life, while learning skills I’ll use each day behind the wheel. It’ll be tough to beat that weekend experience.