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BMW Alpine xDrive New Zealand Experience

Bavarian Cream (or creme bavaroise) is an indulgent dessert made from thickened milk and gelatin, into which, fresh cream is folded. This Haute Cuisine treat has been linked to the aristocracy, olden day ‘celebrity chef’s’ and is deemed to have been named for some very important visiting Bavarians.

The Alpine xDrive has equally been named for some very important Bavarians (BMW) and it too consists of Cream (the automotive kind), however, rather than gelatin, this is all folded into pure NZ Southern Alp snow and ice. This month I was invited by BMW NZ to Queenstown for a taste of this delicious adventure so luckily enough, I packed a big spoon!

Millbrook resort was to be our home for the two nights of the Alpine experience and the shuttle was there at Queenstown airport to greet us. Close to Arrowtown, Millbrook resort is five-star accommodation at its finest. Boasting a championship golf course within its vast grounds, glorious residential suites and cottages to lay your weary heads, and all with that Southern Alp backdrop – it’s a scene fit for any winter wonderland picture postcard and although we only had a few hours for rest and recuperation (can I claim jet lag from Auckland to Queenstown?), we all used wisely, SPA anyone?

With the moon beginning to rise over the snow-coated mountains, our hosts whisked us off to one of BMW NZ ambassadors Josh Emmett’s restaurants Madam Woo’s for a delicious feast before delivering us back to Millbrook for an early(ish) night. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.

Early to rise and another shuttle back to the airport, only this time it was for a Helicopter flight to the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds – Told you this was going to be an adventure. I have to say that, Queenstown from the seeming fragility of a helicopter window is even more breathtaking than the Air NZ plane that brought us there, however, both these experiences quickly paled into a distant memory once we commenced the main event, namely driving BMW M cars on the snow.

As we touched down, all the cars (and the staff) were there to greet us, all warmed up and ready for the day’s events (well certainly the cars were). The line-up consisted of X3 and 5’s and a plethora of BMW M’s from 2 to the all-new 5, be still my beating heart. Following a brief briefing, we were split into groups for a rotation of three thrilling exercises – let the games begin.

First up for us, was a snow drive around the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds ranch. It’s a facility created for vehicle (and tyre) manufacturers to extend their testing of new products, plus a place for companies such as BMW to showcase their vehicle capabilities, oh and have lots of fun along the way. With traction on and snow tyres fitted, our BMW’s could just as well have been driving along Tamaki drive, apart from the lack of Hauraki Gulf of course. Even the 15 degree hill start on sheet ice did nothing to disrupt the xDrive’s ability – seriously, we tried.

Next up, we changed vehicles at the event centre and headed out for some racing, BMW xDrive style. Side by side drag racing with braking on snow is as much fun as it sounds, followed by barrel racing around cones and stopping inside fictitious (thankfully) garages. It was a mixture of speed vs judgement to get around the course the fastest while still pulling up ‘inside’ the coned garage – let’s just say, some of the cones came off a little worse for wear.

The 3rd exercise had us behind the wheel of the M cars. It was traction off, drifting time. Firstly around a kidney shape course (how fitting) with left and right side drifting, followed by a full-on anti-clockwise power drift around a large coned circle. The M2’s were possibly easier to control, but the M5 with 600 horses coming from its 4.4L V8 engine all being delivered to its 2 rear wheels was quite magnificent.

Last up (alright it wasn’t exactly in this order), was the ice cold, hot lap experience with racing driver guru Mike Eady at the helm of the BMW M3. He literally threw the sportscar around a tightly (barely visible) mapped out course with huge cliffside drops to add to the excitement. Yes, the M3 had studded tyres but Mike had the speed dialled up well into triple digits, which is nerve-racking, to say the least.

The event ended with a trophy handout and rounds of applause and thanks. That night it was dinner at La Rumbla which included a well-deserved beverage or two. I’d say we the meal ended with a dessert, but we really had spent the day filled to the brim with spoonfuls of Bavarian creaMs.

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