Tested: BMW Ultimate Driving Experience


BMW has long traded on its reputation for producing 'ultimate driving machines' for discerning buyers. But with even the least powerful car fettled by the company's 'M' motorsport division now offering 322bhp and sprinting to 62mph in a rapid 5.1 seconds, getting the most from these cars on the roads is becoming increasingly challenging.

Prices starting at north of £30,000 for the junior M135i models and £56,000 upwards for the fully-fledged M cars also mean that purchasing one of these machines can be a pricey prospect. Happily, BMW has now partnered with the iconic Goodwood circuit to offer 'Ultimate Driving Experiences', with keen drivers able to push these cars to the limit in the safety of a closed circuit – and without having to max their credit card.

We headed to the West Sussex track to try out some of the powerful German machinery and test the driving experience. First off was the £57,000 M4 – complete with fire-breathing turbocharged 3.0-litre motor punching out a hefty 425bhp. Heading out of the pits on to the circuit's home straight we were already travelling well into licence-losing territory by the first corner, with an instructor guiding us around the high-speed right-hander. And by the end of the lap we'd hit speeds not far short of 140mph.

With our guide in the passenger seat and braking points and apexes marked out on the track, taking on this tricky circuit is much easier than you'd expect, with the instructor pushing you to take each lap faster – all without making you drive beyond your abilities, ending up on the grass, or heading towards the barriers at terrifying speeds.

After a few laps in the M4 we switched to the hybrid i8 – after carefully negotiating the car's dramatic fold-up doors. With a weeny 1.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor under the bonnet, you might think that the i8 would be underwhelming, but the three-cylinder motor produces a true BMW wail and punts you around the track at not far off M4 pace. The narrow tyres on this car also make the corners more interesting, with drivers able to push the car at lower speeds than in the M4.

Before we hit the Tarmac, we spoke to ex-racing driver Tiff Needell for some tips for taking on the historic circuit. Alarmingly, when quizzed on whether the circuit is suitable for beginners Needell quipped "No, probably not!", with the track's high-speed corners making it a challenging track to take on, but if you fancy a full-on high-speed driving experience to push some of BMW's latest creations to the limits, this is it.