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BMW Innovation Days – Joy really is futureproof

Last Sunday, RPMGO.com, together with our colleagues from Revvnation, were invited to the BMW Innovation Days event, held at a local dealership.

At the event, two workshops and two drive tests were organized, showcasing the new technologies being developed by BMW in all of its fields, from the new systems for regular cars, to its hybrid and electric endeavors.

If you want to check out our impressions of models like the 2011 5 Series, 2011 X5, Z4 sDrive35is, X6 ActiveHybrid or 7 Series ActiveHybrid, then hit the jump and find out!

First off, we were treated to an interesting workshop about the 2011 BMW X5 refresh, which not only highlighted the biggest changes made to the SUV, but also the technologies that are now standard or optional for the car.

Even though we made fun about the repositioned foglights, the 2011 X5 does have a lot of new tech under its body. From the Integral Active Steering (which Vlad applauded in our 5 GT test drive) to the Head Up Display or Night Vision with pedestrian recognition.

Afterwards, the real fun started, as a test drive with the newest BMW models was organized. Among them, the 2011 X5, 2011 5 Series (530d version), Z4 sDrive35is or X1 (xDrive20d).

First off, the 2011 X5. Although I only got a chance to be a passenger in it, the new X5 was still extremely impressive. First off, the interior is gorgeous, sporting some improvements over the older SUV. The iDrive system has gotten rid of its cluttered interface, and is now much more user-friendly.

The high seating position really makes you feel like you’re king of the road, but the xDrive system make sure that you stay on it. We approached a few corners with high speed, but the heavy beast of car wasn’t even impressed, largely due to the aforementioned all-wheel drive system and the integral active steering.

Next up, and my personal favorite, the 2011 530d model. In my opinion, this is the car that symbolizes what BMW can do. On one hand, if you put it on comfort, let the eight-speed automatic do its thing and just enjoy the great seats, it’s a great limousine. On the other hand, if you put it into sport, shift the gearbox in sequential mode and use the paddles behind the steering wheel, you wouldn’t even feel the large weight of the car.

Even if it was just the 530d version, the engine was quiet and extremely responsive to even the slightest touch of the gas pedal. The acceleration was extremely smooth, thanks to the new eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Next up, the BMW Z4 sDrive35is, the most powerful roadster the Bavarian company currently offers. After the hulking X5 and the comfortable 5 Series, the Z4 was a completely different experience. The roadster offers some true thrills, not just through its power, but the way it sticks to the pavement. Also, the sound coming out of the twin exhaust is music to the ears of any car fan. Quite honestly, if BMW didn’t put a sound system in it, you wouldn’t hear any complaints.

After the massive amounts of fun we had with the aforementioned models, it was time for a new workshop, this time about BMW’s EfficientDynamics strategy as a whole, presented by Alex Seremet.

Here we learned that EfficientDynamics isn’t just about a concept sportscar, but a strategy designed to combine both the continuing pursuit of performance with the need to create more efficient, eco-friendly technologies.

Currently, for regular BMW models, the EfficientDynamics package includes things like Auto Stop-Start, brake energy regeneration, optimized gearboxes as well as the use of lightweight materials. But as a whole strategy, it also means the use of new power resources like hybrid or electric drivetrains.

This is where we talked about the new ActiveHybrid range, currently consisting on the 7 Series mild hybrid, where the electric motor is used for an acceleration boost, and the X6 full hybrid, where it is possible to run in electric mode.

The range will no doubt expand, seeing as how a 5 Series concept was revealed at the beginning of the year, but this doesn’t mean BMW will focus on just hybrid efforts.

Instead, the company also has Project i in development. This includes electric drive technologies, as seen on the Mini E prototypes that are currently beings tested in Europe.

The conclusion of Project i will be the MegaCity electric vehicle, a compact city car designed for busy urban environments. The main goal of the model will be to combine a fun-to-drive experience, with everything you need in a busy city life.

After this second workshop, it was time for another test drive, with the ActiveHybrid range from BMW. Specifically, the BMW 7 Series ActiveHybrid and the BMW X6 ActiveHybrid models.

First off, we drove the X6. This was the first time for me in the luxury model, and I was pretty surprised. The coupe look didn’t really impress me on the exterior, but the interior of the X6 is very nice. Immediately though, I was shocked by the poor rear visibility, as I saw just the roof of a 7 Series behind me.

Still, poor visibility aside, the X6 ActiveHybrid is a true beast. Its 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 is always ready to flex its muscles, and the addition of the electric motors to further help the acceleration offers anyone behind the wheel or sitting as a passenger, a stunning sensation.

I did manage to drive for a bit in electric mode, and the feel wasn’t that bad. You couldn’t even tell, aside from the revvcounter standing still at 0, that you were using just the power from the batteries. As soon as you hit the gas though, the internal combustion engine comes to life and delivers its power.

Next up was the BMW 7 Series ActiveHybrid. This was a much tamer beast than the X6, as you were treated with a more respectful attitude. You felt you were in a composed limousine, not in a brute of a SUV/SAV.

Still, thanks to the electric motors running in tandem with that same 4.4-liter turbocharged V8, the acceleration is unbelievable. Still, seeing as how it didn’t have the xDrive all-wheel drive system, the ActiveHybrid 7 felt a bit more ‘wild’ than the X6.

With that in mind, the 7 Series hybrid still felt extremely good. If you bought such a model for yourself, you really must drive it yourself, instead of a chauffeur. The sensation is great and the car is filled with more luxury features than you can shake a diamond-encrusted stick at.

Overall, BMW’s Innovation Days really respected its tagline: Joy is futureproof. With the technologies from the EfficientDynamics package and with hybrids and future electric models, BMW is ensuring that it will continue to offer great models, with the same performance but ready for the future.

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