We made our annual pilgrimage to the LA Auto Show earlier this week, and as in year’s past, there is a lot to see and a little bit of something for everyone. Bring the family, bring the kids, bring your significant other, bring your car- loving friends, but hurry since the last day of the show this year is Sunday, December 9th.
Here’s a video snippet of a sampling of some of the many cars on display at the Los Angeles Convention Center, home of the LA Auto Show.
Virtually every major car company is at the show, showcasing new cars and models. Some companies offered world debuts of their new cars, or US debuts, or auto show debuts. There were a few specific brands we always visit, and we made a point to stop in those booths. We did wander the entire show floor for a glance at everything. You could be there all day – we spent a good four hours wandering the show floor – which covers both major halls in the LA Convention Center – and still didn’t see everything.
My advice, look online at the show website in advance, to see if there is a particular car you would like to see. Check to see if you would like to test drive a car – several companies are offering this, but only until 5:00 pm. If you are bringing kids, look for kid-friendly displays, and let your kids sit inside the vehicles, they might have fun sitting behind the steering wheel for a photo! Then, be sure to wander and stop by some booths that are new to you. Be sure to visit the Galpin Auto display (in a room in between the two convention halls) and the Porsche exhibit (also off in its own area), and the “garage” down below for some custom cars and after-market suppliers.
The Ford booth had some netting overhead – an obstacle course for climbing through – great for kids. They also had a make your own Lego figure display – and then you could pose the figures in Ford Lego landscapes.
Lego figures I created in the Ford booth – and then posed in a Lego runway
Lego figures I created in the Ford booth – and then posed in a Lego race car garage
Mitsubishi’s area was in front of the Ford area – and you can see Honda on the left.
Climbing net above the Ford booth – fun for kids (and adults) to climb through during the show.
I liked the look – especially the interior – of this Hyundai concept car, Le Fil Rouge.
Le Fil Rouge concept car in the Hyundai booth
It was fun seeing the new Lexus UX – I drove this car for the A Girls Guide to Cars conference two weeks ago.
I love the trident on the Maserati grill.
Beautiful styling on the Acura NSX
Rivian is a new company that aims to make rugged off-road electric SUVs.
A new electric off-road SUV company, Rivian
I gravitated towards the Subaru booth this year. I am most familiar with their WRX, but the Outbacks really looked interesting, and then I posed in the new Ascent for a #SharetheLoveSelfie – Subaru is donating money to one of four charities for every selfie posted.
The Subaru Outback – I really liked it in black, and would love to test drive it someday.
Posing for a #SharetheloveSelfie, and Subaru will donate to a charity.
All the cars in the Mercedes Booth were stylish, but this one in particular stood out.
Ahh, had to stop by the Mercedes Benz booth, where all the cars are beautiful, but especially this 2020 GTR Pro
In the Volvo booth, the company said that it plans that 25% of plastic in its cars produced after 2025 will be recycled plastic. This seems very in keeping with the Volvo brand.
Volvo is committing to have 25% of all plastic in their cars produced after 2025 come from recycled plastic. Seems very on-brand for them.
Downstairs in the garage were custom autos and after-market vendors like Al & Ed’s Audio Sound and West Coast Customs.
West Coast Customs in the “garage” downstairs modified this Ferrari 488 GTB
West Coast Customs modified this 1965 Porsche 356
In addition to seeing all the models in the VW booth, they had this fun screen that mirrored the movements of anyone standing in front of this. I imagine kids would find this endlessly entertaining. I sure did.
Galpin Autos had a large room to display their cars. This 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera made me swoon. And how about this fun throwback pain scheme on this van and mini-wagon?
The Galpin display had this beautiful 2019 Aston Martin DBS SuperLeggera.
Galpin had many cars on display including this van and mini-wagon in fun 70’s era paint.
In the Jaguar booth, we spent a lot of time learning about the I-pace, Jaguar’s electric SUV. If you sign up to take a 90-second tour to learn more about the vehicle, you get a really nice Jaguar baseball cap. On the right pictured below is an interactive screen in the Jaguar booth, kids might find this entertaining.
The Jaguar I-pace electric SUV.
This interactive screen lets you follow the Jaguar with your movements
I liked the look of this all-new Mazda 3 (and since I drive a Mazda, I am partial to them). The hatchback was on a raised stage, but there was a sedan version in their booth that you could sit inside.
The all new Mazda 3.
In the BMW booth, I stopped by to see the M3 and M4. The M4 in a convertible, which sounds like a brilliant idea!
The BMW booth with a race car upstairs
Not wild about the color, but wild about the M3
A Convertible M4 !
In the Audi booth, they had a station where you could push pedals and hear the engine notes for different models.
The Grand Tour Game, related to the Amazon show, The Grand Tour, had an area outside on of the halls set-up with stations to play the game. And take a photo with a Porsche 918 Spyder.
The Grand Tour had a display outside of one of the halls – and you could have your picture taken with this Porsche 918 Spyder.
There were also game stations set so you could play the game.
As usual, Porsche had its own booth…and you saw the just-announced Porsche
The Porsched 911 GT2 RS Clubsport – front and center when you enter the Porsche room.
These photos only represent a sampling of what I took the other night. There are many cars to see and learn more about, and there are fun activities sprinkled throughout the show that hopefully will delight the little ones.
The LA Auto Show runs through Sunday, Decmeber 9. The show is open from 9:00 AM through 10:00 PM on Saturday, and 9:00 AM through 7:00 PM on Sunday. Check the LA Auto Show website for a list of cars at the show and events or drive-around schedule.
As car racing fan, and aficionado of classic racing cars, it’s a bit surprising that I do not own a fast car nor have I raced on a track or attended a driving school. I’ve been a passenger in a race car on a track, and I love watching racing drivers push their car to the limits on a track, but doing that myself? Not yet.
When A Girls Guide to Cars invited me to their Drive2Learn conference in Palm Springs recently, I was excited to attend and test drive the various vehicles made available to our group, but my eyes got big when I read that we’d be visiting the BMW Performance Driving Center in Thermal, CA.
BMW Performance Driving Center in Thermal, California. Photo courtesy of BMW Performance Driving Center
The half-day experience we had at the school is a mash-up of the different courses and classes BMW offers. While you will not be able to replicate our exact experience (and we didn’t do everything they offer), you can read what we did, and then determine what class might be the best fit for you.
View of the shorter track from the second level of the BMW Performance Center. This track was marked with cones and split into three smaller sections during our class.
Having attended a class at the BMW Performance Driving Center, I cannot wait to return. Here’s why I loved my experience there, and why I recommend you make plans to attend a class there soon.
After a buffet breakfast upstairs overlooking the track, our group gathered downstairs in a classroom where Adam, the lead instructor, introduced the other driving instructors. All of the instructors have racing experience and have been teaching at BMW for some time.
Love the humor on the coffee cups.
Can’t believe I’m at the BMW Performance Driving Center to drive BMWs!
Adam led a shortened course on driving basics – how to adjust your seat and steering wheel, where to place your hands (surprise it’s not 10:00 and 2:00 as many of us were taught in driver’s ed, but 9:00 and 3:00), and where to look when you are driving (look where you want to go).
Lead instructor Adam highlights the paddle shift levers on the steering wheel – you could use these if you wanted while driving, and I did!
Our short lesson complete, we were divided into groups and sent out to start driving.
The first rotation for my group was on the track with M4s, with two of us in each vehicle with the instructor in the lead vehicle. I paired up with Myra and drove first. Instructor Dave used a walkie talkie to communicate with us while we were driving. He led us in a caravan to the track and then explained that we would drive a lap following him, one car behind the other. As we drove in formation around the track, he noted braking points, apexes, straightaways where we could floor it, and curves where we needed to be looking out the side windows as we steered (use the side windows as you turn to see where you want the car to go). We were given the option to drive the car in automatic, or we could use the paddle shifts for manual mode. I tried that since I drive a manual transmission car.
With each successive lap, we went faster and faster. He coached us, and calmly led us around the track, encouraging us to go increase our speed with each lap. The car was quite simply a joy to drive. It was smooth and fast and stopped on a dime. At various points on the track Dave encouraged us to floor it, and I did. I know I hit over 100 mph, maybe even 115, and it was exhilarating. I know the car could go faster, but for my first drive I was being a bit timid. We did about four laps of driving and then switched passenger and driver. As we completed additional laps, my confidence grew in knowing what was coming next, where to push the car to go faster, when to lift off and brake, and where to steer to use make most effective use of the racing line (how’s that for a race term I learned watching Formula 1?).
Me and the M4 I drove around the track.
Caution though – riding along as a passenger caused some in our group to feel a bit of motion sickness. If that was an issue, the instructors encouraged those individuals to drive first, and then when we swapped driver and passenger, they could step out of the car instead of riding along and getting sick.
Here’s video of me at the end of the drive – thank you Myra for recording this!
Our next stop was to a smaller track layout where we would drive several different BMW models. We were handed off to a different instructor who led us around the track in a caravan of different BMWs – an M2, M4, 5550i, X5, and X6. Once we learned the braking points and apexes on the short track, we drove two laps in each vehicle, switched passenger to driver for two laps, and then moved to the next car. In quick succession, we were able to experience the performance and handling of each different model. To experience the difference between an M2 and M4, between an X5 and and X6, was illuminating. Sure the M4 felt like it was powered with a huge awesome engine, but the M2 was smaller and felt nimbler, easier to zip around corners and perfect for short – but fun – trips around town. The 550i felt like a solid car – large and roomy, with solid handling. The SUVs were surprisingly quick with good pick-up and were easy to manipulate around the short track. If you are thinking about purchasing a BMW, this is the thing to do – drive each model in quick succession and see which vehicle suits your driving style best. The best part – you can go fast and feel like you are really driving and feel the performance of each vehicle – not taking a slow loop around the block at a dealership.
Here’s a clip of us driving around the shortened track in the various cars by Peyton’s Momma.
We moved on to another small track for timed laps. Here we were paired again and drove in formation around this short track in 3 series BMWs. After noting the brake points and apexes, we were sent out to do timed practice laps. We had to drive the course as fast as we could and then stop within the stop box for our time to count. After two practice laps, we were sent on the track one by one to complete two timed laps. As we did our laps, it was quickly apparent who the two fastest drivers were in our group (and I was not one of them). Although I wasn’t the fastest, I concentrated on improving my time for each lap (which I did), taking the corners tighter, braking later, and trying to determine how to use the entire track to my advantage.
M3s and M4s lined up at the larger track for instruction laps and hot laps.
Our last stop was back at the big track for a hot lap with the instructors. As I sat in the back seat with two others from our group, David whipped around the track, braking, accelerating and drifting to give us the ride of our lives. It was so fun, I couldn’t stop laughing and squealing. What a thrill to experience the car being pushed to its limit while in the control of an experience driver.
Here’s what the hot lap looks like from outside the car (video clip courtesy of BMW Performance Center West):
Here’s the video I took while in the back seat during the hot lap – there’s a lot of laughing and squealing (also watch Jess Doll’s hair in the front seat as the car turns). It was a rush!
A BMW M3 speeds off on a hot lap.
Did I Say It’s Educational?
A word about the instructors
Yes, the BMW is the “ultimate driving machine,” but simply sitting behind the wheel of a BMW doesn’t necessarily provide the ultimate driving experience. The instructors were without fail engaging, calm, reassuring, and funny. I never felt pushed to do anything I was uncomfortable with, and they encouraged us to push the car, go faster, and enjoy it. It was seamless and fun, yet I walked away feeling like I learned how to drive better – whether I was in a BMW or not. If the thought of driving fast or doing laps on a track is scary, you can come here to learn in a no-pressure, non-intimidating environment and progress at your level. That is not always the case when you’re taking a class to learn something new, and the instructors here really impressed me.
Our half day of “class” done, we returned upstairs where Adam presented us with BMW Performance Driving School goodies – the best being the BMW Performance Driving school hat – with a California bear on the side (distinguishing it from BMW’s other Performance Driving School in South Carolina). The winners of the timed lap were announced and congratulated (not surprisingly I was not one of them), and then it was over. It went by so quickly – probably because we were all having so much fun!
I think I look good behind the wheel of the M4! What a thrill it was driving this at top speeds around the track.
There is something for everyone at the BMW Performance Driving Center. Whether you want to learn tips for better driving, how to extract the maximum performance out of a car, optimal racing lines on a track, what it feels like to ride a hot lap, or test various BMW models, there is a class for you.
There’s a wonderful selection of BMW branded merchandise at the store.
There are many classes to select: Car Control, M School, BMW Performance Drive, M Track Drive, Mini Driving Experience, and a BMW Track Meet event. Pricing starts at $299 for a half-day M-track drive or BMW Performance Center drive and goes up to $3,999 for a two-day M school package.
Enter to Win a BMW Driver Experience!
Enter to win A Girls Guide to Cars Grand Prize Giveaway that includes a drive experience at BMW Performance Center West, a stay at the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa and more! Click this link to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Contest rules: Entries must be completed by 11:59PM Pacific December 31st, 2018. No purchase necessary; contest open only to US residents 18 years old or older and subject to the laws of the state of California. Winner will be chosen by random drawing from qualified entires and verified by A Girls Guide to Cars; winner will be notified by email no later than January 7th, 2019. Prize will be delivered by USPS to a valid US address; prizes cannot be shipped to a P.O. box. Winners may be asked to provide identification to receive their prize. Prize valued at $1,200, not exchangeable for cash or other items. Prize is limited to one (1) night accommodations at Miramonte Resort, Indian Wells, CA with date of accommodation subject to approval by Miramonte management; one (1) breakfast for two at Miramonte Resort; one (1) half day driving instruction and hot lap package for one person at BMW Performance Center West, Thermal, CA. Travel and additional accommodations are the responsibility of the winner. Contest is administered by and prizes awarded by A Girls Guide to Cars, which assumes no liability for the administration of this contest. Miramonte Indian Wells Resort, BMW Performance Center, Visit Greater Palm Springs Area, and all other event partners assume no responsibility or liability for the administration of this contest. A total of 1 grand prize will be awarded.
Disclosure: I was a guest of A Girls’ Guide to Cars, BMW Performance Driving School, and Visit Greater Palm Springs for this trip in exchange for my honest opinion of my experience. All the opinions here are my own.