The ultimate test drive: BMW Korea opens Driving Center in IncheonView gallery - 15 images
BMW has invested some US$75.5 million building the ultimate test drive center in Incheon, near Seoul, South Korea. Customers can stretch the legs of BMW's range of performance cars and motorcycles on a 2.6-kilometer (1.6-mile) closed circuit racetrack, or put an SUV through its paces on an off road area. The 240,000-square meter (almost 60 acre) site will also house a service center, bars and restaurants, training academy, historical exhibits, kids' area – and of course, a giant BMW and MINI showroom.
What better way to test a sports car or motorcycle than to take it on a few laps around a racetrack? Modern sportsbikes well and truly obliterate any civilized speed limit before they get out of first gear, meaning that you've got to risk your license just to feel the full acceleration of your new vehicle.
Likewise, sports car suspension, stability control and tires can hang on obscenely hard in a corner, to the point where it's very hard to trouble their limits on the road. Particularly in a dealer test drive.South Korea is one of BMW's key developing markets and the giant Driving Center has been created close to the country's largest international airport at Incheon, where existing and potential BMW customers can push their vehicles to the limit on a state-of-the-art facility.
The 2.6-kilometer (1.6-mile) road race track can be set up in six different configurations. It's a short racetrack and you won't be troubling the 300+ km/h (180+ mph) top speeds of some of the faster vehicles available, but considering that motorcycles aren't allowed on Korean freeways, and are thus limited to 80 km/h (50 mph) on the road, you'll get a much better sense of the vehicle on the track than you could on a regular test drive.
Likewise, the off-road course and "dynamic driving" skid pan area allow drivers to experiment with 4WD and stability control features in a safe and controlled environment, with BMW also planning to offer a range of educational courses around performance driving, road safety and driving to maximize fuel economy.
Taking advantage of the center's proximity to the airport at Incheon, customers will be offered an "airport service" that gets their cars serviced while they're away overseas. It will also allow easy access to the facility for customers from China, Japan and other areas.
The BMW Driving Center will open to the public on August 1 this year.