California and BMW M2; not a State, a state of mind
Lou Ann Hammond, Wed, 14 Dec 2016 11:05:21 PST
There's a reason that California houses the most Billionaires in the United States. Known for trendsetting, for thinking outside of the box, California loves uniqueness. California is not just a State; it's a state of mind.
The Pacific Coast Highway is 150 miles of jagged rocks and blue water stretching from Carmel to Morro Bay. There are many iconic resorts in California to visit; Carmel Valley Ranch is one of them. The ranch extends five-hundred acres, from the coastal village of Carmel-by-the-Sea into the heart of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
As my driver took me from the hinterlands of the ranch to the lobby he commented on the Spanish moss hanging from the oak trees, "it's like cotton candy for the deer. You can see them on their back legs, tip-toeing up a tree to get the moss just out of reach." 2016 is the year of El Nino, and it couldn't have come at a better time for California. After a seven-year drought, the pastures and mountains were greener than any of us remembered.
The morning drive in the 2017 BMW M2 (starting at $51,700) coupe was utterly majestic as we headed down Highway One to Big Sur. Long Beach Blue Metallic, one of the four colors to choose from in the palette, was the perfect backdrop for lapping waves and sandy beaches. The new 3-liter turbocharged inline six that produces 356 horsepower and 343 lb-ft of torque surfed around the curves. The M TwinPower Turbo gave us so much torque we felt like we could ride the waves of the Pacific Ocean instead of the Coast Highway. Click on the overboost function, raising the lb-ft of torque by 26 lb-ft to 369 lb-ft between 1,450 and 4,750 rpm, and we propelled our surfboard from the nipping of the shark, also known as a wanna-be racer trying to keep up with us.
Post Ranch Inn, Ventana Inn, rush by my eyesight as we fly down Highway one in a state, on a day, only God could have sculpted. I stop at Nepenthe, a place I have stopped many times before. One wrong step on a jagged edge and I could tumble into the land of forgotten, swept up by the sea. Paradoxically, Nepenthe is karma soft and full of melodic wind chimes that relax your breath and slows life down.
It was such a contrast to what my afternoon would be like in an hour. For all the sereneness of the Golden State, it is also home to some great race tracks, most notably Mazda Laguna Seca racetrack. That racetrack would be my exhilarating nemesis for the afternoon.
I followed Claudia Hrtgen, the chief instructor at the BMW Driving Experience around the track as she gave us instructions on how to maneuver around Laguna. The M2 I punched around and over the corkscrew had a seven-speed M Double Clutch Transmission that could hold its own.
Each time I did a lap I got a little faster, but what I realized is how much confidence the car gave me to go faster. The M2 coupe is solid; it is more powerful than the BMW 1 M Coupe. The power-to-weight is exhilarating. The torque kicks in anytime you need it. It hugs the curves, even with that sand in the corkscrew as you're going over the hill. It was partly getting reacquainted with the track, partly getting acquainted with the car, partly gaining confidence in the way the BMW M2 drove.
The most fun was when Bill Auberlen took me for a spin around the track. Bill Auberlen has driven for BMW for the last twenty-one years and has driven more BMW cars in more races than any other driver in the world. Auberlen has won seven championships, hundreds of races for BMW, and the second most wins of anyone in the United States. He is scary fast, and scary good.