FrontRunners: X-Country in X5

The X5 driving school at the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, S.C., offers a unique experience: an actual opportunity to drive an SUV off-road. During the one-day course, instead of cruising down the highway or negotiating parking lots, you can climb a 45-degree hill of rock, plow through water and mud, and accelerate and brake on icelike gravel.

Yet Tom Strahs, driving school manager at the BMW Performance Center (888.345.4269), says the goal of the X5 driving school isn’t to confront drivers with strictly slosh-and-slush situations. “That’s not what they’re after,” Strahs says of typical X5 drivers. “They want to learn to drive off-road occasionally. We’re not looking for the hard-core person. We’re looking for people like my wife, who drives an X5 but doesn’t understand the limitations of the vehicle.”

The one-day session, which costs $495 per person, also features a slalom course on which you weave around 10 traffic cones, then repeat the process, this time while holding a cell phone and carrying on a conversation. If you have any doubts, the cell phone does interfere with the driving, says Strahs. “The drivers start to hit more cones when they’re on the cell phones.”

The next driving school session is scheduled for June 15.

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