Where you can legally drive like a hoon
Speed cameras, clogged roads, police hiding in bushes and a near future where Big Brother automatically slows your car as it spies on you … little wonder the joy of driving seems a distant memory. That's why you need to go to M Town - "Where Too Much is Just Right".
Created by BMW, it's a fantasy land where burnouts are encouraged, local police join in the street racing and baristas serve your flat white while you smokily drift past the collection window. This motoring nirvana began life as an online campaign to build a global BMW M community.
BMW is building - and fans are buying - more M vehicles than ever before. Joining sedans, coupes, convertibles and grand tourers are two more ludicrously powerful SUVs: the $158,000 X3 M Competition and $165,000 X4 M Competition, due later this year.
Yes, you can call M Town's message irresponsible, promoting illegal driving, glorifying hooning, whatever, but there are far better causes in which to direct your outrage these days. The adverts are beautifully produced, clever and firmly tongue-in-cheek.
It's struck a chord with BMW M fans in the digital space and the brand didn't miss the opportunity to tap in to such passion in a physical way.
M Town may only be make-believe but closed test tracks and proving grounds provide the kind of sideways fun so appreciated by the performance BMW faithful.
Enter M Town on Ice, where customers and enthusiasts can come to New Zealand's Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds on Mount Pisa, 1500m above sea level and equidistant from Queenstown and Wanaka.
This snow-covered 40ha playground has been the location of BMW's Alpine Experience for a decade, with drivers honing driving skills through slaloms and figure-of-eights and on snow-covered racetracks and drift courses.
Basically, it's where you come to do fun skids on snow in very powerful rear and all-wheel-drive M cars.
As much as I'd expected to spout superlatives about the joys of snow-spraying slides, screaming high-power engines and heavenly car control, sadly I can't.
As if to give the M Town fantasy a reality check, New Zealand neglected to drop the snow on the proving ground, rendering it impossible to safely inaugurate M Town on Ice.
That dream may have been shattered but another took shape - it would have been a wasted opportunity to ignore the M cars shipped in for the occasion.
The region's famed Crown Range Road and Race to the Sky hill climb course were on our doorstep and at the wheel of the new BMW M850i we could at least create M Suburbs, albeit with all the road rules of normal life.
The M850i - at $272,900, with twin-turbo V8 (390kW/750Nm) and all-wheel drive - would be head rooster in fantasy M Town but proved quite a thrill on soggy twists and turns on public roads.
It may weigh two tonnes but, with peak torque from just 1800rpm, it has weapons-grade surge, flashing from rest to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds. Supercar stuff.
There's theatre to the body and cabin design, too. Select Sport mode and enjoy continual burbles and pops from the exhaust. Such things are embraced in M Town.
"Some people think BMW M is too loud, too low, too fast, too showy," says BMW NZ's Gabrielle Byfield, "but to a customer or fan, these are the things that make the heart race and make them want to be part of BMW M."
With a car like the M850i barely able to show its true skills on public roads, little wonder enthusiasts pine for a place to let such cars loose. M Town would be such a place but, as we found, sometimes it just has to remain a fantasy land.