Bruno Spengler topped the first DTM Series practice session at the Norisring ahead of Mattias Ekström and Tom Blomqvist.
The only street circuit on the DTM calendar, has brought the drivers closer together in lap times with 0.842 seconds separating first and 18th.
BMW are aiming for a more competitive weekend after struggling in the past three rounds, with Spengler topping the timings and Blomqvist third followed closely by Timo Glock in fourth it is a positive start for Bavarian outfit.
Returning to the scene of his maiden victory last year, Nico Muller was fifth fastest.
Gary Paffett was the lead Mercedes in sixth place, with stablemate Robert Wickens just behind in seventh.
Augusto Farfus, Maxime Martin and Mike Rockenfeller rounded out the top ten.
The championship front-runners found themselves further down the order. Jamie Green could only lap as well as 11th fastest, championship leader Rene Rast found himself in 13th place. Lucas Auer was 14th, just half a second behind Spengler.
Ahead of the weekend the DMSB announced further reductions to the communication allowed between team and driver during the race.
On Thursday evening race director Sven Stoppe informed teams and drivers, with immediate effect, the boards displayed from the pit wall can only be used in a very limited way – to call the driver in for a pit stop or in case of an emergency.
Saturday’s schedule has been brought forward, with the race moving from 18.55 CEST to 13.25 CEST due to coverage of the memorial for the late Helmut Kohl.