- Fantastic cabin design and comfort
- Fast and agile performance
- Useful range
- Not much steering feedback
- Infotainment takes some learning
- Boot is smaller than before
The BMW 5 Series lineage stretches back more than half a century, to 1972, but the i5 is the first time the model has gone electric. Combustion models will still be offered but the i5 feels like the best illustration of where the 5 Series will head in the future. And it’s strong in almost every area, in the best 5 Series tradition.
The i5 is a big car, at more than five metres long, and a heavy one too at over 2.2 tonnes, but its two current variants, the eDrive40 and the M60 xDrive, make up for their size and weight with ample power (from 340PS to 601PS), plenty of grip, and impressive agility. It’s refined too, with little road, wind or drivetrain noise, and even rides well despite UK models leaning into the “sport” element of sports saloon, with stiffer suspension and large wheels.
Inside meanwhile the i5 is like a scaled-down BMW i7. It looks and feels fantastic and there’s no shortage of space front or rear, while anyone concerned that the boot is a little smaller than before may be placated by learning that there’s an i5 Touring estate on the way in 2024.
A long range and fast charging mean longer distances shouldn’t be an issue, and naturally the i5 is full to the brim with BMW’s latest technological features. It doesn’t come cheap, with prices starting at more than £74,000, but this is a car with Porsche Taycan-style performance with better range and more space for people and things. That makes the i5 very easy to recommend.
Is the BMW i5 right for you?
Provided cost isn’t a barrier and you’ve got somewhere to charge it then the BMW i5 makes a very strong case for itself if you’re looking for a swift and comfortable executive car, retaining the qualities that made previous BMW 5 Series among the best cars in their class, with the strengths of a well-developed electric car.
What’s the best BMW i5 model/engine to choose?
The BMW i5 eDrive40 in standard M Sport trim is already such a complete product it’s difficult to imagine wanting anything more. It doesn’t have the truly eye-opening acceleration of the xDrive M60 but it’s still quick enough for most, and the M60’s hefty outlay - from £97,745, compared to £74,105 for the eDrive40 - doesn’t buy you any more refinement, nor range. Nor much more equipment; the M Sport’s kit list is already pretty comprehensive.
What other cars are similar to the BMW i4?
Closest in concept to the BMW i5 is the Mercedes-Benz EQE, which acts as Mercedes’ de facto electric E-Class. Its bar-of-soap look is probably even more of an acquired taste than the BMW’s angular styling and while the AMG 53 version is quicker than the M60, it’s also more expensive. The EQE offers a longer range on paper, while the BMW counters with better performance at equivalent pricing.
The Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan are also worth considering, though technology has moved on so quickly that neither stands out for its abilities as much as it did at launch. There’s always the Tesla Model S too - but Tesla is now only offering it in left-hand drive in the UK, and it’s less of a driver’s car than the BMW.
The seats feel straight out of the larger car and are outstandingly comfortable, though the sportier i5 does seat you lower than its grander sibling. There’s plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel, and with adjustable bolsters it has a sporty feel too.
You sit behind a large, curved screen similar to that in many current BMWs. Here it incorporates a 12.3-inch driver display and a 14.9-inch touchscreen, with further controls including the rotating, crystalline iDrive dial on the broad centre console. It doesn’t feel sporty necessarily, but it’s ergonomically sound and certainly looks and feels the part.
BMW’s Veganza artificial leather feels just as good as the real stuff too, soft and high-quality. Back-seat passengers have it good too; the longer wheelbase on the new car means plenty of rear legroom, and taller folks shouldn’t struggle for headroom either.
Quality and finish
This is a real highlight of the new BMW i5. BMW’s recent models have been class-leading in this area and the i5 is no exception. The interior has the warm, inviting nature you typically get from Mercedes, with the kind of fit and finish accuracy and solidity we’ve come to expect from Audi.
It’s similarly impressive on the outside too, with one curious exception: reflections in the flat sides betray how the perimeter of each door seems to curve in slightly before the shutline. Audi definitely still has the edge on precision panelwork, it seems.
Infotainment: Touchscreen, USB, nav and stereo in the BMW i5
As alluded to further up, all BMW i5s get a large, curved display screen that incorporates both a 12.3-inch display ahead of the driver, and a wide 14.9-inch touchscreen for the infotainment. It looks fantastic, as these wide screens often do, avoiding any “floating iPad” accusations, but it also works well, and comes bundled with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as standard.
It will certainly take an owner a little time to fully decipher everything. Air conditioning controls have permanent shortcuts at the lower edge of the screen and they’re simple enough to deal with, and you can pull down a shortcut menu from the top for commonly-used features. Naturally, you can also spin the iDrive dial on the centre console, with its own shortcut buttons positioned nearby.
There’s just a lot to go through, so it’d be worth experimenting with at a standstill first. If you’re parked, you can also watch YouTube, if you’ve bought the right data package - and the screen’s excellent resolution means it should look pretty good, too. For the driver, the i5’s large head-up display is also top-notch for clarity.
Space and practicality: BMW i5 boot space
Whether in the front or back, the BMW i5 is a spacious car. 5-series haven’t been cramped for a while now, but in expanding the car in every direction (the i5 is 5060mm long, 1900mm wide without mirrors, and 1515mm tall), BMW has certainly found more rear legroom, and the dashboard layout seems to make the cabin feel more inviting and airy even if the actual driving environment is no bigger than before.
Where the i5 loses a little to its predecessor, albeit not by much, is in boot space. The combustion-powered 5-series get a 520-litre boot, 10 litres down on the previous car (no doubt a result of that sloping design at the rear), but the i5’s big battery pack reduces that further to 490 litres. Still big then, but if you’re concerned about losing space for whatever it is you carry, an i5 Touring estate is on the way, which will solve that issue.
One of those exceptions concerns handling, the other ride quality. In most handling terms the i5 is excellent. It steers positively and doesn’t seem hampered by its considerable weight - this is a car that tips the scales at well over two tonnes. There’s enough grip to satisfy all but racing drivers and bank robbers and feels impressively agile, helped by minimal body roll, which means even in fairly quick changes of direction, like scooting into and out of a roundabout, the i5 keeps its weight in check.
The downside is you get very little in the way of information at your fingertips. The steering is responsive, accurate, and does weight up gently in corners, but there’s not much sense of what’s actually going on - it’s just as well you can pretty much always trust the i5 to hang onto your chosen line.
Ride, too, is well judged. All UK models come with M Sport suspension at a minimum, but even on 20-inch wheels, it doesn’t seem to be much of a penalty. The ride is taut but not uncomfortable (something helped by the softness of the seats) and rides most small bumps well, while feeling controlled over undulations and through dips.
The exception here is that on deteriorating UK roads it does occasionally thump through particularly rough sections - something we’d expect models on smaller wheels and with softer suspension, not available in the UK, would deal with better.
What motors and batteries are available in the BMW i5?
BMW keeps things simple with the i5 lineup. There’s a single 83.9kWh battery pack, with 81.2kWh of usable capacity. There’s a little more variety in the motors. Both the eDrive40 and the M60 xDrive get a 340PS electric motor on the rear axle, but the M60 adds a 261PS motor at the front wheels too, for a combined 601PS total and of course, all-wheel drive.
The single-motor eDrive40 finds excellent traction (helped by sophisticated electronics to minimise wheel spin) to accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.0 seconds, while top speed is capped at 120mph, presumably to preserve range even on derestricted German autobahns. The M60 is quicker still, with a supercar-style 0-62mph of 3.8 seconds, and a raised 142mph limiter.
The M60 really throws you back in your seat under hard acceleration (and gets even quicker with a tug of the Boost paddle behind the steering wheel) but even the eDrive40 is very brisk, and both models find plenty of traction, building up power in a curve for those first few metres off the line - something that helps the car find grip, but is also probably more comfortable for passengers.
Thankfully the brakes are up to the task of slowing them both down again, with a relatively firm pedal that does a good job of hiding the fact it’s mostly slowing you down with the motor’s regenerative effect, at least initially.
Maximum electric range in the BMW i5
With one battery size and two different power outputs, it’s the less powerful of the two BMW i5s that naturally goes a little further on a charge. The i5 eDrive40 has a WLTP-rated range of 354 miles, while its more powerful M60 counterpart can do only 315 miles in comparison. We’d expect real-world range to be a touch lower - BMW claims efficiency of 3.8 miles per kilowatt hour for the eDrive40 and 3.4 mi/kWh for the M60, figures that heavier-footed drivers may struggle to attain.
The i5’s regenerative braking is quite effective, but does vary according to where the car thinks it should be deployed - so it’ll tend to coast on a motorway, but if a slower speed limit is coming up, or the car detects other traffic in front, it’ll deploy more regeneration to slow you down for it.
Refinement and noise levels
The BMW i5 is a very refined car. Save for a little suspension noise over rougher roads, audible as dull thuds more than clonks or crashes, the i5 isolates road noise very effectively. It does a similarly good job of keeping wind noise to a minimum - there’s a general whoosh at higher speeds on the motorway but it’s far from intrusive, and given there’s no engine noise contributing to the party, the i5 feels relaxed on almost any road.
In fact, the loudest noises are the deliberate sounds under hard acceleration that BMW hired composer Hans Zimmer to create - though these are at their most prominent in sport mode, and disappear entirely at a cruise or under gentle acceleration.
Safety equipment: How safe is the BMW i5?
The BMW i5 hasn’t yet been crash tested by Euro NCAP but its predecessor was rated a safe car when it was tested back in 2017, and the i5 should attain a similarly high score in today’s even tougher testing. That includes its use of various electronic crash mitigation features, such as better collision warning abilities (with improved detection of pedestrians, cyclists, and other cars even at tricky angles) and an advanced lane function to steer you away from any oncoming traffic that might cause a collision risk.
As charging speeds drop over time (now in a calculated curve, rather than stepped as per previous BMWs), it also means if you’re low on charge, you can add 100 miles in as little as ten minutes. On the i5 M60 xDrive, 22kW AC charging is also an option, for faster top-ups at home.
Charging costs vary but at the current UK average fast charging cost of 74p/kWh, a 10-80% charge in an i5 will cost between £40-£45, and at 27p/kWh for home electricity, nearer £15, or down to around £6 on the cheapest night-time tariffs.
How reliable is a BMW i5?
The BMW i5 is brand new so its long-term reliability is difficult to judge at this stage. BMWs tend to achieve middling results in reliability surveys and the brand’s first proper EV, the i3, had some teething troubles unique to its somewhat pioneering approach, but electric power does tend to mean fewer moving parts, lower maintenance costs, and fewer things to potentially go wrong - so we’ll find out in a few years where the i5 stands.
Insurance groups and costs
BMW hasn’t yet confirmed insurance group ratings for the new i5. Given the model’s cost, we would expect both the eDrive40 and M60 xDrive towards the upper end of the 1-50 group range - high-end variants of the outgoing 5-series are typically found around group 45.
VED car tax: What is the annual road tax on a BMW i5?
VED or ‘road tax’ for zero-emission vehicles like the BMW i5 is currently free, so there’s no up-front tax payment when buying new, nor any subsequent payment, despite the i5 costing well over the £40,000 threshold that normally attracts a hefty surcharge. This is likely to change from 2025.
The M60 in particular is squarely in the same territory as the Porsche Taycan, Audi e-tron GT, and the now left-hand-drive only Tesla Model S, while the eDrive40 is around £23,000 more expensive than the upcoming entry-level petrol BMW 5-series, the 520i - though it’ll also intersect with more expensive petrol models.
Trim levels and standard equipment
The BMW i5 range opens with the i5 eDrive40 M Sport. Standard equipment for this includes Veganza artificial leather trim, a rear lip spoiler, ambient lighting, wireless phone charging, sports seats, air conditioning with pre-heating, Harman Kardon audio, M Sport suspension with rear self-levelling, 19-inch alloy wheels, parking and reverse assistants, BMW Live Cockpit Plus augmented reality for the satnav, smartphone integration.
Next up is M Sport Pro trim on the eDrive40, which gets BMW’s “Iconic Glow” grille design - a striking lit outline for the kidney grille - as well as black-tinted headlight housings, black exterior details, M seatbelts, and 20-inch alloy wheels as standard.
The i5 M60 xDrive comes with Iconic Glow as standard, over a dedicated M60 interpretation of the grille, a red centre marker for the steering wheel, Adaptive M Suspension Professional with Active Roll Stabilisation, Bowers & Wilkins audio, red brake calipers, optional 22kW AC charging, memory seats, and privacy glass.
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