8 years or 100,000 miles
BMW's eighth generation G60 5 Series model's evolution is headlined by the incorporation of a fully-electric variant into the line-up, this car, the i5. It doesn't share the completely bespoke approach of its closest rival the Mercedes EQE. But it promises to be a more engaging driver's car and a rather different take on EV motoring for forward-thinking executives who don't want an SUV.
It wasn't long ago that BMW's full-electric i range was dependent on a single model, the i3. But now that's gone, to be replaced by a whole portfolio of (unfortunately much pricier) models, with mainstream offerings based around the iX1 and iX3 SUVs and the mid-sized i4. In the luxury segment, BMW has the iX crossover, the i7 boardroom-level luxury saloon and, to slot directly under that latter model, this car, the i5. Lots of other BMW EVs are planned of course, as the i sub-brand gradually takes over the Munich maker's range. As the i5 badge suggests, this is an all-electric take on the eighth generation G60 design 5 Series. In other words, the fundamentals of this car's architecture weren't specifically designed for an EV, which immediately puts the i5 on the back foot against its most obvious rival, the bespoke-designed Mercedes EQE. But the CLAR platform in use here has been evolved very much with full-battery power in mind and the stats from its 81.2kWh battery certainly look class-competitive. Will it all be enough for this BMW to get a foothold in the fledgling sector for large executive models with EV power? Let's see.
The i5 borrows its EV drivetrain from the only slightly smaller i4. And like that car is offered in two forms: the rear-driven eDrive40 with 340hp (62mph from rest in 6.0s en route 119mph) giving up to 356 miles of range. Or there's the four-wheel drive M60 xDrive we tried, which mates its stablemate's rear motor with an additional one at the front, creating a combined output of 601hp (so 0-62mph in 3.8s en route to 142mph, with up to 316 miles of range). So in both its forms, the i5 offers more than enough performance. But other large executive EV saloons costing this kind of money feel pretty quick in a straight line. Where this i5 should grab an advantage is when it comes to the twisty stuff. Yes, it's helped by the central battery placement's lower centre of gravity, but all electric vehicles offer something of that sort. With those other EVs though, that advantage is usually all-but cancelled out by the extra clunking battery weight they have to carry around. The i5 has this too, but its CLAR chassis is much better at dealing with it. And to that combustion-derived platform has been attached the 'lift-related' dampers and rear suspension refined over years in the brand's 3 Series model to a benchmark level of driver engagement. It's a recipe that should elevate this i5 to a segment-leading level of dynamic prowess. Firm M suspension is the standard ride set-up, which suggests a driver-orientated vibe. You can option that up to 'Adaptive Professional' suspension, which gives you adaptive dampers and rear wheel-turning 'Integral Active Steering'. The top set-up is 'Adaptive M Professional' (standard-fit on the M60), which combines rear-wheel steering with active roll stabilisation.
The i5 joins the range just as BMW has introduced a meaner, leaner, more muscular kind of 5 Series. This eighth generation G60 model has grown in every direction - 93mm longer, 35mm wider and 24mm taller. The saloon sells alongside a Touring estate version. Both body styles share what the brand calls 'a clear, reduced design language and athletic proportions'. The classic kidney grille continues at the front, even though it isn't needed on this i5, where it's blanked off. And traditional door handles have made way for flush-fitting ones. These, along with a flat underbody, explain an impressively sleek drag factor of up to 0.22Cd. There are no surprises inside if you happen to have tried the current 7 Series. Which means a triple-layered dashboard supporting a single 'Curved Display' panel combining a 12.3-inch instrument screen with a 14.9-inch central monitor. The latter runs the latest 8.5-spec version of BMW's media operating system, which means it gains video and gaming functions for the first time. As in the '7', a touch-sensitive back-lit 'Interactive Bar' can be specified, this featuring colour-adaptive functionality. As standard, the cabin comes decked out in vegan leather upholstery; and the lower console now has only a small toggle for a gear selector. For this MK8 design, BMW's added 20mm extra to the wheelbase length, which has freed up a little extra back seat space. Boot capacity for the i5 is rated at 490-litres, 30-litres less than you'd get in the petrol-powered 520i but 80-litres more than a 5 Series PHEV. As previously, you can flatten the rear backrest on the saloon to increase luggage space length.
You'll need well over £74,000 for the i5 eDrive40 with 340hp; and nearly £98,000 for the i5 M60 xDrive with 601hp. The eDrive40 model's entry price is quite a hike over the £51,000 figure needed for the entry-level 208hp 520i sDrive 2.0-litre petrol model. BMW has developed both saloon and Touring i5 body styles and the default trim level is 'M Sport', BMW having realised that most customers previously upgraded to this trim level anyway. If you want more, there's an 'M Sport Pro' trim option. Even the standard spec comes with quite a lot. 'M Sport' trim includes 18-inch alloy wheels, power-folding mirrors and Adaptive LED headlights with high beam assist. Inside, there's a Harmon Kardon audio system, heated front sports seats, a wireless smartphone charging tray, ambient lighting and automatic air conditioning. If you stretch to 'M Sport Pro' level, you get an illuminated front grille, meaner looking 'Shadowline' headlights, a rear spoiler, larger wheels with red-painted brake calipers and, inside, an upgraded audio system and M Sport seat belts. Most customers will want to add in one of the available optional packs. The 'Comfort Pack' gives you a heated steering wheel, an auto boot lid and keyless entry. The 'Comfort Pack Plus' includes 4-zone air conditioning, heated rear seats and ventilated front seats. The 'Tech Pack' includes BMW's 'Parking Assist Plus' system that automatically steers you into spaces, plus gesture control and an interior camera. The 'Tech Pack Plus' adds the brand's 'Parking Assistant Pro' set-up that remembers parking spaces, and the pack also includes BMW's suite of 'Driving Assistant Pro' driver assist features.
We gave you the i5 eDrive40's driving range figure in our driving section - up to 361 miles. Or up to 320 miles for the M60 xDrive. These figures come via an extremely slim high-voltage battery located low down in the vehicle floor and providing 81.2kWh of usable energy (quite a lot smaller than the 101.7kWh battery used in the larger i7). The heat pump technology used in the integrated heating and cooling system for the cabin and drive system helps boost efficiency, as does the adaptive or individually adjustable recuperation feature. The high-voltage battery is heated using a dedicated 5.5 kW electric flow heater. The Combined Charging Unit in the i5 eDrive40 allows AC charging at a rate of up to 11kW, while DC power can be taken on board at a rate of up to 205kW. This allows for a 10-80% charge within 30 minutes. Hooked up to a 7.4kW garage wallbox, a full charge would need around 13 hours. The 'BMW Charging' package comes as standard on the i5, which gives owners attractive kilowatt hour tariffs for AC and DC charging throughout the UK and Europe. The high-power charging network run by the BMW Group's joint venture IONITY also forms part of the BMW Charging network. Almost 16,000 charging points are included in the UK and Ireland, while the monthly fee for BMW Charging and IONITY is waived for the first 12 months for all retail customers.
A decade ago with the i3, BMW showed just how innovative and ground-breaking it could be in designing an EV from a completely clean sheet of paper. Despite the brand's quickly proliferating range of electric vehicles, we're still really waiting for a follow-up to the ground-breaking EV ethos of that car and we don't have it here. This i5 though, like the Munich maker's other current i models, shows just how effective an EV package it can create from shared combustion-derived underpinnings. It's a pity you can't have it with the larger battery from the i7, but otherwise it takes just about everything we liked from that car (which was a lot) and offers it in a slightly more accessible package. It's certainly a formula executives will feel a little easier transitioning into than a rival Mercedes EQE. In the future, BMW will have to stretch itself a little more with EVs in this class. But now, this i5 might be exactly what the brand needs in this growing segment.