Revealed a couple of months ago at the Munich IAA, the eighth generation 5 Series sedan is now on sale in the UK, albeit as a kind of rolling launch. First it’s the petrol-powered sedans (no diesels for Britain) plus the i5, then the PHEVs next month and a new Touring (G61) in the second quarter of 2024.
Same CLAR platform as other G60 variants
BMW’s traditional rival Mercedes-Benz believes a special electric model in this segment is the way to go, as shown by the launch of the EQE Sedan. It could have been merely a version of the E-Class but instead this car has it own unique body.
We don’t yet know for sure what Audi will do but an A6 e-tron rather than a unique model is strongly rumoured. Which means of the Big Three German premium brands, only Mercedes is taking the bespoke-electric route. So in BMW’s case, will buyers see enough difference in the new i5 to justify what is very high pricing?
As with i7 as the badge rather than ‘Electric 7 Series’, so the i5 label is a simple solution for what the company would call the first EV in the history of the 5 Series. And when the estate arrives next year, there will be an i5 version of that one too. If we exclude Nio, which is still only in the first stages of its arrival in European markets, the 2024 i5 Touring will also be the segment’s first electric wagon.
Does a big battery make the i5 too heavy?
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Few would argue with the previous shape 5 Series having been best-in-class in almost all the areas which most matter to buyers, particularly its mix of comfort and keen dynamics. Adding a heavy battery to create the i5 must surely compromise the G60 5 Series’ tilt at retaining its crown, or so it would seem. But does it?
A brief drive on mostly well-maintained roads not too far from BMW UK’s Farnborough base certainly showed the new i5 in a good light. Yes you do notice the 2.3 tonnes of heft, a large part of which is the 81.2 kWh battery. This is the only pack of cells specified for the car, no matter whether a buyer chooses the eDrive40 (from £71,105) or the more powerful M60 xDrive (£97,745 before options).
As that lower case e denotes, the ‘base’ variant is rear-drive and features one motor on the back axle. In the M60, this is supplemented by a second power unit up front and that also means four-wheel drive. Acceleration is spectacular – zero to 62 mph in 3.8 seconds – with a top speed of 143 mph. Range suffers though due to the extra weight of the M60 compared with the i40. Official worst to best numbers are 296 to 362 miles.
Play while you charge
In the case of each variant, DC charging at up to 205 kW is possible, BMW claiming that it takes half an hour to reach 80 per cent if starting from 10 per cent. And if you’re looking for something to do whilst waiting, just use your phone to interact with AirConsole, a new in-car gaming app.
As with any EV, mash the throttle pedal and you’ll be looking to top-up sooner than perhaps expected: the i5’s responsiveness almost encourages this. Keep things calm instead, cruise at 60 to 65 mph on motorways and I can well believe that more than 300 miles is possible.
Two EVs at launch, one more to come
Just as the i7 is identical in size to all other 7 Series variants, so too the i5 measures the same 5,060 mm end to end as the 520i, 530e or 550e. Those, by the way, are the other sedans coming to the UK. Including the two EVs, our line-up therefore consists of five cars. That will be expanded to at least six in 2024 not including the Touring, as BMW has already noted that a third i5 is on the way. Official details are awaited.
As well as being just shy of 10 centimetres lengthier than generation seven, G60 is 32 mm wider (now 1,900) and 36 mm taller (to 1,515 mm). The wheelbase (2,995) is up too, gaining 20 mm.
Although the 5 Series is also made in China, those cars – including the i5 – are special long-wheelbase sedans only (code: G68). These should remain restricted to the PRC, with standard wheelbase saloons and the yet to be seen Touring coming off the same line at the Dingolfing plant. The German factory has produced every one of the eight generations of the 5er since it opened half a century ago.
The name, certain styling elements such as the kink in the rear doors’ smallest panes and a rear-drive layout link the original E12 model to this latest model – a heritage that BMW knows no rival can match. All the more reason to make the i5 part of the company’s longest-running model family, bestowing legacy credibility upon its new drive system.
A luxury car or a sports sedan?
Wondering if this would be one of those good yet indistinct EVs was what I most wanted to find out as I climbed aboard the i5. Straight away it has the feel of a 5 Series, even though – and this is a good thing – you’re immediately reminded of the 7 Series and i7. The dashboard looks very similar, slabs of illuminated trim featuring (standard on i5, optional on certain other G60s).
BMW hasn’t repeated the odd idea of electric buttons supplemented by cheap-feeling plastic back-up handles that you find in the i7: instead the i5 features metal latches, just as all all cars should have. They look lovely and have a beautiful action.
The fashion for replacing physical switches and buttons is visible in the i5 although the iDrive controller remains. Even the air vents have been redesigned with digital slider controls and sad to say, they are a backward step. The dashboard does at least look lovely if ultra-minimalism is your thing, trumping maximum ease of use.
Nobody can however fault BMW for either the quality of most of the materials used throughout the cabin nor for the sheer roominess on offer. All variants, not just the i5, also feature 40:20:40 folding for the back seat and a vast boot.
I mentioned weight above and should add that the 520i is more than 600 kilos lighter than the range-topping i5 M60 (1,680 versus 2,290 kilos unladen). Easily offsetting the extra heft is a combined 400 kW and 795 Nm (820 with launch control) from those two motors.
We’re talking M5 levels of power and torque then, and remember that the outgoing fastest Five was far from being a lightweight either. Pull a small paddle marked ‘Boost’ for extra rapid take-offs – launch control if you will – and extra big smiles. The i5 might have the feel of a smaller 7 Series/i7, that is to say, a luxury car, yet sometimes the sportiness which has always been part and parcel of the 5 Series appears.
Will there be a V8 for the M5?
BMW isn’t yet saying what sort of powertrain will be under the bonnet of its next M5 but it will certainly have some kind of electrification. Possibly it will employ the plug-in hybrid biturbo V8 set-up from the XM. For now though, the i50 M60 remains king of the G60 line-up.
It has to be said that the electric Five is a joyous thing to drive. That’s all the more impressive considering the weight of the i5, and wheels which are a minimum of 21 inches for the least expensive G60, sizes up to 23 inches also featuring.
The badge on the bootlid is fairly small so apart from a closed off (and illuminated for the M60) grille it isn’t immediately obvious that the i5 is an electric car. You will know instantly which model family it is part of though, the number 5 being etched into the C pillar.
Positioned at the top of the 5 Series tree, this new EV is quite the statement from BMW. While it’s missing the traditional straight-six exhaust music, the electronic noise it does emit is not without appeal and, if you will, a sense of satisfying sophistication. That’s something you can also say about the whole car. BMW might even have redefined what buyers will be seeking in this segment, though that does come at a price which will, initially at least, take some getting used to.
Pricing for the new BMW 5 Series starts at GBP51,000 (520i), with the i5 M60 costing GBP97,745 before options