This is the new BMW 5 Series, and it’s gone fully electric for the first time | Top Gear
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This is the new BMW 5 Series, and it’s gone fully electric for the first time

Current range-topper is a 593bhp twin-motor M car that’ll do 0-62mph in 3.8s

Published: 24 May 2023

There are quite a few firsts packaged into this new, eighth-generation BMW 5 Series, but the most pressing will likely be the fact it’s the first time you’ll look at a 5er and think, ‘hmm, that looks a bit upset about something’.

BMW has taken its heartland executive saloon – a benchmark for decades – and transformed it from a sensible, small-c-conservative four-door into a shark-nosed electric firecracker.

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That’s right, electric. Electrons have of course featured in previous 5 Series, but they’re fully activated for this car. The first fully electric 5er – the i5 – is available in either ‘eDrive 40’ trim, or the current range topper (before an M5 swings in), the i5 M60 xDrive.

That’s right, firecracker. The M60 gets BMW’s fifth-generation ‘eDrive’ tech (as does the 40), which comes with an electric motor positioned on each axle for AWD, powered by a 81.2kWh (useable) battery pack said to be of a “particularly flat design”. BMW quotes 593bhp, 605lb ft of torque, a 0-62mph of just 3.8 seconds and a limited top speed of 143mph.

The eDrive40 is a rear-drive setup with just one electric motor and gets a lot less of course – 335bhp/295lb ft, 0-62mph in 6.0s, 120mph flat out – though both get a ‘Boost’ shift paddle that triggers max acceleration and alters the noise. Range on these two cars is quoted as between 282-320 miles for the M60, and 296-362 miles for the eDrive40.

Indeed the upper reaches of those range estimates can be achieved by activating the ‘efficient’ and ‘max range’ modes which limit how much of a firecracker each car can be – top speed is just 56mph – along with deactivating the air-con, and seat and steering wheel heating. Find a DC charger and you’ll hose in from 10 to 80 per cent charge in half an hour.

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Wondering where the petrol-engined 5ers are? At launch, there’s just the one ICE-powered 5 Series: a 520i, which gets a four-cylinder petrol with 48V mild-hybrid tech and an eight-speed gearbox. BMW says it’s done a lot of work to this engine – redesigned intake ducts and combustion chambers, along with tweaks to the cam control, fuel injection and ignition system. There’s 205bhp/243lb ft on offer, and the ability to get to 62mph in 7.5s.

Next year, we’ll see the arrival of the 530e – a four-cylinder petrol plug-in hybrid offering up to 56 miles of electric-only range – and a 550e PHEV powered by (at least we suspect) a straight-six, which aims for 62 miles of e-range. No diesels are being offered, at least at this stage.

There’s M sport suspension as standard, featuring firmer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, while the i5 gets special spring-travel-dependent damping. That car also gets self-levelling air suspension at the back, too. Naturally you can spec adaptive dampers, and the M60 gets active roll stabilisation as standard, which feels handy because the new 5 Series is now roughly the same size as an old E38 7 Series.

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Though if we’re talking BMW history, the design team has pulled an even older classic out of the archives. The now infamous kidney grille has been inspired by the old ‘sharknose’ BMWs, while the four LED front lights are housed in a more aggressively-shaped unit. Ditto the lower front, too, itself featuring a duct directing airflow away from the wheels for less turbulence. (BMW says the new 5 has a smooth underbody, too.) 

Overall it’s a blockier, more obviously iX-inspired design along the flanks and the rear – especially that straight-cut rear light signature – which offers a very ModernBMW take on the classic three-box shape. Naturally the further up the schporty tree you climb, the greater the amount of gloss black detailing and illumination of the grille you will find.

All customers will find BMW’s ‘Curved Display’ inside – a 12.3in digital display for the driver, flowing into a 14.9in central screen that apparently only shows Bundesliga highlights. The latest version of iDrive with BMW’s 8.5 OS is onboard too, and there’s the ability to play games on the screen. And just like in the 7 Series, there’s a slim touch-sensitive bar running underneath the instrument panel for control of the ventilation and air con.

BMW is offering pretend leather (‘Veganza’) as standard, while real leather is an option, as is a panoramic roof, a Bowers & Wilkins stereo (Harman Kardon is standard). There’s a tonne of driver assistance tech, plus an onboard ‘assistant’ that understands ‘natural language’.

Prices start at £49,850 for the 520i, rising to £73,200 for the i5 eDrive 40, and £96,840 for the i5 M60 xDrive. Along with the 530e and 550e, we’ll also see a 5 Series Touring next year too. One suspects it won’t have calmed down by then.

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