BMW i5 Review 2023 | Top Gear
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Tuesday 5th December
BMW i5 is part car, part ecosystem. Even so, it’s rewarding to drive and the cabin is world class

Good stuff

Handling and performance, beautifully engineered, interior is stunning

Bad stuff

It’s expensive, some of the spec is overly complicated, firm-ish ride


What is it?

Do you really need to ask? This is the eighth generation of the BMW 5 Series, the car its creators believe to be the world’s most beloved business saloon. With 10 million sold since the first iteration arrived in 1972, they might be right.

The landscape is very different now though. Not least because electric cars are slowly but surely taking over. As such, the new 5 Series launches as the i5, fitted with BMW’s fifth generation e-Drive technology and touting all the radar, sensors and cameras that constitute a car these days. A mild hybrid entry car brings up the rear, with PHEVs coming in 2024.

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That puts it directly up against the Mercedes EQE and Tesla Model S, and to a lesser extent the Porsche Taycan and Polestar 2. Stiff competition, in other words.

Powertrain details please.

The i5 is available in two guises: the eDrive40 is rear-drive only, and it’s fitted with a rear-mounted electric motor that’s good for 335bhp and 317lb ft of torque, for a claimed range of up to 362 miles. It’ll do 62mph in six seconds flat and its top speed is limited to 120mph.

Then there’s the all-wheel drive M60 xDrive, which adds a front-mounted motor worth an additional 256bhp for a total system output of 593bhp and 605lb ft of torque. That’s M5 Competition wallop in old money. But with an all-new hybridised M5 due in 2024, think of this electric one as an M5-lite. Not that there’s anything inferior about doing 62mph in 3.8 seconds, although the top speed is limited to 143mph. The M60’s range, meanwhile, is 321 miles.

Both i5s use BMW’s 81.2kWh (useable) lithium-ion battery, with 11kW charging functionality as standard. This can be increased to 22kW if the optional on-board charger is fitted. The i5 can handle a maximum DC charge of 205kW, which can take the battery from 20 to 80 per cent in 30 minutes. Pre-heating is also taken care of either manually or automatically. When the navigation system is active, the battery is automatically pre-conditioned before a planned charging stop.

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New charging software also adjusts the charging power for optimum results, and waste heat from the battery is used to control the temperature. In Efficient mode, the range can be extended by up to 25 per cent. There’s also an emergency Max Range mode in case that charging point you were banking on is on the fritz. Imagine that, eh? The i5 basically becomes a mobile panic room.

Good info. How much do they cost?

Ah, thought you might ask that. There’s no sugar-coating it: the BMW i5 eDrive40 starts from £74,105 and the M60 is £97,745 without options. That’ll almost certainly trip over into six figures once you’ve specced it accordingly.

Ouch! Still, at least the design isn’t quite as painful…

Indeed. Design director Domagoy Dukec recently told us that certain BMWs are deliberately ‘louder’ than others. And on the face of it, the new 5 Series doesn’t have much in common with the XM (phew). Following BMW’s adventures in polarisation, the i5 is clearly more conservatively styled. It’s impressively aerodynamic, too: the drag coefficient is 0.22-0.23 across the range, aided by an air flap control that opens intakes in the grille to add up to 16 miles to the range, while an Air Curtain tidies up the air flow past the front wheels. Lightweight ‘air performance’ wheels with inserts also help reduce emissions and enhance range. Note also the flush door-handles, better for aero efficiency.

The celebrated kidney grille is slightly less prominent here, but still gets the Iconic Glow illumination as standard on M Sport Pro and M60 xDrive models. The latter definitely punches harder visually than the regular cars, with an enlarged front apron with black surfaces and a blacked out grille. There’s an ugly camera mounting in the middle of it, though.

The new 5 Series has grown, too: it’s five metres long, with a wheelbase 5mm shy of three metres in length.

I’m not ready for electric yet, tell me more about the petrol one.

We haven’t driven it yet but a 520 is also available from launch, powered by a 2.0-litre, 205bhp, turbo four-cylinder petrol unit with 48 volt mild hybrid tech for up to 48.7mpg. Next spring will see the arrival of the (299bhp) 530e and (489bhp) 550e xDrive plug-in hybrids, both of which use a new gearbox-mounted electric motor good for up to 194bhp. BMW says these variants are set to deliver up to 56 and 62 miles of range in electric mode. A Touring is also incoming, the first to be available as a BEV, as well as PHEV or ICE. So many acronyms, so much complexity. Which is the point: this 5 Series has been designed from the ground up to tick all these boxes.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

This is the best-handling car in its class and makes a Model S feel like a shopping trolley

The BMW i5 is an exceptional new car. We’ll have to wait to try the combustion versions of the new 5 Series, but if BMW’s stated aim here was to combine 3 Series dynamism with 7 Series luxury, it’s mission accomplished: this is the best-handling car in its class and makes a Model S feel like a shopping trolley. Especially the M60. Yes it’s expensive, but it feels every penny of the billion-pound investment it surely was for its maker.

As for the tech, this isn’t a car so much as an entire ecosystem. And while some of the new stuff comes across as a bit tryhard, the i5 just about avoids being too clever for its own good. Unlike the EQE.

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