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Car Review

BMW i5 review

£74,050 - £109,890
910
Published: 30 Oct 2023
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Driving

What is it like to drive?

At the risk of damning the i5 with faint praise, it’s a case of ‘expect the expected’. Following the i4, iX and i7, the i5 is another exceptional electric BMW. Sure, anyone with a solid working knowledge of BMW’s internal combustion engines – particularly some of those charismatic straight sixes – will feel a pang of nostalgia. But in every other respect BMW can claim thought and technical leadership in the electric technical space.

The hardware here is deeply impressive: the 5 Series uses BMW’s modular Cluster Architecture (CLAR), which underpins all the bigger BMWs, but the double wishbone front axle and five-link rear axle have been revised to deliver improved refinement.

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Two examples: there’s an elastic steering gear mount on the front, while the all-wheel drive versions gain an aluminium stiffening plate. The i5’s vibration damping and acoustic properties are tremendous. M Sport suspension is standard, so the springs, dampers and anti-roll bars are all firmer. Electronically controlled dampers are an option, but the regular set-up is superb. It’s perhaps a touch too firm for our liking on our rougher roads, but for the most part nasty vertical inputs are simply shrugged off.

An active rear axle is an option, turning against the front wheels or in the same direction by up to 2.5 degrees. BMW’s IconicSounds software also allows you to tune the soundtrack.

It’s a sophisticated bit of kit, then?

This is certainly as dynamic an EV as anyone has managed. The eDrive40 is rapid without being outrageous, and rewards keener inputs without actively encouraging extrovert behaviour. Better just to lean into the car’s glorious interior rather than actually lean into the corners. Pull a paddleshifter labelled ‘boost’ and you get a 10 per cent/10-second energy kick. The brakes and regen are so well harmonised you barely notice them, unlike the set-up that undermines most Mercedes EQ models.

What about the M60?

The M60 xDrive is more fun. With 593bhp and 605lb ft at its disposal, it’s difficult to think of a scenario in which this wouldn’t be sufficient. As well as running the adaptive damping as standard, the all-wheel drive M60 also gets Active Roll Stabilisation (active anti-roll bars with 48-volt electric motors), improving agility, beefing up the steering responses, and reducing body roll. The traction control is integrated into the main ECU reducing the signal paths for interventions that BMW says are 10 times faster than before.

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In the dry, the M60 xDrive is next-level in terms of its sheer dynamism. It’s progressive and natural-feeling, with masses of grip despite its 2,380kg mass (the eDrive40 is 175kg lighter). Its front end is mighty, and even on twisty switchbacks the sense of flow and interaction is pure-bred BMW.

How does the range stack up?

Glad you asked. Remember the eDrive40 and M60 xDrive promise 362 miles and 321 miles apiece from an 81.2kWh battery? Well we’ve now driven them on identical roads in the UK and saw efficiency of 2.95mi/kWh from both, which equates to about 240 miles of real-world range; well down on the official numbers. The caveats here are that it was chilly (cells don’t like the cold) and - we admit it - we weren’t exactly nursing the throttle. Expect better returns with less liberal use of the boost paddle…

What’s this about lane-changing tech?

Ah yes. Specify the Tech Pack Plus (£3,300) and you get the Driving Assistant Professional system, which bundles together distance control, stop & go functionality, steering assistance and a lane control aid. In a nutshell, the vehicle suggests a lane change and you confirm by glancing in the exterior door mirror. This is either phenomenally cool or the end of days, but either way it equates to level 2 automation. We were so busy trying to figure it all out we missed our test route exit. Oops.

Push a button on the flat-bottomed steering wheel and the car takes over, to the extent that a gentle head tilt to the left (or right) is all you need to do to instigate an overtake. It works, no question, but so do our hands, feet, eyes, and brain. And we prefer to use those while we’re driving.

Needless to say, the new 5 Series is fitted with every possible form of assistance, including Evasion Assistant and Crossroads Warning with brake intervention. You can also park the car using your smartphone. Manoeuvre Assistant uses GPS and trajectory data stores and replays complex parking manoeuvres. Or you could just do your own stunts. Sorry, reversing.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

442kW M60 xDrive 84kWh 4dr Auto [Ultimate Pack]
  • 0-623.8s
  • CO20
  • BHP592.7
  • MPG
  • Price£109,890

the cheapest

250kW eDrive40 M Sport 84kWh 4dr Auto
  • 0-626s
  • CO20
  • BHP335.3
  • MPG
  • Price£74,050

the greenest

250kW eDr40 M Sport Pro 84kWh 4dr At Tec+Cmf+/22kW
  • 0-626s
  • CO20
  • BHP335.3
  • MPG
  • Price£86,550

Variants We Have Tested

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