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Car Review

BMW i5 review

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

What is it like on the inside?

OK, we’re calling it: this is one of the best car interiors in the world. Since its debut in the iX, BMW has been rolling out its Curved Glass display across the range, but there are some important modifications for the i5, as well as some new interior elements. It’s also magnificently well-made, and has the edge on the equivalent Mercedes and perhaps even Audi, too.

The Curved Glass set-up consists of a 12.3in main instrument display behind the steering wheel that merges seamlessly into a 14.9in main screen. BMW has now reached OS 8.5, with new graphics, a clear start screen and something called ‘QuickSelect’ to simplify everything. This is very 2023: load a car until it’s practically creaking with digital functionality and then build in some shortcuts because most users only bother with audio and navigation.

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What’s the blue strip I see in the pictures?

New to the i5 (and the 5 Series) is the Interaction Bar that first appeared on the 7 Series. It’s less showy here and consequently easier to live with. It consists of a beautifully backlit unit running the width of the dashboard, and is a lovely counterpoint to the Curved Glass display. Its surface has a crystalline appearance, which flirts with bling without becoming too Versace. The interior trim beneath it can be specced in aluminium or with a more technical carbon fibre effect.

More importantly, the IB conceals the touch-sensitive control panels for the air vents and climate control. Car designers have been trying for years to disguise air vents without compromising on their effectiveness. Well, BMW has figured it out with its ‘seam’ vents. Even the haptics are good. Go for the Comfort Plus Pack and you level up to a four-zone air con system with a solar sensor to regulate the rear temperature. The Interaction Bar is so-called because it’ll light up if you get a phone call, or warn the driver if it’s safe to exit. Have a rummage in the My Modes menu and you can personalise it. This is all less annoying than it sounds.

The centre console control panel has also been reworked for 5 Series duty, and contains the iDrive controller – although you’re more likely to use the touchscreen – a redesigned drive selector switch, stop/start button, the My Modes button (Personal, Sport, Efficient), parking brake, and thankfully a physical volume control switch. Pay extra and you can have these controls in a crystal glass. Bit blingy, we reckon.

What don’t you like?

In tandem with the lane-changing tech, the central area of the cockpit display is reserved for an augmented reality rendering of the vehicle and its surroundings. Pointless, if you ask us: it’ll show you exactly what you can see out of the windscreen, but with barely-visible nav graphics overlaid onto the feed. Honestly, the HUD is more than sufficient.

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Wireless charging is standard across the range. Harman Kardon supplies the audio, with a 205 watt amplifier; a more powerful Bowers & Wilkins system is an option. There are four USB-C ports in the car, with the option of adding more.

The 5 Series is also the first BMW to go vegan. A leather-like material called Veganza is standard, and doesn’t just cover the seats, it extends across the dashboard and door panels. You can spec it with perforations and in a choice of colours. It feels fine. Non-vegan, planet-compromising Merino leather is also available, as is a panoramic glass roof. Unfortunately, it still has the edge, in terms of tactility.

The (very supportive) seats are newly designed, and include electric adjustment and heating as standard. The backrests of the outer rear seats extend into the doors, and the rear seat is split 40:20:40. The regular 5 Series’ boot has 520 litres of storage volume, the i5 490 litres thanks to its rear axle drive unit.

Any gimmicks, a la Tesla?

Yes, actually. Startlingly high in BMW’s presentation mix is the arrival of AirConsole, which introduces in-car gaming to the 5 Series. Connection is established by scanning a QR code on the Curved Display, which transforms players’ smartphones into games controllers. BMW offers 20 in-built games at launch, with more to come. It’s another way of passing the time while you wait for your i5 to charge, as BMW cheerfully admits.  

Alternatively, you could stream video content - including YouTube or TiVo - depending on which country you’re in. Amusingly, a Bundesliga in-car app is available from the car’s launch. Football, right?

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