Now in its eighth generation, the 5 Series executive saloon has been one of BMW’s most important models since its launch way back in 1972. Over the years the 5 Series has cemented its winning formula of premium quality, performance, practicality, comfort and driving dynamics. And for many, it edges its Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar rivals.
The all-new 5 Series offers petrol power in mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid form, plus a 100% electric version marketed as the i5.
The i5 is the latest model to join BMW’s ‘i’ family of all-electric cars and takes on the likes of the Mercedes-Benz EQE, Genesis Electrified G80 and Tesla Model S.
At first sight, it looks much the same as its ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) siblings. We’re not bowled over by the styling, which reflects BMW’s current design language.
Looking not unlike a scaled-down version of the new 7 Series, the panels and lines of the new 5 Series are less fussy, crisper and more angular than before, but, for us, it would be an exaggeration to call it a handsome car – nor is its stance particularly sporty.
The 2023 5 Series is longer, wider and taller than the outgoing model, and this is particularly noticeable from the side, which is dominated by its long bonnet.
The signature kidney grille (blanked off in the i5) isn’t quite as exaggerated as some other recent new BMWs. Oh, and a special mention for the illuminated grille surround, which looks especially cool in the dark.
The BMW i5 is available with a choice of two powertrains – the rear-wheel drive (single motor) eDrive40 and the all-wheel drive (dual motor) M60 xDrive. Both use an 81.2kWh battery, giving ranges of up to 356 and 316 miles respectively.
The eDrive40 develops 335bhp and is capable of 0-62mph in six seconds, while the M60 xDrive pushes out 593bhp and the sprint takes just 3.8 seconds.
Both models also feature a left-hand shift paddle marked ‘Boost’. If it is pulled for more than 0.8 seconds, Sport Boost mode is engaged, which delivers maximum acceleration.
The battery pack can handle a maximum DC charge of 205kW (a fairly average speed these days), which means the battery can be topped up from 10-80% in around 30 minutes, if you can find a rapid charger.
Additionally, BMW claims range can be topped up by as much as 97 miles in just 10 minutes at a fast-charging station when starting with a low charge level of 10%.
Inside, the i5 is the first BMW in the UK to feature Veganza upholstery (a synthetic leather) as standard. Real leather is available as an option, and you can choose between aluminium, carbon fibre or wood trim for the dashboard, while ambient lighting also features.
It also benefits from the very latest iDrive infotainment technology, which is smart and slick. A pair of curved digital screens (12.3-inch and 14.9-inch) dominate the dashboard, encompassing the driver. There are few physical buttons and switches, but thankfully, the rotary iDrive controller is still located in the centre console.
Like the larger i7, our only recommendation is to delve into the menus asap and switch off the BMW IconicSounds created by composer Hans Zimmer. We prefer our EV driving au naturel and the space-age whooshing soundtrack is just too gimmicky.
The cabin is plush and feels spacious up front, but legroom is surprisingly tight in the back, especially for a taller passenger sitting behind a 6ft-plus driver. Also, if the driver has their seat at its lowest setting, there’s only just space for the passenger behind to squeeze their feet underneath.
The good news is that the back seats feature a 40:20:40 folding capability, extending the 490-litre boot’s already decent capacity. If load space is an issue, it’s worth remembering that an estate version (‘Touring’ in BMW-speak) will follow in 2024.
We tested both the eDrive40 and M60 xDrive on mixed roads and we were mightily impressed.
The top-of-the-range M60 is gut-wrenchingly fast off the mark – ridiculously so if Boost mode is engaged, too. The ride is on the firm side, but then the i5 weighs in at around 2.3 tonnes, so there’s got to be a compromise somewhere.
BMW’s engineers have worked wonders though, delivering an impressive blend of performance and tuned handling. Of course, it can’t be driven like a hot hatch on more challenging roads, but it can offer plenty of balance and traction just where you need it.
Compared to the M60, the eDrive40 would seem to be well down on power, but here’s the thing – it’s ample for everyday driving. And, if anything, it’s more manageable.
It still accelerates briskly, it’s smooth and responsive, and Boost mode is more controlled. Push it on the twisty bits and it still delivers enough dynamism and grip to put a smile on your face.
Ultimately, both models are at their most composed, effortlessly cruising along A-roads and motorways in relative silence.
It’s hard to judge efficiency based on a day’s driving, but we’d expect a real-world range of around 260-270 miles in the eDrive40, dipping to nearer 240 miles in the M60 xDrive. Not class-leading, but more than enough when combined with the i5’s fast charging capability.
So, the BMW i5 is a formidable driving machine, but there is a fly in the ointment. The eDrive40 starts at £74,105 and the M60 xDrive will set you back at least £97,745. Serious money.
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