Test BMW i5 – What does the electric 5-series deliver?

Both with combustion engines and electrically.

The new BMW 5 Series (2023) is not only available with combustion engines, it is also completely electric.

BMW thinks it is too early for the new 5-series to give the fully electric version its own platform architecture, but it does give it its own name: i5. Is this the best of both worlds or a compromise?

What is the advantage of one carriage for all drive variants?

At BMW, unlike Mercedes-Benz, for example, they keep it clear with one body for all drive variants. This makes many parts for the i5 interchangeable with those of the versions with combustion engines. And that saves money. In addition, the electric i5 can simply be built on one production line among the conventionally powered variants of the 5 series. This allows for a quick and easy response when demand shifts from more combustion engines to more electric motors (or vice versa). The use of the same bodywork for multiple drive technologies does mean some compromises here and there, but according to BMW these are hardly significant or so small that the customer has no problem with it.

What are the disadvantages of one body for all engines?

One body for all drive variants also means one interior for all drive variants. You will come across a different meter here or there in the instruments, but it does not make the interior any bigger or smaller. BMW may not consider the compromises significant, but the i5 does have a decent center tunnel for an EV. In the versions with a combustion engine, the gearbox and the propeller shaft are hidden underneath. The i5 is now taking the opportunity to store some battery cells in it. Too bad, now you have less storage space for loose items and the middle rear passenger has to sit with his legs wide.

How do you sit in the BMW i5?

In the front you have more than enough space in all directions, even if you are two meters tall. The legroom in the back is excellent. But although the i5 has a clear sedan silhouette, you still have slightly less headroom in the back than in the back seat of a Mercedes EQE. We expected it the other way around (the roofline of the EQE seems to be visually more sloping). The combustion engine versions have a 520 liter luggage compartment, 30 liters more than the electric i5. Those electric versions do not have a luggage compartment or storage compartment for your charging cable at the front. Remarkably, especially with the rear-wheel drive i5 eDrive40, there is a lot of empty space in the front. For those looking for more space, a station wagon – Touring in BMW jargon – will be released next spring in addition to the sedan, for all drive variants.

Test BMW i5 – What does the electric 5-series deliver?

What kind of drive technology can you get?

The new 5-series is again available with petrol and diesel engines. Although these are basically mild hybrids with a 48-volt starter generator. It starts with the 520i and the 520d. A 530i and a 540i are no longer available in Europe due to too high CO2 emissions. We can count on an M5 with the 4.4 liter V8. To compensate, there will also be a 530e and a 550e next year, both plug-in hybrids.

Our first introduction is fully electric with the i5 eDrive40 and the i5 M60. The first has a 340 hp electric motor between the rear wheels, which allows us to keep up with traffic with above-average speed. The synchronous motor does not have permanent magnets but electromagnets and responds nicely to the power pedal, even at higher speeds there is still a good response. In addition to a 340 hp engine in the back between the front wheels, the i5 M60 also has a 261 hp machine, which brings the total power to 601 hp. Together the engines are full of eagerness. Especially in sport mode, the car shows a continuous urge to push you deeply into your seat, a zest for life in the superlative.

BMW i5 M60

Is the chassis of the BMW i5 a compromise?

Absolutely not. A Tesla Model S Plaid has 1,020 hp and moves even faster than the i5 M60. But when it comes to agility and handling, the proportions are exactly the other way around. Without complaining, the four-wheel-controlled BMW can be chased from bend to bend and then steer through those bends with extreme control, the limits of grip are quite far away. And all this without a moment of uncertainty, the car works as an extension of your senses. Not for a moment do we have the feeling that things are happening between the tires and the road surface without our knowledge. What a beast! And that too, tirelessly, the engines seem to get enough cooling to perform optimally for a longer period of time. The i5 M60 has coil springs at the front and air suspension at the rear. Together with the adaptive shock absorbers, they ensure that when we have had our share of sport and games, the car behaves like a comfortable business sedan again, just like the i5 eDrive40.

What about assistance systems?

If you check the right options, you will have more than 40 ADAS helpers at your disposal. It would take too long to list them all. However, there is one system that – despite the fact that its use is not permitted in the Netherlands – deserves extra attention: Highway Assist, the next step towards autonomous driving. Up to a speed of 130 km/h, the system allows you to keep your hands off the wheel. It’s a bit strange at first; where do you put your hands now? But you get used to it quickly. When the car deems it necessary to overtake, it is sufficient to glance at the exterior mirror for confirmation, after which the car actually changes lanes. Continuously monitors the car to see if it is safe. As a driver you are also being monitored. You are still responsible, driving without hands on the wheel does not mean that you should not pay attention. If you look away from the traffic for too long for the car’s liking, you will be called to order. The system works flawlessly, and that is necessary if you want to be able to fully devote yourself to such a tool. It’s a shame that the rules in the Netherlands are not yet that far.

BMW i5 autonomous driving

What do we think of the new 5-series?

The BMW i5 shows that the 5 Series is completely future-proof. And that the car has no frunk and the interior is divided in two by a high center tunnel… These are compromises that we are happy to accept at the intersection of classic and new drive technology.

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