What Car? says...
The BMW i5 is the electric version of the 5 Series luxury car, and is based on shortened versions of the BMW i7's underpinnings, to make it more entertaining to drive than the larger car without sacrificing comfort.
The styling differences between the i5 and the new 5 Series are minimal (as they are between the i7 and the 7 Series). You might be able to spot the i5’s slightly smoother-looking, blanked-off front grilles that help boost aerodynamics or the tiny ‘i’ badges dotted around, but that’s about it.
The model range is simple, with a standard eDrive40 and a sportier M60 xDrive to choose from. Both have an 81.2kWh (usable capacity) battery that should be good for around 280-300 miles in real-world driving.
The BMW i5 doesn't have many direct rivals, and the main one is the Mercedes EQE. The Porsche Taycan costs significantly more, but offers a similar focus on being an electric luxury saloon that’s enjoyable to drive.
This review will tell you how the i5 – which will be followed by an estate car version, the i5 Touring – stacks up against them in all the important areas.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The BMW i5 range kicks off with the entry-level eDrive40, which produces 335bhp from its single electric motor, delivering its power to the rear wheels.
It doesn’t offer the same hit of acceleration as the Audi e-tron GT, the Porsche Taycan or even the Tesla Model 3 Long Range, but we timed one at our private test track accelerating from 0-60mph in a respectable 5.6 seconds. In other words, it has all the performance most drivers would need.
Those who want to be pushed harder into their seat during acceleration can go for the performance-focused 593bhp M60, which also comes with the xDrive four-wheel-drive system as standard. That trims the 0-62mph time down to 3.8 seconds and is only slightly slower than the pricier Mercedes-AMG EQE 53.
In terms of battery range, the eDrive40 can travel the furthest, with an official figure of up to 349 miles, but that trails the EQE 300’s best figure (380 miles).
When we drove an i5 and an EQE on our real-world test route, the EQE returned 2.6 miles per kilowatt hour (kWh), giving it a theoretical range of 231 miles – around 37% down on its official range. The i5 performed a little better, using a kWh every 3.0 miles, giving it a theoretical range of 244 miles – around 32% down on its claimed range. The range dips to 315 miles for the M60 xDrive.
The sportier M60 xDrive gets adaptive suspension as standard, along with a four-wheel-steering system that turns the angle of the rear wheels by up to 2.5 degrees to improve low-speed manoeuvrability. Grip levels are high when cornering, body lean is minimal and the steering has a weighty, precise response that lets you corner enthusiastically without requiring much input.
The eDrive40 feels much the same when driven at eight-tenths, but when you push harder you find that without adaptive suspension (which is an expensive optional extra) you experience a noticeable amount of body lean. That's not exactly encouraging, whereas the M60 feels grippier and more settled. Either version feels far more agile than the taller, comfort-biased Mercedes EQE, though.
The i5’s firmer set-up means that you feel less float than you do in the EQE on undulating country roads, but it never quite settles down on the motorway. We suspect the optional adaptive suspension (that we tested on the car’s international launch) will provide a plusher ride. We would also avoid the largest 21in wheels as these contribute to the at times brittle ride.
More successful is the calibration of the i5's brakes. The pedal responds consistently allowing you to stop smoothly with ease.
You can also set the car’s regenerative braking system to an automatic mode, or you can choose high, medium or low settings – the high mode being strong enough to bring the car to a stop. In auto mode, the i5 uses data from the sat-nav and onboard sensors to judge when to ramp up the effect.
The latest driver assistance tech is designed to help you relax when you settle down to a cruise.
For example, there is an automated lane-change function that can steer you into the next lane automatically. You simply turn your head in the desired direction until you're looking towards the door mirror, and the car will indicate before performing the manoeuvre.
The automated steering inputs are very smooth and the system will only work once it has checked there is space in traffic.
Strengths Punchy performance; hushed road manners; agile handling
Weaknesses Battery range isn’t spectacular; standard suspension is firm
The interior layout, fit and finish
You find a suitably luxurious look and feel in the BMW i5 that echoes the larger BMW i7 (and the BMW 7 Series), with lots of soft, leather-like padded surfaces on the dashboard and doors, garnished with large slabs of glossy trim finishers.
You can’t open the doors from inside with a simple press of a button (as you can in the i7 and the BMW iX), but there's plenty of other tech on board. The touch-sensitive air-vent controls operate with a swipe, for example.
Every i5 has comfortable front sports-style seats. They’re supportive and the driver’s seat comes with electric adjustment as standard for height, the backrest angle and lumbar support. The driver’s seat drops lower than it does in the rival Mercedes EQE, for a sportier-feeling driving position.
The i5’s chunky front and rear windscreen pillars can restrict visibility sometimes, but at least a rear-view camera and all-round parking sensors come as standard. All i5s also come with adaptive LED headlights. When using the high-beam setting, these automatically shape their light field around other road users in front to avoid dazzling them.
The 14.9in centre touchscreen display is placed right next to the driver's 12.3in digital instrument panel in the same housing (a head-up display is optional), stretching across the top of the dash to look like one huge curved display.
The touchscreen infotainment system runs on the latest iDrive 8.5 software (rather than Version 8.0 in the i7 and 7 Series), with a 5G sim card for connectivity. The climate control menu has been revised to be easier to use, but the biggest difference is the updated home screen. It now permanently displays the sat-nav map for convenient viewing and has a row of shortcut keys at the bottom.
If that’s still a bit too distracting to use on the move, the rotary dial-controlled iDrive system is present, found beside the gear selector in a similar housing to the 7 Series' on the centre console.
A DAB radio and a Harman Kardon stereo comes as standard, with a Bowers & Wilkins upgrade available as an option. Wireless phone-charging is standard, with the tray accommodating up to two devices.
Compared with the EQE’s interior – which feels cheap and flimsy in some places, particularly around the infotainment system and centre console – the i5 feels meticulously assembled and well put together. The only notable drawback in the i5 lies with the Veganza leather, which, while vegan, resembles cheap vinyl. Fortunately, you can opt for the Merino leather as a replacement.
Strengths Good driving position; easy to use iDrive infotainment system
Weaknesses None we've spotted so far
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
There’s plenty of leg and head room up front in the BMW i5 for 6ft adults, even with a panoramic glass roof. Storage space includes a pair of cupholders and a lidded centre cubby. The glovebox and door bins could be larger, though.
Two back-seat passengers will be more comfortable in the i5 than they would be in the Mercedes EQE, with more head and leg room on offer.
The rear seat bench is mounted higher off the ground, so longer-legged occupants won't have to sit with their knees raised at an awkward angle. The seat base itself is also longer and provides better thigh support. A tall middle rear hump on the floor robs leg room from a fifth passenger, though. The EQE at least has a flat floor.
The i5 has a 490-litre boot – which is slightly larger than the Mercedes EQE’s – and there's also a deep underfloor storage area for cables.
We managed to fit seven suitcases in the boot – one more than we could fit in the EQE. However, the saloon boot opening is a little restricted when it comes to loading larger items, while a powered bootlid is part of the optional Comfort Pack.
There isn’t an additional storage area under the bonnet, as there is in the Porsche Taycan – those wanting more practicality will have to wait for the i5 Touring estate car version to join the range early in 2024.
Strengths Spacious for all occupants; more boot capacity than Mercedes EQE
Weaknesses Saloon boot opening a little restrictive; not the best in terms of leg room for a fifth passenger
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The cheapest BMW i5 eDrive40 in M Sport trim undercuts the Mercedes EQE 300, but once you’ve added a few options to your i5 (and you will want to add some options) the two cars are closely priced. Even an entry-level Porsche Taycan doesn’t cost significantly more.
The price for the i5 M60 is even higher, but it does undercut the equivalent EQE AMG EQE 53 and the Taycan GTS. If you want a cheaper 5 Series, you’ll have to look at the petrol version. You can compare prices on our New Car Deals pages.
As with all electric cars, the i5 will make more sense as a company car than a conventionally powered model because of the benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax savings on offer, despite the higher list price. It’s predicted to lose its value slower than the EQE, too, which should be good news for private buyers.
Both versions have a maximum charging speed of 205kW. During its peak charging rate, a 10-minute charge can add around 150 miles of range to the battery, with a 10-80% charge expected to take around half an hour.
A Mercedes EQE 300 will take a similar amount of time to top up by that amount, but both trail behind the Porsche Taycan’s 270kW peak rate and 20-minute time.
The entry-level M Sport is the cheapest i5 trim and comes with plenty of luxuries. This includes 19in alloy wheels, faux-leather upholstery, climate control, adaptive LED headlights, heated front seats, ambient lighting and a heat pump.
We’d avoid M Sport Pro because it only introduces stylistic changes to the car, such as black exterior highlights, a subtle rear spoiler, illuminated front grille, red brake callipers and 20in wheels.
The M60 M Performance adds metallic paint, M design alloy wheels and M logos dotted around inside and out. There’s also memory settings for the front seats and four-zone climate control.
In the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, BMW finished 12th out of the 32 manufacturers included. That’s above Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes, but a fair way below Lexus, which came first.
BMW gives you a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty as standard, and the i5's battery pack gets a separate warranty for eight years or 100,000 miles.
All models come with a host of electronic driver aids, including blind-spot monitoring, Automatic emergency braking (AEB) and rear cross-traffic alert as part of the standard-fit Driving Assistant pack.
Strengths Well-equipped; strong charging rate
Weaknesses You’ll want to add options to what is already a very expensive car
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