BMW i5 review

Category: Electric car

The i5 luxury electric car is great to drive with a class-leading infotainment system

BMW i5 front cornering
  • BMW i5 front cornering
  • BMW i5 rear cornering
  • Steve Huntingford test driving BMW i5
  • BMW i5 boot open
  • BMW i5 interior infotainment
  • BMW i5 left driving
  • BMW i5 rear right driving
  • BMW i5 front right driving
  • BMW i5 rear left driving
  • BMW i5 alloy wheel detail
  • BMW i5 interior dashboard
  • BMW i5 interior front seats
  • BMW i5 interior back seats
  • BMW i5 interior steering wheel detail
  • BMW i5 interior detail
  • BMW i5 interior detail
  • BMW i5 interior detail
  • BMW i5 boot
  • BMW i5 front cornering
  • BMW i5 rear cornering
  • Steve Huntingford test driving BMW i5
  • BMW i5 boot open
  • BMW i5 interior infotainment
  • BMW i5 left driving
  • BMW i5 rear right driving
  • BMW i5 front right driving
  • BMW i5 rear left driving
  • BMW i5 alloy wheel detail
  • BMW i5 interior dashboard
  • BMW i5 interior front seats
  • BMW i5 interior back seats
  • BMW i5 interior steering wheel detail
  • BMW i5 interior detail
  • BMW i5 interior detail
  • BMW i5 interior detail
  • BMW i5 boot
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Introduction

What Car? says...

While many people dream of being driven around in a luxury limo, few of us will ever be able to afford either the car or a chauffeur. The BMW i5 might be the answer: it promises first-class comfort at a more attainable business-class price.

You see, the i5 is the all-electric version of the BMW 5 Series executive saloon. Indeed, the two look almost identical – the i5 wears a few "i" badges and has blanked-off front vents that help boost aerodynamics, but that’s about it.

The line-up is simple, with a standard eDrive40 model and a sportier M60 xDrive to choose from. Whichever i5 you go for, you get an 81.2kWh (usable capacity) battery that should be good for around 250-300 miles in real-world driving.

So, what else might you be considering if you want an electric luxury car? Well, the Mercedes EQE is the i5's main rival, but if you can spend a bit more, you could also look at the Porsche Taycan – a sporty take on the electric saloon.

Read on to find out how the BMW i5 stacks up against the best electric cars...

Overview

The BMW i5 is sharper to drive, classier inside and more practical than its main rival, the Mercedes EQE. So, why doesn't it get a five-star rating? Well, while it makes a lot of sense as a company car, it's expensive enough to put off a lot of people who like the idea of an electric 5 Series. If you do get an i5, we recommend the eDrive40 in M Sport trim.

  • Tidy handling
  • Excellent refinement
  • Well built and spacious interior
  • An expensive private buy
  • You'll want to add some options
  • Range and efficiency are good rather than great
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Bmw I5 250kW eDrive40 Sport Edition 84kWh 4dr Auto review
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

In entry-level eDrive40 form, the BMW i5 has a single electric motor that delivers 335bhp to the rear wheels.

It doesn’t offer the same hit of acceleration as the Audi e-tron GT, Porsche Taycan or even the cheaper Tesla Model 3 Long Range, but we timed one at our private test track accelerating from 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds. In other words, it has all the performance most drivers will want.

That said, if you do want to be pushed harder into your seat during acceleration, there's the performance-focused 593bhp M60 model. It has an electric motor on each axle for four-wheel drive, and slashes the official 0-62mph time to 3.8 seconds – only slightly slower than the pricier Mercedes-AMG EQE 53 can manage.

In terms of range between charges, the eDrive40 is the i5 that go the farthest, with an official average of up to 357 miles, although that still trails the EQE 300’s best figure (380 miles).

In our real-world winter range tests, the eDrive40 managed 253 miles on a full battery charge will slightly disappointing efficiency of 3.1 miles per kWh (m/kWh). For comparison, the EQE 300 kept going for 300 miles with average efficiency of 3.4m/kWh. 

We haven't put the M60 xDrive through our own tests yet, but its official range is 315 miles.

The M60 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. And while a Taycan feels more nimble at higher speeds, grip levels are high in the M60, body lean is minimal and the steering has a weighty, precise response that lets you corner with confidence.

BMW I5 image
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As for the eDrive40, this feels much the same when driven up to eight-tenths, but when you push harder you find that without adaptive suspension (it's an expensive optional extra) you experience quite a bit more body lean through bends. That said, it still feels far more agile than the softer EQE 300.

The i5’s firmer set-up means that you feel less float than you do in the EQE on undulating country roads, but the ride 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 if you want to maximise comfort. 

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 energy-recovering regenerative braking system to an automatic mode, or choose from high, medium and low settings. The high mode is strong enough to bring the car to a stop without you touching the brake pedal, while in auto mode the i5 uses data from the sat-nav and onboard sensors to judge when to ramp up the effect.

The i5 generates more wind noise from around its door mirrors than the EQE, but it’s still a very quiet car. And the latest driver assistance tech is available to help you relax when you settle down to a cruise.

For example, there's 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 a gap in traffic.

Driving overview

Strengths Punchy performance; hushed road manners; agile handling

Weaknesses Unspectacular range and efficiency; standard suspension could be more supple

BMW i5 rear cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

You find a suitably luxurious ambience inside the BMW i5, with everything feeling well assembled, lots of soft, padded surfaces on the dashboard and glossy trim finishes throughout.

As a result, it's significantly classier inside than the rival Mercedes EQE, which has plenty of initial wow factor, but feels disappointingly flimsy in places once you start touching things. Then again, the i5 is a very expensive car and isn't anywhere near as plush inside as the flagship BMW i7.

Every i5 comes with comfortable front seats. These are supportive and offer standard electric adjustment for height and the backrest angle, although it's worth noting that adjustable lumbar support costs extra on entry-level Sport Edition trim. You don't sit as low as in some older BMW saloons, but you are closer to the ground than in an EQE.

Forwards visibility also impresses, and while the view behind is more restricted, this isn't a major problem due to the presence of a rear-view camera and all-round parking sensors as standard.

In addition, all i5s come with adaptive LED headlights; you can leave these on high beam at night, because they automatically shape their light field around other road users to avoid dazzling them.

The 12.3in digital instrument panel behind the steering wheel is placed right next to the 14.9in central touchscreen, in the same housing to look like one giant curved screen – and you can pay extra for a head-up display, which projects useful information onto the windscreen right in front of your eyes.

This infotainment system runs the latest iDrive software, with a 5G sim card for connectivity. It's one of the best systems around, with sharp graphics, snappy responses and a generally user-friendly operating system.

You can control it by pressing the touchscreen, but thee's also a rotary control interface between the front seats, which is less distracting to use when you're driving. Our only complaint is that you have to use the touchscreen or voice control to adjust interior temperature because there are no physical controls.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, and a Harman Kardon sound system come as standard, with a Bowers & Wilkins upgrade available as an option. Wireless phone-charging is also included, with the tray accommodating up to two devices.

Interior overview

Strengths Comfortable driving position; user-friendly infotainment system 

Weaknesses The climate controls are on the touchscreen; interior quality won't blow you away

Steve Huntingford test driving BMW i5

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

There’s loads of leg and head room in the front of the BMW i5, even if you've chosen a version with a panoramic glass roof. Meanwhile, storage space includes a pair of cupholders, a cubby beneath the central armrest and large door bins.

Similarly, two tall passengers will be more comfortable in the back of the i5 than they would be in the Mercedes EQE or Porsche Taycan. That's not just because the i5 offers more space; it's because its rear bench is mounted higher off the ground, so longer-legged occupants won't have to sit with their knees forced up towards their chin.

The seat base itself is also longer and provides better thigh support than the equivalent in an EQE, although a hump in the floor robs a central rear passenger of leg room, whereas the EQE has a flat floor. 

The i5 has a 490-litre boot – which is slightly larger than the EQE’s – and there's also a deep underfloor storage area for cables. We managed to fit seven suitcases inside – one more than we could fit in the EQE.

The saloon boot opening is a little restricting when it comes to loading larger items. A powered bootlid is available as part of the optional Comfort Pack, but there's no storage area under the bonnet, as there is in the Taycan..

If you're looking for more practicality, you're likely to be interested in the estate car version – the BMW i5 Touring.

Practicality overview

Strengths Spacious for four; bigger boot than a Mercedes EQE

Weaknesses Saloon boot opening a little restrictive; not great for a fifth passenger

BMW i5 boot open

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

We said at the beginning that the BMW i5 promises first-class levels of refinement and comfort, at a more attainable business class price. But a business class ticket still doesn't come cheap.

Indeed, while the entry-level i5 – the eDrive40 in Sport Edition trim – fractionally undercuts the equivalent Mercedes EQE 300, once you’ve added a few options to your i5 (and we reckon you'll want to do so) there isn't a lot between the two cars.

Even an entry-level Porsche Taycan doesn’t cost significantly more, although this price gap opens up again once you've specced the Taycan to the level we think necessary.

As for the i5 M60, this is obviously even more expensive, but it does undercut the equivalent AMG EQE 53 and Taycan GTS. What's more, all i5s are available with sizeable discounts if you buy through our free New Car Deals service or haggle with your local BMW dealer.

The i5 is predicted to lose its value slower than the EQE, too. And, like all electric cars, it will make more sense as a company car than a petrol-powered equivalent because of the benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax savings on offer.

Both versions of the i5 have a maximum charging speed of 205kW. A 10-minute charge can add around 150 miles of range to the battery (in ideal conditions at a very fast charging point), while a 10-80% top-up will  take around half an hour.

The Mercedes EQE 300 takes a similar amount of time to top up by that amount, although both trail the Porsche Taycan’s 270kW peak charging speed and 20-minute 10-80% top-up time.

As we said, Sport Edition trim is the cheapest available, and includes 19in alloy wheels, faux-leather upholstery, climate control, adaptive LED headlights, heated front seats and a heat pump.

Upgrading to M Sport brings stylistic changes, but unless these really appeal, we'd recommend sticking with Sport Edition and adding the Comfort Plus Pack, which brings lots of desirable features, including keyless entry, a powered boot lid, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and four-zone climate control.

In the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, BMW finished 12th out of the 32 manufacturers included. That was above Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes, but a fair way below Lexus, which came first. The i5 was too new to feature as a specific model.

BMW gives you a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty, and the i5's battery pack gets a separate warranty for eight years or 100,000 miles.

All versions of the i5 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. These aids helped the i5 score five stars (out of five) for safety when it was appraised by Euro NCAP.

That said, if you drill down into the scores you'll see that the EQE scored slightly better marks for adult crash protection. Both models scored identically for child crash protection. 

Costs overview

Strengths Strong charging rate; cheap to run as a company car

Weaknesses A pricey private buy, and you'll still want to add options

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BMW i5 interior infotainment

FAQs

  • The i5’s main rival is the Mercedes EQE but there are other electric cars you might consider, including the Audi e-tron GTPorsche Taycan and Tesla Model 3.

  • No, there's no front boot under the i5's bonnet.

  • That depends on which version you go for, but the eDrive40 can official manage up to 357 miles on a charge. In our real-world winter range tests, though, it achieved a distance of 253 miles.

At a glance
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RRP price range £67,695 - £109,945
Number of trims (see all)4
Number of engines (see all)2
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)electric
Available doors options 4
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £135 / £220
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £271 / £440
Available colours