BMW i5 long-term test: report 1

Does the electric version of BMW’s latest 5 Series executive saloon impress as much as the larger and pricier i7? We're living with an i5 to find out...

BMW i5 LT front tracking

The Car BMW i5 eDrive40 M Sport Pro Run by Steve Huntingford, editor

Why it’s here To see if BMW’s latest electric car feels special enough to justify its hefty pricing when you live with it day-to-day

Needs to Combine outstanding comfort and refinement with strong performance, an enjoyable drive and a good real-world range

Mileage 1248 List price £77,105 Target Price £73,295 Price as tested £92,570 Test range 252 miles Official range 338 miles Options fitted Comfort Plus Pack (£5000), Technology Plus Pack (£3300) M Carbon exterior styling (£1750), panoramic glass roof (£1600), Bowers & Wilkins Surround Sound System (£1250), BMW Individual Tanzanite Blue II metallic paint (£1095), CraftedClarity controls (£600), sun protection glass (£470), dark silver and carbonfibre trim (£400) and Black Veganza synthetic leather (nco)

11 January 2024 – Back to the future

They say you should never go back, but it’s not a rule that I personally live by; if I did, I wouldn’t be writing this story, given that I’m currently in my second stint at What Car?.

The way I figure it, if you liked something the first time around, why on earth wouldn’t you revisit it? And that goes for cars as well as jobs, which is why I’m now running a BMW i5.

BMW i5 LT rear cornering

You see, a few years ago, I had a plug-in hybrid BMW 530e, and it was brilliant to live with – comfortable, composed and beautifully made. And on top of all that, I averaged more than 70mpg over the course of my time with it, despite not making a huge effort to drive efficiently.

The i5 is my second electrified 5 Series, then. But unlike the original, this one is pure electric, instead of having a petrol engine and fuel tank to go with its electric motor and battery.

Not that I’m worried by this lack of backup. While the 530e was my first dip of the toe into electric motoring, I’ve run three fully electric cars since then, so know that these vehicles fit into my life, despite the sometimes patchy nature of the UK’s public charging infrastructure.

BMW i5 LT charging in car park

Similarly, I know that the i5 will be great for my company car tax bill; like all electric cars, it qualifies for the lowly 2% band, which equates to around £60 per month in this case if you’re a 40% taxpayer. And that’s despite me upgrading to M Sport Pro spec and adding several packs and optional extras that pushed up the price of my car.

The most expensive of these was the Comfort Plus Pack, which costs a whopping £5000, but brings lots of desirable features, including keyless entry, a powered boot lid, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats and four-zone climate control.

That last item, in particular, felt like a must for marital harmony, given that my wife – who usually sits behind me in the car so that our six-year-old daughter isn’t alone in the back – likes the interior to be toasty warm, whereas I prefer it to be refreshingly cool.

BMW i5 interior detail

I’ve also got the Technology Plus Pack (£3300), which allows me to control key functions with gestures, and adds both a 360-degree parking camera system and an augmented reality head-up-display, which can project a wide variety of information onto the windscreen to help keep my eyes on the road.

Meanwhile, I reckon my car’s M Carbon exterior styling package (£1750) and crystal glass ‘CraftedClarity’ controls (£600) lift its exterior and interior respectively.

The elephant in the room is the price of my i5 as a private buy, with it costing £77,105 before options – almost £25,000 more than my 530e did just three years ago. Over the next few months I’ll be thinking about whether this is possible to justify, or if the i5 really only makes sense as a company car.

BMW i5 LT crystal glass iDrive controller

What I feel confident enough to say right now is that it lives up to the BMW 5 Series' reputation for being enjoyable to drive; you’d never guess that it weighs more than two tonnes, because it responds crisply to steering inputs and resists body lean well through corners.

This has been achieved by making the suspension fairly firm, resulting in a bit of fidget over poorly surfaced roads, but the i5 copes surprisingly well with larger bumps and potholes. And besides, I’d personally take a taut, well controlled ride over a soft but floaty one any day of the week.

Range is more of a disappointment so far; I’d hoped to get close to 300 miles, whereas I’m actually achieving around 250. But then it has been bitterly cold, so it will be interesting to see how much things improve when the weather does.

Blue BMW i5 right driving

I’ll certainly be keen to make full use of whatever the i5 does ultimately deliver, because it’s a very quiet car that's wonderfully relaxing on long journeys.

Overall, then, I’m enjoying life with it at this early stage. However, whether this blast from the past will continue to feel like the future, only time will tell.

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