New BMW i5 vs Mercedes EQE

BMW’s fully electric i5 aims to raise the bar for executive cars. But first it has to see off the Mercedes EQE...

BMW i5 LT with Mercedes EQE

The contenders

BMW i5 eDrive40 M Sport Pro

List price £77,455
Target Price £77,455

In its latest iteration, BMW’s 5 Series gets an all-electric option for the first time, featuring cutting-edge tech and a long official range of up to 352 miles

Mercedes EQE 300 AMG Line Premium Plus

List price £86,345
Target Price £85,345

While the i5 has petrol-powered siblings, the EQE has been designed from the ground up as an electric car, with an official range of 337 miles in this high-spec guise

When the publisher in charge of Enid Blyton’s ever-popular books revealed its plans to modernise them for today’s more ‘progressive’ readers, it triggered a mixed reaction. Some fervent fans lamented that the original text’s sharp-edged spirit had been sacrificed to what they considered unnecessary censorship, while others embraced the more modern language.

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, it highlights the challenge of updating a beloved line of products – much like the one BMW faced when it went to revamp its own famous Five for 2023.

BMW i5 rear

The BMW 5 Series has been around in one form or another since 1972, and in that time it has become almost the default choice for those looking for a luxurious executive car, because it’s consistently been the best of its kind. That’s why it has won more than 25 trophies at our annual Car of the Year Awards.

However, the executive car category is changing rapidly, with company car buyers in particular now favouring electric power. As a result, this eighth-generation 5 Series is available as an electric car (EV), identified by the ‘i’ on its rump. In entry-level, rear-wheel-drive eDrive40 form, it features a sizeable battery with an 81.2kWh usable capacity, giving it an official range of up to 352 miles.

For now, the BMW i5’s main competition comes in the form of the Mercedes EQE. Unlike the i5 (which will be joined by mild hybrid petrol and plug-in hybrid models in due course), the EQE has been built from the ground up as a pure EV – a fact that could give it an advantage when it comes to efficiency and interior space. We’re testing it in rear-wheel-drive 300 form, with its larger battery (89kWh usable) giving it an official range of 337 miles.

Mercedes EQE rear


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

With a respectable 330bhp, the i5 is significantly more powerful than the 242bhp EQE, yet both cars are relatively slow off the line, hitting 30mph from a standstill in 2.6sec (whereas the Tesla Model 3 Long Range gets there in just 1.8sec). You simply don’t get the instant hit of power that you expect from an EV, and some drivers might find this a little disappointing.

Thereafter, the lighter and more powerful i5 starts to stretch out a gap, getting from 0-60mph in 5.6sec (versus 7.2sec in the EQE), and it pulls much harder when you ask for a quick burst of acceleration on the move. This extra punch can come in handy when joining a fast-flowing motorway or overtaking a slower car on a country road.

Even more important than straight-line speed for many EV buyers is efficiency. To help in this regard, these are two of the most streamlined cars on sale, with the EQE being slightly the slipperier of the two.

BMW i5 LT front action

With our contenders’ batteries charged to 90% and in chilly conditions (around 8deg C), we drove a route that simulated motorway, country road and town driving (at our private test track so that traffic conditions wouldn’t influence the results), and the EQE covered 2.6 miles for every kilowatt hour (kWh) it consumed, giving it a real-world range (in theory) of 231 miles. The i5’s slightly better efficiency of 3.0 miles/kWh allowed it to cover a theoretical 244 miles between top-ups.

It’s a shame these cars aren’t true 300-mile machines, because they are wonderfully relaxing to drive on long journeys. At 70mph, the EQE is one of the quietest cars we’ve ever tested, with a distinct absence of road and wind noise. And while the i5 generates more wind noise from around its door mirrors, it’s still quieter than its petrol-powered predecessor – a car we praised for its refinement.

Neither of our contenders has a stellar ride, though. The i5, on our M Sport Pro version’s standard 20in wheels, feels relatively firm and tends to fidget a bit at all speeds, but at least it doesn’t thump over bumps and potholes. Adaptive suspension is available as part of a £2400 pack that also includes four-wheel steering (which boosts manoeuvrability at low speeds and stability on the motorway). The adaptive set-up gives even better body control but doesn’t make the ride much smoother.

Mercedes EQE front action

The EQE, meanwhile, comes on air suspension (which isn’t available on the i5) and 21in wheels if you opt for high-spec AMG Line Premium Plus trim. It has a plush ride on the motorway, but because the suspension is so soft, it tends to trip up quite badly over patched-up road surfaces, making it less comfortable than the i5. It also tends to bounce far more along undulating country roads – not ideal for anyone who gets carsick.

Both cars weigh well over two tonnes, but the i5 still responds crisply to steering inputs and its body stays quite upright through corners. In contrast, the EQE, with its soft suspension and rather hyperactive steering, tends to feel unsettled and leans quite significantly through quick direction changes. Its brakes are grabbier than the i5's, too, so stopping smoothly can be tricky.

Next: What are they like inside? >>

Page 1 of 5