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Both sporty and posh, the i5 may be the electric BMW you’ve been waiting for

BMW i5 M60 xDrive parked on an overlook
Dave McQuilling / Digital Trends

In 2022, BMW electrified its 7 Series with the i7 xDrive60 — now it’s the 5 Series’ turn to get the EV treatment. The BMW i5 eDrive40 is the first fully electric 5 Series from the German manufacturer, but isn’t likely the last as BMW continues its march toward full electrification.

The i5 features several technological advancements, both in terms of performance and comfort. A version with the M package is also available right out of the gate for drivers who crave performance, speed, and the M badge’s iconic blue-and-red stripes. The 5 Series is a particular type of car aimed at tempering the formality and appropriateness of the 7 Series with the sportiness and agility of the 3 Series. Both vehicles have electric models on the road, so it’s interesting to see whether the i5 can plug the gap appropriately.

BMW’s i5 eDrive40 starts at $66,800, and the basic M60 xDrive begins at $84,100. Both vehicles carry a $995 destination and handling fee. A healthy number of optional extras can be attached to the car, and while pricing isn’t available yet, a fully specced-out i5 M60 xDrive is likely to push into six figures. This puts the i5 in an odd position. At the lower end, it’s competing with most EVs on the market — from Tesla to Audi to Kia. But on the top end, it’s edging into the same pricing category as the Lucid Air and Tesla Model S. It will be interesting to see if BMW has the right blend of luxury and performance to stand out in a very competitive field.

Design and interior

Externally, this car is instantly recognizable as a 5 Series, which is what you want. You have the familiar kidney grille on the front, now with optional glow lighting. A very aggressive nose helps create overall styling that swings between business and sportiness. The flat rear lights add to its overall sleekness. There’s a certain powerful, muscle car-like bulk to the new 5 Series — which is pretty pleasing. BMW has also decided to emboss the number 5 near the rear doors, but this might look a touch tacky. Yes, it’s another reminder that this is a 5 Series, but it might make it look like the budget has been cut in certain lights. The M series also has a few unique design elements, including its diffuser.

The BMW i5 features a wraparound LCD screen.
Dave McQuilling / Digital Trends

A wide array of rims are available, ranging from 19 inches to 21 inches in diameter. The 18-inch light alloys are standard on the regular 5 Series, but the stock i5 starts with 19-inch rims. In terms of styling, the alloys come with several options, all of which are pretty aggressive-looking.

On the inside, you can clad the whole thing in BMW’s vegan leather if such things strike your fancy. The animal-free product is significantly more sustainable than cow leather. It still has a “pleathery” feel, but BMW promises that it’s just as durable as the animal alternative. We’re at a point where companies are still experimenting with leather alternatives, and this is one area where we’re likely to see drastic improvement in the future. But as things stand, it isn’t quite there from a textural point of view.

The steering wheel has been redesigned and features an array of multifunctional buttons. Haptic feedback ensures you can make a choice without taking your eyes off the road. Sports seats come as standard, though you can opt for “comfort” seats. The perforated seats have a few comfort options (provided you shell out on the package), including heating and cooling settings. Cooled seats are a more significant advancement than antilock brakes for those of us in the sweaty back brigade. The central navigation wheel is also still a thing for people who hate touchscreens. A “MyModes” button is also present in the center and makes popping between personal and sport mode a breeze.

If you pay up for the M-package, you’ll get the familiar stripes littering the interior. Hunting them down is pretty fun. Beyond the obvious stripes on the seatbelt and red on the steering wheel, you can spend a while looking for subtle bits of M stitching on the vehicle interior.

BMW iDrive 8.5 in BMW i5 M60 xDrive
Dave McQuilling / Digital Trends

Tech, infotainment, and driver assist

The i5 isn’t just the first electric 5 Series; it’s also a platform BMW is using to showcase a lot of new and updated tech. Infotainment is one area where the big changes are noticeable. The vehicle runs iDrive 8.5 on its 14.9-inch curved central display and 12.3-inch driver’s display. The biggest change is to the home screen, which now displays maps and navigation on most of its surface. The home screen also has a quick navigation section on the side, which you can use to get to your most used apps without fiddling with menus.

On the “tainment” side of things, there is now in-car gaming courtesy of AirConsole, video streaming with YouTube, a TiVo app, BMW’s Bundesliga app, and other apps like Pluto for people who don’t want to subscribe to things. You can’t use any of this while driving the vehicle. But it is a great way to keep passengers entertained or pass some time while you’re charging your EV. The curved display also helps create that “cockpit” feeling BMW seems to have been building toward with many of its recent models.

Driver assistance is where the new 5 Series stands out, particularly with its enhanced cruise control feature. Highway Assistant now allows you to take your hands off the wheel indefinitely. While the mode is engaged, and you’re going hands-free, the car will travel at up to 85 miles per hour, slow down when it encounters a vehicle in front, and offer to change lanes when you’re slowing down due to an obstruction and it is safe to do so. Unlike older versions of the system, which required a flick of the blinkers to switch lanes, the new Highway Assist will move over if the driver glances in the appropriate wing mirror.

It is worth pointing out that, like BMW’s Level 3 self-driving software, the Highway Assistant feature checks if you have your eyes on the road before it engages. It also has the same problem with certain types of sunglasses, namely Ray-Bans, that the Level 3 system has. It’s also worth noting that BMW is actively looking into this issue and could have it fixed when customers get their hands on the new 5 Series.

BMW i5 M60 xDrive front and side
Dave McQuilling / Digital Trends

Driving experience

The leap to all-electric has yielded several benefits for the BMW 5 series. While 335 horsepower isn’t a crazy increase compared to older, gas-powered examples of the 5 Series, the instant torque available to the motors makes all the difference in the world. The i5 eDrive40 can rocket you from 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds.

Where handling is concerned, it’s hard to believe this car is rear-wheel drive. Even when going relatively hard into the corners, the i5 eDrive40 clings to the road, and at no point does it hint that the driver should ease off a bit. Couple the grip with the sport steering mode and its variable ratio and controlling this car is an absolute breeze. The BMW i5 eDrive40 is excellent, but when you’re behind the wheel, there is the feeling that the German automaker could still push things further. The good news is, it did.

The i5 is BMW’s first electric 5 Series, and unlike the i7, the company isn’t going to tease us with a potential M package. Instead, the M60 xDrive is available from the start — and it’s brilliant. An additional motor ups the M60 xDrive to 593 horsepower. This shaves a whole 2.o seconds off the 0-60 time, allowing you to hit the milestone in just 3.7 seconds. The top speed is also a touch higher, capping out at 130 instead of 120. Regarding maneuverability, the turning circle is also a bit tighter, making a 39-foot-wide loop compared to the eDrive40’s 40.4. If you check the steering wheel, there’s a small boost lever that will unleash the full power of the i5’s motors for a brief period. Just make sure the road in front of you is clear before you touch it.

BMW’s M package also gives you all-wheel drive, though we couldn’t appreciate the difference on the dry, well-maintained roads we encountered during the test. Another area where you may not notice much is with the suspension. On both the eDrive40 and M60 xDrive, the switch to sport mode didn’t impact ride comfort. We’re sure things did firm up, and performance was enhanced slightly as a result, but sitting in the driver’s seat, you’ll just notice a little haptic squeeze when the mode engages — and that’s it.

BMW i5 M60 xDrive rear view
Dave McQuilling / Digital Trends

Range, charging, and safety

According to BMW, the eDrive’s range sits between 309 and 361 miles, depending on a few factors. If you want to hit the top end of that range, you may have to suffer a little. The vehicles feature a Max Range function, which makes some changes and caps the maximum speed at 56 mph. Comfort features like heated seats and climate control are also disabled. This is an excellent option if you desperately need to get to a charging station, but it probably shouldn’t be your go-to driving mode. The more powerful M60’s range window suffers a little, with the more powerful car getting between 282 and 320 miles on a full charge.

The i5s are capable of DC fast charging that can bring their batteries from 10% to 80% in as little as 30 minutes when you plug into a Level 3 charger. Both versions of the vehicle use the same 400-volt lithium-ion battery, which has a 211 amp-hour capacity and a max charging rate of 205 kilowatts. BMW has also done some tinkering to make the charging pattern more of a curve than the “staircase structure” many EVs currently use, reducing charging time and increasing efficiency.

Both versions of the new electric 5 Series can also use “Plug and Charge” contactless authentication when you hook them up to a compatible charging station. So once you’re signed up, you just plug the vehicle in and wander off.

In terms of safety tech, the i5 goes beyond seatbelts and airbags. Unless you disable them, the car’s driver assistance features will step in when it looks like you’re about to hit something. The lane assist does a good job of keeping you where you’re supposed to be, even on poorly painted single-lane roads. The 5 Series will also slam the brakes on if it looks like you’re about to hit something. None of this is anything new.

BMW i5 M60 xDrive closeup of M badge
Dave McQuilling / Digital Trends

How DT would configure this car

Opting for the M60 xDrive over the eDrive40 makes a lot of sense, both in terms of practicality and driving pleasure. While the eDrive40 was tremendously grippy during our test drive, that drive took place on arid, almost pothole-free Portuguese roads. If you add in an uneven surface and some ice, we could be telling a very different story.

Large tracts of the U.S. consist of windy country roads that receive a healthy helping of snow for several months a year, so all-wheel drive is a must. This makes the M60 xDrive worth it to those considering an electric i5, even if it will cost around $17,300 more.

Then there is performance to consider, and an extra 258 horsepower speaks for itself. While the eDrive 40 is in no way sluggish, the M60 xDrive stands out. You’re getting a sportier, lighter, more agile i7 in performance terms, whichever option you pick. And that’s basically what a 5 Series should be.

The new 5 Series includes a lot as standard, including Automatic Park Assistant, Backup Assistant, and an upgraded infotainment system. However, if you want to splutge on extras, consider the “Driving Assistance Professional Package.”

The standout feature in this package is the new “Highway Assistant” system, which will now let you drive hands-free at speeds up to 85 mph. It also comes with the new “Active Lane Change” system that enables you to switch lanes with nothing more than a glance in the wing mirror. We’ve tried it, and it’s likely your best option until true, high-speed, level-3 self-driving becomes a thing. It’s also legal to use throughout the U.S., which is nice.

Paying up for the “Premium Package” is also worth it. The curved display with head-up display helps you get the most out of the upgraded infotainment system, enhanced parking and driving assistants are more than welcome, and heated seats speak for themselves. The exact pricing has yet to be confirmed, but the Driving Assistance Professional Package currently costs $2,100 on the i7. The i7’s Premium Package will set you back a hefty $6,000 — but it isn’t an exact match, so you may get a bit of a discount with the i5’s version.

All in all, the i5 is exactly what you would expect from an electric 5 Series. If you’re a fan of BMW’s sporty business option and are interested in electric vehicles, then you’re not likely to be disappointed.

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