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In-depth reviews

BMW i5 review - refined and good to drive

"The BMW i5 is refined and good to drive, making it one of the most well-rounded electric saloon cars currently on sale"

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating
Be the first to review
Price
£67,695 - £109,945

Pros

  • Good to drive
  • Refined
  • Impressive infotainment

Cons

  • Not as fun as the petrol 5 Series
  • Middling range
  • Tesla Model S is more practical

Verdict - Is the BMW i5 a good car?

The BMW i5 may just be the most well-rounded electric executive car currently on sale, and should be capable of convincing loyal customers of the conventional 5 Series that it's one of the best electric cars. It’s comfortable, quiet, offers excellent infotainment tech and while a petrol 5 Series is better to drive, it’s enjoyable on twisty roads too. Overall, though, the BMW i5 is a great choice if you’re in the market for an electric executive saloon.

BMW i5 models, specs and alternatives

The BMW i5 is the first electric version of the BMW 5 Series, now in its eighth generation, and itself offered in petrol and plug-in hybrid guise. The i5 sets its aim squarely on rivals such as the Tesla Model S, Porsche TaycanMercedes EQE and Audi e-tron GT.

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The BMW i5’s lineup is fairly simple, with buyers able to choose between the entry-level rear-wheel drive eDrive40 model and the four-wheel drive M60 xDrive M Performance. We’d expect the former to be a bigger seller given that it’s much more affordable and acts as a logical stepping stone for buyers going from a conventional petrol-powered 5 Series to something electric. It’s also the most compelling version of the 5 Series for company car choosers, as its zero-emissions credentials put it in a very low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax bracket.

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Starting at around £74,000 from launch, the BMW i5 is a pricey car, and the Mercedes EQE actually costs slightly less in an equivalent specification. That might be justified, though, because quite frankly the i5 beats the Mercedes in nearly every way.

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Sporty M Sport trim is the most basic i5 you can buy in the UK, which has sportier styling and larger 19-inch alloy wheels than the lesser i5 models sold in other markets. It also gets LED headlights, faux leather vegan-friendly ‘Veganza’ trim, heated electric front seats, wireless smartphone charging and plenty of driver assistance tech. There’s an M Sport Pro model, which adds 20-inch wheels, extra body styling and illuminated kidney grilles, but very little else.

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There’s also a higher-performance four-wheel drive i5 M60 xDrive M Performance model, which aside from a significant power bump, also gains an adaptive suspension and some extra black exterior trim to give it a sportier look. 

Trim levels

Power options

  • M Sport
  • M Sport Pro
  • M60
  • eDrive40, 335bhp
  • M60 xDrive, 593bhp

BMW i5 alternatives

While the i5 is the first electric BMW 5 Series, it’s certainly not alone in the growing electric executive saloon segment. Its direct rivals include the Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model S and Mercedes EQE, but it will also be vying to tempt buyers away from the upcoming electric version of the next Audi A6. The BMW i5 also has to contend with a growing number of practical electric executive SUVs like the Audi Q8 e-tron and its own BMW iX model.

Electric executive saloons

  • Porsche Taycan
  • Tesla Model S
  • Mercedes EQE
  • Audi A6 e-tron
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Large electric SUVs

Range, charging & running costs

The BMW i5 can manage up to 362 miles to a charge; not class-leading, but still good, and will be cheaper to run than a petrol 5 Series

The BMW i5 is an expensive car to buy, but its zero-tailpipe emissions mean it will sit in the lowest BiK (Benefit-in-Kind) tax bracket, so it’ll be the cheapest version of the 5 Series to run for company car buyers.

While electricity is cheaper than petrol, home rates at the time of writing are about 30p/kWh, meaning that a full charge of the i5’s battery pack will cost around £20 via a home charger, or around £55 at a public rapid charger.

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BMW has worked hard to make the i5 as aerodynamic as possible, with tricks such as a movable flap on the grille to only let air in for cooling when needed, which the brand says improves range by 16 miles. The standard 20-inch wheels also get special inserts which can add six miles to the range. Despite this, the i5’s range is adequate, rather than class-leading, but the 362-mile figure in entry-level eDrive40 models should be enough if you’re used to a conventionally-fuelled car.

In comparison, the Mercedes EQE gets an official figure of 376 miles, and the Tesla Model S will go even further at up to 405 miles to a charge. The i5 does beat the Porsche Taycan’s range figure of up to 315 miles, however.

When it comes to charging up the i5, its 7kW home wallbox charging speed capability means it will take around 13 hours to go from 10 to 80%. The good news is that the i5 can accept DC ultra-rapid public charging at a rate of up to 205kW, so a 10 to 80% recharge will take just half an hour at a compatible chargepoint. The car also benefits from a feature that will pre-condition the battery for faster charging if it sees you have set your waypoint to a charger via the sat-nav.

Model 

Battery size

Range

BMW i5 eDrive40

84kWh

362 miles

BMW i5 M60 xDrive

84kWh

320 miles

Insurance

Insurance groups for the BMW i5 are yet to be confirmed, but given its status as a high-end electric executive car, we’d expect it to be expensive to insure. The Mercedes EQE sits in the top group 50 out of 50, and the BMW’s similar level of desirability and powerful drivetrains mean it’s likely to be the same.

Electric motor, drive & performance

The BMW i5 is refined and good to drive, although it still falls short of the conventional 5 Series

The BMW i5 does a good job at inspiring confidence in its driver. The eDrive40 is only available in M Sport or M Sport Pro trims, so you get a suspension that’s 8mm lower than that of the base-level versions offered in other markets, for a sportier feel. The ride is on the firm side, but it’s still comfortable, and the suspension does a great job of keeping body movements in check. Grip levels are enormous and the steering feels light yet accurate, if not as involving as existing BMW customers will be used to. Ultimately, the weight of the battery means it doesn’t feel as agile as other versions of the 5 Series, but compared to a Mercedes EQE, it’s streets ahead. The powertrain in the eDrive40 sends 335bhp to the rear wheels, and for most buyers, the smooth, brisk acceleration will be more than enough.

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For even sprightlier performance, though, there’s the M60 xDrive, which has 592bhp and four-wheel drive thanks to an extra motor on the front axle. This model feels devastatingly quick, while the four-wheel drive configuration means it has lots of traction and grip. Again, though, while it’s good to drive and feels balanced enough, the extra weight of the batteries is noticeable compared to the 5 Series.

The M60 also gets an upgraded adaptive suspension that can be firmed up or softened off as required. The sportier modes preserve the Beemer’s impressive level of control, while the cushier modes make the ride much more pleasant. Four-wheel steering is also included to give a tighter turning circle at low speed, along with greater high-speed stability, and it’s very effective. This setup can be added as an option to the eDrive40, and it’s definitely one worth considering, if only for the improved comfort it delivers. On the M60, there’s an additional optional version of the active suspension that adds Active Roll Stabilisation, and this also helps towards an increased level of agility.

The BMW i5 comes with four-wheel steering which is very useful in tighter situations for improved manoeuvrability around town, but occasionally during cornering at low speeds the rear axle takes a little longer to respond than the front, which slightly mars the feeling of precision.

0-62mph and top speed

There’s lots of power on offer in both the standard i5 and the M60 version, and neither model feels particularly slow. The rear-wheel drive eDrive40 gets a top speed 119mph and a 0-62mph time of six seconds, which should be adequate for most drivers. Of course, the performance-focused M60’s power increase and four-wheel drive setup means it accelerates much quicker, with a 0-62mph time of just 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 142mph.

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

eDrive40

335bhp

6s

119mph

M60 xDrive

592bhp

3.8s

142mph

Interior & comfort

The BMW i5 gets the brand’s most advanced infotainment to date, which is faster and more intuitive to use than ever before

Rather than the ultra-minimalist interior design of the Tesla Model S, or the slightly busier, but classic layout of the Porsche Taycan, the BMW i5 sits somewhere in between; a pleasing blend of modern minimalism and good ergonomics and build quality. Instead of a single, tablet-style central display, you get BMW’s curved, dual-screen setup which integrates both the 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital dials into one sleek unit.

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The BMW i5’s interior looks upmarket and makes use of high-quality materials. Customers get a choice of a black Alcantara, or multiple faux leather materials coming in either Burgundy, Espresso Brown, Smoke White or black colours at no extra cost. Otherwise, you can pay extra for one of BMW’s ‘Individual’ leather options for £2,100, which come in a variety of colours. As standard the i5 gets dark silver metallic-looking trim, but buyers can pay extra for one of three slightly classy wood materials.

The dashboard gets an overall cleaner design than that of previous 5 Series generations, but gets hi-tech touches such as a sleek touch-sensitive ‘Interaction Bar’ which seamlessly blends in with the ambient lighting and allows the user to change settings such as ventilation, climate control and open the glove box – the colour changes depending on the action you perform, adding a touch of theatre to the user experience, and making the car feel futuristic.

It’s not perfect, however – for example, we’re not a fan of the chintzy crystal finish used on the gear selector, and the red band at the top of the rim of our test model’s steering wheel looked a little out of place, but these are minor gripes. 

Infotainment and navigation

The curved infotainment screen features a new Quick Select menu function that allows you to configure shortcuts to different system features, which makes it easier and quicker to use and stops you needing to navigate through multiple tedious sub-menus. The BMW i5’s infotainment is the brand’s easiest-to-use and fastest system to date.

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Features include the optional BMW Live Cockpit Professional – it’s a hi-tech heads-up display that projects important information onto the windscreen to help with navigation. There’s also the brand’s Digital Key Plus technology, which turns your Apple or Android smartphone and up to five other people’s into a key which not only unlocks the car, but also adjusts the interior settings for each user. The app even allows the driver to park their BMW from outside via the Remote Control Parking feature.

Equipment

All i5s come with adaptive LED headlights, four-wheel steering, adaptive air suspension, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, wireless smartphone charging and a 360-degree parking camera. There’s even a brilliant Bowers & Wilkins sound system. If you want to go all-out, the £12,200 Ultimate Pack offers every conceivable extra rolled into one.

Practicality & boot space

The BMW i5 offers plenty of rear passenger space, but boot space is not as good as some rivals

At over five metres long, the BMW i5 is a large car indeed, but that has translated to an excellent amount of interior space. There’s plenty of legroom in the back for passengers and there’s a generous amount of headroom, too, with or without the optional panoramic sunroof. If we were to criticise anything it would be the limited storage space in the door pockets, which aren’t terribly big.

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USB-C ports integrated into the front seat backs are only included as part of a £1,700 comfort pack, which seems a little bit much in what is an already expensive car.

Size comparison

Model 

Length

Width

Height

BMW i5

5,060mm

1,900mm

1,515mm

Mercedes EQE

4,946mm

1,906mm

1,503mm

Tesla Model S

4,970mm

1,964mm

1445mm

Porsche Taycan

4,963mm

1,966mm

1,395mm

Boot space

The BMW i5 has a 490-litre boot, which is a little larger than the 430-litre space in the Mercedes EQE, although we’re yet to find out how they compare with the seats folded down. Unfortunately, though, you don’t get a ‘frunk’ in the BMW i5 like you do with some rivals, but there is at least a storage well under the boot for storing the charging cables. For outright practicality, the i5 saloon is no match for the Tesla Model S, with its hatchback bodystyle and 150-litre frunk that results in a total of 894 litres of storage space with the seats up. As is common on many modern cars, you can option the BMW i5 with a powered tailgate as part of the ‘Comfort Pack’.

Boot space comparison

Model 

Boot space

BMW i5

460 litres

Mercedes EQE

430 litres

Tesla Model S

745 litres (894 litres including frunk)

Porsche Taycan

366 litres (447 litres including frunk)

Reliability & safety

BMW frequently underperforms in our customer satisfaction surveys, but fares better than its direct rival brands and comes with lots of safety kit

The BMW i5 and latest 5 Series have not yet been out long enough to get a good idea of how they perform in terms of customer satisfaction and reliability. BMW as a brand, however, came in 21st place out of 32 manufacturers in the 2023 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey. While this isn’t a great placing overall, it is ahead of its rival brands Mercedes (25th) and Audi (30th).

BMW owners like the powertrains and driving feel of their cars compared with most other manufacturers, and while a middling 22% of BMW owners reported an issue with their car in the first year of ownership, that’s less than rivals – 23% of Audi owners, 28% of Mercedes owners and a shocking 69% of Tesla owners reported an issue with their cars in the first year. While these BMW statistics aren’t unique to just the electric models, we’re yet to hear of any major horror stories.

Safety

The BMW i5 is so new that it’s yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, but it’s worth noting that all other electric BMW ‘i’ cars have so far scored a full five-star rating, and that’s thanks in part to the brand’s generous amount of safety kit as standard. The BMW i5 is no exception, and gets autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, and a reversing camera as standard, and the ‘Professional’ pack adds a 360-degree camera and semi-autonomous driving tech.

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Which Is Best?

Cheapest

  • Name
    250kW eDrive40 Sport Edition 84kWh 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £66,790

Most Economical

  • Name
    250kW eDrive40 Sport Edition 84kWh 4dr Auto [Tec+]
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £71,110

Fastest

  • Name
    442kW M60 xDrive 84kWh 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £96,840

Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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