UK Drive: BMW’s i5 is the electric saloon car for everyday duties
It was always going to be a challenge to create an electric 5 Series, but BMW is up to the task. Jack Evans drives the new i5 in the UK.
What is it?
BMW, like so many other car companies, is in a period of transition. It’s moving away from traditional fuels and towards battery-powered setups. As a result, its line-up of electric vehicles is growing and this car – the i5 – is one of its most important.
Why does it play a key role? Well, BMW’s 5 Series has always taken up a core space in the firm’s range, with its popularity being strong across its many decades on sale. Making an electric version means combining that pre-existing reputation with a brand-new battery setup, but has it been a success? We’ve been behind the wheel of the new i5 on UK roads after an initial test abroad to see how it stacks up on home soil.
The new i5 is accompanied by a more conventionally powered 5 Series with a petrol or plug-in hybrid setup, but BMW is putting a lot of focus on this electric version as it looks to forward its electric journey.
It’s equipped with some of the latest technology that BMW has to offer, including its ultra-wide infotainment screen and some clever quick-charging systems. Plus, a Touring – or estate – version will be heading the UK’s way next year, providing an even more spacious alternative to this already quite practical saloon car.
What’s under the bonnet?
We’re driving the i5 in entry-level, most efficient eDrive40 layout here. With 335bhp and 400Nm of torque, it’s not what you’d call underpowered and BMW claims that it can go from 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds, so around the same as a petrol-powered 530i. Flat-out, it’ll do 120mph.
But efficiency is the biggest focus here, rather than outright performance. BMW claims up to 357 miles from a single charge, in fact, so it’s definitely got that long-legged ability that EV drivers are after. It’s also got a speedy charge rate of up to 205kW, so connected to a suitably rapid charger it’ll go from 10 to 80 per cent charge in just 30 minutes – ideal if you want to top up when you’re in a hurry.
What’s it like to drive?
One of the things which really hits home about the driving experience in the i5 is how easy everything is. In truth, it feels like a ‘regular’ 5 Series with its well-mannered motorway character being one of the best parts of the whole setup. It settles down wonderfully well at cruising speeds and means, just like its petrol and diesel forebears, it devours the motorway miles. With a decent amount of range, it’s not limited to just shorter hops, too.
When things do get twisty the i5 doesn’t fall apart, either. In fact, the i5 feels lighter than you might expect a large electric saloon to be and it’s pleasantly nimble through the bends. It is quite a large car mind you, so you do need to be a little wary of its dimensions when you’re threading down narrower lanes.
How does it look?
BMW might’ve gone down a pretty controversial route with some of its latest models – we’re looking at you, XM – but things aren’t quite as ‘out there’ with the i5. Of course, this is a car designed to have all-round appeal, which is probably why BMW has kept things a little more subtle than it has on other models.
You still get very large kidney grilles, of course, but in our dark blue test car, they didn’t seem quite as exaggerated as they are on other BMWs. That is, of course, until nighttime, when the integrated LEDs which trace out the outline of those kidney grilles activate and the whole thing becomes a lot more dramatic.
What’s it like inside?
Comfortable, spacious and well-appointed – the interior of the i5 is just what you’d expect from a large saloon car. BMW has always managed to nail a car’s seating position and it’s the same story here, with good levels of adjustability allowing you to get nice and low in the vehicle. It makes the whole thing feel a bit more hunkered-down and sporty as a result.
Space in the rear is good, too, though because other combustion-engined versions of the i5 are being made on the same platform, you still get an annoyingly chunky transmission tunnel hump which eats into legroom. With a capacity of 490 litres, the i5’s boot is still usefully large, though slightly smaller than the 520 litres you’d get in a ‘regular’ 5 Series.
What’s the spec like?
Here’s the kicker with the i5 – the price. It kicks off from £74,105, which is really quite a lot of money for what is meant to be a relatively standard saloon. Our test car, which came with a smattering of optional equipment, ramped this price up to £92,570, making it a fearsomely costly way into a new electric vehicle. It feels a lot higher than what you’d expect from a 5 Series, too.
However, given that the i5 will no doubt be snapped up by fleet buyers – which are currently driving the sales of electric vehicles – this headline price is unlikely to factor in for those who already set their sights on equipping business users with electric vehicles. However, as a private buyer, the i5 does come across as a very expensive option.
BMW’s i5 ticks many of the boxes you’d want to be ticked by an executive saloon. It’s comfortable, refined and well-specified inside while its ability to handle both motorway and more rural driving easily makes it great fun yet relaxing to use wherever you’re heading.
The price will be a sticking point for private buyers, of course, but as a business vehicle – which the 5 Series always excelled at being – the new i5 will no doubt go down a treat.