Skip advert
Advertisement
In-depth reviews

BMW i5 review: electric, but at what cost?

Plush, poised and packed full of the latest tech, BMW has once again set the bar high with the first electric 5 Series

BMW i5 - header
Overall rating

4.5 out of 5

Pros

  • Good to drive
  • Premium-feeling interior
  • Superb infotainment

Cons

  • Rivals offer more range
  • Feels a tad unwieldy around town
  • Very expensive

BMW i5 verdict

The BMW i5 is a prime example of the Munich marque at its best, boasting the same dynamic drive and exquisite interior that we’ve all come to expect from BMW models. Slick and smartphone-quick, BMW’s iDrive remains one of the best infotainment setups in the industry, with the somewhat gimmicky ‘Interaction Bar’ managing to inject some more personality into the i5’s cabin, if not by adding much in the way of functionality. Our pick of the range, the entry-level i5 eDrive40, provides more than enough poke for most drivers, and its roughly 360-mile range is competitive with rivals. If you’re able to swallow the i5’s eye-watering base price, you can’t go wrong with what we think is the most well-rounded luxury electric saloon you can buy.

Details, specs and alternatives

There’s a lot of choice if you’re looking for a BMW electric car; there’s electric SUVs like the iX and iX1, luxury saloons like the i7 and sporty fastbacks such as the i4. Somewhere in the middle of the line-up sits the firm’s latest model, the BMW i5 – an all-electric version of the long-running 5 Series executive car and rival to the Mercedes EQE and Genesis Electrified G80.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Available in both petrol and electric form, this latest iteration of the 5 Series sits on a modified version of the larger i7’s underpinnings and, from launch, will be available with a choice of two powertrains. No matter whether you choose the entry-level i5 eDrive40 with its 335bhp rear-mounted electric motor, or the range-topping dual-motor i5 M60 xDrive M Performance (a bit of a mouthful, we know), all models come equipped with an 81.2kWh battery pack.

Go easy on the throttle and BMW says the base eDrive40 is capable of up to 357 miles on a charge, with the more powerful M60 suffering a slightly reduced range of 315 miles as a trade-off for the extra power on offer. Of course, these figures can vary depending on which of the various alloy wheel options you pick, while standard 205kW DC rapid charging is competitive in this segment, if not class-leading.

BMW only offers the i5 in highly-equipped M Sport trim in the UK, which is no bad thing given most people tend to upgrade to this specification anyway, if only for the racier bodykit and blingier wheels. All cars get full-LED headlights, ‘Veganza’ vegan leather trim, heated electric front seats, a wireless smartphone charger and a host of driver assistance systems including cruise control and a reversing camera. The M Sport Pro specification adds gloss-black exterior trim and larger wheels, but in our view isn’t really worth the upgrade.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

The BMW i5 M60 xDrive M Performance can almost be considered its own standalone model and gets a model-specific version of the maker’s iconic kidney grille, as well as standard 20-inch alloys, adaptive suspension and quad-zone air conditioning.

Both i5 models boast BMW’s latest iDrive infotainment system, which comprises a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster alongside a huge 14.9-inch touchscreen. This comes with sat nav, online services, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto built-in, and is partnered with the futuristic-looking ‘BMW Interaction Bar’ – more on that later – as well as a pretty substantial Harman Kardon stereo. 

Range, battery size & charging

Model

Range

Wallbox charge time

Rapid charge

eDrive40

312-357 miles

13hrs est (0-100%, 7.4kW)

30mins (10-80%, 205kW)

M60 xDrive

284-315 miles

13hrs est (0-100%, 7.4kW)

30mins (10-80%, 205kW)

The electric saloon-car market is constantly making headlines, with new models offering range figures now in surplus of 400 miles. While the i5 can’t quite keep up with the smaller BMW i4, or the larger BMW i7 in this regard, its legs are still long enough to make it an ideal cross-country motorway cruiser.

Advertisement - Article continues below

During our time driving the i5 in the UK, we were comfortably able to achieve a range of over 300 miles through a mix of town, country and motorway driving. If you’re intent on making it to your destination without the need to charge, the i5 does have a Max Range function which, in a pinch, severely limits the car’s power and air conditioning in order to add roughly an extra 15 miles of range.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Find one of the growing number of 350kW DC ultra-rapid public chargers and BMW says a 10-80% top-up of the i5’s battery will take around half-an-hour. Set a chargepoint as a destination in the satnav and the i5 will precondition its battery for faster charging; of course, topping up at home via a 7.4kW wallbox will take significantly longer.

Running costs & insurance

Costing around £20,000 more than the equivalent petrol 5 Series, the BMW i5 is pretty expensive, although it’s competitively priced against the likes of the Mercedes EQE. That being said, the Beemer’s target demographic – company car drivers – will be well served by its low 2% Benefit-in-Kind rating, which means those lucky enough to drive the i5 for business could pay as little as £296 per year in tax.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Electricity is much cheaper than petrol, however, given the i5’s pretty substantial battery pack, charging it won’t be quite as inexpensive as you might think. Doing so at home at the current average electricity rate of 30p/kWh means a full charge will set you back over £20, while using a public rapid charger could cost as much as £55.

It’s also worth preparing yourself for eye-watering insurance premiums as the BMW i5 spans groups 43 to 49, depending on which model you choose. Choosing the electric 5 Series should at least still be cheaper to cover than a Mercedes EQE, though, which will cost you an arm and a leg given all models occupy the highest group, 50.

Performance, motor & drive

Model

0-62mph

Top speed

Driven wheels

Power

eDrive40

6s

119mph

Rear

335bhp

M60 xDrive

3.8s

142mph

Four

592bhp

BMWs have long been the choice for executives looking for a sportier driving experience than what’s offered by the equivalent Audi or Mercedes-Benz. This remains the same for the i5 as it feels much more dynamic and composed than its EQE competitor, with light-yet-accurate steering – however it’s not quite as sporty as previous petrol iterations of the 5 Series. 

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

A low centre of gravity means that, despite the i5’s two-tonne-plus kerb weight, body control is tight on a twisty road. However, this excessive bulk does mean the car does tend to bounce about over rough services and stray off-line whenever you throw it into a tight corner – less so than rivals, mind.

As is often the case with German luxury cars, the BMW i5 is offered with several (paid) optional extras that can improve the driving experience somewhat; adaptive dampers lower the ride height by 8mm and allow you to stiffen or slacken-off the suspension for when you’re either looking to attack or waft along a road. Optional rear-wheel-steering also helps the admittedly titanic i5 feel more manoeuvrable at low speeds, as well as more agile and stable when on the move.

The range-topping BMW i5 M60 xDrive is ludicrously fast, catapulting itself from 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds. We think the more pedestrian eDrive40 should be rapid enough for most buyers, though, with it offering smooth, yet substantial progress whenever you floor the accelerator.

Interior, dashboard & infotainment

BMW has long been conservative when it comes to interior design, favouring incremental upgrades rather than generational leaps. The i5 bucks this trend and feels a lot like the latter, with posh-feeling materials to match the i5’s lofty asking price, plus the touch-sensitive ‘Interaction Bar’ bringing much of the instant wow-factor you’d hope for in a futuristic EV.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Essentially an extension of the ambient lighting and climate controls, the Interaction Bar changes colour whenever you perform actions such as changing the climate controls or turning on the hazard lights and helps lighten up the cabin – especially if you’ve chosen one of the darker upholstery options.

Speaking of upholstery, the BMW i5 comes as standard with animal-free Veganza leather, which earns a big thumbs-up from us here at DrivingElectric. Of course, traditional Merino leather is also available as an option, but we’re glad the i5 is available with a cruelty-free interior – especially given BMW’s synthetic Veganza material feels almost identical to the real thing and is supposedly much more sustainable.

Finally, there’s the star of the show: BMW’s iDrive infotainment system. Cocooning the driver in a single curved panel, this can be controlled via the touchscreen or a rotary dial in the centre console. No matter which you use, both displays offer vivid and pin-sharp graphics, as well as lightning-fast responses to your inputs. BMW’s latest OS9 software means there are now configurable widgets on the home screen, as well as programmable shortcut ‘buttons’ enabling you to access your most-used functions and apps instantly.

Boot space, seating & practicality

Length

Width

Height

Boot space (seats up/down)

5,060mm

1,900mm

1,515mm

490/TBC litres

There’s no way to avoid it, the BMW i5 is a pretty large car; in fact, the electric 5 Series is only just over three centimetres shorter than the old petrol 7 Series limousine. As you’d expect, this comes as a benefit to interior space, of which there is plenty. Rear passengers can enjoy lots of legroom, as well as a decent amount of headroom – even with the optional panoramic roof fitted. The door pockets aren’t particularly huge – enough for a regular-size bottle of water – but we like how there are USB-C ports mounted into the back of the front seats, allowing passengers to charge their devices on the go.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

If expending energy lifting the i5’s traditional saloon-style bootlid is beneath you at this point, you can pay extra to have it powered as part of an optional ‘Comfort Pack’. Inside, you’ll find 490 litres of space, which is a chunk more than the 430 litres available in the Mercedes EQE. There is no ‘frunk’ under the bonnet like you’d find in a Tesla Model S, though, but there is a handy false floor for storing all the necessary charging cables.

It is worth noting, that unlike many EVs that cannot be used for towing, the BMW i5 is an exception and can haul braked trailers weighing up to 1,500kg. This should be sufficient for a small family caravan and a deployable towbar can be specified from the factory for £1,200.

Reliability & safety rating

The BMW i5 has just gone on sale, so it’s difficult to get any solid reliability data on it. What we can say, however, is that it does share several parts with other electric BMW models, of which we’re yet to hear any horror stories. BMW as a brand, on the other hand, doesn’t have quite the same squeaky-clean record; in our latest Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, BMW could only muster a 21st-place finish out of 32 manufacturers. Roughly 22% of BMW owners reported a fault with their car within the first year of ownership – slightly above average – with electrics being the key source of most issues – not exactly what you want to hear when talking about an EV like the i5.

The i5 is yet to undergo safety testing by Euro NCAP, but all of the electric saloon’s BMW siblings managed to score a full five-star rating in the organisation’s increasingly stringent tests. Standard safety kit is strong, with all BMW i5 models getting autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist, cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and a reversing camera. This suite of systems can be expanded by several ‘Professional’ packages that bring things like 360-degree cameras and semi-autonomous driving.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Hello there, I’m Tom Jervis and I have the pleasure of being the Content Editor here at DrivingElectric. Before joining the team in 2023, I spent my time reviewing cars and offering car buying tips and advice on DrivingElectric’s sister site, Carbuyer. I also continue to occasionally contribute to the AutoExpress magazine – another of DrivingElectric’s partner brands. In a past life, I worked for the BBC as a journalist and broadcast assistant for regional services in the east of England – constantly trying to find stories that related to cars!

Skip advert
Advertisement

Most Popular

New Kia EV6 facelift revealed with a host of updates
Kia EV6 Silver facelift front 3/4
News

New Kia EV6 facelift revealed with a host of updates

The new EV6 has been revealed with EV9 derived looks, an upgraded battery and updated interior
14 May 2024
How much does it cost to charge an electric car?
BP Pulse charging
Your questions answered

How much does it cost to charge an electric car?

It should cost less to run an electric car than a combustion one, but exactly how much does it cost to charge one up?
15 May 2024
Top 10 best hybrid SUVs and hybrid 4x4s 2024
Top 10 best hybrid SUVs and hybrid 4x4s 2024 cover photo
Best cars

Top 10 best hybrid SUVs and hybrid 4x4s 2024

SUVs and 4x4s traditionally used a lot of fuel, but there are now plenty of hybrid options to cut costs. These are the best ones to buy right now
8 May 2024

More on i5

Top 10 best electric cars 2024
Best Electric cars cover photo
Best cars

Top 10 best electric cars 2024

From SUVs to sports saloons, we run through the best electric cars you can buy right now
17 Apr 2024
New BMW i5 Touring revealed: BMW’s attempt at the ultimate electric estate
BMW i5 Touring - header
News

New BMW i5 Touring revealed: BMW’s attempt at the ultimate electric estate

BMW’s first electric estate gets a range of up to 344 miles, plus 80 litres of extra boot space
8 Feb 2024
BMW i5 breaks cover as 5 Series EV
BMW i5 - eDrive40 dynamic front
News

BMW i5 breaks cover as 5 Series EV

BMW has unveiled an all-electric version of its long-running 5 Series, with a range of up to 362 miles
24 May 2023