BMW is moving to a new battery-electric vehicle architecture with the first Neue Klasse products set to arrive in 2025, but for now the German maker has revamped its existing CLAR architecture for the new eighth-generation 5 Series, and added an electric i5 version. The lineup in Canada also has the gas-powered 530i with a 48-volt mild hybrid (available now) and the plug-in hybrid 530e (available next spring).
A little further out a new M5 will be available, but for now your need for speed should be satisfied by the i5, sold here only in M60 xDrive guise, with motors at each end providing all-wheel drive and a combined 590 horsepower and 586 lb-ft of torque. A single-motor, 335-horsepower eDrive40 is not coming to Canada.
Big picture: now stretching 5.06 metres, the 5 Series/i5 has grown to almost the size a regular-wheelbase 7 Series was 10 years ago. The drag coefficient, however, has been pared to an impressive 0.23 – 0.25 (depending on wheel size). Interior room has increased, though still not exceptional for the size of car.
Inside, there is a fully vegan interior and, of course, the “Curved Display” infotainment widescreen. Apart from enhanced touchscreen user-friendliness, the 14.9-inch centre display can now stream videos (for example, Youtube in Canada and, in Europe, live Bundesliga soccer games) or transform into a gaming AirConsole using smartphones as controllers. Driver and passenger can both participate, though only when parked. Some rivals offer a passenger-side screen that the driver can’t see and can be used while the car is in motion.
The 530i’s revised four-cylinder gas engine employs Miller-Cycle combustion and 48-volt mild-hybrid technology to deliver 255 horsepower (up seven).
The 530e PHEV’s electric range has been almost doubled, from 58 kilometres to 103 on the optimistic WLTP test protocol. Relocating the gas tank and battery pack allowed for a larger battery (now 19.4 kilowatt hours) with no loss of gas capacity or trunk volume. The PHEV has the same 60 litres and 520 litres as the gas-powered version.
The i5 loses 30 litres of trunk space to accommodate a 335-horsepower rear electric motor. A 257-horsepower motor powers the front wheels. An 81.2 kilowatt-hour (useable) underfloor battery pack can be charged at up to 11 kilowatts on Level 2 or 205 kilowatts on a DC fast-charger.
BMW says because of technological advances, the i5 can charge from 10 to 80 per cent in 30 minutes and add 156 kilometres of range in 10 minutes.
BMW is reinventing the 5 Series almost simultaneously with its arch-rival, the 2024 Mercedes E-Class. The i5, however, competes with Mercedes’ established EQE, a somewhat polarizing design that’s distinct from the gas-powered and PHEV E-Classes.
Our limited first-drive experience in the i5 revealed that it delivers more speed and comparable electric range compared to the EQE in a more conventional-looking package and a driving experience that favours cossetting luxury over engaging athleticism.
2024 BMW i5 M60 xDrive
- Base price: $95,000
- Powertrain/Drive: 257-horsepower front/335-horsepower rear electric motors / All-wheel drive
- Battery: 81.2-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion
- Claimed range/combined energy consumption: 455 – 516 kilometres / 18.2 – 20.6-kilowatt-hours per 100 kilometres (WLTP).
- Alternatives: Genesis Electrified G80, Jaguar i-Pace, Lucid Air, Mercedes EQE, Polestar 2, Porsche Taycan, Tesla Model S
The 0.23 drag coefficient is sleeker than it looks and BMW has dialled back the divisive evolution of its grille, but it looks more generic to us, less obviously a BMW.
Only time will tell how long the vegan interior materials last, but they look fine, and there’s comfort aplenty at the wheel. There are no conventional air vents (instead, there are what BMW calls almost-invisible seam vents), and there are few physical knobs and buttons on the dashboard and steering wheel spokes; there’s still an iDrive controller on the centre console, but the screen is now the primary interface for secondary controls. Also on the centre console is a small toggle switch for gear selection, fast-access hard buttons for drive-mode, assisted-drive and other often-used menus, plus an audio volume knob. As for the widescreen instrument panel itself, it looks a little passé to us, and the main gauges’ trapezoidal graphics are no substitute for traditional round dials.
With its devastating torque and instantaneous “throttle” response, the i5 M60 feels every bit as quick as suggested by its claimed 3.8-second sprint to 100 kilometres an hour. That’s quicker than a similarly priced EQE 500, though a Tesla Model S claims 3.2 seconds. Sport mode provides one of the better fake “engine” sound tracks, though we’d just as soon enjoy an EV’s signature silent-speed schtick. Ride comfort is excellent, the chassis taut, agile and balanced on serpentine roads, but the steering feels too, well, relaxed and remote for a BMW with an M in its moniker. No issues, though, with brake feel and progression.
The optional Driving Assistance Professional allows hands-free driving on suitable roads at up to 130 kilometres per hour, and, in a world first, the included active lane-change function can now be controlled by eye; if the car suggests a lane change, you simply glance at the appropriate door mirror to confirm and initiate.
The usefully shaped trunk has a competitive 490-litre cargo volume (more than the EQE) by European test methods. The folding rear-seat backrest is 40/20/40 split and the pass-through is large.
An expensive but energy-efficient “stealth” EV that’s quick, quiet and comfortable
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.