The i5 is the first model in the new 5 Series generation to reach the market. Early adopters will not be disappointed.
The 5 Series is the most traditional BMW. The one with the most conservative buyers. You need only to look at the controversial design of the new 7 Series or the front grilles of the M3 to realise that when it comes to saloons, the 5 is where the Bavarians have to keep the madness in check.
Having said that, an executive saloon is built for executives (no prizes for guessing this one) and executives tend to want the latest tech, which means the new 5 Series has to look like a heir to a lineage that dates back to the early seventies, but, at the same time, it has to encapsulate all the latest technologies and then some, while still offering a driving experience that betters its rivals from Stuttgart and Ingolstadt.
As if all of that is not enough, this new generation also needs to make the transition from fuel-powered vehicles to battery electric. So, unlike its predecessor, which offered only hybrid options when it came to the so-called sustainable mobility, we now have a fully electric 5 – aptly named the i5.
At launch, BMW is rolling out the BEV model, but petrol, diesel and hybrids are all coming this year and the next. Right now, as the 5 Series starts being delivered to dealers, only the i5 is available and that was the car the press was invited to drive at the international launch, which took place in and around Lisbon.
The 5 Series has always – and I mean ever since it was launched back in 1972 – been the best handling, best driving E-segment saloon in the whole industry. By quite some margin. And, with admittedly only one day of driving the new one, first impressions are that nothing has changed.
The i5 is a big car at 5.06 metres long and a heavy one at 2130 kg. I drove the entry-level i5 eDrive 40, boasting 340 horse power from a 81.2 kWh battery and 430 Nm of torque. I never felt it needed any more performance, but, mostly, I could barely believe the way this thing rides.
BMW engineers have found something quite special in the suspension department over the last few years, because the iX is shockingly good at wafting about, the new i7 seems like a magic carpet gliding through the air and now this electric i5 makes fun of bumps, potholes and other road imperfections.
I thought it would be very comfortable, but it is even more so. It exceeded my expectations. But there is more good news: there is still some driving pleasure here, some natural reactions from the chassis, steering and brakes. It’s not completely artificial yet and keen drivers will enjoy driving the i5 in tighter corners and give it the full beans when the opportunity presents itself.
Weight management is superb, with the 5 never feeling cumbersome or lazy. The chassis, an evolution of the CLAR platform that the last generation made such good use of, is fantastic and is perfectly integrated with the electric propulsion system. At the end of the day, I enjoyed driving the i5 eDrive 40 more than I was expecting.
Obviously, compromises are still present here, mostly in terms of the infrastructure around the logistics of recharging the car on the street. The eDrive 40 has an indicated maximum range of 579 km and a top speed of 193 km/h. Maximum charging power is 205 kW, offering 10-80% range in just 30 minutes. Ten minutes gets you 156km.
Inside, there is an understated revolution. The new 5 Series is the first car ever built by BMW which comes standard with vegan trims only. Yes, you can specify leather and others as optional extras, but this is a serious commitment by the brand in drawing attention to sustainable solutions that can actually make a difference.
The BMW Curved Display joins two 12.3” and 14.9” screens that work in tandem to offer a superb infotainment system. Fit and finish are really good and the whole cabin feels effortlessly premium.
I have to mention something called Air Console because this is one of those gadgets that, if it catches on, every car will have it in two years. It offers a wide range of entertainment options supposed to help pass the time while the car is recharging.
Just connect your mobile phone – or mobile phones – to the car and play away. Four people can play ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ all at once. Your kids will never want to go back to the house.
Good thing if you win too, because you need €77,000 to take an i5 eDrive 40 home. That’s the price of evolution.