New 2023 BMW i5: up to 593bhp for all-electric 5-series
The new BMW 5-series has spawned an i5 EV, which is offered as a near £100k supersaloon in M60 xDrive guise
In this critical transitional period from combustion engines to pure electric power, BMW is expanding its EV line-up with a range of ‘i’ models built from its conventional ICE cars. The covers have already come off the i4, i7 and iX1, and now it's the turn of the i5. As the first fully electric 5-series, this Mercedes EQE rival is based on the newly announced eighth-generation model and offers i7-inspired tech and up to 361 miles of range.
The design of the new 5-series majors on aerodynamic efficiency, no doubt with the all-electric version in mind. As such, the i5 features closed-off kidney grilles and smooth, uncluttered body surfaces to minimise drag, along with flush-fitting door handles and a flat underbody. With a drag coefficient of just 0.23, the i5 is almost as slippery as the Mercedes EQE, which has a more aerodynamic silhouette by virtue of its bespoke EV platform.
The 5-series' CLAR architecture can accommodate petrol engines and EV powertrains in both saloon and estate forms – an i5 Touring will arrive in spring next year. But while the dual-purpose platform brings some inherent compromises for the pure-electric version, BMW has drawn competitive performance and efficiency from the package thanks to its fifth-generation eDrive motors. The single-motor i5 eDrive40 is the first of two powertrain options, generating 335bhp and 243lb ft of torque at the rear axle. This takes the i5 from 0 to 62mph in 6sec, and the motor draws power from an 81.2kWh battery pack that provides up to 361 miles of range. A 10 to 80 per cent top up takes 30 minutes thanks to 205kW DC charging.
Step up to the i5 M60 xDrive and the performance is altogether more serious, with similar figures to an M5 from just a generation ago. By adding a 257bhp electric motor at the front axle, peak outputs rise to 593bhp and 604lb ft, and the i5's 0-62mph time drops to just 3.8sec when using launch control. By pulling a 'boost' paddle on the steering wheel, the driver can deploy maximum power at will, accompanied by a distinctive Hans Zimmer-designed driving sound. The i5 M60 uses the same battery unit as the eDrive40, but its extra energy demands reduce range to 320 miles.
Thankfully, the i5 features suitably advanced chassis technology to deploy its considerable performance. With double-wishbone front suspension and a five-link layout at the back, the i5 also gets a variable-ratio steering rack and self levelling rear suspension as standard. An M Sport package drops the ride height by 8mm and brings firmer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. The dampers themselves use a two-piston design to tackle small and large bumps with more compliance, with continuously adjustable adaptive units and rear-wheel steering available across the range, the latter of which can turn the rear wheels by up to 2.5 degrees.
Equipped with the optional M Suspension Professional kit, the i5 M60 goes further with an active roll-control system for greater dynamic bandwidth, according to BMW. With a 48V electric motor mounted at the centre of each roll bar, the degree of roll support can be electronically adjusted to either improve handling response or comfort.
Inside, the i5 draws heavily from the i7 with ambient lighting seeping through strips on the dashboard and door panels. These respond to different driving modes and software notifications, and feature embedded touch controls for climate settings. The free-standing curved display panel is also shared with the i7 and other BMWs, comprising a 12.3-inch digital dash and a 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen driven by the firm’s iDrive 8.5 software. Controlled either with touch or by using the rotary dial on the centre console, iDrive 8.5 offers smartphone digital key functionality, BMW’s virtual voice assistant and an integrated gaming system intended for use while charging.
Priced at £73,200, the i5 eDrive40 is positioned squarely at the Mercedes EQE 300, which offers an extra 15 miles of range but less performance than the BMW. The £96,840 M60 xDrive sits in Porsche Taycan 4S territory, but undercuts the Mercedes-AMG EQE 53 by a significant £17,910. First deliveries for both models are scheduled for October this year.