- The i5 is an all-electric version of the new BMW 5 Series.
- There'll be two versions to start: the base eDrive40 and the 593-hp M60.
- It comes with BMW's latest advanced driver aids, including available hands-free driving and lane changing.
2024 BMW i5 First Drive Review: The 5 Series Is Better With Electricity
BMW's new car is the all-electric 5 Series we've been wanting
Think of the 2024 BMW i5 as, very simply, the regular 5 Series' fully electric counterpart. We review the gas-powered 5er separately, but in a way you can think of the i5 as an optional powertrain (albeit a significantly different one) for the 2024 5 Series rather than a wholly separate vehicle. As the 5 Series as a whole was redesigned for this year, the new 2024 i5 is, essentially, a brand-new vehicle that comes in two initial variants: the i5 eDrive40 and the sporty i5 M60 xDrive.
The i4, the i7 and the all-electric BMW iX SUV have all impressed us thanks to solid driving dynamics, comfortable, well-appointed interiors, and range that exceeds EPA estimates in Edmunds' own EV range testing.
It competes with other electric sedans such as the Genesis Electrified G80, Mercedes-Benz EQE and Tesla Model S.
How much range and power does the i5 have?
Both the i5 eDrive40 and the i5 M60 xDrive get the same 81.2-kWh battery pack, but the horsepower numbers diverge sharply. The i5 eDrive40 provides 335 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque from a single electric motor that drives the rear wheels. BMW claims the eDrive40 will go from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. The i5 M60 packs 593 hp and 549 lb-ft of torque, though you can temporarily raise that torque output to 605 lb-ft by pulling the Boost paddle mounted on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. The extra oomph from the M60 comes courtesy of a second electric motor mounted at the front axle, giving it all-wheel drive. The zero to 60 time drops to 3.7 seconds. For reference, that's as quick as a BMW M4 Competition we tested.
The i5 eDrive40 has an EPA-estimated range between 270 and 295 miles of range, depending on the wheel size. (Smaller wheels generally improve range.) The i5 M60 has a slightly lower figure, with an EPA-estimated range between 240 and 256 miles, again depending on wheel size. We wouldn't be surprised if the i5 beat those figures given how other BMWs have performed in Edmunds' real-world EV range tests.
What about charging?
The i5 accepts Level 2 and DC fast charging. BMW estimates the battery can be recharged from 10% to 80% in about 30 minutes thanks to a max charging rate of 205 kW. It's higher than the charging speed of the Mercedes-Benz EQE but lower than the max rates on the Genesis G80 and Tesla Model S. First-time owners of the BMW i5 receive two years of free 30-minute charging sessions at the Electrify America network of DC fast-charging stations.
Does it feel like a BMW?
We had a chance to sample both the eDrive40 and M60 as well as a model equipped with BMW's latest driver aids. Both the eDrive40 and M60 feel quick thanks to the instant torque hit typical of EVs. Tight roads and busy highways prevented us from opening up the cars for very long, but it doesn't take long to get up to extralegal speeds. The i5 feels secure and planted when going around turns, at least in the few moments we were able to pick up the pace.
Stepping up to the M60 nets you more than just an extra motor for the front axle. The M60 comes standard with the Adaptive M Suspension Professional package. In addition to electronically controlled dampers and a 0.3-inch lower ride height than the eDrive40, the package includes rear-axle steering. It allows for both improved stability at higher speeds and a tighter turning radius at lower ones. As on other BMWs, we've found rear-axle steering to be a really helpful feature. The M60 also features M Sport brakes as standard as well as BMW's active roll stabilization system that can improve both ride comfort and handling. Our main critique so far is the steering. It's light and easy to turn but doesn't give you much feedback or feel for the road.
Testing the i5's new advanced driver aids
The i5 is available with BMW's latest driver aids, including a system that allows for hands-free highway driving. BMW is calling it "Highway Assistant including Active Lane Change with eye activation." Like the name implies, you can change lanes just by moving your eyes. BMW already offered hands-free driving in the i7, and it worked well in the i5 in our short time behind the wheel. The system adjusts speed well, maintains a good gap between cars, and doesn't bounce between the lane markers in an attempt to center the car in its lane.
We had a chance to drive hands-free on our initial drive. None of the stretches of road we were on had any big curves or bends, so our impressions are somewhat limited. In our short time, the system worked flawlessly. You have to keep your eyes on the road, and the car monitors the driver's face to make sure with sensors to make sure it's always facing forward. Facial recognition works better than a lot of systems (like the one in our long-term Lucid Air). We didn't have any prompts to put our hands back on the wheel, and it's pretty easy to tell when the system will let you.
The new thing with this test was the "eye activation" part. BMW's system could already change lanes hands-free with just a tap of the turn signal by the driver, but now all you have to do is look in the mirror in the direction you want to change. Sensors monitor traffic, and if there's a gap it will notify you in the instrument display. Just look in the mirror and the car will change lanes. It works, but we wouldn't call it the most comfortable thing in the world. It almost seems too easy to trigger it, especially if you're a driver who constantly monitors your mirrors.
Is it comfortable?
Ride quality is generally good thanks to the standard rear air suspension. The i5 doesn't completely tune out imperfections, but it does a good job of lowering the harshness of the impacts. The M60's sport-tuned suspension has enough tricks up its sleeve that it won't punish you on the street, even in Sport mode. It's much more comfortable than any Tesla we've driven and on par with the best in the class.
How's the i5's interior?
The i5 and the 5 Series as a whole are a bit roomier than the previous-generation 5 Series. The new car is 199.2 inches long, 74.8 inches wide and 59.6 inches tall (59.3 inches for the M60 due to that slightly lower sport suspension). That's an increase of a little more than an inch all around. BMW also increased the wheelbase by 0.8 inch, which may improve rear legroom. The seats are also redesigned, with sport seats as standard equipment and multi-contour seats available on other trims.
For the first time, you can also get your i5 completely leather-free, which includes Alcantara-wrapped seats in addition to the steering wheel. That treatment is also available on models with the M Sport package.
That's a big screen you've got there
The i5 now features BMW's Curved Display, a wide two-panel display under a single piece of glass. It looks slick and is canted slightly toward the driver. The software is the latest version of BMW's iDrive software, 8.5. There are few buttons on the dash and center console, with most controls for things like the radio or air conditioning operated by using the touchscreen or the car's voice commands. The latter work well and can carry out everything from setting a navigation point to turning on the heated steering wheel.
While we do wish there were a few more buttons for basic things like adjusting the cabin temperature, overall we like the touchscreen interface. The navigation system is a huge improvement over what was in the last 5 Series, especially when it comes to the map itself. While it's become common to use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration (both of which are standard), using the in-car navigation will map out charging locations on your route. If you're driving a long distance, that's a compelling reason not to just mirror your smartphone.
BMW is including a few games in the infotainment system using its Air Console system. You can play while parked to provide some entertainment while the i5 is charging. The games are fairly simple and range from a Mario Kart knockoff to a licensed version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? and controls are all done from your phone. Just scan a QR code to sync your phone to the car. If games aren't your thing, you can stream YouTube or a few other channels. It's nice, but we wish there were a way to just cast from your phone rather than using the limited number of built-in systems.
We've been impressed with BMW's other recently introduced electric vehicles, the smaller i4 sedan and the midsize iX SUV. Based on our initial time with the i5, it seems like it will continue the trend. It's quick, comfortable and luxurious, just like we expect a 5 Series to be, and on top of that it's very quiet and has plenty of electric range. We haven't driven the new 5 Series yet, but it's going to take a lot for the gas version to be better than the electric one.