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First drive: 2024 BMW i5 eDrive40. Image by BMW.

First drive: 2024 BMW i5 eDrive40
BMWs new 5 Series has been launched in i5 electric form, but is the new saloon ready to take over from its accomplished predecessor?

   



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2024 BMW i5 eDrive40

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For BMW, car launches don't get much more important than that of the new 5 Series. Not only is it a hugely popular car, but it's a statement of intent in the executive saloon class, setting out the company's stall and shaping its reputation. The old 5 Series was a cracker, and the new model promises more of the same, albeit with a greater choice of powertrains. Petrol, diesel and hybrid options remain, joined by two different electric models, both of which wear the i5 badge. This eDrive40 version is the cheaper of the two, but is it set to take the class by storm?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 BMW i5 eDrive40 M Sport
Price: From 74,105
Engine: one 250kW electric motor
Transmission: single-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Battery: 81.2kWh lithium-ion battery
Power: 340hp
Torque: 430Nm
Emissions: 0g/km
Range: 309-362 miles
0-62mph: 6.0 seconds
Top speed: 120mph
Boot space: 490 litres

Styling

BMW hasn't done anything too drastic with the 5 Series' styling, choosing simply to clean up the car's flanks, fit some new lights at the front and rear, and change the grille slightly. And the i5 really doesn't look all that different from the more conventionally powered versions that also populate the range. The overall result is a more minimalist, more modern design that's sure to stand the test of time, and offer customers all the style and intent they expect from a 5 Series. It's a good-looking car, and the decision to ensure the i5 doesn't look too different will doubtless play well with a multitude of buyers.

Interior

While BMW may not have done too much to the 5 Series' exterior, the company has certainly made changes to the cabin. The centrepiece is the Curved Display that houses the digital instrument cluster and the touchscreen, both of which are massive, clear, bright screens that are easy to read and offer plenty of configuration options. BMW has given them both the latest Operating System 8.5 technology, too, making them even more intuitive and user-friendly.

In a bid to clean up the 5 Series' cabin, the central touchscreen has taken on responsibility for the car's climate control panel, with buttons largely eliminated from the dashboard. The BMW system is much better than most touchscreen executions, but it's still less ergonomic and intuitive than conventional switchgear. That said, BMW has retained the iDrive controller on the centre console, which allows easier navigation of the screen while you're on the move.

But perhaps the highlight of the Operating System 8.5 is the option of the AirConsole game system. As the name suggests, it effectively turns the car into a games console, with occupants controlling their avatar through their smartphones. The games aren't detailed RPGs like Red Dead Redemption, but Mario Kart-style racers and cartoon football games. They're good fun, and of course, they're only available when the car is stationary. If you're charging up, they're a good distraction.

But whether you're on the move or not, you'll appreciate some of the materials in the i5's cabin. This is the first BMW to offer an all-vegan interior as standard, with a leather-effect material that has finally made the grade. It all feels very plush, but we aren't completely sold on the i5's extensive use of glossy plastic, which feels a little bit cheap for a car that costs so much. There's no arguing with the way it's all bolted together, though.

Practicality

Inside the i5, space is bountiful, with those in the front getting ample elbow room and electrically adjustable seats that more or less ensure you can get comfortable no matter what shape or size you might be. Further back, the news is equally good, with enough legroom for rear-seat passengers to sit in comfort and enough headroom for even very tall passengers to sit up normally.

The only slight catch, therefore, is the boot space, which at 490 litres is hardly puny, but it is smaller than that of the Mercedes-Benz EQE. It's also smaller than that of the basic 520i petrol 5 Series, which offers a slightly more competitive 520-litre luggage space. Neat, that. If you do want more room, however, a 'Touring' estate version of the 5 Series is expected next year.

Performance

In essence, the i5 eDrive40's powertrain is very simple. With an 81.2kWh lithium-ion battery under the floor and an electric motor driving the rear wheels, it essentially has one moving part. Yet somehow, it still produces an ample 340hp that will take the saloon from 0-62mph in six seconds flat before it lopes on to a top speed of 120mph. That should be more than quick enough for most customers.

And because it's the least powerful i5, it can make the most of its battery capacity to provide an official range of up to 362 miles on a single charge. In the real world, that will probably work out at around 250-275 on a mixture of roads and perhaps a little less on the motorway, but it will be enough to cover most of your journeys without stopping to charge.

If you do have to charge, though, the i5 is capable of filling up at speeds of up to 205kW, assuming you can find a public rapid charger that will give you that kind of power. If so, getting the battery from 10 to 80 per cent should take around half an hour. If you're using a 7kW domestic home charger, you should be able to fill the battery overnight.

Ride & Handling

In many ways, the eDrive40 drives exactly how those familiar with the 5 Series would expect from an electric 5 Series. Its quiet, its well balanced, and it has enough about it to be fun on a good road. The steering feels a bit woolly in its least sporty setting, but knock it into Sport and it firms up a bit, offering some precision and finesse that allows you to put the car exactly where you want it. You cant shrink such a big car, but BMW has done a pretty good job of making it manageable, and it feels more agile than its immense kerb weight of well over two tonnes would suggest.

The suspension must take some of the credit, too, because BMW has given the i5 great body control that limits roll in corners and ensures what movement there is isnt too sudden or lurchy. The trade off is quite an informative ride, which lets you know exactly what the wheels are doing at any given moment. Its great for driving quickly, when you want all that feedback, and it never feels remotely uncomfortable, but some drivers and passengers will prefer a waftier and more serene experience from their executive saloon.

Most will also prefer a more dependable brake pedal. It isnt that the i5s brakes are bad or ineffective they do a reasonable job of slowing such a big and heavy car from the speeds it can reach with ease but they dont feel as positive as wed like, with lots of pedal travel and an impression that theyre giving their utmost to provide stopping power thats just about adequate. A little more effortlessness would have been nice.

And then theres the buzzing. BMW has had to fit the i5 with a speed limit assistance feature that buzzes angrily when you exceed the speed limit. Obviously, to avoid it, you should just stick to the limit, but even that wont work. Because the car uses its cameras and mapping data to work out what the limit might be, it isnt always completely accurate, and you can find yourself on the wrong end of an unjustified electronic telling off. It happens all too often, and though you can turn it off, it will just come back on the next time you start the car. It drove us mad.

Value

The i5 eDrive40 starts at just over 74,000, which makes it noticeably more expensive than any of the petrol-powered 5 Series models so far announced. It's also around 5,000 more expensive than a Mercedes-Benz EQE, although the basic Mercedes is a much less well-specified vehicle. Compare apples with apples and the i5 works out a few grand cheaper. And it comes with plenty of equipment, including all the creature comforts you really need. Two-zone climate control, sports seats and the Curved Display are all thrown in as standard, along with wireless phone charging, big alloy wheels and LED headlights.

Verdict

The new 5 Series carries on where the old car left off, adding more tech and style without taking anything away from the outgoing model. As a result, it looks set to remain one of the key players in the executive saloon market. And while the electric i5 models won't be for everyone, they should play very well with company car buyers, and though this eDrive40 version may not be all the car they really want, it will be all the car most of those customers really need.



James Fossdyke - 2 Oct 2023



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2024 BMW i5 eDrive40. Image by BMW.2024 BMW i5 eDrive40. Image by BMW.2024 BMW i5 eDrive40. Image by BMW.2024 BMW i5 eDrive40. Image by BMW.2024 BMW i5 eDrive40. Image by BMW.

2024 BMW i5 eDrive40. Image by BMW.2024 BMW i5 eDrive40. Image by BMW.2024 BMW i5 eDrive40. Image by BMW.2024 BMW i5 eDrive40. Image by BMW.2024 BMW i5 eDrive40. Image by BMW.








 

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