BMW and Mercedes-Benz are taking two wildly different approaches to the early stages of electrification. Mercedes chose to develop a parallel line of distinct EV models, resulting in the carton of battery-electric eggs known as EQ. BMW is taking the opposite tack, slotting its EVs into the same bodies as its bread-and-butter gas offerings. Munich rocked our world with the i4, the electric version of the 4-series and one of the few EVs ever to make our 10Best Cars list. The company then scaled it up to the also-impressive barge-bodied i7. Now it has taken everything it learned from that luxohammer and scaled it down for middle management. The result, the 2024 i5 electric sedan, is just as captivating.
Keeping It in the Family
If you thought the i7’s split-headlight front end and call-an-orthodontist underbite rear were perhaps a bit too weird, you’ll likely find comfort in the i5’s vastly more traditional three-box shape. Single-piece headlights flank right-size kidney grilles. A couple of distinct character lines draw your eyes rearward and terminate at a bumper that doesn’t look like a pint of Cold Stone left in the sun. In person, the EV actually looks a bit tighter than the outgoing 5-series generation, despite being 3.8 inches longer, 1.3 inches wider, and over an inch1.4 inches taller.
The cabin is much closer to a carbon copy of the i7’s, which is good because BMW nailed it with that model. A 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster pairs with a 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen behind a single pane of glass spanning half the dashboard. Physical switchgear is limited to the stuff ahead of the center armrest. That sweet strip of ambient lighting is still here, ringing the front half of the cab in high-end crystalline glory.
The plastics that make up the door panels and window switches may not be as premium as the 7’s high-gloss stuff, but it all still feels very nice. The current Mercedes interiors, meanwhile, can feel constricting with their large center console. The Bimmer’s innards are about as claustrophobic as an empty warehouse.
Horsepower, but Make It Complicated
Clearly there’s a missive somewhere within BMW that demands a car must have one aspect so convoluted, it sounds like it’s spoken in tongues. In the i5, it’s the output. Don’t have an engineering degree? Don’t worry; some of our staffers do, and we’re still waving smelling salts under their noses.
The rear-wheel-drive i5 eDrive40’s single motor puts out 308 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque—unless it’s in Sport mode, where horsepower rises to 335. You can also boost torque, but only by pulling the Boost paddle or engaging launch control, at which point it rises to 317 lb-ft. We reckon the i5 eDrive40 will reach 60 mph in a comfortable 5.0 seconds.
The all-wheel-drive M60 repeats this nonsense but with higher numbers; normal output is 510 horses and 586 lb-ft, and Sport mode bumps power to 593, while the Boost-or-launch-control shuffle increases twist to 605 lb-ft. Our 60-mph estimate drops to 3.3 seconds on this model.
If someone asks you how much power your i5 makes, just give them the highest numbers. Confusing a stranger to death may incur civil liability.
Two Models, Two Different Vibes
We started our drive on the tight, anfractuous roads leading into the mountains from Lisbon, Portugal. Even on pavement whose quality is best described as “American,” the single-motor i5 eDrive40 proved serene. It’s clear that comfort is this model’s primary goal—mission accomplished. Air springs are standard in the back, with good ol’ coil springs up front. Our sample car was equipped with optional electronically controlled dampers. No matter the mode we chose, the ride quality hewed toward pillowy, but not so much that it felt loose or uncontrolled. It’s exactly the kind of ride you want from a luxury sedan for serious businessfolk.
Switching over to the i5 M60 was like going from decaf to straight espresso. While the eDrive40’s acceleration was merely adequate, the M60’s was closer to unnecessary, befitting the M badges plastered all over the body. This model’s suspension includes M-specific tuning, so it rides just a bit more stiffly than the eDrive40, but it still remains compliant enough for daily driving. If you like a little (or, in Sport mode, more than a little) sportiness, this is the model to get. Provided you can stomach the upcharge, that is: The i5 eDrive40 starts at $67,795, but the M60 jacks that up to $85,095.
We also had a chance to take a crack at the latest iteration of BMW’s Highway Assistant. Think of it as Teutonic Super Cruise—it permits hands-off driving with monitoring via an eye-tracking camera in the gauge cluster. Its latest parlor trick is that the driver can confirm system-suggested lane changes with a mere glance to the corresponding side-view mirror, a feature that works with impressive competence. The idea of changing lanes without first activating the turn signal should come naturally for many BMW owners.
Two Models, One Battery
Both i5 variants rely on the same battery. Under the body is a lithium-ion unit with 81.2 kWh of usable capacity. Plug it into the mains via a 240-volt Level 2 setup, and it will pull up to 11.0 kW through its onboard AC charger. On the DC side, the i5 charges with more gusto than its bigger brother, peaking at 205 kW versus the i7’s max of 195 kW. At full clip, that’ll send the battery’s state of charge from 10 to 80 percent in a half-hour. EPA range estimates for the i5 eDrive40 are from 270 to 295 miles per charge, with the zippier M60 lowering that to 240 to 256 miles, depending on tire choice.
As with the i7 M70, the i5 has a new option that can help get you to the next plug if your mental math didn’t quite add up. Max Range mode scales back motor output, reduces the top speed to 56 mph, and disables the climate control.
BMW claims it has retooled its charging software to allow the battery to accept the highest rate of charging it can as quickly as possible and at states of charge higher than “damn near empty.” BMW claims to have benchmarked the i5’s 400-volt electrical architecture against 800-volt competitors, and it believes it’s close to reaching charge parity with those better-endowed rivals. We look forward to testing that for ourselves. These max charging rates are under ideal conditions, of course; considering that the current U.S. charging infrastructure is a patchwork of eldritch horrors, expect your results to vary.
Down to Brass Tacks
Our early time with the i5 reinforces the notion that BMW is executing at a high level with its main-line EVs. Both variants of the i5 feel like a mid-size executive sedan should. By playing it closer to the familial chest with the i5, BMW can usher its buyers into the future without forcing them out of their comfort zone.
2024 BMW i5
Vehicle Type: rear- or front- and rear-motor, rear- or all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
Base: eDrive40, $67,795; M60 xDrive, $85,095
Motors: 1 or 2 current-excited synchronous AC, 335 hp, 317 lb-ft or 258 and 335 hp, 269 and 317 lb-ft
Power: 335 or 593 hp
Torque: 317 or 605 lb-ft
Battery Pack: liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 81.2 kWh
Onboard Charger: 11.0 kW
Peak DC Fast-Charge Rate: 205 kW
Transmissions, F/R: direct-drive
Wheelbase: 117.9 in
Length: 199.2 in
Width: 74.8 in
Height: 59.3–59.6 in
Trunk Volume: 17 ft3
Passenger Volume, F/R: 55/45 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 4950–5250 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 3.3–5.0 sec
100 mph: 8.0–12.1 sec
1/4-Mile: 11.7–13.6 sec
Top Speed: 120–143 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 85–105/85–104/86–105 MPGe
Range: 240–295 mi
Cars are Andrew Krok’s jam, along with boysenberry. After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2009, Andrew cut his teeth writing freelance magazine features, and now he has a decade of full-time review experience under his belt. A Chicagoan by birth, he has been a Detroit resident since 2015. Maybe one day he’ll do something about that half-finished engineering degree.
Source: Reviews - aranddriver.com