In the pantheon of sport sedans, the BMW 5 Series is a bit of a legend.
First introduced in 1972, and now in its eighth generation, the 5 Series brought true business-class luxury and enthusiast-friendly driving manners to a class of car that was otherwise rather dreary. Less ostentatious than a Mercedes-Benz E-Class and just as comfortable over long distances, it soon became a fun alternative for executive types travelling between cities at high speeds on unrestricted stretches of European highways.
Speeding into the future is the first all-electric entry in the 5 Series lineage, the 2024 BMW i5. And just as its forebear was way back in the early ’70s, this sedan is a sign of all the good that’s surely to come in the rapidly expanding electric vehicle (EV) space.
All New, Yet Familiar
The latest iteration of the 5 Series can easily be traced back to the original thanks to the careful and slow design evolution through the decades. Suckers for nostalgia will enjoy classic elements like the Hoffmeister kink in the rear quarter glass – that’s the rearward kick at the bottom of the C-pillar that’s become almost synonymous with BMW’s designs over the years – which is now accented by an embossed 5, and taillights that mimic the ones found on the latest 7 Series.
The headlights are smaller than before and don’t intersect with the grille, but they retain the twin-element design and frame a version of the brand’s kidney grille. That plastic panel is big but on the conservative side compared to some of BMW’s ostentatious takes these days.
The familiarity continues inside, with a cabin that looks and feels more closely aligned with past generations of the 5 Series – especially compared to the over-the-top Mercedes-Benz EQE Sedan that features Eurovision levels of illumination. Yes, the i5’s cabin is thoroughly modern, with tons of screen real estate and plenty of fancy flourishes; but there’s a seriousness here, too.
The main focus inside is the 12.3-inch instrument display and 14.9-inch infotainment screen, both of which have been combined under one continuous curved panel that’s angled subtly towards the driver – another nod to BMW’s heritage. Shared with other products in the brand’s portfolio, these displays are some of the sharpest and most visually appealing on the market today.
Every surface looks and feels like it’s of high quality, with real wood and metal trim, while the same trio of crystal console controls offered in the all-electric BMW iX SUV are available here, too. There’s also the same jewel-like lightbar first seen in the 7 Series that changes colours depending on drive mode, while the air vents are hidden for a clean and uncluttered look.
The i5 is also available with a vegan-friendly interior – a BMW first. Either way it’s an airy and spacious place to sit, with very comfortable and supportive seats, and one of the best infotainment systems in the business. The latest version of the operating system has a redesigned home screen that features a permanent map view; and while it’s generally fairly easy to use, those new to the brand’s interface will likely need some time to get used to the various features and functions on offer.
BMW was especially proud of its new AirConsole app that allows video games to be played on the infotainment screen à la Tesla using a connected smartphone as the controller. It looks like a good way to kill time when charging the battery at the very least.
Beyond the interior gadgetry, there’s plenty of the kind that’s usable on the road, too. In addition to hands-free highway driving, the i5 can change lanes with nothing more than a glance from the driver.
While cruising, the car will suggest a safe lane change opportunity, especially if there’s a vehicle ahead that’s moving slower than the adaptive cruise control’s set speed. To accept, the driver simply glances in the side mirror, at which point the car handles the rest.
Once an Athlete, Always an Athlete
The 2024 BMW i5 M60 uses two electric motors, with all-wheel drive as a result. Together they generate 590 hp and 605 lb-ft of torque. The car also uses the latest generation of BMW’s battery pack that features a low profile so it doesn’t compromise interior or cargo space in any way. With a capacity of 81.2 kWh, it’s still based on a 400-volt architecture but can charge at speeds as fast as 205 kW. Total range is estimated at 412 km.
Compared to the less-powerful i5 eDrive40 that won’t be sold in Canada, the M60’s extra output is noticeable. It also boasts more of the sporting quality that’s become synonymous with the brand, and the 5 Series in particular.
Pull the boost paddle behind the steering wheel for about a second and a countdown is displayed, providing a few moments to unleash all 605 lb-ft of torque. Sophisticated electronics calculate the perfect amount of wheelspin before all four tires hook and catapult the car down the road ahead.
The i5 M60 will reach 100 km/h from a standstill in a little less than four seconds. There’s even an acceleration soundtrack developed by famed film score composer Hans Zimmer that plays through the speakers, supposedly to enhance the driver experience.
Corner after corner, the i5 M60 displays face-stretching levels of grip. It’s an exceptionally easy car to drive; however, the lifeless steering, while responsive, mars an otherwise perfect package of comfort and driving dynamics.
The M5 gets all the attention, but even a normal 5 Series has always been a great car to drive. And if comfort balanced with sporty driving dynamics sounds like your shot of Jägermeister, the 2024 BMW i5 does an excellent job of bringing both together in one car, continuing a tradition that’s been more than 50 years in the making.