2024 BMW i5 eDrive40 and M60 xDrive review – as an EV, is the G60 still the 5 Series we know and love?
After driving the BMW i5, I breathed a sigh of relief. The BMW 5 Series is very much alive and well. But why did I approach Lisbon with trepidation?
The world is evolving, but it feels like cars are changing even faster than the planet they serve. Could be just me, but it seems like the shift from fossil fuel to electric is going faster than expected, and the ‘electric future’ many were talking about not too long ago is a reality today.
Perhaps this is a skewed view from a media person covering only new cars and developments (it’s unfashionable for OEMs to talk about ICE although they still make and sell them in great numbers) and the actual situation could be very different – for instance, the new vehicle market share for BEVs in US is just 7.1% in the first half of 2023. Hardly equal to the buzz.
But that does not change the fact that batteries are the future, and most carmakers are racing each other in rolling out EVs. BMW is one of the front runners in that race, so much so that the launch variant of the next-generation G60 5 Series is the fully-electric i5.
Yes, the first drive for an all-new 5 Series is now an EV event. This is a big deal – we’re not talking about a niche model or an SUV, but the 5 Series, the essence of BMW. I fear, because I love the 5 Series – I stuck my head out to call the outgoing G30 the best car in the world, and I was worried that the 5 Series as we know it is no more.
Silly me. Because the i5 – the first ever fully-electric 5 Series – is merely spearheading a range that will have plug-in hybrids, four- and six-cylinder petrol engines and even diesels. Yes, there’s still a market for oil burners, especially in Europe with a mile muncher business tool like the 5 Series.
We spoke to Frank Weber, BMW board member in charge of development, and he revealed that by the end of the G60’s lifespan, we would have seen four BEVs, two PHEVs, two (mild-hybrid) petrol and two diesel variants, and an M5 on top of that too. He stressed that Munich is not forcing its customers into any powertrain.
The availability of a wide range of powertrain options is vital, especially for the 5 Series, which Weber says racks up the highest mileage among all BMW models. “People really do drive them a lot. The 5 Series is a very interesting thing because people use them as a daily tool, it’s for them really a tool, for long driving,” he said, adding that an EV does not suit every 5 Series user.
For now, the i5 is available in base and top BEV forms – the i5 eDrive40 and the the i5 M60 xDrive. BMW has just announced the 530e and 550e PHEVs, so there’s plenty more to come for the G60, including the first-ever plug-in hybrid M5 that will debut in 2024. A big V8 supplemented with electric boost – think XM.
But let’s focus on what’s on hand. The i5 eDrive40 is the entry-level fully-electric 5 Series built on the latest fifth-generation BMW eDrive tech, and it has a single rear-mounted motor with 313 PS and 400 Nm of torque. With My Mode Sport and Sport Boost/Launch Control function engaged, it’s 340 PS/430 Nm max, and 0-100 km/h is done in 6.0 seconds flat. Top speed is 193 km/h.
With an 81.2 kWh (net, 84.3 kWh gross) battery in the floor pan, the base i5’s WLTP range is from 497 to 582 km. Charging via AC at 11 kW will take four hours and 15 minutes from 0-100%, while DC fast charging (max rate 205 kW) from 10-80% SOC takes 30 minutes.
The i5 M60 xDrive is an M Performance model and the BEV range topper, since the full fat M5 will have an ICE. With an extra motor on the front axle for AWD, total output for the M60 is 517 PS and 795 Nm, or 601 PS/820 Nm with My Mode Sport and M Sport Boost/M Launch Control engaged. With all virtual switches flicked, 0-100 km/h is dispatched in just 3.8 seconds. Top speed is 230 km/h.
The same 81.2 kWh battery delivers a slightly lower WLTP range of 455 to 516 km in the M60, with some of the km sacrificed for hp. Charging rates are as per the eDrive40.
On the topic of range, there’s a new Max Range function that increases range by up to 25%. This is achieved by limiting power, speed (90 km/h) and deactivating comfort functions. Imagine planning your journey and charging down to the km, only to be greeted by a charger that’s out of order. Max Range is a get out of jail free card, so to speak.
Also new for BMW’s latest EV is Max Performance Charging. Not related to the maximum charging rate, MPC smoothens out the drop off in charging power (typical pattern shoots up to max upon plug-in before reducing gradually), which used to be stepped, like in the iX. Starting off at full charging power is also applicable at higher SOCs, and not just when near empty. These characteristics help you to get more juice in, more quickly. The i5’s architecture is 400V, but with MPC, charging performance is ahead of 400V rivals and gets close to 800V levels, BMW says.
Remember the Efficient Dynamics line? Efficiency is even more important for EVs and BMW’s experience comes in handy. The 5 Series may look squarer than ever, but a raft of aero measures including, but not limited to, active air vent control (grille), air curtains (wheel arches), underfloor and the ‘Air Performance Wheels’ contribute to a good Cd value of just 0.23 (smaller is better). The teardrop-shaped Mercedes-Benz EQE‘s Cd of 0.255 is reminder to not judge a car by its shape.
Why is this important? More mileage for your precious charge, as the share of vehicle aerodynamics in long range driving consumption is over 60%, by far the biggest factor energy sapper. Even if daily driving, aero is the biggest factor at 34% versus the e-motor (22%) and tyres (25%), according to BMW’s internal studies.
Anyway, WLTP rated power consumption is 18.9-15.9 kWh/100 km for the eDrive40 and 20.6-18.2 kWh/100 km for the M60. Good figures for a car of this size and performance, and BMW assures that it is keeping its promises when it comes to real world consumption versus WLTP figures, as proven by i40 eDrive40 customer data.
It all sounds good, but do you like how the new 5 looks? Even if you don’t, I bet that you’ll be softening your stance eventually. Perhaps its due to the brand having a passionate fanbase, but new BMWs tend to elicit strong feelings, usually negative with regards to the design. Remember the initial reaction to the E60 5 Series? You’ll come around. Anyway, even the iX – with its challenging face and unconventional SUV proportions – is selling like hot cakes, so BMW clearly knows what it’s doing.
There’s no i7-style mega grille for one of BMW’s two core models, as they can’t afford to make the 5 polarising, but there are still elements to get used to with the G60. Compared to the more organic flow of the F10 and G30, the latest 5er eschews gentle curves and surfacing – this ‘reduced’ design language is best illustrated on the sides, where the doors panels are flat and handles flush.
The sides are relatively tall too, something the black-painted area between the wheels attempt to visually counter (the ‘hockey stick’ vent is gone). If the G60 looks substantial, it actually is, in all directions – the three-box sedan is now over five metres long at 5,060 mm (+97 mm) and width is 1.9 metres (+32 mm), while overall height is up by 36 mm to 1,515 mm. The 2,995 wheelbase is longer by 20 mm.
There’s a ‘5’ logo at the tail-end of the daylight opening, but more obvious changes include the straight tail lamps that are not unlike an X5’s (no more ‘L’ shaped) and the bonnet valley in which the BMW logo sits. The marque’s trademark kidney grille is outlined by Iconic Glow illumination here, like on the i7.
Speaking of the kidneys, the eDrive40 gets vertical slats while the M60’s nose is fully blacked out. That, a rear diffuser, M-specific wing mirrors and a slim boot spoiler are the ways to mark out the M Performance car, which otherwise isn’t a lot more aggressive than an eDrive40 with the M Sport look. The M60 you see here has options such as 21-inch BMW Individual wheels (19s standard), carbon pack and dark Shadowline headlamps. I’m not a big fan of matte bodies, but the G60 looks great in Frozen Pure Grey metallic, don’t you think?
The matte bodywork helped with the pictures here too, as it felt like the sun was hovering just above our heads when we stopped for pics at the hills overlooking Setubal. To get to that point, we pointed the i5 on roads that it could barely fit – there were a couple of occasions where both me and the expensive wing mirror said our prayers – and it was then that I believed. Electric it may be, but this is still a BMW 5 Series.
You can take that to mean that the G60 is still more satisfying to drive than its executive rivals, EV or ICE. This comes from that hard-to-explain feel of the controls, which are perfectly-judged in the effort they require. Mind you, it’s not a given with brakes that also need to recuperate energy, and BMW has in the past dished out very heavy steering in the name of sport.
The i5 is a big car on European mountain roads – you know it from the clearance you have – but it doesn’t feel like a limo when you push on. It’s agile and has quick feet for such a big player. It feels like a small… I’m so happy to be able to use old cliches on this brand new car – it means that the 5 Series is very much alive and well, even if it’s now over 5m long, powered by batteries and touting in-car gaming (AirConsole uses phones as controllers, multiplayer) and Bundesliga matches as one of the main USPs.
You can’t do those things on the move, but the ride comfort seems ready to support such activities – so steady at high speeds and very absorbent in town. I had to check again; those really are 21-inch wheels. Both our eDrive40 and M60 testers rode on ‘Professional’ adaptive suspension, the top option that also comes with rear-wheel steering. The latter’s turning circle reduction magic was on display up in the hills, just that I couldn’t detect the sleight of hand.
At this moment, I’ll share with you how Weber described the 5 Series to us. “The 3 Series is the incarnation of sportiness – compact sportiness in a sedan is the 3 Series. And then the 7, it’s about comfort, about status. Funny, what’s happening with the 5 is an expectation that the two things are merged into a unique experience. I want the sportiness of a 3 but please can u give me a little bit of the comfort of the 7? But I don’t want a small 7,” BMW’s development chief said.
A scaled-down i7 this is definitely not – the appeal is more driver than drebar, and although it’s very spacious at the back, the G60 is nowhere near as opulent as the limo. The size and heft of the Five means that it’s not as fun to drive all out as the compact premium exec, even with Munich’s considerable dynamic expertise. I guess Weber’s right.
For some, the elephant in the i5’s room is the fact that it’s an EV. I can see many disagreeing, but personally, I feel that the engine has for some time stopped being a main event in the (non-M) 5 Series experience. Smooth and strong as it was, the G30 was so good not because of its engine, which for me plays a role in a great overall team performance. The motor was certainly way more prominent in the days of naturally-aspirated engines.
The pre-pandemic me (I meant Covid, electrification is not a plague) wouldn’t have believed this, but I find that the ICE isn’t a huge loss for a car like the 5 Series, and also because the i5 is very good. Both the eDrive40 and M60 are incredibly brisk off the line, and once you get going, throttle response is so immediate that you want for nothing quicker. The M60 is a very fast car that’s makes no compromises in comfort, but for me, the difference between it and the eDrive40 isn’t night and day. That’s because the 340 PS RWD car is more than enough in performance and dynamics.
The best part is despite all that performance on tap, the i5 is a very soothing car to drive in traffic. If you wish, set the throttle’s energy recovery (think ‘engine braking’) to low, ignore the theatrical ‘Iconic Sounds’ composed by Hans Zimmer, and it will feel very intuitive for someone coming straight from a G30, never mind this writer whose last stint in the Five was over five years ago.
The 5 Series has always been a great tourer, and the i5 is a high point. Obviously, there’s no engine sound, but insulation from road noise is very good and there’s just an occasional hint of wind buffeting at Portugal’s highway speed limit of 120 km/h to keep the experience real. Also occasional is the reflection of the wave pattern on the dash top under harsh sunlight. Ergonomics and seat comfort is top notch.
Speaking of the interior, the G60’s cockpit is the i7’s after you add some driver focus and subtract some luxe from the mix. Most of the limo’s (front section) tech and highlights are here, including the impressive Curved Display that combines a 12.3-inch meter panel and a 14.9-inch central screen; and the rather lovely Interaction Bar with its crystal-like insides, soft glow colours and neat integration of touch controls. Big impact from a small piece of ‘trim’.
Best of all, the steering control panels are minimalist (a complete opposite of Mercedes-Benz’s approach) and despite having big screens, all commonly used functions are easily accessible via the Interaction Bar, bottom of the infotainment screen or centre console. Speaking of the CC, its crystal-like elements perfectly match the Interaction Bar, but the piano black base attracts smudges. Anyway, is piano black still in fashion? I’d be happy to see the trend fade away.
Like the drive itself, if you’re coming from a G30, you’ll be used to the new Five’s interior in no time, after the wow from the latest BMW interior elements subside.
Whether it’s the approach to the steering wheel (Merc’s tiers of buttons), the interior concept (expansive spaceship feel in the EQE/EQS) or the exterior design language (teardrops from Stuttgart), it’s interesting to note that BMW and Mercedes-Benz have gone on opposite directions with their EVs. Even in planning, as Munich is incorporating BEVs into their regular range as a powertrain option rather than having a separate, parallel range of electric cars.
Time will tell who made the better choice, but the upside of BMW’s decision to make the i5 a variant of the wider G60 range is exactly that. This is an electric car, but it’s also a 5 Series, and with that, the sedan we know and love lives on in the electric age. I’ll breathe another sigh of relief, the BMW 5 Series is all right.
Reminder: The i5 is coming to Malaysia this year, but for those who aren’t into EVs or whose circumstance won’t allow for one (for instance, the lack of landed home charging prevents me from making the switch), mild hybrid ICE variants such as the 520i (190 hp/310 Nm), 530i (258 hp/400 Nm, xDrive available) and six-cylinder 540i xDrive (381 hp/540 Nm) are on the way.
But it’s the PHEVs that have caught my attention – compared to the G30 plug-in hybrid, we’re looking at 75% higher electric output, 24% higher total output, 78% higher pure electric range, 39% higher total range and 27% more boot space. With combined WLTP EV range of 87-102 km, the G60 530e will be able to perform daily tasks as an EV, but with zero range anxiety. Combined 299 hp, 450 Nm and 0-100 km/h in 6.4 seconds, it could be the best car in the real world.
GALLERY: 2024 BMW i5 M60 xDrive
GALLERY: 2024 BMW i5 eDrive40
GALLERY: 2024 BMW i5 M60 xDrive, official pics
GALLERY: 2024 BMW i5 eDrive40, official pics
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