First Drive: BMW i5

Road Test


The BMW 5 series has been a fleet car staple for over 50 years, but the introduction of the 'G60' eighth generation model sees the arrival of the first all-electric version. Richard Gooding finds an executive saloon that succeeds in offering fleet drivers luxury with electric car performance and technology.

What is it?

BMW is GreenFleet’s current Fleet Car Manufacturer of the Year, and in 2023 the brand registered 28,723 all-electric cars; every fourth BMW sold in the UK was an all-electric model.

The i5 executive saloon is available in rear-wheel drive, single motor, eDrive40 and all-wheel drive, twin-motor, M60 xDrive forms. An i5 Touring estate is offered with the same powertrains as the saloon, but with a 570-1,700-litre luggage capacity. Plug-in hybrid i5 models are also available.

What range does it have?

All versions of the BMW i5 are fitted with the same 81.2kWh battery. The lower-powered eDrive40 has an official WLTP combined range of 341-356 miles, while the more powerful i5 M60 xDrive can officially drive 284-315 miles on a single charge when conditions allow.

A heat pump is standard on all i5 models to help maximise range, and a ‘Maximum Range’ driving mode reduces the amount of available power and some comfort functions to eke out more miles, claimed to increase range by up to 25 per cent.

How long does it take to charge?

Every BMW i5 is capable of up to 205kW DC charging, and a 10-80 per cent battery refill at a high-power charging station takes a claimed 30 minutes.

The eDrive40 models have an AC charging rate cap of 11kW, meaning a 0-100 per cent charge at an AC connection such as a BMW wallbox will take just under nine hours.

M60 xDrive cars top out at 22kW AC – optional on the eDrive40 – dropping this time to a little over four hours. Regenerative braking through the gearbox’s ‘B’ mode gives more sudden braking performance, with three presets for enhanced energy recuperation. The car can also adaptively choose a level based on current driving conditions.

How does it drive?

The latest i5 is unmistakably a modern BMW from the outside, but without some of the awkwardness of more recent models. It’s nicely proportioned, sharp-suited and technology rich, and that continues into the cabin. You sit low, and initial thoughts turn to the larger 7 Series interior.

BMW’s new curved display which seamlessly blends the 12.3-inch driver’s display with the 14.9-inch touchscreen infotainment screen to make one unit has crisp graphics, but is a little too busy, with lots of information to decipher. BMW’s latest Operating System 8.5 software is fast, though.

The backlit interaction bar is borrowed from the 7 Series and controls the air conditioning, also warning of incoming calls.

Even though it’s the entry level powertrain, the i5 eDrive40 has plenty of get-up-and-go, torque of 295lb ft (400Nm) delivering plenty of pace. On the road, BMW’s newest fleet EV challenger doesn’t feel its size, arguably more akin to a 3 Series.

Almost as dynamic as that car, and the smaller i4, there is plenty of grip, and the i5 turns in very crisply for a five-metre long car that weighs over two tonnes.

While firm, the ride remains comfortable – all UK cars come equipped with M Sport suspension – and the steering offers some feedback, making the car easy to place. Refinement is excellent, with little road or wind noise.

In summary, dynamic and fun to drive, BMW’s executive electric saloon delivers the driving experience you’d expect.

What does it cost?

Available in three trim grades, the i5 family is fairly straightforward. The £67,695 i5 Sport Edition comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED exterior lights, perforated and quilted black leatherette upholstery, and wireless smartphone charging. Priced from £74,105, the i5 M Sport counts alcantara seat trim among other highlights.

The £77,105 i5 M Sport Pro adds 20-inch wheels, and, as with the Sport Edition and M Sport, has the eDrive40 powertrain. The i5 M60 xDrive costs from £97,745, and its highlights include adaptive suspension.

How much does it cost to tax?

All BMW i5 models are currently exempt from VED charges in the first and following years of registration. For 2024-2025, fleet drivers will pay a two per cent Benefit In Kind (BIK) value for BMW’s electric saloon.

Why does my fleet need one?

Price aside, the BMW i5 delivers on its maker’s promise of a dynamic drive, with a technology-rich interior, which although at times can be hard to navigate, looks classy. Whichever version is chosen, fleet drivers wanting a luxurious electric saloon will be rewarded.

The entry level eDrive40 is particularly a solid choice, with more than enough power and a longer range than the M60 xDrive. A very accomplished newcomer, BMW has succeeded in ushering in a polished electric version of its fleet favourite.