3rd Report: Planted and refined drive

The BMW i5 is a real opinion divider it turns out, as I ended up in heated debate about the ride when compared with rivals on a recent launch. As I’ve said before, given the 21in wheels that are fitted, the i5 has impressed me with how comfortable and compliant the ride is whatever the journey. Despite some noticeable body float (that affects other EVs and is the result of that heavy battery) mainly on A and B roads, it has surprised me at how sporty and dynamic it feels, too.

A perfect example of this, was that I spent a weekend driving a hybrid executive rival, on 20in wheels, with a far harsher ride. Then, coming back to this BMW for a trip to the Cotswolds for a launch, it again made me grateful for the BMW’s more supple set-up. So, while there are more dynamic EV rivals, and smaller wheels might be even more comfortable, I’m very happy with this BMW’s set-up. More good news is that I’ve thankfully managed to keep all the wheels round! 

This 110-mile drive again highlighted the supportive ‘comfort’ front seats, that live up to their name. All I needed to do was then select ‘drive,’ my ‘drive mode’ (usually ‘efficiency’ to make the most of the range) and pick my music on the excellent optional Bowers & Wilkins sound system, via the physical wheel. Having a physical wheel is far preferable to the touchscreen set-up in the previous iX1 in my opinion, however I must admit this wheel’s operation has been a bit hit and miss this month, with me instead having to resort to touching the screen instead – which is not ideal. I’ll be keeping an eye on this, to see if there’s a fault. 

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Despite a dark and wet M4, I was then impressed at how planted and refined the i5 felt at the national speed limit, along with the excellent adaptive LED headlights, making for a confident stress-free drive. 

Two hours later, I arrived at my overnight hotel. I was tired, but think I was a lot less tired than I would have been if I was driving an ICE-powered car. The i5’s range has been something I’ve been wondering about since its arrival. More range is always welcome, but through winter, the most I’ve seen has been 255 miles – some way off BMW’s claimed 357 official figure. I believe the i5 is quite efficient – well more than the 2.6 miles/kWh figure for this month would suggest. I got to the Cotswolds with 60% and 150 miles left of the range, in spite of motorway speeds, and the cold, wet weather, meaning I was having to use extra kit which is a battery drain. This meant I’d have enough charge to get to the event early next morning, and I took advantage of an offered free charge to top-up for the way home. 

Despite comments from friends that the i5 has a particularly long nose considering there’s no engine underneath that long bonnet, this BMW’s styling continues to grow on me. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the best-looking models in the range. It continues to suit the Brooklyn Grey paint with black and carbon detailing. I’ve also found that Brooklyn Grey is a good colour to hide road muck, after a wet and muddy month. 

Spring is almost here, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the i5 will cope.  

2nd Report: Comfortable and competent

Following the i5’s alloy wheel incident, I’m pleased to say my BMW returned checked, fully valeted and with an replacement front offside wheel, after two weeks back with them, and I have to admit I really missed it. 

Its return unfortunately almost coincided with me having some planned surgery. Although I enjoyed a couple of short drives before a trip to the hospital. But ultimately, the i5 was parked for over a week while I recovered. Being chauffeured around was a serious loss of independence, and I was very keen to get back behind the wheel as soon as possible. When I felt well enough to try, it was the i5’s key I gingerly grabbed, for my first drive taking my daughter to her Cubs meeting.

Despite the i5 being in sporty M Sport spec, I’m pleased to say the ‘comfort seats’ live up to their name – being ‘comfortable,’ but at the same time supportive. When I was seated comfortably, I was grateful at how undemanding it was to get the i5 started and moving. The only slight frustration being that the driving mode has to be set every time (the same as the iX1 I previously ran). I’m sure a reader, or someone at BMW, would be able to tell me a way not to have to do this!

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I’m happy to not be stretching over my shoulder, too. With the excellent rear camera and parking sensors, there’s no need, giving me confidence as I manoeuvre off for my first drive. The i5’s control weights, such as the throttle and brakes, feel surprisingly ICE-engine like. The inputs required from my feet are smaller and more precise – giving more confidence. In my opinion, some EV manufacturers still aren’t getting this right. A recent drive in a Volkswagen Group car highlighted the throttle response being almost being hyperactive – making it hard to keep that model smooth at low speed – then lacking in feel when stopping. 

On the move, despite riding on 21in alloys, and doing without the more powerful M60’s adaptive suspension and four-wheel steering system, our i5 continued to impress me with how comfortable and compliant the ride is on the short cross-country drive.  

I always seem to have plenty to say about my long-termers’ headlights, but the i5’s LEDs are possibly the best of their type – quick to change to full-beam, but also reactive to other traffic. With the Bowers & Wilkins stereo, that has quickly connected to my phone, it’s playing music with a punchy, but sophisticated feel. I realise how much I’ve missed driving this car – even in what has been a relatively short time. 

In fact, the only part of its interior that disappoints, are the column stalks. These are the same as those fitted to our old iX1 and even the i7, and while they work well enough, they feel cheap in operation..  

Despite my limited use of the BMW this month, again the i5 has proved what an excellent all-rounder it is. My main frustration now, is that my recovery could hold me back from driving and learning more about this car. Hopefully (almost) normal service will be resumed next month. 

1st Report

The last, seventh-generation BMW 5 Series was a tough act to follow. Even after it was discontinued in the autumn of last year, myself and the other Business Car Award judges couldn’t think of a better executive choice, and so it walked off again with the 2023 award. 

For this, the eighth generation, the focus has changed and the all-electric i5 is the result. BMW has not forgotten their combustion roots, with a petrol and a couple of hybrids also available – but the main fleet focus is the i5 eDrive 40 and range-topping M50 versions. 

With the early return of our much-liked iX1, BMW kindly offered an i5 eDrive 40 M Sport Pro replacement, which arrived in the run-up to Christmas. We’d already experienced the i5 at the UK launch, where we got to drive the 40 and M50 back-to-back and considering the keen pricing, came away thinking that, just like the i4, the eDrive 40 in M Sport Pro trim, was all the i5 fleet was going to need. 

Outside, thankfully the 5’s styling is toned down over the 7, and the result is attractive, sleek and with sharp detailing. It really suits our car’s Brooklyn Grey paint, combined with optional M Carbon styling pack (£1,750), and the thorough de-chrome that’s standard on performance-orientated M Sport trims. Although the optionally lit LED kidney grille is a bit much and the 21in Individual aero BiColour Jet black alloy wheels (£2,000) are over fussy in our opinion – more on those later.

The i5’s wheelbase has been increased by 20mm to 2,995 and the extra space is most obvious in the rear – plus my kids are already keen on the USB charging points on the back of the front seats. I still stand by my comment that this is possibly BMW’s best modern interior, yet. The latest curved infotainment display, made up of two screens, sits on top of the i5’s dashboard and look contemporary. The horizontally designed dashboard features an ‘Interaction Bar,’ just like the 7 Series, and looks like cut glass, changes colour and has touch-sensitive buttons. We’ve benefitted from several option packs, but one interior highlight that has made a real impact so far, must be the impressive Bowers & Wilkins sound system. 

The £76,200 starting figure was already chunky in our opinion, however, with all these options added, the result is an eye-watering £94,375 price tag – it will be interesting to see over the course of the next six months which we think are worth the money and which are the ones we could do without. 

Even in the relatively short time it has been with us, the i5 impressed by again proving to be a brilliant all-rounder. First job was to test the decent 490 litres of boot space, which on our car could be extended with the split/fold rear seats – perfect for taking a faulty fake Christmas tree back to the shops. Then there was a cross-country visit to Bicester Heritage for a manufacturer event, where the i5 proved what a refined and comfy companion it can be on longer journeys. Followed by a few Christmas shopping trips, where again the boot space was much appreciated.  

All was going well, until a couple of days after Santa visited, we were coming down the A1 after another family visit, when I think I hit a pothole. I say, ‘I think,’ as it was on a particularly dark unlit section of the dual carriageway. Anyway, it was a big enough noise to make me wonder whether we’d make it home. Thankfully, there was no tyre pressure monitor light on the dash and the steering felt fine. However, when checking the front wheel, the following morning, it was obvious the edge of the 21in wheel had been flattened thanks to the impact. 

Anyway, the upshot is, that BMW wanted to check the i5 over and fit a new wheel, so as I write, the car is with them. More on this and better news next month.