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Electric is the focus of the eighth-generation 5 Series, and the result takes BMW back to the top of the executive class - at a price!
20in alloy wheels, sports seats, LED headlights, power tailgate, digital widescreen display, aluminium exterior trim.
299hp 2.0, 489hp 3.0
M Sport, M Sport Pro.
Eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission, single-speed automatic.
It is a sign of the times and the growing acceptance of electric cars, that the focus of the latest version of our favourite executive car, the BMW 5 Series at launch, is the i5 electric version. BMW hasn't forgotten the combustion engine in the 5, as there's a 208hp, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol turbo powered 520, with 48-volt mild hybrid technology. However, we were told this car is more of a retail proposition.
Also inbound next year, are the 299hp 530e and 489hp 550e xDrive plug-in hybrids, with 56 (530e) and 62 miles (550e) of electric range respectively. However, the i5 is available in two distinctive flavours, the rear-drive eDrive 40, and the all-wheel drive M60 xDrive.
The 40 has 340hp and 317lb ft of torque and accelerates to 60mph in six seconds. Yet, despite all this performance, it still has a range of 362 miles. If the 40 isn't enough, the M60 xDrive adds a front-mounted motor, equalling a total of 601hp and 605lb ft of torque. The M60 also accelerates to 60mph in just six seconds, yet the range is a credible 280 miles.
Also, when it comes to charging, the i5's Combined Charging Unit (CCU) unit allows AC charging at up to 11kW and can be optionally increased to 22kW (standard on the i5 M60 xDrive). The battery can also be charged with DC up to 205kW. As such, the battery charge level can be raised from 10% to 80%t in just 30 minutes, and the i5's range can be increased by up to 97 miles in an incredible 10 minutes.
BMW also tells us that charging efficiency has been optimised using the latest version of its software. It works by continuously adjusting the charging power instead of delivering what it describes as a "staircase curve," thereby making charging times even shorter.
The i5's wheelbase has been increased by 20mm to 2,995 and the extra space is most obvious in the back. 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. The first display is for the instruments and measures 12.3in, plus the other for the infotainment is 14.9in. The horizontally designed dashboard features an 'Interaction Bar,' just like the 7 Series, looks like cut glass, changes colour and has touch-sensitive buttons. Boot space also comes in at a still-decent 490 litres.
Outside, thankfully the 5's styling is toned down compared with the 7, and the result is attractive, sleek and has sharp detailing. This 5 suits the thorough de-chrome that's standard on performance-orientated M Sport trims although the optionally lit LED kidney grille is a bit much in our opinion.
Rapid, grippy and fun sum up the drive - there's a 'Boost' paddle behind the steering wheel and when pulled like a gear, you get 10 seconds of peak acceleration. Although, apart from extra urgency when overtaking, it's largely irrelevant in everyday use. Sport mode is found in the 'My Modes' section of the drive modes, with names such as, 'Expressive' and 'Relax.'
The steering is precise - but light, although there's enough feedback. The handling is tight, and the M60's xDrive four-wheel drive system gives welcome confidence and grip in corners, considering its extra performance.
Our M Sport test cars rode on the biggest 20in wheels, and perhaps the giveaway for the M60's extra weight was a slightly heavier feeling, with the suspension working hard to mask some road imperfections and keep the excellent body control.
The i5 is available in M Sport and M Sport Pro equipment grades. We were told fleet demand would be mostly focussed on the i5 eDrive 40 M Sport trim, with its 2% BiK figure and £74,105 starting price. We're not surprised, as the 40 is all the 5 you need, and propels BMW back to the top of the executive class.