Munich’s quintessential sport-luxury sedan returns to Oz in its eighth generation with petrol and new ‘i5’ electric guises. It’s truly impressive, if not for all tastes
A half-century ago, BMW was a busy joint. It had just built its famed BMW Tower HQ, lobbed its first turbo car in the (ahem) BMW Turbo, and created its first electric car in the 1602e…all for the 1972 Summer Olympics in its hometown of Munich. And BMW also launched the iconic 5 Series.
While BMW’s electric and turbocharged forays numbered just two examples apiece and their concepts went into hiatus, the 5 Series forged ahead uninterrupted for 50 years through seven generations – and over 10 million units sold – to become what many consider to be the quintessential executive four-door saloon breed.
Or, in patches and in some markets, as a five-door wagon or liftback.
Now, in 2023, the eighth-generation 5 Series arrives. It’s served in petrol, diesel, mild-hybrid, PHEV and, of course, all-new fully electric ‘i5’ guises on the global menu, its three body styles including the sedan, wagon and China-market long-wheelbase four-door.
Dedicated, high(er)-performance M-cars, including the V8-hybrid M5 successor, are still yet to come.
Clearly the new “5-er”, as BMW-o-files call it, covers all necessary bases to maintain its status as a figurehead sport-luxury large passenger car goodness. At least globally. The 5 Series’ potential to continue fine and well-regarded form in some markets, such as Australia, has become somewhat trickier.
Locally, buyer choice is a slim three variants – one petrol four, two electrics – for a straightforward selection, if one lacking traditional anchor points in turbo-six or diesel power. There’s currently no proper plug-in option to join the sole mild-hybrid version.
It’s not that BMW Australia doesn’t offer variety: it now offers 12 fully electric vehicles amongst what is surely one of the most diverse powertrain portfolios of any marque on sale.
But by opting for EVs as the top two tiers of a three variant lineup for its 51-year-old stalwart nameplate could be considered a bit of a dice roll. Worth noting: there’s no electric 3 Series outside of China, yet…
The ‘G60’ 5 Series range kicks off with the 520i ($114,900), its 48-volt mild-hybrid powertrain combining a 140kW 2.0L turbo petrol four and 13kW motor for a combined 153kW and 330Nm. The sole ICE variant fits eight-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive, with claims of 6.7L/100km frugality and 7.5sec 0-100km/h performance.
It’s a fair walk up to the i5 eDrive40 ($155,900), the lineup’s mainline-branded (non-M) electric rear-driver offering 250kW and 430Nm of single-motor propulsion. Fitting the 5 Series’ sole 84kWh (gross) battery, it brings a longer range claim of up to 550kms, consumption of 16.6kWh/100kms and a 6.0sec 0-100km/h sprint.
The tree-topper is the i5 M60 xDrive ($215,900), the EV successor to the much-loved outgoing turbo-V8 M550i xDrive, a dual-motor 442kW and 820Nm sport-luxury flagship promising 3.8sec performance, 18kWh/100km ‘thirst’ and a range of up to 506kms.
Pictured: the i5 M60 xDrive (left) and the i5 eDrive40 (right)
The G60 is 97mm longer (5060mm), 32mm wider (1900mm), 36mm taller (1515mm) and has a 20mm longer wheelbase (2995mm) than the outgoing gen-seven G30.
And while the 5 Series pitch has classically offered a sweet middle ground between 3 Series driver focus and 7 Series limo-like luxury, the breed’s continual growth spurt increasingly skews itself towards the latter.
In short, this eighth-generation seems more baby 7 than upsized 3, and that extends somewhat to the exterior styling. The new angular look – complete with dual bonnet bulges and illuminated ‘Iconic Glow’ grille effect – balances convention with BMW’s ‘i’-look futurism.
The 5-er’s upmarket limousine vibe push is particularly evident in both the opulent vibes of the interior – see below – and BMW’s compulsion to load it up with lavish kit.
Standard features for the entry 520i include:
Pictured: the 520i
The mid-spec electric i5 eDrive40 builds upon the base variant while featuring:
Pictured: the i5 eDrive40
Meanwhile, the range-topping i5 M60 xDrive adds:
BMW Australia continues to favour options bundles rather than myriad individual upgrade, with the key packages including:
M Sport Plus package – $4200 for i5 eDrive40, $4000 for i5 M60 xDrive
Enhancement package – 520i: $5400
Comfort package – (520i/i5 eDrive40 – $5700, i5 M60 xDrive: $3200)
The i5 variants come with five years of complimentary ChargeFox fast charging, though a BMW gen-three wallbox costs an additional $1199.
Metallic paint costs extra on the 520i only ($2000), though BMW Individual metallic finishes such as Tanzanite Blue ($520i $4400, i5 $2400) and ‘frozen’ satin Pure and Deep greys ($520i $7000, i5 $5000) cost extra.
At the Australian launch of the G30 5 Series, Chasing Cars spent the lion’s share of the drive program in the big daddy i5 M60 xDrive. But we also got decent time in the turbo-petrol 520i for a snapshot of the breadth of the new and somewhat concise lineup.
The baby 7 Series aura is evident in the whole 5 Series lineup, but it’s really the dual-motor electric flagship where it’s evidently most complete. From the moment you start up and get rolling, it feels substantial, luxurious and want for little, including much in the way of sonic fanfare.
The i5 M60 slips into Melbourne traffic, cocooning and whisper quiet, and despite its large 21-inch rolling stock – 20s are available for the absolute range chasers – it’s wonderfully damped and bereft any knocks or thumbs across road imperfections.
Interestingly, the suspension is a mix of steel-sprung front and airbag rear, at once seemingly adding some crispness to the front end while bringing perfectly judged compliance and support to the rear for a platform that BMW says balances its weight neatly 50:50 across both axles.
What it lacks, though, is a sense of lightness. It’s 2380kg, or approaching 2.5 tonnes two-up with luggage, it doesn’t mask its heft around town or, as we’d soon discover, across some of the twisty backroads along Victoria’s peninsula south of Melbourne.
But while masking weight is one thing, poise, control and dynamic abilities are three separate facets where the dual-motor i5 counters its portliness incredibly well.
We’ve been seriously impressed about the larger i7’s almost physics-bending handling flies in the face of that limousine’s considerable mass and inertia in times past, and the comparatively smaller and lighter i5 M60 xDrive pulls very similar tricks. Perhaps more impressively so.
There’s a lot going on underneath. Besides the steel-air sprung hybrid, the flagship fits active roll stabilisation – for both lateral and longitudinal body control – as well as active rear steering to aid manoeuvrability. And they combine to create an impressively natural and thoroughly capable handler once you stick the i5 M60 into tight corners.
Dynamically, the dual-motor i5 is sharp, grippy and surefooted, though I will stop a little short of calling it properly agile. It’s an M-car of sorts, though much closer to its natural forebear – the wonderful ICE-powered M550i xDrive – than a genuinely frisky full-house M machine.
That’s certainly no bad thing. In fact, the manner in which the i5 M60, specifically, blends 7 Series luxury and comfort with 3 Series-like sportiness hits the new 5 Series brief right on target.
Then, of course, there’s motivation. At 442kW and 820Nm from its dual-motor format and claimed 3.8-second 0-100km/h performance, the M60 xDrive lobs stats befitting a proper electric M-car experience. It’s also dramatically more potent that the rear-drive (non-M) i5 eDrive40’s 250kW, 430Nm and 6.0-second prowess.
But you wouldn’t think the flagship 5 Series is anywhere near as fiery in its belly given its manner at a cruise or around town. It’s extremely polite, nice and maliable in throttle progression, and very easy to drive across the balance of normal daily driving.
Then you sink the right foot, and it rockets off, instantly and ferociously, complete with a neat throaty soundtrack that’s rich and satisfying under load but, strangely, doesn’t sound like a combustion engine or an electric motor, per say. Gotta love sonic technology.
Needless to say, the M60 xDrive covers ground swiftly at the drop of hat, and without having to fiddle with drive modes or any ‘priming’.
There’s a real iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove vibe in this four-door’s manner that’s hugely satisfying and, again, befitting the 5 Series brief.
If there’s a gripe, it’s that its mid-22kWh/100km consumption of the 84kWh battery – or 81.2kWh usable – isn’t much to write home about. BMW claim is a measurably more frugal 18kWh.
Needless to say, the calculated range drops to well below 400km, against the official claim of a much more optimistic circa-506kms. It’s unclear whether BMW’s range claim factors in its so called Max Range mode, that essentially reduces drive power, caps top speed (90km/h) and turns off comfort functions, such as air conditioning, to milk up to 25 percent of (claimed) extra range.
Why? BMW says it’s a back-up system in the event of finding oneself at a faulty charging station and one’s forced to move on to another – smart thinking.
Moving into the base mild-hybrid, predominantly petrol-powered 520i, I half expect a vastly diluted experience for a 5 Series variant that wants for half of the M60 xDrive price. And I’m pleasantly surprised just how good it is and how genuinely upmarket it feels on road.
Frankly, the 153kW and 330Nm from its mildly electrified turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine isn’t much to brag about. But it’s more satisfying in effect than the modesty on the form guide suggests.
This is an all-new turbo four, one operating using the unusual Miller combustion cycle, that produces 140kW in isolation. And while the 48-volt electric motor/generator located in the eight-speed auto transmission housing only adds a nominal 13kW, it’s how it adds its instant torque shove for that 330Nm total that pays handsome drivability dividends.
Understandably, at a 7.5sec 0-100km/h claim it’s no rocketship. But around town the electric motor clearly – if silently – does the heavy lifting off the mark and during hard acceleration on the move, filling in the low-range while the petrol engine builds energy with rpm.
It’s not so much what the engine and motor do, but more how they interact seamlessly, smoothly and quietly, that works so well.
There’s not a lot of character to the powertrain on the march, but given the petrol version’s relatively light weight – at 1800kg it’s around a quarter tonne lighter than the dual-motor i5 – the 520i gets a decent hustle on without much evident sweat.
Understandably, the lighter format does favours for clearly what is a fine 5 Series chassis and that ideal 50:50 weight split. Even on regular M Sport suspension without the heroics (and technical complication) at play in the electric i5 versions, the ride and handling is blended ever so sweetly.
At once, the 520i is compliant and resistant to any nasty NVH foibles, and is frankly almost as serene in cruising nature as the i5s. Refinement is exceptional and there’s nothing about the ICE version’s on road manner that suggests that it’s clearly the cut-priced option of the available three.
Consumption, too, is pretty handy at 6.7L/100km claimed, though this can climb sharp in direct relationship with the enthusiasm of your right foot.
In short, sheer performance apart, the key point is that you don’t get shortchanged on on-road goodness by opting for the only ICE version in the lineup.
Presentation in the 5 Series’ cabin, regardless of variant, is excessive and tech-laden. And it clearly and liberally robs from the 7 Series stablemate.
That said, the general design, much like the exterior, tries to balance some convention with BMW’s compulsion for a smorgasbord of textures and materials minted with retina-burning digital window dressing.
While it certainly brings a big sense of celebration and ostentatiousness, the cut of its fancy jib won’t be for all buyer tastes. However, regardless of your aesthetic whims, it’s most certainly beautifully built and feels utterly rock solid.
Pictured: the interior of the 520i
Most of the conspicuous goodness, from the lavish array of materials to the huge curved display housing the 12.3-inch driver and 14.9-inch media displays, is fitted to the base 520i.
You do step up to nicer trim – from Veganza fake leather to real merino stuff – and fancier Bowers & Wilkins sound scaling up in the i5s, but essentially the 520i is largely indistinguishable and feel the best value given its cut-price entry point.
The panoramic glass roof, carbon fibre trim, bold ambient lighting and even comfort access bring a nice premium veneer to even the base car.
Pictured: the interior of the M60 xDrive
The electric versions’ merino leather, fancy synthesised Iconic Sounds ambient soundtracking, and the flagship’s crystal cut glass console controls (by Swarovski) bring added opulence for your extra splurge.
But the real sense of luxury comes from the roomy ambience and a format that’s neat and somewhat more conventional than the direction rival Mercedes-Benz is taking with its EV stock.
There’s no weirdo hexagonal wheel ala the iX SUV – it’s a regular flat-bottom tiller – and there’s less bombast than an i7, but the 5 Series certainly isn’t short of surprise and delight in some areas and usability frustrations in others.
The curved display looks a million buck and centres around BMW’s operating system 8.5, which brings with new Quick Select. It’s fast, full featured and impressive, and Quick Select allows handy shortcutting of functions in the redesigned home screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wireless, the former working faultlessly on test.
The media system brings new party tricks such as integrated YouTube streaming and Air Console in-car gaming – activatable while stationary, of course – where QR coding allows smartphones to become gaming controllers. Why? To alleviate boredom during public recharging if there’s nothing better to do…
Elsewhere, the head-up display is clear, simple and offers navigation information, while the trendy new augmented reality tech makes an appearance in 5 Series via either the control display or the instrument cluster.
BMW’s hexagonal display theme in the driver’s screen remains annoying – as always, it’s not quick-glance legible and something of an acquired taste. But the big roast is reserved for the hidden touchscreen controlled climate control interface and clumsy air vent controls, that make simple air-con adjustment intuitively and quite distracting.
Elsewhere, the moodlighting is fussy and overstyled and the flagship’s glass console switches and arrays will be garish in some eyes, but the 5 Series interior more than compensates for the shortcoming with its solid and classy build, quality materials and generally welcoming ergonomics.
The front seats are fantastic: comfy, supportive and tactile regardless of whether you’ve opted for ‘vegan’ leather or the merino stuff in the electric versions. The regular comfort-spec seats are so good that they can be optioned into the flagship M60 (with its sports seats) at an extra cost.
Rear accommodation is very roomy, especially when it comes to legroom. And the seating itself is very comfy, its design both relaxing and offering excellent underthigh support for long-legged passengers. It’s certainly a high watermark for modern EVs.
There’s nice air ambience and – in the i5 M60 at least – the four-zone climate control via the rear of the front console and now fewer than four USB-C ports – including outlets at the tablet holders in the seatbacks – are a host of real treats.
As you’d rightly expect, the high quality of fit and finish extends through to the second row without dilution, and even in the base 520i rear passengers are treated to a genuine luxury experience.
The 5 Series boots are quite deep and offer decent proportions, with the electric versions bringing 490 litres and the petrol 520i adding an extra 30L for a total of 520L. There’s a deep bin for charging cables under the floor, but no spare wheel.
While the outgoing 5 Series generation carries a five-star ANCAP rating through to December 2023, the new G60 generation is yet to be rated.
However, BMW says that the new 5 Series lineup is fitted with up to 40 different driver assistance systems, including the maker’s Driving Assistance Professional and Parking Assistance Professional suites.
The Driving Assistance Professional integrates AEB with Steering and Lane Control Assist, Distance Control and Stop & Go. Meanwhile, the Parking Assistance Professional offers automated parking and auto manoeuvring of the vehicle for distances up to 200 metres long.
The 5 Series fits seven airbags.
As mentioned, we got to test both the 520i and the i5 M60 xDrive during the local launch program.
As tested, the petrol 520i returned low-seven to mid-eight-litre fuel consumption indicated against a claim of 6.7L/100km. Driving was a combined mix of highway and urban.
Meanwhile, an extended loan of the i5 M60 xDrive returned a consumption of 22kWh/100kms on a combined cycle, which is quite a bit more than the 18kWh/100km claim. With its 81.2kWh usable battery size, this equates to a peak range of around 370kms, or short of its best claim of 506km.
The yet-untested single-motor i5 eDrive40 fits the same 81.2kWh battery as the dual-motor flagship, albeit with a more favourable 16.6kWh/100km consumption claim and a range of up to 550km according to BMW.
Both i5s come with a five-year complimentary ChargeFox fast charging subscription.
In terms of recharge times, both i5’s have a peak DC charging rate of 205kW, with the same 10-to-80-percent fast-charging claim of 30 mins.
Both i5s fit 22kW onboard AC charging, allowing speeds of up to 4.25 hours at its 22kW peak. Regular 11kW AC charging comes with an 8.5-hour 0-100 percent charge time claim.
BMW offers two servicing package options of four years/unlimited kilometres ($1676) and six years/unlimited kilometres ($2350), where the mileage between visits will vary conditionally depending on how the vehicle is driven (if capped duration wise bi-annually).
BMW’s warranty is a typical five years of unlimited kilometre coverage, with eight years and 160,000km of coverage on the battery system.
If the excellent i7 really demonstrated what BMW can do when its electric ducks line up neatly, the i5 – at least in flagship M60 xDrive form – really shows a marque hitting its EV stride. And with a confidence and panache that few other makers of full electric cars share right now.
Let’s face it, the new broader 5 Series range is pricey and its tree-topper is nigh on eyewatering. But, jeez, doesn’t it deliver so well in so many areas.
The shift from more of a more grown up and luxurious 3 Series-like experience to this new baby 7 Series persona befits the mould that BMW has created and, to some extent, befits the skyrocketed price ceiling. And let’s tick off some of those highlights.
Its big bruiser grand tourer vibe is a glove like fit. The M60 xDrive is wickedly quick when it wants to be and has a dynamics package to back it up when the heat is on. Despite the complexity at play, this is one of the most natural feeling and approachable EV packages money can buy right now at any price.
The flagship 5er is also supremely comfortable and luxurious, with many joys and precious few foibles inside and out. It’s also very friendly around town and the level of polish and resolve in its character is an absolute highlight.
Makes you wonder what more you could ask for with an inevitable M5-like prospect? All least something akin to an M5 through a fully-electric lens…
Thing is, the base petrol is also a compelling offering, bringing much less performance if, crucially, not diluting the high-class luxury vibe by much measure at all. It’s also noticeably lighter on its rubber feet and this adds an extra veneer of driving engagement.
At half the price of the M60 xDrive, the 520i looks a real bargain.
That all said, could the rear-driven electric mid-range i5 eDrive be the real sweet spot and the best of both worlds? Possibly. And it would be unsurprising given that – two from three – BMW seems to have really nailed this new 5 Series, while pandering nicely for fans of both ICE motoring and BEVs.
The Mercedes-Benz EQE is the new all-electric alternative to E-Class – but can this new model convince luxury car loyalists to make the EV shift?
Key specs (as tested)
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