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Road Test: BMW i5 is an expensive but superb electric car

The range-topping i5 M60 our motoring writer drove has an eye-watering price tag but is luxurious and fantastic to drive.

Our motoring writer, Jack McKeown, beside a grey BMW i5.
Our motoring writer beside the BMW i5. Image: Jack McKeown.

The i5 is the first fully electric version of the BMW 5 Series.

It forms part of the line-up of the eighth generation of the company’s hugely successful executive car, which is also available with a choice of petrol and hybrid engines.

The i5 comes with an 81.2kWh battery and is available in two versions.

The eDrive40 is rear-wheel drive and has 335bhp.

Official range is 361 miles and it’ll do the 0-62mph sprint in 6.0 seconds.

The BMW i5 drives beside a field
The BMW i5 is an exceptional electric car. Image: BMW.

At the top of the i5 food chain is the M60 xDrive.

It has electric motors on both axles, making it four-wheel drive, and develops a lot of power – 593bhp, to be exact.

As you might expect, it’s very quick indeed, accomplishing 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds.

All that extra power and weight carries a small range penalty, and the M60 will cover 321 miles on a full battery.

How much does the BMW i5 cost?

Prices for the i5 start at around £74,000 for the eDrive40 version, with the all-bells-and-whistles M60 xDrive costing a hefty £97,000.

The cheapest 5 Series is the petrol-powered 520i, which starts at a touch under £51,000.

The i5 can be charged at up to 205kW, at which speed it will go from 20-80% in half an hour.

There’s also an emergency ‘max range’ function designed to save your bacon if you’re in a remote area and the only charger is broken.

A head-on view of the BMW i5
The i5 is a comfortable cruiser. Image: BMW.

This limits power, reduces the top speed to 60mph, and deactivates power-hungry features such as heated seats and climate control.

The upshot of all this is an increase of up to 25% in range, which should hopefully be enough to limp to the next charging station.

The BMW i5 handles better than most electric cars. Image: BMW.

This exact situation occurred to me when motoring to Plockton in a Ford Mustang Mach E.

The charger at Roybridge was broken and I had to make a 30-mile round trip to Fort Augustus before I could continue my journey.

Fortunately, I had enough range to do that, but BMW’s emergency mode is a clever idea for similar circumstances.

What’s it like to drive?

BMWs have a reputation for being dynamic driver’s cars and EVs have a reputation for being heavy and a little unwieldy through corners.

So which of those characteristics wins out?

I spent a couple of hours driving the M60 version and I can say it’s one of the most agile and fun-to-drive electric cars I’ve driven.

Of course, it’s powerful. Very powerful. Put the foot down and the acceleration pins you back in your seat and you’re at the speed limit before you know what’s happening.

With its exceptional speed, this is the only view of the i5 most other drivers will get. Image: BMW.

Even more impressive is how well it handles.

Tackle a corner at speed and you wouldn’t know you were in a car weighing a few hundred kilograms more than the petrol 5 Series. It steers accurately into bends and grips like a limpet.

The i5 is also a superb car to cover long distances in. Wind, road and tyre noise are all extremely muted, and of course there’s no engine noise at all.

The suspension soaks up bumps and imperfections nicely, and the seats are extremely comfortable.

The car’s impressive range also means you can cover a lot of ground before needing to stop for a charge.

Is i5 nice inside?

The cabin is a luxurious place. The high-quality, quilted leather seats are electrically adjustable.

A curved display swoops from the central console to behind the steering wheel.

In reality, this is two screens – a 14.3in touchscreen that operates the infotainment, and a 12.3in display with all the info the driver needs, from speed and range to sat nav directions.

A large touchscreen operates most of the car’s systems. Image: BMW.

There’s also BMW’s iDrive rotary controller, which is much easier to use than a touchscreen without taking your eyes off the road.

Standard adaptive LED headlights can be left in full beam mode all the time thanks to a clever system that blanks out areas around approaching traffic to avoid dazzling anyone.

The i5 has a high-quality interior. Image: BMW.

The BMW i5 is an outstanding electric car and one that makes its chief rival, the Tesla Model S, look pretty basic.

Yes, it’s eye-wateringly expensive, but it feels incredibly high quality.

For the time being it’s available as a saloon only, but an estate model, the i5 Touring, joins the range later in the year.

The adaptive LED headlights on a grey BMW i5
The BMW i5 has adaptive LED headlights. Image: BMW.

That’s the model I’m really excited for.

There’s no end of electric SUVs, but barely any electric estates – and none in the luxury end of the market BMW occupies.

If it’s as good as the i5 saloon, I’ll be delighted.

BMW i5 facts:

Price: £96,840

0-62mph: 3.8 seconds

Top speed: 143mph

Range: 321 miles

Emissions: 0g/km