Reviews have started to come out from journalists who have spent time with the i5 prototype.
Driving the 2024 BMW i5 M60
On an early preview drive, the eighth-generation 5-series in all-electric form proves impressive.
As soon as the last small village started to fade away in the rearview mirror, Jürgen's voice came snarling over the radio: "It hasn't rained here for weeks, so there will be plenty of sand and gravel on the road." Squeak, pause, crackle. "Also, give cyclists a wide berth and keep an eye out for locals in a hurry, who are real experts at cutting corners." Moments later, a quick thumbs-up signals attack mode, and our two-car convoy begins its speedy climb up the steely gray spiral staircase to the first summit of the Parc naturel régional des Alpilles. The i5 is a brand-new car from top to bottom, and yet it feels encouragingly familiar and confidence-inspiring from the word go. The motor's massive 590 horsepower and 586 pound-feet of torque are distributed with sublime mastery.
In preparation for the total-immersion experience that was about to follow, the black disguise covers had to come off BMW's curved display that spans two-thirds of the dash. Next, the annoying lane-departure warning chimes, lights, and vibrations were put to sleep. Locking all systems in Sport but leaving stability control on for the time being completed the initial preflight check. Although there is no gear lever or clutch pedal to worry about, the mind still takes a moment to adjust to the new driver environment. There is only one steering-wheel paddle, which is marked Boost. Why not install a second paddle to control the three energy-regeneration stages? "Because sticking the gear selector in B automatically triggers the one-pedal feel coveted by many EV users," explains Herr Metz. Lift-off regen intensifies or decreases in sync with the selected drive mode.
But today we're not interested in coasting or in exploring the max range (estimated at up to 307 miles for the eDrive40 and 272 miles for the M60). Today is all about having fun with fully charged batteries, two motors giving their all, and wringing out a state-of-the-art chassis.
The i5 didn't simply swap its combustion engine for an electric drivetrain—instead, this is a genetically reprogrammed 5-series on high-tech steroids. Its key elements include a variable-ratio and variable-assist steering rack complemented by rear-axle steering with a 2.5-degree maximum angle, active anti-roll bars, rear air springs, and a multilink suspension configuration at the front and at the rear. And these are only the basic stats.
The French grow award-winning wines and cook unforgettable meals, but most of the country's rural roads are in a sorry state, which is why the European motor industry's chassis experts, driving-dynamics wizards, and tire engineers come here to test and tune their wares. The bleached, porous, and broken tarmac certainly felt like home turf to the i5. It oozes compliance, cuts corners with uncanny precision, and the 245/40 front and 275/35 rear tires on 20-inch wheels feel Velcro-strapped to the surface as a cog railway is to its rack. Instrumental to this homogenous blend of agility and composure are numerous stiffening measures to the body and suspension and a spiderweb of links firming up the rear axle assembly.
Look And Lane Change, And Other BMW I5 Tech
BMW is taking great pains to make sure its electric cars drive as well as any other model, and the all-new i5 EV is more evidence that work is paying off.
The other major system that BMW was keen to showcase for us was the latest version of its advanced driver assist system, called Highway Assistant with automated lane change, which we tested out on a stretch of French highways and back roads. There were several takeaways we learned from our test run:
- We'd put BMW's lane keeping feature, using a full-range radar array and an 8-megapixel camera located in the rear view mirror area, among other sensors placed around the car, up against any on the market.
- Unlike Cadillac's SuperCruise, for example, BMW's hands-free driver assist is available for use on any freeway at any time, anywhere, not just what's been mapped.
- When the system isn't available, such as on two-lane roads, you can still go hands free for a short time, and when the system prompts you to put them back on the wheel, you can get away with applying a small amount of force to keep the nanny at bay.
- The system is extremely adept at detecting if you're paying attention to the road or falling asleep, so if you try any shenanigans, you're going to be promptly shut down.
But the pièce de résistance
is the ability to perform an automated lane change just by looking to the rearview mirror. Yes, you read that right. If the system detects you're free to change lanes and prompts you, all you need to do is look to your left or right and it will change lanes. It's a fun party trick to impress your friends—it certainly impressed us.
BMW engineers we spoke to also made it clear that through over-the-air updates, they will be able to update and upgrade the system over time (one of many onboard systems it will be able to update) and will use the learnings gleaned from drivers to bring more advanced autonomous features to succeeding generations of BMWs.
As for the other advanced technologies on the 2024 i5, you'll find the same high-definition curved touchscreen display that's been rolled out to other recent BMWs; it spans the instrument panel and primary user interface. But the i5 and the 5 Series writ large will be the first BMWs to come standard with the automaker's newly updated iDrive 8.5 system, which will allow users to configure it more along the lines of a smartphone.
Other than that, we weren't able to get a full picture of the interior or exterior given all the camouflage, but expect the i5's cabin to be the same mix of comfortable appointments mixed with sporty touches that has defined the 5 Series for generations. And also expect it to have its own expressive exterior style. Whether that's good or bad will be entirely up to the eye of the beholder, but the silhouette certainly looks like a mature, three-box sedan that should prove to be an acceptable evolution of the present 5 Series.
Evolution is indeed what's occurring with BMW. It's more than keeping up with the Joneses on the technology front, but as previously mentioned, it's also taking a methodical approach to the engineering and development of its EVs. Because whatever powers its machines, BMW is working overtime to make sure those cars and SUVs continue to burnish its reputation.