BMW i5 is an electric 5 Series and it's good

BMW i5 is an electric 5 Series and it's good

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LISBON, Portugal — Ah, the BMW 5 Series, the ubiquitous Bavarian business saloon. Slightly larger and perhaps more stodgy-looking than its predecessor, the 5 Series nevertheless heads into its eighth generation with BMW’s latest and greatest roster of technology, premium interior trimmings and, for the first time, a fully electric drivetrain. The 2024 i5 brings the long-serving 5er into the modern EV age.

It does so without needing to look like a melted bar of soap or space-age concept, either; the i5 is quite literally just an electric 5 Series. BMW’s approach to electrification is to develop one platform that can support a multitude of powertrains, so there’s no major visual differentiation between this EV and its gasoline counterpart, like there is between, say, a Mercedes-Benz EQE and its more staid E-Class sedan.


Ditto the interior, though the i5 comes standard with a new Veganza upholstery that – in addition to sounding like a forgotten Daewoo – is completely vegan. You’ll find this soft-touch textile on the dashboard, doors and seats, and it doesn’t preclude the i5’s chairs from being heated or cooled. I personally think it makes the i5 more interesting and comfortable. But if you simply must have leather, BMW offers a number of appealingly dyed hides.

Glass controls reinforce great attention to detail, and generally speaking, the i5’s whole vibe is that of a cleanly styled, modern sedan. The backlit pieces of trim can offer calming glows of oranges and reds, or light up like a Miami nightclub with purples and blues – whatever suits your mood. A large wireless charging pad ahead of the two individually carved-out cupholders can support two devices, with a divider down the middle, so you can match iPhone with Big Gulp. Back seat riders won’t have much to complain about, either, with lots of head- and legroom. The specs say there is an ample 17.3 cubic feet of space in the trunk, though BMW cargo specs aren’t always the most representative of the actual available space.

BMW’s updated iDrive 8.5 infotainment tech powers a 14.9-inch central touchscreen, itself housed in a large, curved display that incorporates a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. The tech works just like the unloved iDrive 8.0, but the home screen is cleaner and there’s a fixed row of hot buttons along the bottom making it easier to find the most commonly used functions. Overall, iDrive 8.5 continues to be a quick-acting and easy-to-learn system, though, my god, that main menu page continues to be an overwhelming array of little icons.

There’s a new gee-whiz feature baked into iDrive 8.5 called AirConsole, where you can scan a QR code on your phone and play all sorts of off-brand video games while the i5 is stopped. BMW says this will help people pass the time while the i5 is parked at a charging station, which is sort of the company’s way of admitting that having to sit and charge is a pain in the butt. Up to seven phones can connect and play together, not that you should ever shoehorn that many people in an i5, of course. What that really means is that AirConsole will eventually spread across BMW’s entire iDrive 8.5-powered lineup, including the seven-passenger X7.