BMW has taken the covers off its all-new 5 Series saloon, and this time it's coming with fully-electric power in the shape of the i5.
That doesn't mean that BMW is abandoning combustion power for the new 5 Series - the eighth generation of the badge since 1972 - but the headline act for the new model is most definitely the new battery powered i5 versions.
At the launch of the i5, there are two variants, both using the same 81.2kWh battery pack. The rear-drive i5 eDrive40 uses a 340hp, 430Nm electric motor and has an official range of 582km on a single charge, with electric consumption of 15.9kWh/100km. That model, in M Sport trim, will cost €90,110 in Ireland.
601hp for BMW i5 M60 xDrive
The one that will grab the headlines, though, is the BMW i5 M60 xDrive, which uses two electric motors, has four-wheel drive and which develops 610hp. Activate the M Boost mode (done by tugging a paddle behind the steering wheel) and you get 820Nm of torque, which is enough to fling this 2.3-tonne saloon to 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds. The M60 will arrive in Ireland towards the end of this year, or early in 2024, with a price tag of €119,210.
In terms of how it looks, this new 5 Series marks a distinct departure from the smooth, conventional design of the outgoing 'G30' model, with sharp angles, a rear that could almost be a fastback and angular headlights with prominent (thankfully not too prominent) kidney grilles between them. Those grilles optionally get surround lighting.
With an increase in length of 97mm, this 5 Series now breaks the five-metre barrier, and it's 32mm wider and 36mm taller than before, too. That extra height is pretty obvious when you look down the sides of the new 5 - there's a lot of metal between the bottom of the windows and the top of the road, which gives it a slightly awkward look from some angles.
Inside, there's no such issue. The big, curved display contains both the driver's 12.3-inch instrument panel and a 14.9-inch infotainment screen. As before, you can access that screen's functions by touch, by voice, by steering wheel buttons, or with the traditional iDrive rotary controller on the centre console. The version 8.5 software for the big screen now comes with a 'QuickSelect' function that, BMW claims, allows you to get to major menu items with fewer clicks.
Cabin like that of the 7 Series
As previewed in the 7 Series, an option on the 5 Series and i5 is the 'Interaction Bar' - a vast, crystal-look panel that glows different colours depending on what settings you have chosen and which functions you are using.
There's an extra 20mm in the new 5's wheelbase, so there's a little more rear legroom, and plenty of headroom. Overall cabin quality seems at least as good as that of the 7 Series, which means it's entirely excellent. As standard, all models will come with synthetic leather upholstery, but you can upgrade to real Merino leather if you like. The boot is reasonably practical, measuring 520 litres for the combustion models, or 490 litres for the i5.
The i5 and 5 Series will get some major tech upgrades compared to the outgoing model. The electronic driver assistance system has been updated to the new 'Highway Assistant' setup, which allows you - in countries where it's legal to do so - to take your hands off the wheel for extended periods (eyes firmly on the road, though). There's also a new lane-change assistant, which can actually suggest lane-swapping manoeuvres to you, and you can confirm it merely by looking at the appropriate door mirror and allowing the eye-tracking software to confirm the manoeuvre for you. Your phone can also be used as a remote control, allowing you to shuffle the 5 Series and i5 back and forth for up to 200 metres to get it in and out of tricky parking spaces.
The i5 will also get video streaming to the big central screen, and video games too - which allow you to use your smartphone as a controller - for whiling away charging time.
Plug and Charge function
As standard, all i5 models come with 11kW AC charging, but that can be optionally upgraded to 22kW, which will allow very quick charging from kerbside charging points. For faster charging, the i5 can accept up to 205kW of DC power, allowing for a 10-80 per cent charge in 30 minutes. The i5 is also compatible with new 'Plug and Charge' systems, that allow you to plug in and let the car's electronics take care of the payment, saving you faffing around with RFID or debit cards. If you're struggling to reach a charging point, there's a 'Max Range' function that dials back all non-essential systems and restricts the top speed. BMW says that this can give you as much as an extra 25 per cent range when needed.
Unlike the Mercedes EQE, BMW isn't offering the option of air suspension for the i5 (though it does get self-levelling air suspension at the back as standard), but you can have optional adaptive dampers, which are standard fit for the M60 version, which also gets an active anti-roll system.
The petrol-engined BMW 520i, for those not ready for full battery power, gets a 48-volt mild-hybrid system and a boost in output to 208hp. It has a CO2 emissions figure of as low as 130g/km, and will go on sale in Ireland with a price tag of €69,850 for the M Sport version.
Some other markets are going to get a new BMW 520d diesel, but that's not going to come to Ireland. Instead, in 2024, we'll get two plug-in hybrid variants - 530e and 550e - and another, four-wheel-drive, all-electric i5 variant. There will also be a new 5 Series Touring estate, available with electric and plug-in hybrid options.