Car reviews - BMW - 5 Series
Creamy performance from i5s, crushing acceleration of M60, high-end interior, extensive in-car tech, bigger than before, more generous standard equipment
Room for improvement
520i’s ride quality, M60’s weight
The divide between petrol and all-electric models in the new 5 Series range is stark
21 Nov 2023
By TONY O'KANE
BOLD move, BMW. With the arrival of the all-new G60-generation 5 Series, the Australian arm of the Bavarian brand has pushed its chips into the EV corner in a big way, with two thirds of the range at launch being fully electric i5 variants. The 520i, the entry point, sits alone as the sole representative of the combustion club for now, and there’s not a V8 – the most popular powertrain configuration of the previous G30 generation, which accounted for half of all uptake – in sight.
Prices are also up. While the previous-generation G30 5 Series could be stepped into for $107,700 plus ORC, the 2024 G60 520i opens at $114,900 plus on-roads. In the middle of the range the i5 eDrive40 is a $155,900 proposition, while the top dog i5 M60 xDrive retails at a whopping $215,900. Considering the M60’s G30 performance analogue was the $169,000 M550i xDrive, the move toward electrification carries a hefty cost.
But forward – and upward – progress is rarely cheap. With the G60, the eighth generation of 5 Series since the nameplate debuted in 1972, BMW has nudged the positioning of its large sedan further in the direction of the opulent 7 Series, which in turn received a new-generation model last year. Built upon the third evolution of the brand’s versatile Cluster Architecture, the new 5 Series is evidence that technological trickle-down from the top end is getting faster than ever.
Observe the interior. With twin widescreens in a floating housing (a 12.3-inch instrument panel and a 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen), capacitive touch controls on the centre console and a colour-shifting crystal-like ambient light bar that extends from door to door, every 5 Series variant – even the 520i – flaunts an aura that apes the blingy 7 Series. Aiding the cause is a fat equipment list, which puts a panoramic glass sunroof, carbon-fibre interior trim, sports seats, dual wireless charging pads, a massive head-up display, a 12-speaker harman kardon stereo system, augmented-reality cameras for navigation and a powered boot lid into the base 520i as standard.
The all-electric i5s gain some extra spec, such as a 17-speaker Bowers and Wilkins audio, metallic paint as standard, Merino leather upholstery instead of the 520i’s “Veganza” pleather and, in the case of the M60 range-topper, ventilated front seats and quad-zone climate control instead of dual-zone. However, the bulk of what you’re paying for with the i5s comes in the form of locomotive hardware: an 84kWh battery, an electric motor (two, for the M60), adaptive suspension with rear air springs and rear-wheel steering, active rollbars for the M60, and 20-inch or 21-inch alloys for the eDrive40 and M60 respectively. Oh, and there’s also the trippy ‘BMW IconicSounds Electric’ function that pairs the EV powertrain with a soundtrack crafted by Hans Zimmer. Interesting.
The new platform brings new dimensions too. With a 20mm longer wheelbase there’s more room in the back for passengers, while overall length, width and height are up by 97mm, 32mm and 36mm respectively.
Both i5 models use the same 84kWh lithium-ion battery pack (with 81.2kWh being usable), supplying a 582km maximum single-charge range for the i5 eDrive40. Meanwhile the heavier and bigger wheels of the M60 trims that variant’s range down to 516km, though its prodigious performance and all-wheel grip help offset that. Gazing at spec tables only tells part of the story, though…
Stepping off from BMW’s headquarters in the mid-range i5 eDrive - if a high-feature $155,900 large sedan could be called ‘mid’ – there’s an obvious polish to the new-generation G60 5 Series. It’s quiet, and were it not for the synthesised hum supplied by Hans Zimmer (which changes depending on drive mode and is surprisingly endearing, though you can turn it completely off if you desire) it would challenge a library for its ambience.
Ride quality is also hard to fault. The i5 eDrive40 pairs steel springs up front and air springs at the rear with adaptive dampers, and on typical suburban roads it displays a settled and comfortable ride. Even when thrown at choppier and curvier roads it holds its own, never porpoising or feeling overwhelmed by its considerable 2130kg kerb weight.
The meaty steering wheel rim is a familiar BMW trait (but not an especially favourable one if you’ve got smaller hands) and is your interface with steering hardware that’s weighty and fairly sharp – particularly so in the rear-steer equipped i5s. In terms of straight-line go, however, the eDrive40 may not have the sparkle that some may be used to from the likes of Tesla or even Hyundai and Kia. With 250kW and 430Nm from its single rear-mounted electric motor, the eDrive40 has a claimed 0-100km/h sprint of 6.0 seconds. Not tardy, but it lacks the spinal thump that other EVs can supply. Luxury and comfort are its true strengths.
The M60, on the other hand, will pummel you with its 442kW/820Nm dual-motor powertrain and 3.8-second zero-to-hundred. It’s a beast in more ways than one though, with its kerb weight of 2305kg being felt when hustling through corners. The rear-steering system does a valiant job of trying to convince all of that mass to change direction and its trick active rollbar system helps keep it flat when piling on some lateral G, but physics can only be tricked so much. That said, considering its weight and length the M60 xDrive is nevertheless an agile thing despite feeling like a battleship.
What of the 520i? Does the old tech of its combustion engine have it feeling like antiquated in the company of its i5 siblings? It certainly feels different, but its powerplant isn’t really the defining reason why that’s so. If anything, the mild-hybrid 153kW/330Nm four-cylinder is more than adequate for around-town motoring. Its 7.5-second 0-100km/h sprint isn’t terribly exciting, but its 6.7L/100km fuel economy claim is respectable for a 1.7-tonne sedan, and it arguably handles more alertly than heavy i5s do. Subtracting nearly half a tonne from a chassis tends to do that.
The 520i’s only true demerits concern its suspension. Equipped with the M Sport suspension tune as standard, the 520i’s all-steel springs and passive dampers don’t have the flexibility or sophistication of the adaptive dampers/partial air suspension that equips the pair of i5s, and it feels sensitive and a little restless in comparison (though we do need to acknowledge that our first drive of the 520i was done on optional 20-inch wheels, not the 19s that are standard for that trim). That ride character is at odds with the 520i’s luxe fit-out, and while it might be easier to excuse that in a more sports-oriented 3 Series, it doesn’t quite align with the executive image of the 5.
The market will determine whether BMW’s strategy of going EV-heavy at launch will pay dividends for the new-generation 5 Series, but our first taste confirms that the product has the right ingredients to challenge the likes of the Audi e-tron GT, Porsche Taycan and Mercedes-Benz EQE that are its chief rivals. The i5s might be pricey, but so is the competition.
For the 520i the equipment list is pleasingly generous, but greater suspension finesse would go a long way toward putting it on a more even keel with its electric sisters. That said, we’re right at the beginning of the G60 story – there’s arguably much more to come, including the return of a fire-breathing combustion halo model. Not everything has to be electric.
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