ELECTRIC BMW i5 M60

Stately new 5-series saloon is awash with reasons to entertain the idea of premium EV ownership.

The new Five has arrived in pure-electric form, boasting bigger dimensions, greater power and a substantial price. Whereas the 5-series has traditionally boasted a comprehensive range of saloons and wagons with progressive outputs and equipment levels defined by its badging, for the timebeing we’re limited to one M Performance model that would serve most brands well as a flagship limo. Expect a plug-in M5 hybrid to at least partner this i5 M60 xDrive from 2024 onwards.

For context, the i5 is the tenth EV on sale in BMW’s local line-up with two more full-electric models on the near horizon. It plays to BMW’s strengths in the NZ market, being fully electric and boasting 442kW of M Performance. Despite a 2300kg kerb weight, you can expect slingshot performance on virtually any road surface. Overtakes are instant and the accompanying soundtrack has a sharp-tongued rasp for some welcome drama. Few cars disguise their weight as well on the move and the low centre of gravity aids flat cornering, especially with the adaptive suspension in its sportiest setting.

On first acquaintance, this is not an ‘effort car’. Part of the brilliance of the i5 is that it’s super-responsive to drive yet you don’t have to be all that sympathetic with accelerator, steering and braking inputs to remain fast and smooth. Passengers will certainly benefit from its forgiving nature, long wheelbase and from the top-drawer comfort of adaptive air-sprung suspension at the rear. The limo-like qualities don’t seem to dissipate when drivers explore the dynamic finesse although some tyre roar is unavoidable on coarse road surfaces.

A range of over 500km is achievable with thoughtful driving and favourable temperatures. The drag-coefficient is an astonishing 0.23 and wind-cheating is helped by an optimised underfloor design and active air vents. Thermal management is expertly employed to condition the battery. And a Max Range function will magic up some extra kilometres if you risk being caught short of a charge station.

The distinctive looks possibly appeal more in the flesh than in photographs. As with the smaller i4, a black tide line is painted along the bottom of the car to lower it visually. The design cleverly draws on BMW heritage and there’s great continuity in production; every 5-series generation since 1973 has been built at the Dingolfing plant, and yes, ICE models, PHEVs and EVs will continue to roll off the same production line. Over the decades, New Zealand has welcomed a tiny fraction of RHD cars with about 2700 sales since 1986, a number that belies the popularity of the cars Downunder.

Take a look at the profile and proportions of the E12 of 1972 and you’ll see a strong connection to this new G60. Because it’s based on the CLAR platform that underpins the previous G30 5-series, interior packaging is similar despite growth in all dimensions. In other words, rear-seat space is very good rather than i7-brilliant, and there’s still a central transmission tunnel for legs to contend with. The large, flat battery pack results in a slightly raised floor. No complaints about overall seat comfort and support, however, nor the ability to configure an ideal driving position up front.

Of course, the cabin shimmers with technology, and screen expansion is apparent, but the presentation is tastefully restrained, a rotary controller has been retained on the console, and a minimalist aesthetic means air vents are largely concealed rather than emphasised. Voice Assistant makes scrolling through menus largely unnecessary.

Sky-high standard specification omits very few desirable options in the M60. A Comfort Plus package ($3200) and M Sport Plus ($4000) marginally improve the luxury rating and sporting appearance. BMW throws in a Gen 3 Wallbox for safe and efficient home charging.

Any room for improvement? Compared with the natural steering and brake feel of stand-out recent BMWs, those in the i5 can feel a bit synthetic. But the M60 still impresses as a monumentally quick and undeniably sporting car on the right roads. To be fair, we were lucky to have access to the best in Central Otago and acknowledge this is not motoring reality for most potential buyers!

Also, some buyers might be willing to trade outright shove for even better ride quality and finer regen control through steering-mounted paddles. As it is, there’s just one left-hand paddle that offers (a very satisfying) 10-second overboost for maximum acceleration.

And what may change things for the better in years ahead is an inevitable step forward in battery technology. For now, though, the i5 is about as good as luxury EVs get. Those who have yet to experience one at this level will simply be blown away.

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BMW i5 M60 xDrive

ENGINE twin electric motors

OUTPUT 442kW and 820Nm

BATTERY 81.2kWh li-ion

TRANSMISSION Single-speed auto

DRIVETRAIN All-wheel drive

LENGTH 5.06m

WEIGHT 2305kg

WHEELS 20-inch alloy

TYRES 245/40 (f) 275/35 (r)

0-100km/h 3.8 secs

RANGE CLAIM 516km

PRICE from $196,900

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