BMW i5: In the lap of luxury

The new BMW 5 Series has landed in South Africa, and as part of BMW’s strategy to electrify its fleet, an all-electric i5 is available alongside its diesel counterpart, the 520d.

I got behind the wheel of the i5 recently, a large luxury sedan, which is considered a dying breed here and in the rest of the world, due to the popularity of SUVs.

The low-profile i5 has more than enough power: 442kW and 795Nm of torque with 820Nm in over boost; it does 0-100km/h in a ridiculous 3.8 seconds. Speed is capped at 230km/h.

The i5 has an 81.2kWh nett usable battery that yields a range of 516km and claims consumption of 20.6kWh/100km. I averaged 24.9kWh/100km during my review period.

Given how powerful the i5 is, I stuck to driving in efficient mode most days. Sure, it’s exhilarating to take off at a traffic light every now and then or on certain stretches of the highway, but the bulk of my testing took me to 60km zones.

The i5 is a huge car to manoeuvre, and it helps that it can park itself. Unlike other self-parking cars that take over completely, Parking Assist requires human input first; record yourself parking and then save it.

If you have a narrow bay to get into daily, when you reach the same GPS location, it will offer to park for you. Your hands are off the wheel and foot off the pedals, but, I have to admit, I didn’t completely trust the i5 and hit the brakes twice during the three-point turn at my home.

Futuristic tech aside, the i5 M60 oozes luxury. You’re greeted by a plush cabin with all the comforts, ports, legroom, cup holders and storage you will ever need.

Sitting pretty

When I hopped into the i5 for the first time, the tech journo in me logged into the BMW app as if I was setting up a new phone, complete with an iDrive operating system update.

When I added the car to my BMW app profile, it instantly adjusted the seats and steering wheel to the position I had saved from an EV I had driven previously. For the privacy-minded, my data didn’t get saved to the car when I logged into the BMW app. Once I logged out, there was no trace of me using the vehicle.

Like the i7, the i5 is characterised by two segmented curved displays for infotainment and driver info, which spans two-thirds of the cabin. When CarPlay is running, the display feels way too big; a split screen mode would fix this and feel less intrusive.

The minimalist cabin design supports touch, gestures, and voice commands, which some may find frustrating. BMW’s intelligent personal assistant understands natural speech, and I found it easier to navigate deep layer menus with my voice instead of manually.

When I initially tried looking for my journey stats, I was frustrated at not being able to find it on the menu, so I prompted it with “Hey, BMW” for my driver data and, just like that, it worked. I’m convinced the more tech-heavy a car is, the easier it is to control with voice commands.

Charging the i5 from Johannesburg North was painless. There are at least three public charging stations in the vicinity, plus, I have a charger at home.

Public chargers

I used the Mall of Africa’s 200kW solar charger, installed by Audi, for quick charging. The ability to add a vehicle to the BMW app without dealership intervention is underrated. This meant I could remotely monitor it charging, and could opt to receive notifications of any potential interruptions, or when it reached 100%. The same cannot be said for all manufacturers.

During loadshedding, I find trickle charging for an hour at a time works best every other day, which means the battery won’t drop below 20%. I also opt to buy groceries at a shopping centre with public chargers.

BMW i5 drivers are supplied with a home wallbox charger, and a ChargeNow card for free access to BMW dealership charging stations. But using public chargers, especially high-speed DC chargers, cost more than AC ones, versus charging at home. If we assume the i5’s 81.2kWh battery needs to be charged from 0%, the total cost at Mall of Africa would be R568, based on the R7/kWh DC charging fee. AC charging is priced at R5.88/kWh, which would cost R477.45.

Charging the i5 at home, which gets complicated with Eskom’s billing, would cost me roughly R177. This is based on my last three months’ statements of R2.1779 per kWh charge.

Whether you have single or three-phase power at home, charging at 2.3kW versus 11kW speeds on your AC charger will cost the same. The BMW i5 M60 is a powerful beast that makes you forget about range anxiety and is packed with more tech than you could ever need. But I wonder if a large electric sedan will appeal to the South African market. If I had over R2 million to spend on an EV, I would rather choose a small SUV for versatility, which is better suited to our roads.

Output: 442kW; 795Nm of torque
Battery: 81.2kWh (nett)
WLTP Range: 516km
Top Speed: 230km/h
Acceleration: 0-100km/h in 3.8 seconds
DC Charging: 10-80% in 30 minutes
Price: R2 190 000 (base)

Originally published here:

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