BMW debuts electric i5 with gaming, hands-free driving and lets you change lanes with your eyes

After teasing glimpses of its first all-electric 5 Series for weeks, BMW has globally debuted the first two available trims of the i5, including an M performance version with 590 horsepower. The German automaker has introduced a lot of new technology in its latest generation of its long-running series, including in-car gaming, a range conservation mode, and eye activated lane changes.

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Finally! The all-electric BMW 5 Series has arrived

We’ve been talking about an all-electric 5 series for six years now, but it wasn’t until recently that BMW began hinting at its inevitable arrival.

As a combustion model, the 5 series has been a staple in BMW’s lineup since 1972 and remains the German automaker’s second best-selling vehicle behind the 3 series. We saw BMW kick off its all-electric models with the i3, and the automaker has used that now-defunct EV as an appetizer to larger, better-performing models, like the revamped i4 sport coupe, iX SUV, and i7 sedan.

For months now, we’ve known an all-electric version of the 5 Series was in the works alongside plug-in and combustion variants, but we didn’t really get a feel for what to expect in the new i5 until late April when the sedan was seen enduring summer testing. Still, those images were camo’d.

Last week, we got our first genuine image of the all-electric BMW i5 which we can now recognize as the eDrive40 (seen below). Today however, BMW has pulled the entire veil off both all-electric 5 Series variants, and there’s a lot to get excited about if you’re a fan of the brand.

The electric BMW i5 is longer, wider, taller, and lit up

Boy are German automakers passionate about their work. Their pride in new features is apparent in their consistently “detailed” press releases that leave no tidbits of information left to the imagination. There’s only so much we can cover before you scroll on, so we recommend checking out BMW’s latest press release for all the details of the i5.

The new lineup of the 5 Series is larger all around compared to its previous generation. Its length has been stretched by 3.4 inches to 199.2, it’s wider by 1.3 inches (74.8 in total), and it’s taller by 1.4 inches (59.6 inches in all). As a result of the length, the 5’s wheelbase has been increased by 0.8 inches to 117.9, adding a tad of interior seating space, particularly in the back.

At launch, BMW will provide two all-electric variants of the i5 that feature the automaker’s fifth-generation eDrive technology. Customers can choose from a single-motor RWD i5 eDrive40, or an M60 xDrive performance model, positioned as the pinnacle of the entire 5 Series range.

The M60 variant especially showcases some new exterior features joining the 5 Series, including a black front apron with large air intakes, a grill featuring horizontal slats and the recognizable M performance logo, side skirts and exterior mirror caps finished in high-gloss black, and 19″ M light-alloy wheels.

BMW has also introduced an M Sport Package available to add to all versions of the 5 Series that includes an illuminated kidney grill framed in high-gloss black (seen above), M Shadowline headlights, and a rear spoiler. Customers can also add red calipers to the brakes if they just co choose.

Game on! The 5 Series gets an interior facelift

Moving inward, BMW has introduced a new fully-digital curved display which the automaker states now “represents the heart of the interior redesign.” The electric i5 models will come standard with a new Interaction Bar complete with ambient lighting in the instrument panel and door areas, plus a new gear selector switch in the center console.

The new frameless curved display is comprised of a 12.3″ information screen behind the steering wheel and a 14.9″ control display, merged into one high-­resolution unit powered by BMW’s latest generation Operating System 8.5 – complete with a new graphic display, start screen, and “QuickSelect” access.

BMW says OS 8.5 offers more digital information and entertainment to future drivers, including new streaming programs and for the first time ever in a 5 Series – in-car gaming thanks to the AirConsole platform.

While the EV is stationary, the driver and their passengers can connect their smartphones using a QR code on the curved display, and use them as controllers to begin gaming instantly. BMW says AirConsole already has about 20 game titles including Go Kart Go, which looks similar enough to MarioKart that I’m surprised legal action has not been taken.

Anyways, you can game while you charge, nice!

Hands-free driving and eye activated lane changes

One of the cooler features on the upcoming electric i5 is BMW’s optional Driving Assistance Professional package, which includes Highway Assistant. This ADAS features enables the i5 driver to operate hands-free at speeds up to 85 mph where conditions and speed limits allow, as long as they keep their eyes up.

The driver’s attention is continuously monitored by an interior camera, and they are fully responsible for driving and anything that happens on the road, even when Highway Assistant is activated. That means this is still a Level 2 autonomy feature at best.

BMW has utilized its eye monitoring technology in a new and unique way that alleviates the need to activate a turn signal in order to initiate a proposed hands-free lane change. When BMW begins deliveries, electric i5 owners will be able to confirm the movement by simply peering over to the respective sideview mirror.

The i5 can recognize the visual cue, then perform the lane change at speeds again, up to 85 mph (traffic conditions and speed limits permitting). Can’t wait to try this feature out.

Specs, pricing, and an introductory video

Alright, it’s been a journey to get here, but let’s dig into how these two versions of BMW’s first all-electric 5 Series break down. As we previously mentioned, initial customers will get to choose between the standard RWD i5 and the dual-motor M variant.

The i5 M60 xDrive as well as an eDrive40 donning the optional M Sport package, come equipped with a shift paddle left of the steering marked “Boost” that can be tapped to activate the electric BMW’s full drive power and trigger maximum acceleration. The i5’s electric sound design also automatically shifts to “sport” to add to the sensory driving experience.

The single motor in the rear of the electric BMW i5 eDrive40 delivers a maximum power output of 335 hp and of 295 lb-ft maximum torque (317 lb-ft when the Sport Boost or Launch Control function is activated). Its acceleration from 0-60 mph is laggard 5.7 seconds and its max speed has been electronically limited by BMW to 120 mph. The automaker also described what the i5 M60 is packing:

Two highly integrated drive units on the front and rear axles, in which the electric motor, power electronics, and transmission are compactly combined in a common housing, form an electric all-wheel drive system that enables the BMW i5 M60 xDrive to deliver captivating dynamic performance. The electric motor acting on the rear wheels generates a maximum power output of 335 hp, while the motor at the front axle produces 257 hp. The total system torque generated by both motors is 549 lb-ft, or 605 lb-ft when M Sport Boost or the M Launch Control function is activated.

The new BMW i5 M60 is significantly quicker than the eDrive40, accelerating 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds. Its max speed has been electronically limited to 143 mph when equipped with performance tires (130 mph with all-season tires).

Like the motors themselves, BMW’s battery packs also make up its fifth-generation iDrive unit and consist of four modules with 72 battery cells each and three modules with twelve cells each. The modules combine for a usable capacity of 84.3 kWh and deliver the following estimated ranges and charge rates:

  • The i5 eDrive40 is estimated to travel up to 295 miles on a single charge on 19″ wheels (BMW estimated, not EPA)
  • i5 M60 xDrive delivers a (BMW) estimated 256 miles of range
  • Combined Charging Unit enables Level 2 AC charging up to 11 kW
  • The i5 can reach a rate of 205 kW on a DC fast charger, replenishing from 10% to 80% in about 30 minutes

To help conserve range during dire situations, BMW has introduced a new drive system function owners can activate called Max Range. In this mode, drive power and top speed are restricted, while comfort functions are reduced to conserve battery power. Per BMW:

Max Range mode is primarily for critical situations where drivers are unable to recharge mid-journey where they had originally planned and must continue to an alternative charging point. The Max Range mode can be selected using the control display’s touchscreen functionality, the iDrive Controller, or voice commands to the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. It can also be deactivated by full-throttle acceleration (kickdown), engaging the M Sport Boost function, or switching the window defrost to maximum.

Still with us? Almost done, promise.

The new all-electric i5 models will be be built at Plant Dingolfing, BMW’s largest European plant – which has been home to Series 5 production since its birth 50 years ago. The global market launch will begin in October 2023 with the all-electric versions and will be followed by plug-in hybrid variants in the US in 2024. Here’s how initial pricing will break down.

  • i5 eDrive40 – $66,800 (+ $995 destination and handling)
  • i5 M60 xDrive – $84,100 (+ $995 destination and handling)

Want to see more? Check out the introductory video of the all-electric i5 posted to BMW’s YouTube page today.

Are you into the first electric 5 Series? Is the eye activated lane change a gimmick or the future of hands-free? Tell us what you think in the comments!