BMW shows first official i5 images


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The new-generation BMW 5 Series will have combustion, plug-in hybrid and EV versions from this year.

The new electric BMW i5 is due to be revealed in the coming months, having completed “the ultimate endurance test,” according to BMW.

The highly anticipated EV version of the next-generation BMW 5 Series was confirmed for a 2023 launch in January, but only now has Munich released images of the Mercedes-Benz EQE rival undergoing a hardcore testing programme on ice, snow and rough roads in northern Sweden.

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In a year-long test phase, the i5 “repeatedly demonstrated both the stability of its electric powertrain and its dynamic performance qualities”.

A debut date still hasn’t been confirmed for the i5 sedan – nor its ICE counterpart or the keenly anticipated i5 Touring wagon, which was recently confirmed. But with this test programme dispatched and a 2023 launch confirmed, it’s expected to be only a matter of months until the wraps come off.

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The i5 forms a major part of BMW’s transition to a maker of electric cars. In the firm’s 2023 sales report, it said it hoped 15% of its sales in 2023 would be of EVs.

“The clear focus will be on continuing to ramp up electromobility. The next milestone for 2023 is for 15% of our total sales to come from fully electric vehicles,” said BMW sales chief Pieter Nota. “With the launch of the BMW i5 later this year, we’re taking another important step on the road to electrifying our model line-up.”

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The 5 Series, which was first launched back in 1973, has been on sale in its current, seventh-generation guise since 2017. The eighth-generation car will be offered with a choice of ICE, hybrid and EV powertrains in line with BMW’s ambition to sell seven million plug-in hybrid and pure-electric vehicles by the end of 2030.

The i5 will be marked out from the 5 Series in the usual BMW EV style, featuring a blanked-off front grille, bespoke wheel designs and, based on subtle differences between two recently spotted prototypes, a bespoke rear-end design.

The EV is highly likely to mirror the line-up of the new BMW i4, which means potentially a choice of rear- and four-wheel drive, with outputs ranging from 250kW in an entry-level i5 eDrive40 to 400kW in a twin-motor M50 xDrive model.

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The i4’s 80.7kWh battery pack, said to be 30% more power-dense than the old i3’s 42.2kWh item, is also likely to feature, providing a WLTP range of around 563km at the top end.

The BMW Group will offer 12 EVs globally by the time the new i5 goes on sale this year, following hot on the heels of the new BMW iX1 and BMW i7. An all-electric version of the BMW 3 Series is now on sale in China, although Europe’s electric 3 Series – as previewed by the radical Vision Dee concept earlier this year – isn’t due until 2025.

In terms of design, the new, eighth-generation 5 Series brings a sharper front-end design and a more rakish roofline than the current model. It will sit atop an evolved version of the modular Cluster Architecture (CLAR) used by all current BMW models apart from the BMW 1 Series, BMW X1, BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé and BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.

Compatible with ICE, mild-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and EV powertrains, as well as rear- and four-wheel drive layouts, the CLAR underpins BMW’s strategy of portfolio diversification in the run-up to going all-electric.

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The 5 Series will be one of the last all-new BMWs launched before the company begins the ‘third phase’ of its electric transition in 2025. This new era, termed ‘Neue Klasse’ in reference to the mould-breaking saloon cars that catapulted BMW into the mainstream in the 1960s and 1970s, will usher in new-generation EV powertrains, heighten BMW’s focus on supply-chain sustainability and introduce an all-new software platform with the aim of providing “a completely novel user experience”.

Codenamed G60, the new 5 Series could be updated during its lifecycle to keep pace with Munich’s new-era line-up. However, when the car is launched in 2023, BMW’s Power of Choice strategy will still be in operation (a follow-up to the initial Project i programme, under which the i8 and i3 were launched), whereby each model in the line-up is offered with ICE, hybrid and EV powertrains.

To that end, it’s set to largely retain the current 5 Series’ turbo-only four- and six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, as well as an expanded choice of plug-in hybrid powertrains centred on a 2.0-litre or 3.0-litre petrol engine.

Less certain is the survival of the 4.4-litre V8-powered BMW M550i xDrive, which arrived to occupy the gap between the 540i and top-rung BMW M5. Its twin-turbo N63 petrol engine dates back to the original X6, launched in 2008. This will make it 15 years old when the new 5 Series arrives, so it won’t be a strong candidate for expensive modifications to be made compliant with new Euro 7 emissions regulations.

One possibility for the M550i’s successor is an uprated version of the 545e PHEV’s four-wheel-drive powertrain, which comprises a 3.0-litre straight six and an 80kW transmission-mounted electric motor for a combined 289kW and 600Nm.

BMW has previously said CLAR-based PHEVs could accommodate electric motors with up to 150kW, which hints at the potential for a circa-380kW hybrid to sit beneath the M5. The M5 itself has been widely tipped to match its arch-rival, the Mercedes-AMG E63, in adopting plug-in power for its next iteration but with a petrol unit of larger capacity than AMG’s electrified turbo four.

BMW development boss Klaus Fröhlich has previously said there will not be any fully electric M cars until 2025. “Until then, we will have normally aspirated, turbo and ‘powered’ PHEV applications that deliver what we want to achieve,” he said, suggesting pure-electric powertrains and platforms remain too heavy to match the dynamic performance of today’s M cars.

The M5 PHEV will use a variation of the electrified set-up tipped to appear in the new BMW XM, which mates the M division’s ‘S63’ twin-turbo V8 with a 150kW electric motor for a combined output of up to 560kW.

In the M5, that would almost certainly prove a significant enough boost (around 100kW) to offset the weight penalty of a hybrid powertrain. It would also provide BMW with a contender to rival the new PHEV variant of the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-Door Coupe, which packs more than 590kW, hits 100km/h from rest in less than 3.0sec and has a top speed above 320km/h.

If the M5 does adopt such a set-up, it still leaves room at the top of the 5 Series line-up for an even more powerful fully electric performance variant based on the new i5. The CLAR platform can house up to three electric motors. That would make even a far heavier ‘i5 M’ capable of outstripping the current M5 Competition in a straight line.

Fröhlich also anticipated that an EV’s easily configurable traction control system means agility and responsiveness could be on a par. “The control can be 100% faster than on an M4 today, so it is easy to have a more responsive car,” he said. “If you want a drift mode that slips to five or 10 degrees – even 45 – then it is easy.”

However, it remains to be seen if BMW would offer a road car this potent. The Porsche Taycan Turbo S has a maximum output of 560kW – even then only for a few seconds – and is one of the fastest-accelerating cars on sale today.

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