2023 BMW i5 eDrive40 Review: The Middle Path

Lionel Kong

BMW’s new-generation 5 Series sedan steps into EV waters for the first time 

2023 BMW i5 eDrive40

Launched: October 2023 – Price: From S$417,888 with COE
Four-door, Medium luxury sedan, five seats
340hp, single-motor electric drive, 19.5kWh/100km, 582km range

Effortlessly quick
Very comfortable interior
Good amount of tech

EV chassis still has ICE holdovers
Very light steering feel


The BMW 5 Series sedan is one of the pillars of the German brand. A car that, since its introduction in 1972, has gone on to personify both the luxury and sports sedan all in one package. We’ve seen seven generations of the 5 Series flow into the pages of history and now we’ve arrived at the eighth one. It’s a big deal because it’s also the first BMW 5 Series to go all-electric, and here it is in the form of the BMW i5 eDrive40.


You know how brands are typically going on about their new products being bigger and more muscular? Sometimes going the other way can also be a good thing as is the case with the BMW i5.

Rather than barging into the big i7 territory, the i5’s design makes a clear effort to make the whole silhouette look more streamlined and compact, rather than to push it all out to the extremes. At 5,060mm in length and 1,900mm wide, it’s still a big car but the black side sills, tampering character lines along the flanks and a tidy lower edge for the side windows make the car look taut, rather than big.


Also good news is that even though the front end’s kidney grilles are bigger than before they do not approach the giant nostril sizes of the BMW i7 and i4. This is an EV, so actually there is very little active cooling required as there’s no engine under the bonnet. So essentially, the front ends of the BMW EVs like this one and also the iX are all about brand identity over functionality. 

The cabin carries a lot of componentry inspired by the stuff in the BMW iX and BMW i7. This includes the panoramic widescreen dashboard that’s really two screens combined together, and the tiny little hidden aircon vents that look like letterbox slots. The airflow is directable, but the angle slider is a little difficult to find without taking your eyes off the road. And of course, you get the razzle-dazzle customisable cabin ambient lighting too.


This isn’t an electric-exclusive platform and the biggest hint to it inside the car is the tall centre hump that runs through the length of the cabin. This is where the propeller shaft and exhaust pipe of the ICE cars get tucked in under and have been a staple of BMW’s front engined, rear-wheel drive cars since forever. But this is an electric car and doesn’t need an exhaust pipe nor centre propeller shaft, yet the hump remains. As it has been since forever, it does impede the use of the centre seat on the rear bench a little, but there is plenty of legroom overall and the full-length glass moonroof on the test car further adds to the airy feel in the back.


Even the operating system gets a bit of an upgrade, now running BMW’s OS 8.5 instead of the previous Version 8. The changes are more evolutionary than anything, with the most obvious update being the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant gaining a new animation for the displayed avatar.


Sedans have lost a lot of ground to SUVs in sales over the last decade, but stalwarts like this car and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class always seem to defy the norm. The bootspace of an EV sedan is usually a weak point in the car’s packaging, with the need to have the ancillary electrical components stuff under the floor, and the i5’s 490 litre boot volume is a little smaller than expected. It’s not bad however, with plenty of depth to carry longer items.


The base model of the i5 is the eDrive40, featuring  just a single electric motor over the rear axle and driving the rear wheels. Like an electric radio controlled model car, most full-size EVs do not have multi-speed gearboxes and how fast the wheels are going is a direct relation with how fast the motor is turning, with perhaps a set of reduction gears that help to amplify torque.

There’s 430Nm of torque here in the i5 eDrive40, and power output is rated at 340 horsepower. This is just the tip of the iceberg though as more variants of the i5 with various power ratings are expected to come through over the car’s life cycle. For now though the eDrive40 is the starter, and the more powerful i5 M60, featuring 601 horsepower and all-wheel drive, is the leader.


Actually, the i5 eDrive40 normally just cruises around with 313 horsepower from the motor, but engaging the My Sport Mode will then bring all 340 horses into play. It gives the car a noticeable bump up in power at flat-out acceleration, but it’s worth noting that the car’s power delivery is smooth and not violent in the was a Tesla Model 3 Performance is. There’s the by-now familiar BMW Iconic Sounds system that pipes in the spaceshippy, whooshing noise through the car’s speakers whenever you floor the accelerator, but after 30 or so times of hearing the same synthetic whooshing within five minutes on a mountain pass road, we felt that it’s a sound best switched off when you’re really driving the car. It’s a fun noise, but best had in moderation and for entertaining passengers in short bursts.


The car does feel like the motor’s power delivery has been tuned to punch just hard enough, but not with an over-excitable amount of force, upon heavy acceleration. It can carry a lot of speed into corners and when the roads are clear, tyres at the right pressure, and the sun is up, it is a jolly entertaining drive.

It has a claimed maximum range of more than 550km per charge, but in real-world numbers we think 500km is just about as far as it can confidently go in urban traffic.


The ride quality is excellent and a near-perfect blend of dynamism and comfort, which has been a hallmark of almost every 5 Series sedan to come before. The steering does feel slightly over assisted and lacks the directly-connected feel of the mighty BMW M5, but the car is easy to point and place accurately even at high speed.


While Mercedes-Benz has gone the whole hog and made its EQ series of electric cars very different in look and feel from its ICE range, BMW has carefully designed its new 7 and 5 Series sedans to use broadly the same chassis designs between its EV and ICE cars. The result is that the i5 is still very familiar, yet different, from the 5 Series cars that have come before it. The eventual ICE versions of the 5 Series sedans will soon follow, the EV version has that reassuringly familiar vibe that previous 5 Series owners will immediately recognise.

BMW i5 eDrive40

Drivetrain typeFull electric
Electric Motor / layoutSingle / Rear Wheel-Drive
Motor power / torque340hp / 430Nm
Battery type /net capacityLithium ion / 81.2kWh
Normal Charge Type / Time11kW AC wallbox / 8.25 hours
Max Fast Charge Type / Time205kW DC / 30 mins 10 to 80 percent
Electric Range582km (claimed)
0-100km/h6.0 seconds
Top Speed193km/h 
VES BandA1 / -S$25,000
AgentEurokars Auto / Performance Motors Limited
PriceFrom S$417,888 with COE and VES
Verdict:Everything you loved about the BMW 5 Series, but better and in electric drive form. 


bmw BMW 5 Series edrive40 i5

About the Author

Lionel Kong

An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.

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