A lot has changed for the 5 Series, and we're not just referring to the first all-electric version of the mid-size sedan.
BMW's eighth-generation 5 Series sedan (codenamed G60) has finally been revealed and it is the perfect embodiment of the present state of the automotive industry, as the finest gas-powered engines collide with new fully electric powertrains. But it's not just under the skin where the new 5 Series - and its electric version, the i5 - are different, as they have received all-new styling, the latest driver-assistance technologies, and a new sustainable approach to luxury motoring. As there is so much to unpack in this Mercedes-Benz E-Class/EQE rival, we've narrowed it down to five core changes that define the new Five.
BMW's recent attempts to recall the past in terms of design have been controversial because the brand's current aesthetics have largely abandoned the classic and reserved lines of older BMWs. We weren't very impressed by the monster XM's engraved rear window logos that claimed to be a tribute to the legendary M1, for instance, and few onlookers would link the M4's vertical grille to the elongated kidneys of the much more elegant 503.
Well, the new 5 Series grille is said to be inspired by the "Sharknose" of early 5 Series models, whereby the grille projected far forward. This design was prevalent on the E12 and E28 generations of the 5 Series, and while we can see the same effect has been applied to the new 5er, it's hard to draw an obvious comparison since the new grille dwarfs those older ones by such a huge margin. The effect is most prevalent from the side of the new sedan or when facing it from the front and standing just slightly off-center, where the upright grille creates a sporty persona.
Is it a stretch to liken the new 5's grille to the classic Sharknose? We'll leave you to decide that.
Much of the conversation surrounding the new 5 Series has centered around the introduction of the first all-electric version, badged as the i5. At launch, it's available in eDrive40 rear-wheel-drive and M60 xDrive variants. The former starts at $66,800, makes 335 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and will glide to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds - barely quicker than the base 530i but quick enough for most. This model has a longer electric range of up to 295 miles.
To access the AWD M60's 590 hp and 586 lb-ft - enough for a 3.7-second 0-60 sprint but with a lower 256-mile range - you'll have to cough up $84,100. In terms of performance, this model is about as quick as one of the best trims in the older 5 Series lineup, that being the V8-powered M550i.
No V8 model has been announced as yet, so we might have to wait for the next M5 hybrid to get a taste of the new 5 Series with a V8.
As with the 7 Series and i7, BMW is taking a different approach to Mercedes. The 5 Series and i5 look almost identical, whereas the new E-Class is totally separate from the EQE. According to BMW, its buyers want a 5 Series primarily, with the powertrain being a secondary aspect. Because of this, the i5 is a 5 Series in every aspect, it's simply one with a different 'engine' under the hood in the same way gasoline and diesel models of yore differed.
A four-cylinder 530i with 255 hp/295 lb-ft and a six-cylinder 540i with 375 hp/384 lb-ft round out the range of powertrains, with a plug-in hybrid arriving later as well.
The eyes and fingers of humans haven't evolved over time, but the way we use them to interact with cars certainly has. One of the most interesting pieces of technology in the new 5 Series is the new Active Lane Change system with world-first eye activation technology.
If the vehicle suggests a lane change, the driver can confirm this action by simply looking at the relevant outside rearview mirror since an interior camera will monitor their gaze. Between the available gesture controls and this, one may soon be able to think their way home from the office.
Active Lane Change works at up to 85 mph and negates the need to use the turn signal as the vehicle will do so automatically based on the driver's eye activation - yes, BMWs have finally taken the arduous task of physically indicating out of the driver's hands, to the appreciation of millions of other road users.
Hands-free driving isn't as new, but the latest 5 Series now has Highway Assist that permits hands-free driving up to 85 mph where suitable conditions allow.
For the first time in a BMW 5 Series, the driver and passengers can enjoy in-car gaming when the vehicle is stationary - or, in the case of the i5, when it is being charged. Using the BMW Curved Display, users' smartphones will act as a gaming controller once the AirConsole app is launched. Linking the smartphone with the BMW is as simple as scanning a QR code on the display.
With over-the-air delivery of games, multiple players can partake in the gaming fun, which will surely thrill kids in the back seat. BMW says that 20 or so gaming titles will be available initially, covering categories like simulation, puzzle, jump-and-run, and strategy games. Titles that will be available initially are Music Guess, Overcooked, Golazo, and Go Kart Go, and more will be added later.
This feature would have been brilliant with BMW's fold-down 31-inch Theater Screen, but this display is reserved for the 7 Series and i7.
The trend towards more sustainable car interior materials is gathering pace, and the new BMW 5 Series adds to that. It is possible to configure the new 5 with an entirely leather-free interior. In its place, perforated Veganza upholstery covers the dashboard, door panels, and - for the first time - even the steering wheel. This is a leather-like upholstery option that will probably find favor with i5 customers especially.
But just as the 5 Series caters to those who want gas or electric power, it also covers all the bases inside, so customers can have all the Merino leather they want.
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