2024 BMW 5 Series First Drive Review: From Frugal To Ferocious

First Drive / 19 Comments

The new 5 Series has something for everyone and ranges from subtle to stupefying.

The 2024 BMW 5 Series is all-new, now in its eighth generation, and this might be the most significant update in the model's five-decade-long history. In addition to the traditional gasoline model, the 2024 BMW i5 arrives as the first all-electric version of the 5 Series, joining the i4 and i7 as the third electric sedan in the stable.

BMW will launch the 5 Series in the US with four variants: two gas and two electric. On the gas side, you can get a turbocharged four-cylinder or inline-six, while the electric i5 is available with a single-motor or dual-motor setup. In 2024, a plug-in hybrid variant will join the lineup as well, giving the 5er the widest range in the BMW portfolio.

CarBuzz had a chance to drive three versions of the new 5 Series at Test Fest, a media-focused event where BMW brings out its latest vehicles for reviews. After sampling the 530i, the i5 eDrive40, and the i5 M60, we believe there is no bad way to order a 5 Series, and even the entry-level powertrains are stellar.

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Exterior: No Hand-Me-Downs Here

There is a trend among luxury automakers, particularly with sedans, to make each car look similar to the flagship model. This is typically referred to as nesting doll syndrome, where design themes and elements get passed on to lesser models, kind of like hand-me-down clothes between siblings. Audi and Mercedes are particularly guilty of this, though the recent E-Class facelift has broken the mold.

Fortunately, BMW decided it didn't want the new 5 Series to closely resemble the larger 7 Series - or hint at the smaller 3 Series, so it doesn't have the 3's sharp front end, nor does it suffer from the 7's controversially massive kidney grilles and split headlights. It's not the prettiest car BMW has ever produced, but striking styling has seldom been a key selling point for the 5er. Sure, the classic E28, E34, and E39 models are more conventionally handsome, but they are far too plain for a modern car-buying audience.

As with the i4 and i7, BMW wanted the i5 to be mostly indistinguishable from the gas 5 Series. We much prefer this approach over the way Mercedes does it with its EQ cars, which all have ultra-slippery styling that makes them look blob-like and undefined. Comparing the 530i pictured above and the i5 M60 below, the plain black kidney grille is the only telltale sign that the i5 is electric.

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2024 BMW i5 Front Angle View
2024 BMW i5 Front View
2024 BMW i5 Rear Angle View
2024 BMW i5 Front Bumper

Both the gas 5 Series sedan and i5 come in two different design flavors: Sport and M Sport. The latter is a $3,000 option on the gas 5 Series models and base i5, but comes standard on the i5 M60. It adds Shadowline exterior trim, sportier 19-inch wheels, an M steering wheel, and non-visual elements like M sport suspension, Active Driving Assistant, and a few trim-specific goodies. We actually prefer the cleaner, classic styling of the default Sport package, which doesn't have that large black area underneath the kidney grille, but that's largely subjective. Pictured on our i5 tester below are the largest 21-inch wheels, which look great but hurt the ride and the range.

BMW offers some pretty colors on the 5 Series, but all except Alpine White come at a cost. Cape York Green Metallic, as seen here is a standout option for $650 that looks unique without being too bold. Some other great options include Phytonic Blue Metallic and Vegas Red Metallic if you don't want to select something from the greyscale German rainbow. Tanzanite Blue II Metallic is great, too, but costs $1,950, and there are two matte hues, Frozen Pure Grey Metallic and Frozen Deep Grey, for $3,600.

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2024 BMW i5 Side View
2024 BMW i5 Rear View

Interior: 7 Series Lite

The interior of the new 5 Series is exactly what we expected: cushier than a 3 Series but less elegant than the 7 Series - so perfectly in the middle of what BMW is capable of in terms of cabin design. BMW's iDrive 8.5 operating system makes an appearance here, living on the brand's Curved Display, which comprises a 14.9-inch central display and a 12.3-inch instrument cluster. A new interface makes it slightly easier to quickly access functions from the home screen, but we still found the latest iDrive to have a steep learning curve. When you first hop in, the lack of physical buttons is overwhelming, but you'll get used to it with time.

We didn't have time to sample AirConsole, a feature that lets you play video games on the infotainment screen, but it seems like a decent time killer while charging. The BMW Interaction Bar, which first appeared on the 7 Series, is standard on i5 and optional on 530i. It adds a splash of color to the cabin and can be customized by the driver.

Extended Merino Leather is available for $2,450, but don't knock the standard Veganza (vegan leather) until you have tried it. It's soft, looks and feels like real leather, and comes in a variety of colors: Smoke White, Burgundy Red, Espresso Brown, Black, and Black M with Alcantara. It's such a huge upgrade over Sensatec, and we can't wait to see it on more models.

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2024 BMW i5 Dashboard
2024 BMW i5 Door Storage
2024 BMW i5 Driver Chair
2024 BMW i5 Rear Passenger Seats

Performance: No Bad Options

From top to bottom, the 5 Series powertrains are stellar. The 530i is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that now emits 255 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, seven hp and 38 lb-ft more than before. That allows the car to hit 60 mph in a scant 5.9 seconds or 5.8 seconds with xDrive. Power on all gas models goes out via an eight-speed automatic transmission that we found to be faultless.

It may not be the quickest in the lineup, but the four-cylinder model has plenty of passing power and delivers stellar fuel economy. 27/35/30 mpg city/highway/combined is frankly excellent for this size class and adding xDrive doesn't hurt the efficiency at all. A 48-volt mild-hybrid system on both gas models helps improve efficiency with a buttery smooth stop/start system that is completely unobtrusive.

We didn't get to drive it, but the 540i xDrive upgrades to a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six producing 375 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque (398 with the mild-hybrid system). The 540i drops the 0-60 time down to just 4.4 seconds but the fuel economy remains excellent at 26/33/28. Power-hungry drivers can rest easy knowing the inline-six still sips fuel better than many four-cylinder competitors.

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As for the i5, it launches in two configurations: eDrive40 and M60. The former features a single electric motor at the rear sending 335 hp and 295 lb-ft (317 lb-ft with Sport Boost) to the ground. At 5.7 seconds to 60 mph, it's only slightly quicker than the 530i on paper, but it feels more eager to accelerate on the move since it has instant power with no transmission. Pulling the Sport Boost paddle on the wheel triggers a short burst of power that is more than enough for an overtaking maneuver. Range on the eDrive40 goes from 295 down to 270 miles depending, on which wheels you select, with 21-inchers obviously faring worst. It's just another great reason to stick with the 19-inch wheels.

The M60 is the closest thing BMW has built to an electric M5. It has two electric motors combining for 593 hp and 549 lb-ft (605 with Sport Boost). It can pin occupants to their seats with a 3.7-second 0-60 mph time that feels underrated. Range on the M60 drops to 256 miles or as low as 240 miles with 21-inch wheels.

Both i5 variants use an 81.2 kWh battery that can recharge at 11 kW on a Level 2 home outlet or 205 kW on a DC fast-charger. That's actually a little quicker than the i7 can charge, meaning the i5 can go from 10% to 80% charge in around 30 minutes. A plug-in hybrid 550e xDrive is confirmed for the US market and should offer the perfect middle ground between gasoline and electric performance.

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2024 BMW i5 Under Hood
2024 BMW i5 Engine Bay
2024 BMW i5 Rear Badge

Driving Impressions: Comfy Fun

To sum up the 5 Series driving experience, it's the perfect middle-ground BMW. The steering is light with a quick ratio and the suspension is compliant without feeling overly cushy, even with 21-inch wheels. Starting with the 530i, the power feels plentiful for most drivers, but the four-cylinder engine doesn't sound great if you demand hard acceleration. At anything other than full throttle, it's more than enough for the average commute. We can't wait to try the 540i, which, in our opinion, features one of BMW's best engines of all time - the B58.

The i5 enters the fray as both the sensible and silly option in the 5 Series lineup. The eDrive40 is far from the quickest EV we've driven, but it delivers ample passing power and slightly more balanced handling as a result of its lower center of gravity. All i5 variants get rear-axle air suspension as standard, softening the back end over bumps.

The M60 feels a bit like overkill with a throttle that can decimate your spine on-demand. BMW will soon offer an xDrive40 variant that should bridge that gap between the eDrive40 and the M60. In addition to the world-ending power, the M60 also benefits from standard M Suspension Professional, which delivers a firmer but more controlled ride. We didn't get a chance to sample the M60's available Active Roll Stabilization, which uses a 48-volt system to reduce body roll.


Pricing & Verdict: 5 Is The Magic Number

The 2024 5 Series and i5 feel like the Goldilocks BMW: not too aggressive, but not too soft, which may sound cliched but is undoubtedly true here. Some buyers may not enjoy BMW's latest styling direction, but we feel the 5er is among the least offensive of the company's latest designs. The interior packs BMW's latest tech, and the powertrain options run the gambit from frugal to ferocious. There's really something here for everyone, and there's still more to come when the M5 finally arrives next year with a highly anticipated Touring variant.

We personally think the standard 530i is plenty powerful for most buyers but the 540i xDrive packs way more power without dramatically hurting the fuel economy. On the i5 side of things, there is a pretty sizable gap between the eDrive40 and the M60, which should be filled by a dual-motor xDrive40 model at some point. If we had to pick one of the currently available models, we'd lean towards the eDrive40 for its superior range and lower price.

The 530i starts at $57,900 (not including $995 for destination) or $60,200 with xDrive. Stepping up to the 540i xDrive brings the price to $64,900. As for the i5, it starts at $66,800 for the eDrive40 or a whopping $84,100 for the M60. Considering it's only a little more expensive than the outgoing V8-powered M550i xDrive, the M60 isn't a bad value, but the lower range would make us think twice on it.

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2024 BMW i5 Badge
2024 BMW i5 Emblem

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