2024 BMW i5 M60 xDrive G60
Can the high-performance BMW i5 M60 xDrive prove its worth over and above the standard electric 5 Series?
Words: James Fossdyke
First Drive: G60 i5 M60 5 Series
A new 5 Series is always a big deal, and the eighth-generation car arrives with the all-electric i5 M60 as the current range-topper. We get behind the wheel to see what it’s like.
These days, it feels as though BMW’s M division is a bit muddled. With all these M60i and M50i models kicking about, what does it really mean to be a modern M car? Especially at a time when electric cars are becoming mainstream, emissions laws are tightening, and soon manufacturers will be forced out of using big and powerful petrol engines to differentiate their most potent models. It’s all a bit of a poser for BMW, but the company seems to be going about things in the right way. Last year, for example, the i4 M50 xDrive was the bestselling single M model in the manufacturer’s global range. And now that car’s big brother is here. Based on the new G60 5 Series, it’s called the i5 M60 xDrive, and it aims to offer all the best bits of its 4 Series Gran Coupé-based sibling in a bigger and more modern package.
From the outside, at least, things are off to a good start. The i5 M60 xDrive builds on the conventional 5 Series styling with a new grille panel with a black surround and a slightly lower stance, with the Adaptive Suspension Professional system lowering the M60 xDrive by 8mm compared with its sister car, the less powerful eDrive40. In our view, the combination helps to make the M60 xDrive the best-looking 5 Series revealed so far, although we’re yet to see the more performance-orientated combustion-powered models arrive as yet. But whether it’s usurped by an upcoming M model or not, it’ll always be a handsome, chiselled thing.
The interior, too, is a triumph of design, although there’s little to differentiate this model from the basic i5 when you get inside. Sure, there’s a red tab on the steering wheel rim and a few other minor trim upgrades, but by and large, it’s much the same.
That’s no bad thing per se – the standard i5’s interior is generally quite a pleasant place to sit, although the design will be a little chintzy for some – but it might come as a disappointment in some ways. Particularly as a few of the new i5’s cabin features, such as the fiddly air vent controls, aren’t quite as sturdy as we’ve come to expect from BMW, and the M60 xDrive does nothing to sort those little niggles out.
But it does nothing to damage the i5’s cabin, either, with no discernible difference in the level of technology and features available. You still get the same Curved Display housing for the touchscreen and digital instrument display, and you still get the same latest-generation Operating System 8.5. It’s a great system, and the new screens are shining examples of BMW’s expertise when it comes to digital interfaces. Both are sharp, clear and easy to navigate, thanks in part to the continued inclusion of the iDrive controller.
The i5 also gets a new interpretation of BMW’s touchscreen heating and ventilation control systems, which makes them much more accessible. We’d still like to see BMW revert to the more tactile physical switchgear, though, particularly for more performance-focused models.
As with the eDrive40, buyers can also add to their infotainment system with a few choice upgrades. There’s a clever AirConsole system, for example, which essentially turns the car into a games console and allows you and other occupants to play a selection of cartoonish video games while parked. Simply hook up your smartphone, and the system will turn that into your controller. Is it a gimmick? Maybe, but it’s a fun gimmick all the same.
Buyers also benefit from the same plentiful amount of cabin space no matter which i5 they choose, with enough room for four adults to sit perfectly comfortably. In the rear, headroom is more than adequate, even for those well over six feet tall, while legroom is also more than sufficient. Further back, the 490-litre boot is the same size as that of the eDrive40, but it’s 30 litres down on the capacity of the petrol-powered 520i. Nevertheless, it’s ample cargo room for most people’s needs, even if the space isn’t especially deep.
But although the specification is more or less the same as that of the eDrive40, save for a few fairly minor differences, the M60 xDrive commands quite the premium over its sister car. Whereas the standard i5 eDrive40 comes in at just over £74,000, the M60 xDrive costs almost £98,000. It’s a big price jump, particularly when the interior and exterior specifications don’t change all that much. On the other hand, it still leaves the most powerful i5 almost £15,000 cheaper than the outgoing M5 Competition, which is currently still available to order. It’s a lot of money, and to justify it, BMW has given the M60 xDrive a lot of power.
Whereas the entry-level i5, the eDrive40, comes with one motor producing 340hp, the M60 xDrive adds a second motor to the front axle, upping the power to a meaty 601hp and increasing torque to more than 600lb ft. The addition of a second motor does increase the weight slightly – the M60 xDrive weighs almost 2.4 tonnes at the kerbside – but the power increase is more than sufficient to overcome that handicap. In fact, because of the extra power and the fact the torque is delivered instantly to all four wheels, the M60 is quite a lot faster than the eDrive40. Getting from a standstill to 62mph takes a mere 3.8 seconds, and flat out, the M60 will travel at 155mph.
It’s pretty ample performance for an executive saloon, and it’s fast enough to give some serious sports cars a run for their money, too. But it’s not just the speed off the line that makes the difference – it’s the way the M60 accelerates on the move. Obviously, there’s no waiting for the transmission to kick down, and the mountain of instantaneously delivered torque will catapult you towards the horizon – particularly if you pull the little paddle behind the steering wheel that frees up all 601 horses for a few moments and boosts torque to 605lb ft at the same time. But even with the ‘standard’ 517hp you get in the laziest settings, the acceleration is still enough to pin you into the seat.
That’s combined with a strangely bovine noise from the speakers, designed to give you some of the aural feedback you lose by going electric, and it intensifies in Sport mode. Long story short, this system doesn’t work very well, subtracting more from the experience than it adds. Fortunately, the M60 xDrive’s updated suspension has the opposite effect, giving this more potent version of the i5 a little more body control than its less powerful sibling. Neither car is what you’d call loose, but the M60 just feels that bit sharper when you turn into a corner, with the body following the front wheels that fraction more keenly. The difference isn’t night and day, but the M60 is undoubtedly pointier.
It’s just as well balanced, too, and that comes in handy if you get over-excited with all that power that’s available. Get greedy on the exit of a corner, and the rear will step out of line, especially when it’s wet, but the precision of the steering and the innate controllability of the platform means the i5 is still easy to control and correct. Yes, you could probably accuse that steering of feeling a bit rubbery in its softest setting but opt for Sport mode, and it firms up a little.
The M60 also comes with vastly improved brakes compared with the eDrive40. Though the basic car’s anchors seem effective enough, it feels as though you have to work them hard to achieve the kind of stopping distance you’d like. Perhaps that’s down to the weight of the car or the speed at which it can gather pace, but the M60 manages to feel much more responsive and powerful when you squeeze the pedal on the left. That, combined with the balance, gives you much greater confidence in what the car can do.
And somehow, the M60 does that without completely spoiling the i5’s ride. Of course, the lower, sharper suspension means it feels a bit stiffer over potholes and the like, but the ride isn’t significantly less impressive than that of the base model. And anyway, that extra stiffness just provides a little more information about what the wheels are up to, and that comes in handy when you’re driving quickly. As long as that informativeness never crosses the threshold of discomfort – which, in the case of the M60, it doesn’t – it isn’t a problem. Even around town, the M60 doesn’t feel too spiky for a car with this much pace, and the highspeed ride in the softest setting is really quite comfortable. It doesn’t quite glide over the surface, but it absorbs everything with relative ease.
The driving experience, therefore, is a big plus point for the M60 xDrive, but the electric range isn’t quite what it is in the eDrive40. With that extra weight and more powerful motor system, it was bound to be less efficient, and that means the very same 81.2kWh battery manages fewer miles between trips to the plug. Where the eDrive40 offers between 309 and 362 miles on a charge, according to the official economy test, the M60 cuts that figure to between 283 and 321 miles. And that’s just the official figure. In the real world, neither car is likely to achieve the quoted range, although while the eDrive40 stands a decent chance of covering more than 250 miles between charges on a mixture of roads, the M60 will struggle to achieve quite the same feat. You’re probably looking at something in the region of 220 miles on a charge.
At least the M60 xDrive and the eDrive40 versions of the i5 both have the same charging capability, allowing the BMW to take on charge at up to 205kW if you can find a sufficiently powerful DC charging point. Do that, and it’ll get from 10 to 80% in half an hour, although using a domestic ‘Wallbox’ charger to charge the battery completely will take all night. Even if you have an 11kW three-phase AC electricity supply, BMW claims it’ll be an eight-and-a-half-hour job. Nonetheless, very few owners will trundle onto the drive with a completely discharged battery, so, in the real world, we’d expect domestic charging to be completed overnight with no trouble at all.
Generally speaking, then, the i5 is a tantalising preview of what the new 5 Series will be like, and the signs are good. Obviously, we can’t draw too many conclusions about the more modest 520i and 520d models from the high-performance i5, but the new 5 Series is shaping up to be another class leader. And the electric models are so good that they look set to form a huge part of the new model’s line-up. For the vast majority of 5 Series customers, this i5 M60 xDrive model will be a bit unnecessary, and that will probably blunt its sales figures slightly. When the eDrive40 is exceptionally good, more efficient and considerably cheaper, that seems destined to be the i5 of choice. That said, the i4 M50 xDrive is a less appealing and more expensive car than the i4 eDrive40, but you still see plenty of the high-performance versions on the road. In the case of the i5, then, the M60 xDrive may be the variant you choose with your heart rather than your head, but it’s still the best car in the range and the most capable all-electric performance car BMW has built to date. Given there are some pretty desirable cars in that list, including the hugely impressive i7 M70 xDrive, that’s quite some going, and it should ensure some customers choose to spend the extra money.
TECHNICAL DATA 2024 BMW i5 M60 xDrive G60
- ELECTRIC SYSTEM: Two electric motors and an81.2kWh battery
- MAX POWER: 601hp in My Mode Sport,M Sport Boost or M LaunchControl (normally 517hp)
- MAX TORQUE: 605lb ft in My Mode Sport,M Sport Boost or M LaunchControl (normally 586lb ft)
- 0-62MPH: 3.8 seconds
- TOP SPEED: 155mph
- RANGE: 283-321 miles
- EMISSIONS: 0g/km
- WEIGHT (EU): 2380kg
- PRICE (OTR): from £97,745
The G60 styling might take a little getting used to, but it’s certainly got plenty of presence. The cabin looks fantastic, and there’s a real upmarket quality feel to everything. The i5 M60 gets a few unique interior touches.
the M60 xDrive may be the variant you choose with your heart rather than your head, but it’s still the best car in the range
the M60 xDrive adds a second motor to the front axle, upping the power to a meaty 601hp and increasing torque to more than 600lb ft
The G60 i5 M60 is big, heavy and expensive, but it’s also very impressive to drive. M60 badging indicates that this is the fastest Five you can currently buy.