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BMW i5 Touring road test: the 1,200km drive from Munich to Dublin

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The i5 Touring is the latest in a 33-year, 1.2-million sales line for BMW. They’ve taken the existing i5 – and simply extended the roof and added a tailgate.

BMW i5 Touring

Year: 2024

Fuel: Electric

Verdict: While its range fades a bit at motorway speeds, the rest of the i5 Touring is close to perfect.

The thunder crashed overhead with such loudness that it seemed as if an AC/DC drum solo was kicking off millimetres from my ear. The lighting flashed with millisecond intensity of the midday sun as a raging storm swept over the mountains and valleys near Strasbourg and dumped about a million litres of rainwater on the ground below. From within the small space of my guest house bedroom, I started to wonder if I’d bitten off a bit more than I could chew.

The idea seemed so simple, and Google Maps’ infernal algorithms seemed to suggest it would be. With BMW launching the new electric i5 Touring estate in Munich, why not go and bring one of these new battery estates home to Ireland, getting to know it properly along the way? With a claimed one-charge range of 560km, it should be a doddle to cover the 1,270km between BMW’s hometown and the ferry terminal at Cherbourg. Why, I might be able to do it with only one or two charging stops.

The i5 Touring is the latest in a 33-year, 1.2-million sales line for BMW 5 Series estates. Starting with the E34 model way back when, the long-roofed 5 has been a consistently big seller for BMW, especially in Germany where it continues to outsell the four-door saloon. That is not the case in Ireland as we seem continually nonplussed by estates. More fool us.

To become a Touring, BMW has taken the existing i5 saloon and simply extended the roof and added a tailgate. The length, width, height and wheelbase remain the same, but the boot is considerably bigger and more useful – 570 litres outplays the saloon’s 490 litres, and you can fold the Touring’s rear seats flat to increase that to 1,700 litres plus some underfloor storage to stash your charging cables and the luggage cover. One problem, though – unlike all the other 5 Series Tourings, in this i5 you can’t open the tailgate glass, which used to be such a handy practical addition. It’s been excised in favour of improved aerodynamics and better rear visibility. Sic transit and all that.

The rest of the cabin is barely changed either, which is a good thing. The big sweeping touchscreen can be a bit too complicated for its own good (more physical buttons please…) but the level of quality on display far outstrips anything Mercedes or Audi are doing right now, and that lengthy wheelbase means that the back seats are far more welcoming and accommodating than you might think.

Before we left Munich, there was time for a quick spin in the M60 version of the i5 Touring, which packages all of that practicality and luxury with a 601hp, 820Nm, twin-motor four-wheel drive system that gives it utterly savage acceleration (3.8secs to 100km/h) and the kind of performance you’d have needed a full-house Le Mans racer to achieve not so long ago. Even in the energy-saving Efficient driving mode, this is a massively rapid car and while such performance is in many ways irrelevant, it’s also undeniably desirable. I even like the slightly tacky blanked-off, surround-lit grille.

For the long haul home, though, it made only sense to bring along the single-motor, rear-wheel drive eDrive40 model with its 340hp and 430Nm of torque. This is still a brisk car – 6.1secs to 100km/h is no one’s idea of slow – but it should be able to eke out considerably more range from the same 81.2kWh battery as you get in the M60.

Or can it? Well, partially yes but there are limitations. In mixed driving, I reckon this eDrive40 i5 Touring will put around 500km between charges, but that changes pretty quickly when you’re cruising at German and French motorway speeds. I didn’t indulge in the limit-free driving allowed on Germany’s motorways in the interests of saving energy (although the i5 M60 gets up to 200km/h with stunning rapidity if that’s a nugget of knowledge you were looking for) and instead cruised at the suggested limit of 130km/h in Germany, and the utterly enforced limit of 130km/h in France. That extra 10km/h over and above Irish motorway speeds definitely drains the i5′s battery a bit too quickly for comfort. On one long run, I managed to put 380km between charges, dashing from the launch location in Germany to my overnight stay in Strasbourg, but I was sweating it out at just 10 per cent charge remaining as I drove in ever-decreasing circles searching for my guest house.

The next morning, expecting to start with a full charge, I came out to find that the overnight storm had tripped the switch on the hotel’s modest charging point, and so I had to trickle very gently to the nearest rapid charger to get going again.

That was not in and of itself a hardship as France has really got its EV charging act together. Everywhere along my route to Cherbourg there were rapid charging stations, usually with at least ten or a dozen connectors, most of them offering between 300kW and 350kW of power – easily able to top the BMW up at its maximum charging rate of 205kW – and every single one I visited worked flawlessly. Never had to queue, either.

BMW i5 Touring

However, my stuttering start and a hard deadline to reach my ferry meant that I had to lunge across France in a series of 200-250km sprints between chargers, knowing that (because there were no charging facilities on the ferry, and hardly any decent chargers on the Irish side) I’d have to reach Cherbourg with enough charge remaining to get from Rosslare to Dublin on the far side. In the end, I probably needn’t have worried so much – I arrived in Cherbourg in plenty of time, and with 200km left showing on the range-to-recharge display, but there does seem to be a 400km hard limit to what the i5 can manage at motorway speeds (at least at French motorway speeds) and another 50km or so would have made things a little more comfortable.

Not that the i5 itself could be more comfortable. It’s a staggeringly refined car to drive, easing its way over lumps and bumps even on those optional 21-inch alloy wheels and with the kind of aural refinement that reminds you that BMW owns Rolls-Royce. That refined, laid-back nature gels effortlessly with its more sporting demeanours, which made the twistier roads across Normandy a delight. True, the i5 in both forms is too heavy to be truly agile, but it’s way more fun to drive than anything else in its class, and feels far more sophisticated than the cheap Chinese cars that are capable of matching its acceleration.

Speaking of cheap, the i5 Touring ain’t. With a starting price north of €80,000 it’s terrifyingly easy to end up with a six-figure sum with only minor tinkering of the online configurator.

Worth it though? I’d have to say yes. I’ve always been a fanboy for the 5 Touring and nothing this i5 version does has changed that. It’s still far nicer to look at, drive, and use than any equivalent SUV yet has the space to make your life comfortable, and the prestige to make all others envious. Whatever about the range, that’s still a tempting cocktail.

Lowdown: BMW i5 Touring eDrive40 M-Sport

Power: 250kW e-motor developing 340hp and 430Nm of torque, powering the rear wheels via a single-speed automatic transmission.

Electric consumption: 16-19 kWh/100km (WLTP).

Electric range: 560km (WLTP) 0-100km/h: 6.1sec.

Price: €93,875 as tested, i5 Touring starts from €85,845.

Our rating 4/5.

Verdict: While its range fades a bit at motorway speeds, the rest of the i5 Touring is close to perfect.

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