BMW i5 Luggage Test: How much fits in the trunk?

BMW’s official specs indicate that the BMW i5 has a 17.3 cubic-foot trunk. “Wow!” you might say, if you’ve been keeping track of sedan trunk volumes. Oh, you haven’t? Weird. Well, that would be more than the 16.7 cubes you’ll find in a Honda Accord, which can not only swallow all six standard Luggage Test bags, but the 38-quart cooler that’s usually reserved for testing more voluminous SUVs. The i5’s Accord-besting volume is even more impressive when you consider it’s the electric version of the 5 Series, and presumably has at least some packaging sacrifices to be made for its platform’s need to pull double duty as an ICE and electric vehicle. Well done BMW!

Not so fast. The second you pop the trunk, it’s readily apparent that the i5 doesn’t have anywhere close to 17.3 cubic-feet of space. At least not using the same measurement method as seemingly every other car maker. This is not a new phenomena. The 3 Series also apparently has 17 cubic-feet, but yeah, it really doesn’t. 

I’m sure at some point you’re going to read that the i5 has “impressive trunk space” or even “class-leading trunk space” because that’s certainly what the specs would indicate. In terms of actual space, though, it doesn’t. That spec is deceptive. I can’t imagine BMW is going out of its way to create this deception; it’s probably just a case of engineers using some measurement they prefer for reasons A, B, and C. But I also can’t imagine anyone at BMW minds the fact that its sedan trunks can be advertised as bigger than they are relative competitors. (I need to note that BMW’s SUVs don’t seem have this problem).

So how much really can fit inside? That’s what I’m here for.

As with every Luggage Test, I use two midsize roller suitcases that would need to be checked in at the airport (26 inches long, 16 wide, 11 deep), two roll-aboard suitcases that just barely fit in the overhead (24L x 15W x 10D), and one smaller blue roll-aboard that fits easily (23L x 15W x 10D). I also include my wife’s fancy overnight bag just to spruce things up a bit (21L x 12W x 12D).

underfloor bin with charge cordunderfloor bin in i5

First, like many EVs, there is a sizeable underfloor storage area. The i5 doesn’t have a frunk (more on that soon), so I’ll probably have to stow the emergency charge cord down there. 

For the purposes of cramming the most luggage possible in the trunk, though, you may need to relocate that charge cord and use the space for a bag. That’s exactly what I did. Fancy bag goes here.

askdaAccord four across

As for the main trunk compartment, the first clue that this ain’t your typical 17.3-cubic-foot trunk is that it’s not very tall. The above comparison isn’t ideal given the camera angle and the different bag used, but you can clearly see that there is plenty of space above the biggest blue bag in the Accord’s trunk (above right). There is none above the similarly sized gray bag in the i5 (above left).

remote back seat release in i5trunk left in i5

Making that lack of height worse are those old Luggage Test villains, the remote back seat release latches. These are certainly handy, but I can’t tell you how often they’ve prevented me from fitting an entire bag inside a trunk, resulting in a whole bunch of useless leftover space. The i5 is another example.

Another issue is this weirdly shaped area on the left side of the trunk. It’s useless.

OK, let’s see how much can fit.

max bags in i5

Sad trombone. This is the four biggest bags with the fancy bag down below and the charge cord plopped on top. Despite all that extra space, there was just no way to fit the small blue roller bag. Believe me, I tried. 

Now, obviously I could just repack in smaller, soft-sided duffle bags and bring all my stuff along. But what if I was picking people up from the airport? 

“But you said you had a 17.3-cubic-foot trunk! I almost brought my cooler!”

The i5’s main competitor, the Mercedes EQE Sedan, can fit all the bags (barely) in what is accurately labeled 15 cubic-feet of space. Ergo, the i5 has less than that if measured using the same method Mercedes and seemingly every other company uses. Even if BMW used that same method, though, all that leftover space would still result in the i5’s trunk being less useful than its volume would indicate. Its dimensions, specifically its lack of height, is more important here than any overall volume would be. 

That’s ultimately the takeaway here.

Now, to other matters.

i5 under hood coveri5 under hood hole

The i5 does not have a frunk. True, frunks are usually barely larger than a briefcase, but that’s usually enough to store the emergency charge cord and the tire repair kit (as I do in my Kia Niro). 

This is what you’ll find in the i5. The world’s largest “engine cover” and below it, if you have the rear-wheel-drive eDrive40 model, a giant motor-size cavity. If this was an M60 or upcoming xDrive40, there’d presumably be a front motor unit in that cavity. Either way, no frunk. 

trunk hook righttrunk bin right

Back to the trunk. Each side has a handy little grocery hook. There’s also a small bin on the right side to store the owner’s manual or whatever. 

So that’s the BMW i5 trunk. Now for some somber Luggage Test news …

Small Blue Bag In Memorium

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of the Small Blue Roller Bag. I picked it up one day with the top handle and the plastic shell it’s attached to broke/ripped apart from its connection at the extending walking handle thingy. It had been my main suitcase for nearly a decade and although I’ve replaced multiple wheel units over the years after oh-so-many airport miles, this time the damage was terminal. Pun not intended.

As you can see, I did a bang-up job patching the damage with duct tape so I could take the bag on the press event I was literally about to leave for (it also let me use the bag for this and a few other luggage tests). That, however, was incredibly janky. I would need a new primary suitcase, and although I could certainly keep the small blue roller bag around to maintain continuity for luggage tests, that would mean keeping a bag in my garage ONLY for luggage tests. I rarely use one of the medium black bags as it is. No, I would seek an exactly sized replacement. It would not be easy. That story next time. 

In the mean time, farewell friend. Good traveling with you. 

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