BMW reveals new sixth-generation 5 Series

BMW has shown the first official pictures of the next 5 Series, one of the most eagerly-awaited models slated for launch in 2010. The new car represents the sixth generation of the Bavarian company's highly successful medium-large saloon, which first appeared in 1972.

The outgoing 5 Series, which this new version will replace, is a hard act to follow in terms of styling. Probably the most successful of the radical designs produced under the leadership of BMW's former design chief Chris Bangle, it still looks fresh today more than six years after it hit the market. These early images of the latest 5 suggest that it is certainly a handsome car – but not, perhaps, one that quite moves the game on in the way its predecessor did. It has been suggested that BMW alternates radical and conservative updates for its cars, introducing truly new design language only every second generation, perhaps in order not to challenge buyers too much. The development of the 5 model line over the years suggests there may be some truth in this.

Inside, the new car shares the latest "Black Panel" display technology for its centre console and instrument panel with the latest 7 Series and the recently-launched 5 Gran Turismo. To the extent that the latest 5 leans on the interior design of the 5 GT, this can only be good news; while the unusual positioning and concept of the 5 GT have had experts and journalists scratching their heads, everyone seems to agree that its cabin architecture and systems are excellent.

At launch, there will be a wide spread of engine choices, ranging from a 520d fitted with a two-litre diesel engine to the 550 (which has a 4.3 litre twin-turbo petrol engine, rather than a 5.0 litre as the badge implies). Prices will start at £28,165 for the 520d and extend to £50,520 for the 550 – in both cases in SE trim. All versions benefit from BMW's EfficientDynamics technology, which should give them a bit of an edge over most competitors in terms of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

BMW's initial announcement makes no mention of an estate version of the new 5, or of a sporty M5 variant – but these are almost certain to follow at a later date.