BMW has announced first details of its fully redesigned fifth-generation 5 Series. The new line goes on sale in Europe in July and right hand drive models reach the UK in September.

Launch models for the UK will have two- and three-litre petrol engines and a three-litre diesel with 2.5- and 4.4-litre petrol models following in October. New six speed manual gearboxes are specified for 3.0-litre petrol and diesel models.

All-aluminium suspension and body front section components help to reduce the redesigned car's weight by some 65kg and other standard technology treats include second-generation iDrive technology (hopefully with more easily navigable menus), adaptive headlights and brake force display. Options will include active steering, dynamic drive control and active cruise control.

The new car has a more spacious cabin than its predecessor and BMW is claiming that a combination of a new weight-saving aluminium chassis and bodywork structures, and existing efficient and powerful engines will give the redesigned 5-series line market-leading performance and economy.

Rather than developing pure drive-by-wire systems that can isolate the driver from the road, BMW has developed optional 'AFS' active steering that maintains a mechanical link between the front wheels and the steering wheel, and retains an 'authentic' steering feel for the driver.

Active steering varies the steering transmission ratio electronically in direct relation to the style and speed of driving and road conditions. Under normal road conditions at low and medium speeds, the steering becomes more direct, requiring less steering effort of the driver (i.e. turns of the steering wheel), increasing the car's agility in city traffic or when parking. At high speeds the steering becomes less direct offering improved directional stability. When cornering at high speeds, or when undertaking sudden movements, the steering stiffens up by monitoring increases in the yaw rate.

The system is networked to the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) electronic driver aid and reduces DSC interventions, thereby offering more control to the driver and increased comfort for the passengers.

Optional Dynamic Drive active suspension filters out bumps and suppresses virtually all body roll on cornering through the presence of two active anti-roll bars physically integrated into the front and rear axles. This further enhances agility and stability. Up to 80% of a car's normal body roll in sharp bends is removed by Dynamic Drive, which also has active safety implications since directional stability is enhanced when taking emergency evasive actions.

Optional from 2004, Active Cruise Control, first introduced on the new 7 series, is a radar-based system that automatically controls the distance to the car in front. The driver selects a comfortable distance he/she wishes to cruise behind other vehicles and the system automatically cuts power if that distance is infringed. Cruise control is still engaged, however, and as soon as the selected distance is available again, the car automatically speeds up to the desired cruising speed.

New active safety measures feature on the new 5 series with Adaptive Headlights and Brake Force Display reducing the risk of an accident front and rear. Optional adaptive bi-xenon headlights swivel by up to 15 degrees left and right depending on the car's steering angle, yaw rate and road speed in order to illuminate more of the road ahead when driving through a bend.

Brake Force Display enlarges the brake light area when the driver brakes sharply. This technology uses Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology and offers an extra split second for the driver behind to react to heavy braking ahead. This technology - also added to latest versions of the 3-series - awaits homologation in the EU, but once introduced only requires activation of the software already installed in the car.

The new 5 series will also feature the option of a head-up display in future models, which presents vital information relevant to the driver directly on the windscreen in his/her line of vision. The driver can select what information is displayed (road speed or navigation instructions for example) and never has to take his/her eyes off the road. This information is displayed in a way that does not impinge on visibility.

As well as more interior space, front and rear, and a far larger boot than the current model, the new 5 series has an all-new dashboard combining some elements from the 7-series and Z4 interiors. The dash is based around a second generation iDrive system that is now placed adjacent to the gear selector in the central console.

New automatic adaptive air conditioning maintains humidity within the car to counteract the normal drying effect of traditional air-conditioning units and will be standard equipment on all models.