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Spy shot BMW 5 Series

Just as the German brand's 7 Series flagship was eased back last year from the brutality of the 1990s, the upcoming 5 will ease away from the hard edges of the current E60 model when it hits the road next year.

The first clear pictures of the 2010 5-Series have emerged from the Carparazzi cameras in Europe, complete with the signature psychedelic swirls now used to camouflage every new BMW model. The car is codenamed the F10 and could be presented as early as the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

The biggest change is coming at the front of the 5-Series, where a softer look and pedestrian-impact regulations will give it a much softer look. But the twin-kidney grille continues and the front overhang will be reduced.

Carparazzi sources say the F10 will have a significantly larger cabin, with the wheelbase stretched by nearly 10 centimetres and the track also widened. The body will only be around two centimetres longer, while height will be cut a fraction.

A new design of 17-inch alloy wheel will be standard, with 18 and 19- inch wheels as optional equipment.

The mechanical package is likely to pick up variations of the existing 5-Series engines, but with tweaking for better economy and emissions. The starting motor is expected to be a 2.5-litre inline six and the top models will continue with a V8.

There is no news yet on the Formula One-inspired V10 fitted to the M5 sedan, or whether BMW is likely to swing the hybrid powertrain it is fitting to the X6 SUV across to the mid-sized Five.