These are pics of a prototype fourth-generation BMW X5 being tested. And nope, the tests aren’t being done on smooth Tarmac, but rather on the harsh terrain of an unnamed American desert.

The original BMW X5, you’ll know, was the first SUV to really be something of a driver’s car. Sure, the Porsche Cayenne soon came along and surprised everyone with how well it drove, but BMW got there first with the X5.

The thing is, the X5 was never really that great when it came to the rough stuff. And that looks like a problem that the new-generation model will fix. Some of the images show the big beast literally jumping over crests.

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That’s thanks to new suspension and chassis systems that’ll tune themselves to the terrain underfoot (under-tyre?). BMW reckons it’ll demolish snow, sand and gravel, claiming to have taken this prototype to the icy climes of Sweden, the broken gravel tracks of South Africa, and the sweltering sands of the southern states of America.

Don’t think, though, that the off-road treatment will render the next X5 useless when it comes to driving fast on the road. BMW claims to have tested the prototype on the Nurburgring and the high-speed circuit in Talladega. There’s adaptive M suspension and something BMW calls “integral active steering”. Whatever that is, we reckon the X5 will still retain its on-road manners.

Anyway, this new model will be properly revealed later this year, with deliveries starting next year. The current X5 is already a massive seller in the UAE, and if the new one can take on the country’s deserts, we reckon it’ll be an even bigger hit.