But what is it exactly?
Benchmarking within the automotive industry is nothing new. Rather than engineer the vehicle that a manufacturer thinks its customers want, using a model that's already thriving as a barometer during the development process can give you an advantage. It's why Porsche is still viewed as the dynamic benchmark for sports cars. In fact, Ford even benchmarked the Mustang Mach-E crossover against the Porsche Macan. But the latest vehicle to be spotted in the possession of Ford isn't a Porsche at all and raises numerous questions. It's none other than the rugged Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro.
Toyota's SUV was recently seen leaving Ford's Dearborn facility. It had a yellow sticker on its windshield that served as further proof that this vehicle was in Ford's possession and being benchmarked by the company. Considering that the current 4Runner has been on the market for over a decade, this vehicle is an interesting choice as a benchmarking exercise. Then again, as dated as the 4Runner may be, it remains a class-leading off-road SUV and that's even truer in hardcore TRD Pro guise. With its upgraded Fox internal bypass shocks and locking rear differential, this particular 4Runner is a brilliant off-roader.
Then again, Ford knows how to build a capable off-road vehicle. The F-150 Raptor and new Bronco are proof of this. But it could be that the company is looking to elevate softer models like the Ford Edge by introducing an off-road-focused variant, perhaps something wearing the Timberline moniker? The new Ford Explorer Timberline was introduced earlier this year as a more adventurous version of the practical Explorer, complete with new skid plates and a seven-mode Terrain Management System. If Ford is cooking up a smaller off-road SUV and it's anything as good as the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro on the dirt, we have a lot to look forward to.