Ford is known to be working on a compact pickup truck slotting below the recently launched Ranger; Jim Farley, Ford president of global markets, made the confirmation in January.

However, what may appear to be a new pickup testing near Ford's Detroit headquarters is actually a cleverly disguised test mule for something entirely different.

What we're looking at is a test mule for the revived Bronco coming in 2020 as a 2021 model. Giveaways are the flared wheel arches, generous ride height, 6-lug wheels, and chunky all-terrain tires. In other words, a serious off-roader.

New Ford Bronco

New Ford Bronco

You've also got very short overhangs, especially at the rear, which was a trait of earlier Broncos. A teaser shot released a year ago hints at the retro shape we can expect. Unlike earlier Broncos, though, both two- and four-door versions are planned for the new generation.

Don't be fooled by the bed on the test mule. Dummy body panels have been tacked on to hide the SUV body within. The engineers have also gone to great lengths to hide the rear suspension, the identity of which would likely confirm this as a derivative of the T6 body-on-frame platform common to the Ranger, possibly with a solid rear axle installed.

Ford already uses the T6 platform in a pair of SUVs. One is the family-oriented Everest, a mid-size offering with three rows of seats. The other is a tough off-roader similar to the Jeep Wrangler and sold by Brazilian firm Troller, which Ford acquired in 2007. The Troller, which rides on a shortened version of the T6 platform, could be closely related to new Bronco, mechanically at least.

2021 Ford Bronco test mule spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

2021 Ford Bronco test mule spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

It isn't clear what powertrains are planned but we know a hybrid option will be offered. An electric motor's low-end torque could definitely aid tough low-speed off-roading situations, and an electric power take-off feature would prove ideal for camping. Four-wheel drive will almost certainly be standard.

Production will be handled at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, where the Ranger is already being build. Incidentally, the plant is where the previous Bronco was built.

A debut should take place late this year or early next. Before it arrives, Ford is expected to introduce a smaller SUV that's doing the rounds as the “baby Bronco.”