Could this be a hybrid Bronco?

We know Ford has bigger plans for the Bronco. Our first taste of the reborn off-roader was a Baja-spec racer, and we've seen all kinds of spy footage showing beefy Bronco test vehicles on and off-road. We're almost certain it will be called Warthog, but these latest spy shots open up a new conspiracy theory in the Bronco realm. Could a high-power hybrid Warthog be in the works?

Our insides sources behind these new photos believe it's a possibility. At a glance, this prototype looks like other Bronco Warthogs we've seen. Take a close look at the rear, and you'll find a single-exit exhaust pipe where we usually see dual tips. Moving forward to just ahead of the rear tire we find a thick, brightly colored cable bundle. It's not unlike high-power cables used by hybrid vehicles, though we highly doubt a production version would see the cable routed in such an exposed area. Of course, this isn't a production Bronco, so anything is possible.

Gallery: Ford Bronco Warthog Four-Door New Spy Photos

Here's where things get more interesting. We've actually seen this single-exit exhaust and cable combination before. Last October, we reported on a spy video from The Fast Lane Car that caught a different prototype with the same setup. The cable went unnoticed at the time, but with it prominent in these new photos, it certainly raises our eyebrows. The exhaust tip is obviously not production-spec; it could be monitoring emissions from the hybrid powertrain.

However, we'd be remiss if we didn't consider other possibilities, such as the cable bundle simply being used for onboard data acquisition and testing. We certainly see such things all the time, and there's a good chance that's exactly what this is.

Hybrid or no, other questions still remain about the Bronco Warthog's engine. It could be a tweaked version of the existing twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6, or Ford has the boosted 3.0-liter V6 already generating 400 horsepower (298 kilowatts) in the Explorer ST. However, Ford also has the turbo 3.0-liter with electric power in the Lincoln Aviator Hybrid, where it generates a combined 494 hp (368 kW).

Being a plug-in hybrid, it gives the luxury SUV an electric-only range of 21 miles so if it were implemented in the smaller Bronco, that range might be higher. With that electric range factored into overall fuel economy, the EPA rates the Aviator Hybrid at 56 MPGe, so Bronco fans could have power and efficiency. Perhaps of greater importance in the realm of bragging rights, this hybrid system would give the burly Bronco more power and considerably better fuel economy than the Hemi-equipped Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392. How convenient.

We expect Ford to reveal the high-performance Bronco at some point this year as a 2022 model, but thus far a specific timeframe hasn't been nailed down.

Got a tip for us? Email: tips@motor1.com