Toro bills its new Outcross 9060 as a super-utility vehicle that fills a niche for professional turf managers.

The idea of a new Toro vehicle built specifically for turf professionals has been kicking around the offices of the Bloomington-based company for several years. Proposed for new project development in fall 2014, the Toro Outcross 9060 goes into full production in August.

The normal timeline for a new product is only two to three years, but the Outcross is a from-the-ground-up new product introduction so it took longer, said Noah Wahl, Toro’s global product marketing manager in charge of Outcross.

“Part of the reason it took longer and part of the reason it is so cool is because there is literally nothing else like it,” Wahl said.

The team, for example, had to create cardboard prototypes of the new vehicle’s dashboard early in the process, he said.

The Outcross was built to bridge the gap between work being done by big traditional agriculture tractors and smaller utility vehicles that are common in the machine sheds of golf course superintendents and municipal grounds managers.

Now that it has gone through final production tooling and testing, it will be manufactured at Toro’s plant in Tomah, Wis.

The company had a contest at an industry trade show in February 2017 to name the vehicle. The winner was Curt Sheffer, a golf course superintendent in South Carolina, who saw the prototype as the perfect cross breeding of an ag tractor and a utility vehicle.

“Outcross is a term used in agronomy to describe the crossing of two different breeds,” Wahl said. The 9000 in the Outcross name indicates it is a new series of equipment for Toro and not based on existing platforms.

The problem of using ag tractors for maintenance on places like golf courses is that they have a tendency to gouge turf or leave ruts because of their weight and tire threads. That requires more repair work after the first job is finished.

The Outcross has four-wheel independent drive and steering. That allows each wheel to turn at different angles and at variable speeds during turns, which lessens the impact on turf. Weight is also more evenly distributed across the frame and it has a lower center of gravity than ag tractors.

It comes with a three-point hitch in the back and attachments in front that allow the Outcross to connect with any number of different implements such as buckets, forks and snowplows, whether those are made by Toro or another company. A power takeoff system in the back and hydraulic connections also give the platform more flexibility.

Designed to be easier to drive and operate, the Outcross gives golf course superintendents and turf managers the ability to do more with less equipment and fewer personnel. Those tasks run from mowing grass and spreading fertilizer to moving pallets and removing snow and ice.

The dashboard also has some programmable memory, so task requirements and how implements need to interact with the vehicle can be stored by skilled operators or project supervisors to make operations easier for less-experienced personnel.

Jesse Trcka, superintendent at Wayzata Country Club, has a staff of eight full-time employees and about 30 seasonal employees. He finds the programmability a key benefit.

He said it will let him put a lesser-skilled worker on the new equipment and still have the equipment operate at a very high level. “I think that’s one of the bigger factors that appeals to me,” Trcka said.

Dave Hanson, assistant maintenance superintendent with Bloomington Public Works, has seen Outcross prototypes but is eager to get his hands on a production model for further testing.

“I really want to get one out here and try it on for size if you will,” Hanson said. “We maintain a lot of athletic fields and a lot of general turf park areas. … For a lot of what we do this seems like it might be a really neat fit.”

Hanson has a crew of 25 full-time workers and 40 summer seasonal workers to help maintain 95 parks throughout Bloomington, from large athletic complexes to small neighborhood parks. Many of the young seasonal workers Hanson hires have only every driven an automatic transmission, so the product can hopefully help them to learn the skills needed.

“It’s a really interesting product,” said Pete Johnson, a portfolio manager at St. Paul investment firm Mairs and Power. “The labor market is becoming increasingly scarce and increasingly expensive. This is a great product for the golf market because it allows golf course managers to do more with less.”

In previous years Johnson said Toro has had to put much of its research-and-development money into meeting aggressive emission standards for its variety of equipment and vehicles. “That’s behind them, it seems to us that they are getting more bang for their buck from these investments they are making,” Johnson said. “Outcross just happens to be one of those innovations that could be a home run for them.”