First Test: All New ROXOR

Indian machinery giant Mahindra just announced Mahindra Automotive’s new Roxor off-road vehicle. Technically this off-road-only machine is categorized as a UTV despite the fact that it looks like a rugged four-wheel-drive, open-cab sport vehicle. It looks like a street legal machine. Not a current model, but it doesn’t look like a 1950s Jeep either – more like 1990s. Since the Roxor isn’t a street vehicle, it was entirely appropriate that it be a lean, no frills, rough-and-tumble 4WD. Don’t look for a padded dash, carpeting or cruise control.

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There isn’t really a way around some comparisons to Jeep vehicles. And that makes sense, since the roots of Mahindra reach back to manufacturing Willys Jeeps under license in India in 1947. Some modern Jeep vehicles harken back to the original built-for-the-U.S. Army “truck, ¼-ton, general purpose” military vehicle. Soon, as is military habit and tradition, “general purpose” was soon shortened to “Jeep.” Mahindra also has vehicles like the home-market 4WD Thar that harken back to Jeep roots. The Roxor has more than a little in common with the modern Thar.

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Unlike most UTVs that are between one and three cylinders using a powersports-specific motor, the Roxr uses a 2.5-liter turbodiesel, and instead of a CVT or sequential manual transmission, the Roxor has a manual 5-speed transmission and clutch in addition to a manual transfer case with 2WD, 4WD high and 4WD low. The interior is not quite stark, but creature comfort features amount to a 12-volt power point, cop holders and vinyl-upholstered bucket seats with seat belts.

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Don’t drive a stick? You’ll be able to drive this one. The diesel engine makes massive low-rpm torque. On a paved surface we put the Roxor in low range first gear, let it idle and let out clutch foot slip off the pedal. The Roxor just cruised off smoothly with no hint it wanted to stall. Clutch engagement is smooth with a good feel to the power engagement. Shifting is smooth and easy in forward gears, with just a hint of different feel slipping into reverse.

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Roxor has the speed limited to 45 mph, but we think it will go almost that fast in low range. For our limited 4WD test course, the machine stayed in 4WD low range 100-percent of the time. The diesel engine doesn’t respond well to rpm, but makes very smooth and energetic power in the proper rpm range between 1,400 and 2,200 rpm. That is barely idle speed for some UTVs.

Like the original Jeep, the Roxor relies on an automotive-style chassis with an all-steel body. It has straight-axle differentials, leaf-spring suspension front and rear with drum rear brakes and disc front brakes. For the recreation, work, trail, hunting audience it is aimed for, the Roxor makes sense. The power steering is smooth and accurate with a tight turning radius. The brakes are strong but largely superfluous for descents with the diesel’s engine braking.

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Steep climbs require little more than idle. Roxor made sure to include plenty of cambers in the test loop, and the machine felt more than comfortable. It is unfortunate that the Roxor is not street legal. If it was eligible for a license plate, its success would be guaranteed. However, adding emissions and crash/safety equipment required for on-road use would more than double the price.

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Despite the fact that you will have to trailer the Roxor to use it, it should find an enthusiastic audience. It is a good-looking, solidly built machine that should last generations if cared for. It tows just over 3,500 pounds and is extremely thrifty on fuel. The fit and finish is quite nice. We tested the LE version that has a winch, front off-road bumper, sound bar, mirrors and a canvas top. The base model is just under $14,999 and the LE is 18,999. We feel like the Roxor will find a solid niche in the off-road and certainly the utility market. It can be equipped with a PTO (power-take-off) that will run accessories like post-hole diggers, so it should be able to handle serious work.

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It falls below the standard that most utility UTVs sets for suspension. The suspension is tough, but basic. American Jeep CJs left front leaf springs in the mid-1990s. Despite that drawback, an ingrained, almost ancestral connection with a Jeep-type machine and the outdoors should bode well for the Roxor.

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