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The Mahindra Roxor Is a Jeep-Inspired War Hero in Utility-Vehicle Guise

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 6 days ago David Beard

a small boat in a body of water: Only a few vehicles have forever changed the automotive landscape. Ford's Model T provided affordable transportation, allowing people to go between city and rural areas more easily than before. And Toyota's Prius put hybrids in the hands of the masses. But a case could be made that no wheeled vehicle has been more influential worldwide than the battle-proven Willys Jeep, renowned for its ruggedness, versatility, and durability. Entire shifts of history, to some extent, rest on its shoulders. Read the full story here.
Only a few vehicles have forever changed the automotive landscape. Ford's Model T provided affordable transportation, allowing people to go between city and rural areas more easily than before. And Toyota's Prius put hybrids in the hands of the masses. But a case could be made that no wheeled vehicle has been more influential worldwide than the battle-proven Willys Jeep, renowned for its ruggedness, versatility, and durability. Entire shifts of history, to some extent, rest on its shoulders.

a red truck driving down a dirt road: The original Jeep design lives on in the form of the Mahindra Roxor, a utility vehicle that's a lot of fun.© Marc Urbano - Car and Driver The original Jeep design lives on in the form of the Mahindra Roxor, a utility vehicle that's a lot of fun.

Today, the original Jeep design lives on in the form of the Mahindra Roxor. The Roxor's underpinnings date back to just after World War II when the Indian company Mahindra was granted a license from Willys to build the CJ3B. Since then, Mahindra has offered a civilian vehicle called the Thar outside the U.S. Unlike the Thar, though, the Roxor is not intended to be street legal. Legislation governing its operation on public roads varies from state to state, but Mahindra sells the Roxor as a side-by-side utility-task vehicle (UTV), the same classification as the Polaris RZR and the Honda Talon.

a truck driving down a dirt road: 2019 Mahindra Roxor© Marc Urbano - Car and Driver 2019 Mahindra Roxor

Roughly 50 percent of the Roxor's parts, including the frame, body, and engine, are built in India and shipped to Auburn Hills, Michigan, where the Roxor is assembled. And it's painted by hand, like a Bugatti. Some of the mechanical bits, such as the recirculating-ball steering gear and two-speed transfer case, are identical to the parts used in the 1940s. The patina is real, right down to the spot welds in the body, which are visible through the paint just like on the original Willys.

Beneath the hood is Mahindra's turbo-diesel pushrod 2.5-liter inline-four engine. A tiny turbo feeds the manifold 8.0 psi of boost to help generate 62 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque. The combustion clatter is authentically agricultural, and the torquey grunt is perfectly suited to the Roxor's intentions. Zero-to-60-mph time? Never. There isn't one because the Roxor is governed to a 55-mph top speed. While the standard five-speed manual transmission seems like the obvious choice, its third pedal demands soft-shoe footwork on a technical trail. Our test vehicle came with a six-speed automatic—the same transmission that's in the diesel Chevrolet Colorado. In the Roxor, it is a $3000 option. The six ratios are, however, about two gears too many. We manually locked the transmission in first or second gear for most of our off-road excursion and never needed to shift beyond third.

a red motorcycle parked next to a car engine: 2019 Mahindra Roxor© Marc Urbano - Car and Driver 2019 Mahindra Roxor

The axles, which are essentially Dana 44 clones, house 3.73:1 ratios. The optional Warn manual-locking front-axle hubs require you to step outside to engage the axle shafts by hand. Out back, the optional OX electronically controlled locking rear differential readies the rear to drive up and over or in and out of almost any situation. There is plenty of bite from the 30-inch EFX MotoVator tires that excavate earth like a Caterpillar D9. The intake breathes from above the five-slot grille, which enables you to bring the Roxor into significantly deep water. When off-roading, which is really all you're going to do with this UTV, it's important to keep the modest nine inches of ground clearance and meager break-over angle in mind. Even so, a trail littered with old tractor tires seemed like an easy ask for the Roxor, which made frequent use of its standard engine and transmission skid plates before snagging a crossmember in the rubble. We recommend adding the optional locking front differential to the build list and using the winch with caution.

2019 Mahindra Roxor© Marc Urbano - Car and Driver 2019 Mahindra Roxor

Possibly you've seen vintage film of the Willys and its four passengers bouncing out of control through whoop-de-doos? That Jeep, no doubt, lacked the optional Bilstein dampers that calmed the bucking of our four-seat Roxor. The UTV absorbs washboard trails with remarkable compliance. A narrow track can make for tense moments in off-camber trails, but the feathery power steering and the linear brake pedal make extracting it from technical trails more fun than puppy mud wrestling. The Roxor also lives a dual-purpose life by being both a capable off-roader and a dedicated utility rig. Mahindra offers snowplow mounts and will soon offer a salt spreader, a dump box, and possibly a power takeoff on the backside of the transfer case to drive tools such as a post-hole digger. With the optional trailer hitch, the Roxor can also pull 3490 pounds, more than its own weight.

The Roxor is a riot to drive, although a starting price of $15,999 might seem outrageous for something you can't drive on the street. A long list of options drove ours to $30,613. But the cost is on par with the rest of the booming UTV segment. And no other UTV has a war story to tell.

From the August 2019 issue.

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