Roxor First Drive
Mahindra Shatters the Mold With Their New Roxor Off-Road UTV
On March 2nd, 2018, Mahindra released the Roxor and flipped the UTV world on it’s head. Sure, this classic jeep-looking side by side will never win a race against a Maverick X3 XRS, or a RZR Turbo S, but put it on a farm, or even drop it out on the trails in Moab with it’s “similarly equipped” counterparts, and you’ll really see how capable this new player in the utility side by side segment really is.
The Roxor is by far, one of THE most interesting UTV’s to hit the market in a long time. It one-hundred-percent breaks the mold for what you’d traditionally think of as a side by side, or a UTV, and frankly that’s because it isn’t one. Up until now, the average UTV would consist of a mostly-tube chassis, small displacement (under 1000cc) 2 or 3 cylinder engine, CVT transmission (with exception to the Yamaha YXZ and Honda), and independent suspension front and rear.
Take a look at the chassis underneath the steel bodied Roxor (yeah, steel like a truck, you’ll start to see a trend here) and you’ll find a box steel frame, solid axles, leaf spring suspension with automotive-style shocks, a Dana T-18 2 Speed manual transfer case, a 5 Speed manual transmission, and a 2.5 Liter (2500cc) Turbo Diesel 4 Cylinder engine. Improvements in technology have been made, but this design is actually based off the original Willys Jeep, which Mahindra licensed from Willys in the 1940’s. They’ve been producing these rugged off-road vehicles all over the world ever since, making this one of the longest-produced vehicles in existence today. Now, they are producing the Roxor for the North and South American markets right here in the USA. That being said, Mahindra has a massive amount of experience with this platform, and there are many good reasons why they are still producing it.
Mahindra invited us to come out to San Antonio, Texas for the Roxor Intro, and festivities kicked off at the gorgeous, 150+ year old Knibbe Ranch out in Texas hill country. We weren’t allowed to get behind the wheel out at the ranch, (we, the media, had all been drinking) but they did load us up in a fleet of Roxors to be given a tour around the property. The first thing I noticed upon jumping in the passenger seat is how solid the vehicle felt. I don’t believe there is anything, exterior or interior, that is a structural component made from plastic. Nearly everything is made from steel, which is pretty rare these days.
As my driver (Chuck Knibbe himself) fired up the turbo diesel engine, it quickly settled into a smooth, quiet idle, reminiscent of an older VW diesel car. Away we went through grassy fields and water crossings, up rocky hill climbs, and down though tree lined, two track trails as we wound our way around the ranch and back. The ride from the leaf sprung suspension was firm but controlled, jarring at times when traversing the larger rocky sections, but all together very similar to even a modern, bone-stock Jeep Wrangler. My biggest take-away from the ranch ride was how comfortable and quiet the Roxor is. Even when riding over the higher-speed trails, there were no rattles or unpleasant mechanical noises present. Very impressive for a vehicle of this type, in this category.
The next day we headed over to the Alamodome, where an obstacle course awaited us, ready to really put this new Roxor to the test. Upon finally jumping in the driver seat, the ergonomics fit my short 5’8” frame pretty well. The seat is adjustable, and I was able to get myself in position to reach the pedals without the steering wheel being in my lap. Push in the clutch, turn the key, and the engine immediately fires to life with no hesitation.
The Roxor engineers had us leave the transfer case in 4WD Low Range for the course, as it was tight with plenty of frame twisting obstacles; a rock garden, log piles, off camber corners, and a very steep hill to climb up and over. The 5 speed manual transmission equipped in the Roxor is fantastic, the throw between gears is not very long for a truck style transmission, and gear engagement translates very well through the stick. Clutch engagement is also very progressive, and with all of the torque available from the turbo diesel engine, it’s almost impossible to stall, especially with the transfer case in low range. If you’ve never driven a stick shift vehicle before, don’t be intimidated, this is probably be the easiest vehicle on the market today to be able to learn in.
Speaking of torque, that 2.5 liter, direct injected turbo diesel engine produces 144 ft/lbs of it from 1400 to 2200 RPM, and 62 hp at 3200 RPM. I could legitimately leave it in first gear, hold onto the steering wheel, and not touch the throttle, brake, or clutch and make nearly a full lap of the course. A little bit of throttle was required to make it up over the big steep hill, but engine braking would maintain a slow descent down the backside, and the torque at idle was enough to maintain forward momentum over and through the rock garden, and the logs. When you do burry the throttle, it pulls like a small freight train, very quickly, until running out of steam at about 3500 RPMs. While this is no high RPM performance machine, the Roxor is seriously entertaining to drive with all that torque and a smooth shifting manual transmission.
Getting back to the suspension, as I mentioned earlier it is very firm with not a lot of travel available in stock form. I’d have to “stay loose” in the seat when traversing the rock garden to let the vehicle toss side to side beneath me as it crawled through the rocks, testers that did not adopt this tactic ended up looking like bobble heads. In the frame twister section of the course, suspension flex was limited, and with limited-slip differentials equipped in the axles from the factory, if you lift a wheel at low speeds all forward momentum disappears (locking differentials and hubs will be available in the future). The Roxor did feel very stable through the off camber corners, and although it looks and feels very tall, I was told by the engineers it was able to reach 40 degrees on the tilt table before reaching the tipping point. The steering is very truck-like yet responsive, and gives good feedback, however the turning radius is not the best for such a small vehicle at 21 feet.
If being used as an off-highway work vehicle, the Roxor is nearly perfect. The rear payload capacity is a little light at 349 lbs; the highest rated UTV will carry 1500 lbs of total payload, although that number includes passengers, and Roxor’s does not. Towing capacity on the Roxor is an industry leading 3490 lbs, nearly 1000 lbs more than its closest competitor, and only 10 lbs less than a 4 cylinder equipped, 4WD Chevy Colorado. The Roxor itself however, tips the scales at a portly 3035 lbs in base trim. While that’s nearly double the weight of its closest competitor, you have to remember that this vehicle is not built like a ‘standard’ UTV. There are many reasons why militaries all over the world have been using variations of this vehicle for close to 80 years, two of the most important reasons being that this vehicle is extremely durable, and simple to repair should something go wrong on the battlefield, or a jobsite, or even just during a cruise on the trail.
Even though the suspension is lacking performance in the ‘fun’ department for recreational use, the Roxor in base trim is a perfect blank canvas for you to take and turn into your very own masterpiece. There are plenty of opportunities here for aftermarket manufacturers to come in and really turn things up to eleven, from basic suspension upgrades such as long travel leaf springs, shocks, and shackles, to full four link, coilover builds, custom bumpers and roll cages, and countless utility accessories. Roxor themselves are even getting in on the action; already you can order a vehicle with factory equipped aftermarket accessories such as a Bestop Bikini Top, KC Hilites LED Light Bar, Warn Winch, MTX Stereo System, and upgraded BFGoodrich All Terrain TA KO2 Tires.
They aren’t stopping there either, we were able to talk with the Director of Aftermarket, Bob Fehan, and he expressed that they are actively working with, and seeking out new US based partners to develop and supply even more factory equipped accessories. Including a fully enclosed model with heating and air conditioning, and possibly even versions geared specifically towards the off-road enthusiast, or the hunter, or rancher; the possibilities are endless. The current base model MSRP is $14,999, which falls right into the average price range of the other higher-end utility side by side models. Only time will tell if Roxor’s decision to bring old school simplicity and durability to a market flooded with constant innovation and new technologies will pay off, though whatever answer to that question, we’re always happy to see another player step up to the plate with something different, and force the other manufactures to reevaluate their own ideas of the ideal UTV.
For more information, or to build your own Roxor, head over to www.roxoroffroad.com