The Diesel CJ You’ve Always Wanted Has Arrived—Or Has It?
How awesome would it be if you could buy a new Jeep CJ with a diesel engine and a manual transmission? Mahindra, a massive manufacturing corporation in India, has heard your prayers and has an answer, but it might not quite what you were dreaming about.
What is a ROXOR?
The Mahindra ROXOR is an all-new off-road-only vehicle mostly manufactured in India and assembled in America. It is being sold through powersports dealers to the UTV market, meaning that it will not be street legal in most states. Classic Jeep styling and proper off-road capability are what the ROXOR is all about.
The ROXOR has an all-steel body, steel boxed frame, solid axles and leaf spring suspension. It is initially being offered with one engine and transmission option, a small diesel with a 5-speed manual. It features a proper selectable 4WD transfer case, hydraulic power steering, front disc and rear drum brakes, 29-inch AT tires on 16-inch wheels and a roll cage.
The ROXOR looks very much like an old Willys CJ. It should, as Mahindra got the license to build the Willys CJ3 all the way back in 1947. The large Indian manufacturer has been making a version of the Jeep continuously since then. The one big giveaway that the ROXOR isn’t a Jeep is the 4 ½ slot grille versus the 7 slots you’ll find on every Jeep.
The 2.5L, inline four-cylinder turbo diesel found in the ROXOR has been used in vehicles in India for a little over two years. While not on-road compliant in the United States, it is in India. The little diesel puts out 62 hp and 144 lb-ft of torque.
Power is put to the axles through a manual 5-speed gearbox and selectable 4WD transfer case. The transmission is easy to operate and features a traditional “H” pattern and a light clutch pedal. With plenty of torque on tap it is pretty hard to stall this little vehicle, and it should be a great platform for people learning how to drive manual transmission vehicles.
The ROXOR is ripe for performance upgrades. The word on the street is that with a quick flash of the Bosch engine controller the top speed can easily be improved. The normal diesel upgrades—turbo, exhaust, injectors and so on—could also go a long way in pulling the potential out of this tiny diesel engine.
By the Numbers
The top speed of the ROXOR is electronically limited to 45 mph and its “safe towing speed” is only recommended at 15 mph. It can tow an impressive 3,490 pounds. The ROXOR’s GVW is listed at 3,750 pounds, which is 715 pounds above the base vehicle’s 3,035-pound dry weight. It also offers 9 inches of ground clearance, which is just more than a Subaru Outback.
Honestly, most of the published numbers for the ROXOR aren’t that impressive. The reality, however, is that the ROXOR is much more capable in the real world than on paper. To appease U.S. regulators and get the vehicle to comply with UTV classification standards Mahindra had to downplay much of the vehicle’s capability. Many things, like ground clearance, are also ripe for upgrades and modifications.
While official fuel economy numbers aren’t being published for this strictly off-road vehicle, the ROXOR has been thoroughly tested and achieved 25+ mpg in mixed-use conditions. With the ROXOR’s standard 12-gallon fuel tank test drivers have achieved over a 325-mile range in that testing.
You can find two models of the ROXOR in dealer showrooms now, a base model for $15,400 and a Limited Edition (LE) model for $18,400. Mahindra has a number of other models in the works that should appeal to nearly every off-road enthusiast.
The LE model builds upon the base vehicle with some high-quality bolt-on accessories. You get a windshield, Bestop bikini soft top, Warn M8000 winch, HD front winch bumper, 40-inch KC HiLites light bar, side-view mirrors, upgraded battery and a MTX AM/FM Bluetooth sound bar.
Made to be Ugraded
The ROXOR is going to have a massive upgrade program, both from Mahindra and through the aftermarket. The vehicle has a great chassis for upgrades, like all UTVs and Jeeps. Many Jeep CJ parts already on the market will work with the ROXOR right off the bat, like fender flares and shackle leveling kits.
Mahindra is already testing a huge variety of accessories and upgrades for the ROXOR, both for improved comfort and for performance capability. These upgrades include heated steering wheels, heated and cooled seats, AC and heater systems and all sorts of other comfort modifications. A hard top is available at ROXOR dealers and a full soft cabin enclosure with doors will be made available soon. While the ROXOR is currently just a two-seater, back seats will also be available soon. A block heater system should make the ROXOR even more usable in a wider range of climates. For a real capability upgrade a selectable diff lock for both axles is in development.
Aftermarket companies are sure to jump on this platform, as there are all sorts of areas where the vehicle can easily be improved. The first and most obvious is the suspension, wheels and tires. Performance upgrades on the engine should also be in the works, as some slight tweaks would allow the little diesel to put out a bunch more usable power. The horn on the ROXOR is best described as “cute,” so an aftermarket air horn will be an upgrade for many. Accessories like roof racks, cooler tie-down systems and the like will likely also be on offer.
The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
If you love classic off-road vehicles and want a modern, diesel-powered, durable weekend adventure machine, the Mahindra ROXOR might just be for you. The manual gearbox makes it tons of fun to drive and its tiny size will allow it to fit down the smallest trails. The ROXOR should also be easy to work on in your home garage and replacement parts should be very inexpensive. While well-appointed from the factory, the ROXOR is also well-suited to easily installed upgrades and modifications.
The one thing that’s truly bad is the ROXOR’s pathetic turning radius, a full 20 feet in 2WD. While the vehicle is relatively capable off the showroom floor, it is in need of a small lift, bigger tires, better shocks and selectable diff locks to make it truly shine. The rear taillights are also vulnerable when driving off road, something we’re sure will be addressed in the aftermarket with light guards and flush mount kits.
The ugly part of the ROXOR has to be the urethane sealant caulk used on the interior sheet metal seams. While it is somewhat hidden under the Line X coated interior, it is noticeably sloppy. Mahindra engineers assure us that this is something they are continually improving as vehicles roll off the assembly line in Michigan. The four-and-a-half-slot front grille isn’t exactly pretty either, but it does get around Jeep’s trademark on the 7-slot design.
The ROXOR’s Future
While the ROXOR just hit the market in early spring, Mahindra already has big plans for the platform. There should be a flat tow option sorted for the ROXOR very soon, which should impress the RV crowd and bring the buy-in price down for everyone, as a trailer won’t be needed to get it to the trail head or OHV area. A PTO is already integrated into the transfer case, and on the next generation ROXOR it should be a fully usable power take-off system, opening the door for a full host of tools for ranchers and farmers.
Future versions of the ROXOR are in the works already that will make all off-road, hunting, fishing, ranch and farm customers happy. Rock crawler, desert racing, farm tools and hunting versions of the ROXOR should be on the market soon. Mahindra plans to offer a new ROXOR model every six months, with a wide variety of new accessories every four months.