Mahindra Automotive North America (MANA), the Detroit-based subsidiary of the giant industrial manufacturing family, invited media and dignitaries to get a good look at its first machine, the ROXOR. Building on Mahindra’s 70-year history producing distinctive off-road vehicles, the ROXOR is an off-highway vehicle designed to vault above conventional UTVs with a unique feature set.
Foremost is the ROXOR’s styling. Now, those who don’t know (or who don’t care to read articles like these) will instantly decry the ROXOR as a knockoff of the Jeep CJ. But history teaches that the Mahindra Group actually has its roots in producing officially licensed versions of the Willys MB starting in 1947 and the Jeep CJ-3B from 1954 to 2010. Viewed through that sympathetic lens, the ROXOR becomes a piece of the company’s long heritage.
A vertical grille panel and curved hood draw some clear similarities to later Jeep CJs, but the Mahindra gets M-shaped grille cutouts to distinguish it. The body is simple and unadorned, constructed from 12-gauge steel for durability and toughness. The bodywork is mounted to a separate, fully boxed frame made from 10-gauge. The robust construction sets the Mahindra apart from other UTVs, which usually get plastic body panels over a tube frame. Odds are, the Mahindra will be cheaper and simpler to repair after some trail rash: weld in a flat patch panel, slap on a coat of spray paint, and go.
The Mahindra is powered by a 2.5L turbodiesel I-4 tuned for low-end torque and mated to a conventional five-speed manual transmission. A two-speed manually shifted transfer case sends power to the solid rear axle, with the solid front axle ready to pitch in if needed. The setup is good for an admittedly meager 62 hp at 3,200 rpm, augmented by a much more robust 144 lb-ft from 1,400 to 2,200 rpm. The powertrain yields one of the Mahindra’s other clear benefits: a maximum towing rating of 3,490 pounds and a payload capacity of 349 pounds. Those numbers should make the ROXOR a bit more attractive to farmers and hunters who regularly lug hay to the back forty or haul the latest catch to the cabin.
Mahindra is also keen to market the ROXOR to off-road enthusiasts and sportsmen—given the trucklet’s military-ish heritage, it’s not hard to understand why. At launch, the ROXOR will be available with a Limited Edition package that includes, among other things, BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires in the 235/70R16 size. The LE also gets a Bestop bikini soft top, a Warn winch rated to 8,000 pounds, and a 40-inch KC HiLites LED lightbar for off-road fun. Like all other ROXORs, it boasts solid front and rear axles, 9 inches of ground clearance, and a nippy 96-inch wheelbase should provide good maneuverability and a reasonable breakover angle. And while the company wouldn’t comment on the subject, it’s not hard to imagine plenty of accessory and aftermarket support for larger lifts, stouter axles, and bigger tires within the next year or so.
Speaking to Bob Fehan, MANA director of accessories and specialty products, we learned that he is actively seeking out Detroit-based partnerships for even more accessories and features than the ROXOR currently offers, helping expand its American footprint. “[Mahindra Group] picked Detroit because of the talent pool of engineers, workers, and suppliers,” Fehan said. “We really want to invest in the city.”
So far, Mahindra has invested $230 million into Southeast Michigan—in fact, the Auburn Hills production facility is the first OEM manufacturing plant to open in the region in a quarter-century. MANA, founded in 2013, has created 300 jobs, and the company anticipates creating 400 more by 2020, with a further $650 million invested in the region. Key to the company’s success is an “engaged workforce,” according to Matthew Pearson, manager prototype services. “We work small, we work hard, and we get the job done.” Part of that “work small” ethos is evident in the company’s startup-like atmosphere. The company is able to rapidly prototype parts because many employees can wear multiple hats, from welding to deliveries. This workforce agility helps Mahindra avoid getting bogged down, according to Pearson.
The Mahindra ROXOR will formally launch later in March, with 230 dealers currently signed on to sell the UTV. The company expects another 70 dealers to jump on board soon. Tantalizingly, MANA says it’s evaluating opportunities to enter the on-road market, giving us a shred of hope that we might someday be able to throw a license plate on our ROXOR and run errands in it. Till then, there are thousands of miles of trails, county roads, and off-highway recreation areas to enjoy in the rugged little UTV.
Source: Mahindra Automotive North America