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Willys Reborn: Off-Road-Only 4×4 Reinvents The Classic

jeep Mahindra Offorad ROXOR
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It looks like a Jeep and jumps like a Willys, but the ROXOR is in a class of its own.

jeep Mahindra Offorad ROXOR

Manufactured in India but built in America, the Mahindra Offorad ROXOR is a reincarnation of the Willys CJ3 (“civilian Jeep”). While not street legal in the U.S., it instead enters the North American market in the side-by-side (aka UTV) market.

I drove the new Mahindra ROXOR Offroad in San Antonio, Texas, at the vehicle’s first drive experience/dealer conference. Organizers built an off-road course in the Alamodome parking lot, and it offered good insight into what this “new” off-road-only vehicle is all about.

jeep Mahindra Offorad ROXOR

Mahindra ROXOR

The Offroad ROXOR truly stands in a class of its own. It doesn’t fit the traditional tube chassis, independent suspension, plastic body, tiny wheel, belt driven, small gas motor design that governs many side-by-sides. Instead, the ROXOR offers a diesel engine, boxed steel frame, steel body, solid axles, proper 4WD transfer case, and an old-school five-speed manual transmission.

jeep Mahindra Offorad ROXOR interior

Yes, you heard right: You can only get this vehicle in manual. Luckily, it’s crazy easy to drive, nearly impossible to stall, and has a light clutch. The manual transmission gives the driver a ton of control and is insanely fun to drive.

Two models of the ROXOR are available now: a base model for $15,400 and a Limited Edition (LE) model for $18,400. The LE offers a windshield, mirrors, Bestop bikini soft top, Warn M8000 winch, upgraded battery, HD front winch bumper, 40-inch KC HiLites light bar, and an MTX AM/FM Bluetooth sound bar.

ROXOR: Willys Jeep Lineage

The ROXOR builds on the original 1947 Willys CJ3 design, as Mahindra was the licensed manufacturer of the original CJ3 for the Asian market. Over the years, the vehicle has slowly evolved and is known as the Mahindra Thar in India today.

jeep Mahindra Offorad ROXOR

The Thar is an increasingly popular street-legal 4WD in that market, but it would never meet North American road safety or emissions standards. But the ROXOR is a stripped-down version of the Thar, much more akin to the original Willys CJ3. It retails in the North American market for off-road use only.

Apart from some shiny new wheels and tires, modern winch, roll cage, and a new grill, you’d be hard pressed to look at this vehicle from more than 10 feet away and not think it was an old Jeep.

Willys CJ3 for the 21st Century

While much of the original Willys DNA and construction remains in this vehicle, it also has 21st-century chops. Under the hood, a small but reliable 2.5L inline four-cylinder turbo-diesel puts out 62 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque.

jeep Mahindra Offorad ROXOR

I wouldn’t call it fast, especially since it’s computer limited to 45 mph. The low-end torque is impressive, however, and pushes the ROXOR’s 3,035 pounds over nearly everything in its path.

With its 12-gallon fuel tank, the ROXOR has an impressive range of 325+ miles. My best guess says the ROXOR gets 25–30 mpg. Because Mahindra built the ROXOR for off-road use only, it can run on cheap off-highway/farm diesel.

Large, 30-inch BFG KO2 tires offer a quality ride on a wide range of surfaces in a wide variety of weather conditions. They should also prove impressively durable and long lasting in this application.

Mahindra ROXOR: Accessories

Buyers can purchase all the accessories the LE model boasts separately and add them to the base model. There are also a number of other accessories, like a hard top, that will hit dealerships soon. Many old CJ3 aftermarket parts, like fender flares and leveling kits, will also work on the ROXOR.

Plus, there is a host of other accessories in the works from ROXOR and a wide range of aftermarket companies. Some of the most useful and interesting, which you can expect very soon, are electronic differential locks, a full soft cabin enclosure, a power take off (PTO) system, bead lock wheels, and rear seats.

jeep Mahindra Offorad ROXOR parked campsite

Offroad ROXOR Side-By-Side: Pros and Cons

I like that the ROXOR offers a torquey, proven turbo-diesel drivetrain inside a time-tested, durable, off-road-capable chassis – without all the weight or complexity of a modern street vehicle.

It has an iconic design that has made its way back to American shores and is assembled in Michigan. A manual transmission and proper selectable 4WD transfer case offer fun, control, and capability. The end result is an industrial-grade vehicle, perfectly suited for off-road recreation, hunting and fishing, and ranch work.

jeep Mahindra Offorad ROXOR fording river

However, as fun as it is, the ROXOR is still nearly a $20,000 vehicle you can’t drive on the road. It’s speed-limited to 45 mph and has a really poor turning radius of 20 feet. And the solid axles and leaf springs don’t add up to comfortable off-roading at speed.

Modern Willys: Mahindra Offroad ROXOR

This is just the beginning for the ROXOR Offroad and Mahindra North America. You can expect much more from the massive $19 billion Mahindra Corporation over the next few years, both in specialty and mass-market vehicles. In fact, the brand is currently working on a new U.S. Postal Service truck.

Meanwhile, across the board, classic 4x4s are increasing in value and desirability as more people try to hold onto that raw off-road driving experience. Iconic 4×4 shapes, like the Willys, provide a stark contrast to the aerodynamic, pedestrian, crash-friendly vehicles on offer today.

jeep Mahindra Offorad ROXOR

The ROXOR combines that visceral off-road driving experience with the classic Willys shape in a durable, industrial-grade package. Mahindra built it to work hard around the ranch while also being a blast on proper off-road adventures.

The first few ROXORs are hitting powersports dealerships across North America now, with more than 150 dealers already signed up. And this first wave of ROXOR dealerships could top 300 within the month as vehicle production slowly ramps up in Michigan.

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