A New Shift

Mahindra Automotive North America moves to expand its Roxor brand with an automatic transmission option.

The Roxor can tow up to 3,490 pounds, making it a good fit for hauling this trailer used at Top Hops Farm in Goodrich, Michigan. (Progressive Farmer image by Chris Hill)

Mahindra Automotive North America (MANA) is looking to expand sales of its Roxor off-road vehicle by offering an automatic transmission version of the vehicle that first hit the market in early 2018.

When the Roxor first launched, the company expected sales of the five-speed manual, 4-wheel-drive vehicle to be split evenly between recreational and work use. They predict over the next few years that ratio will move to 30% recreation and 70% work.

PRODUCTION MOVES

Now for a little backstory. If the Roxor looks familiar, you're right. It has some heritage with the Willys Jeep, as Mahindra was contracted in the mid-20th century to build the vehicle.

"Originally, Willys-Overland Motors licensed Mahindra to build the military spec vehicle over there for the Pacific Rim," explains Eric Anderson, media relations director for Roxor. "Now, 75 years later, they're outsourcing back to Michigan. It's a full-circle story."

About half of the components for the Roxor, which is assembled in MANA's Auburn Hills, Michigan, facility, are sourced globally, while the other half comes from the U.S.

"We use a lot of American suppliers," Anderson adds. "The paint is from PPG, the tires are Goodyear or Kenda or BF Goodrich, the roll bars are made here (in Michigan) locally, the windshields are made here locally, the wiring loom is made locally, WARN wench is an American brand and all the accessory bumpers and most of the gauges are all made here in Michigan."

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SMART TRANSMISSION

MANA labels the transmission for the new Roxor A/T as a "smart" technology.

"It is derived from a joint project between a French company and General Motors," Anderson says. "This is very closely related to the Chevy Colorado automatic transmission."

The "smart" aspect of the six-speed transmission uses an adaptive technology and a transmission electronic control module. It takes a collection of data and uses that to shift based on a driver's use.

"It adapts to your driving style," says Dan Proffer, marketing manager for Roxor. "If you're driving in mountains and climbing, it automatically calculates the average data of how and what it's going to take to get uphill, when to downshift and when to upshift. If you drive slowly most of the time, it's going to shift sooner to be the most efficient it can be. It's going to make sure the power is delivered in the most efficient way."

Richard Ansell, vice president of marketing for MANA, says the automatic transmission is critical in taking the Roxor vehicle to new sales volumes in work capacities over recreation uses.

"Eighty-percent of the people in the U.S. don't know how to drive a manual transmission," he says. "The majority of the people going to use this vehicle in a work capacity need the automatic transmission because they've got young people driving that vehicle on a day-in, day-out basis who don't know how to drive sticks."

TEST DRIVE

We were able to test drive both the manual and automatic transmission versions of the Roxor over two days at a press event MANA held at Top Hops Farm, in Goodrich, Michigan, about 45 minutes from the manufacturing facility.

The manual version was very forgiving in shifting and offered some fun in adjusting to tight turns and spaces on the 17-acre farm. The automatic transmission, which was driven most across the two days, kept up with challenges put to it, in particular on a makeshift track created in a field with relatively high grass.

Coming out of a mogul-like section driven through at roughly 25 mph was where the transmission's "smart" adjustment could be felt. The constant shifting of going up and down made the vehicle shift down and kept the speed down to just around 20 mph on a straightaway for about three seconds before shifting back up.

Where the Roxor showed some limitation is in its turning radius, which was evident in making passes through the tight hops rows.

SPECIFICATIONS

The Roxor offers a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder diesel engine putting out 62 hp with 144 foot-pounds of torque. That's impressive compared to UTVs or side-by-sides, but MANA sees the Roxor as a new classification of utilitarian vehicle. Its base curb weight is 3,035 pounds, but it can tow up to 3,490 pounds.

The vehicle has a wheelbase of 96 inches and ground clearance of 9 inches, and measures 148 inches long, 75 inches high and 62 inches wide. The fuel capacity is 12 gallons, which Anderson says has tested out to close to 300 miles per tank on two-track dirt roads but can generally go 250 miles on a full tank in most conditions.

Options available besides the transmission include forward-facing rear seats, solid half doors, windshield, four-passenger bikini top, aluminum wheels, winch, side and rear mirrors, and full hard cab enclosure with climate controls. All Roxor vehicles have a liner coating added to the interior.

The company states it will be adding several more options soon, including one dubbed the "Roxbox" that serves as rear storage and work platform, in addition to a trailer.

MSRP for the base model manual transmission version is $15,999 and $18,999 for the automatic version. More information is available at roxoroffroad.com.

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