It’s a philosophical debate on par with the origins of the universe, the meaning of life, and Tinder vs. Hinge.
Imagine all the people in traffic who have seen a Mahindra Roxor and wondered how much money the owner spent restoring that old Jeep CJ. Given the spitting-image similarity between Jeeps and the Roxor, it’s not surprising that the general public draws the conclusion that the Roxor is a Jeep clone or a cheap Jeep knock-off.
But the Roxor is a UTV that’s only sold in powersports dealerships. That means you won’t find them parked like this in a Wal-Mart parking lot or five deep at Taco Bell with two wheels on the curb.
It seems the Mahindra Roxor both is and isn’t a Jeep. So what is it?
A recent video by YouTuber Abiez pondered this profoundest of questions, and it prompted a lively debate in our digital office about the Roxor’s rightful place in the off-roading world. Not just among UTVs, mind you, but in the company of full-size vehicles and the vintage machines that share its likeness.
The philosophical question is whether the Mahindra Roxor is a Jeep in any way, or if, through its own unique merits, it’s a standalone off-roader worthy of its own identity.
Should car enthusiasts be proud of the Roxor in its own right – separate from the Jeeps of yore – or is it perfectly acceptable to rip off the Mahindra badges, slap on an “If you can read this, flip me over” spare tire cover and some anatomically-correct truck nuts, and join Pirate4x4 with a cheeky username like NotaJeep?
Let’s start with the literal.
Is the Mahindra Roxor a Jeep?
Pack it up boys, this article’s over. Might as well spend the rest of the time debating the moral implications of waving male genitalia at whoever happens to be behind you in traffic. “Oh hi, Ms. Jones! Tell your grandson Billy I said hello, and enjoy staring helplessly at deez nutz all the way to Wal-Mart.”
I heard the Roxor was a Jeep clone made by a Jeep contractor using Jeep parts and that Jeep was okay with it
That’s true… for the most part.
Mahindra acquired the license to produce Jeeps in the late 1940s and they’ve been selling some version of the original Jeep in their home country of India ever since. Some of the parts have been either direct copies or improved variants of original Jeep parts, and certain Roxor parts actually cross-reference to Jeep part numbers.
But while Jeep was cool with that happening in India, Fiat Chrysler hasn’t taken kindly to the Roxor being sold in the United States and Canada. And since the sum of those parts differs in critical ways from any vehicle to ever bear the Jeep name, and since the Mahindra Roxor isn’t a product of the Jeep brand, in a literal sense the Roxor is not a Jeep.
A Jeep’s a Jeep’s a Jeep
But like Kleenex and Trampolines, people have called many things by the Jeep name. It’s so bad that there’s even a Wikipedia a page of all the things people mistakenly call a Jeep on a regular basis.
In the decades following World War II, after names like Bantam and Willys competed to build some of the first convertible off-road vehicles that would later become the first Jeep-branded models, the word Jeep came to embody not only that specific brand of vehicles but an entire category of open-topped adventure machines.
To the general public, that is.
Enthusiasts know better than to call the Roxor a Jeep, but to normal people that word applies to the Wrangler, Wagoneer, Cherokee, Bronco, FJ, Scout, Defender, and any remotely similar vehicle covered in mud in the local Wal-Mart parking lot. That actually puts the Mahindra in some pretty good company, and while it’s clear that the Roxor isn’t literally a Jeep it may still be deserving of a place among the greatest off-road vehicles of all time.
That’s a tall order to fill, and it brings us to an existential question.
Is the Mahindra Roxor a Jeep in Spirit?
The true spirit of machines like the Jeep CJ has always been that go-anywhere, do-anything attitude. It’s all well and good to say the Roxor looks like a Jeep, but that doesn’t mean anything until you start treating it like one.
What happens then? The answer can be found on the other side of the globe, where the Roxor’s reputation has already been building for nearly a decade.
The Thar Identity
Mahindra has been building improved versions of the original Jeep in India for over 70 years, and the most recent spawn of that lineage is the street legal Mahindra Thar.
Nowhere is the love for the Thar more apparent than at the Mahindra Adventure Off-Roading Trophy event. Every year, hundreds of Thar enthusiasts gather near the town of Lonavala in Western India to push their off-roading skills to the limit. It’s a wheeling challenge as tough as any in the States, and it’s just one of many events where the Thar takes center stage in its home country.
While the North American Roxor is aesthetically different from the Mahindra Thar, mechanically it’s nearly the same. You still get the 2.5-liter turbodiesel engine, a 5-speed manual transmission, a steel box frame, and switchable four-wheel drive. With aftermarket parts like locking differentials and full-floating axles readily available, it’s entirely possible to make a Roxor perform like the Thars in that video – some of which aren’t too far from stock.
But like your neighbor’s “Lamborghini” Pontiac Fiero, many Thars have had their Mahindra badges stripped off. Some even wear Jeep badges, Jeep grills, and Jeep body panels to complete the illusion.
New-School Feel …
If events like the Mahindra Off-Roading Trophy are any indication, any new vehicle with a Jeep badge has long since departed from the rugged and spartan spirit of the Jeeps of yesteryear.
The Mahindra Roxor is a return to form for off-road vehicles. There are no plastic engine covers to remove or obscure tools to buy. The interior can be hosed off after a long day on the trails. Build quality is high, dependability is good, and every part is brand-new and quality-tested. It’s easier to maintain and modify than most cars or UTVs out there, and thanks to ever-increasing safety and emissions standards, the Roxor is essentially one-of-a-kind in the modern day.
It’s why those Thar owners rebadged their Mahindras as Jeeps: the only true alternative to a Roxor or Thar is a vintage off-roader – diesel or otherwise. But as I’ve explained before, getting an old Jeep, Toyota, or Ford of a similar quality to a Roxor (a diesel engine, a modern transmission, and all-new parts) would be time-consuming and expensive to say the least.
… Old-School Cool
People are willing to spend huge amounts of money on professional restorations like the ICON Cummins Toyota FJ40 because factory-made lightweight, barebones, diesel-powered vintage off-roaders are incredibly rare everywhere. Good luck finding an original diesel Toyota FJ or diesel International Scout that hasn’t already been spoken for, and there’s a very short list of diesel Jeep models that have ever been sold in the United States or Canada.
What’s more, any factory-built diesel off-roader that’s still around today is either too valuable or too delicate for the kind of abuse the Roxor is capable of taking. If you’re more about utility than adrenaline, you could swap a Kubota, Cummins, or Isuzu diesel into a gas-powered vehicle, but that’s a lot of effort just to haul firewood or work around the farm.
In technical terms, that means the Roxor is not only dissimilar from vintage Jeeps, it’s unlike almost any vehicle ever made. And while nothing will ever replace the feeling of driving a decades-old Jeep or anything of the sort, the Roxor follows in the footsteps of those legendary machines by being capable, purposeful, and above all else, different from anything else around.
Let’s Call it a Comeback
Off-camera, YouTuber Abiez began to remove his Roxor’s telltale Mahindra badging, but something stopped him almost immediately. The dog-eared decal on his Roxor’s windshield frame is a lasting reminder of the moment when Abie realized his Roxor’s identity should be worn with pride, not distorted by pretense.
The Mahindra Roxor carries the machismo and charisma of one of the greatest vehicles ever to drive the Earth. It embodies the free-spirited character we associate with vintage Jeeps, but it’s also many things those Jeeps never were. And like our memories of those days, over time the Jeep itself has grown into something that’s outwardly familiar but intrinsically different than it ever was before. Meanwhile, Mahindra has spent over 70 years fine-tuning the vintage Jeep experience, and the modern result embraces the spirit of its forefathers while blazing a trail that few others can traverse.
I say: Let the CJs, TJs, and YJs of the world fly their flags with pride. With its fate hanging in the balance, let’s embrace the Roxor as the lone maverick that it is, the last bastion of the old ways amid a sea of modern conformity.
The Roxor isn’t a Jeep – it’s so much more.