A new brand, a tough new 4×4. Here’s our take on the hotly anticipated INEOS Grenadier utility vehicle…
Are you sitting comfortably? Well, let’s start at the beginning because the INEOS Grenadier has a back story like no other new vehicle.
Without Sir Jim Ratcliffe – billionaire and chairman of the multinational chemicals company INEOS – there would be no Grenadier.
When the iconic Land Rover Defender finally ceased production at Solihull in 2016 after 67 years, Sir Jim offered to buy the tooling to continue production.
Jaguar Land Rover weren’t so keen, so, over a beer with friends at his favourite pub – The Grenadier in Belgravia, London – he decided to create his own old-school off-roader.
INEOS Automotive was created and hundreds of millions of pounds has been spent developing the 4×4 named after a pub.
The original plan was to build the Grenadier at a new factory in Wales, but then in 2020 INEOS Automotive bought a Mercedes-Benz/Smart plant at Hambach, France, which is where the first vehicle rolled off the production line in 2022.
The Grenadier has some seriously good DNA. Magna Steyr of Austria developed the chassis, the axles are from Italian tractor supplier Carraro and the were brakes developed with Brembo, plus the two engine options are care of BMW, and they are both mated to a ZF automatic transmission.
In other words, the Grenadier has come a long way since the project kicked off in 2017.
So, what is the Grenadier, what’s it like to drive, and has Sir Jim achieved his goal?
It may look similar to the boxy old Land Rover Defender with a hint of Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, but the Grenadier is new from the ground up and there are some subtle differences.
As Toby Ecuyer, head of design at INEOS Automotive, said: “The brief was simple. We set out to design a modern, functional and highly capable 4×4 vehicle with utility at its core.”
Available as a five-door station wagon, two or five-seat utility wagon and a two-door double pick-up, its design isn’t overcomplicated.
Featuring distinctive round headlights and tail-lights, a vertically split 70/30 tailgate, a rear-mounted spare wheel, external door hinges and an (almost) flat windscreen, it ticks all the right boxes for a utility vehicle targeted at 4×4 buyers. They will range from farmers, emergency services, international charities and the military at the hardcore end of the market to cool people who want to stand out from the crowd.
There are some clever touches too, such as twin mini-sunroofs which can be hinged or popped out, plus a multitude of accessories which can be added from the word go, including a ladder, full-length roofrack, integrated side roof rails, roof-mounted LED light bar and an integrated all-weather side awning.
Inside it’s a world away from the old Defender and the current minimalist trend. Up front there’s a large two-spoke steering wheel and a meaty centre console with air vents, a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and a multitude of dials, switches and buttons.
Up above there’s another panel which is more off-road focused, with controls for diff locks, wade mode, hill descent and much more.
The rest of the cabin has a suitably rugged, functional feel. There are water-resistant, anti-stain Recaro seats, wipe-down materials throughout and even drain plugs under the rubber mats so the interior can be hosed out.
Drilling down to the hardcore spec, the Grenadier has full-time four-wheel drive with a centre differential lock (front and rear electronically actuated diff locks are optionally available), an eight-speed automatic gearbox with a two-speed transfer case and passive suspension using ZF dampers and Eibach coil springs.
There’s a choice of two 3.0-litre straight-six BMW engines – a 245bhp diesel with 550Nm of torque and a 281bhp petrol with 450Nm of torque. The latter is faster off the line (0-62mph in 8.6 seconds, compared to 9.9 seconds).
As I found out during an extensive two-day test (on and off road in the Scottish Highlands), the Grenadier is a hardcore go-anywhere adventurer.
The figures speak for themselves (a ground clearance of 264mm, a wading depth of 800mm and a maximum side angle limit 45 degrees), but nothing beats being able to put a 4×4 through its paces in tough, real-world conditions.
However, first we had to drive to our all-terrain locations, and unlike the old Land Rover Defender and some 4×4 pick-ups, the Grenadier is a well-mannered performer on the road.
The combination of a surprisingly smooth, refined ride, along with comfortable, supportive seats and ample space made the cabin a civilised place to be.
Visibility is generally good, but the split rear doors and spare wheel mean that the rear camera is vital for manoeuvring because the wiper-swept area is modest.
The driving position is good, except that the engine unit eats into the driver’s footwell on right-hand drive versions, so there’s limited space to rest your left foot. On the plus side, there’s plenty of room for back seat passengers, while boot capacity is a “class leading” 1,152 litres, expanding to 2,035 litres with the 60:40 split folding rear bench seat folded flat.
I couldn’t wholly adjust to the steering because I was constantly have to correct and over-correct. The recirculating ball steering layout with hydraulic assistance is nothing new in the 4×4 world, but it is known for its vagueness. Also, the 3.85 turns takes some getting used to.
There are always compromises when developing no-nonsense off-roaders that also have to perform on tarmac, and overall, the Grenadier manages well.
However, it’s off-road where the Grenadier excels. Whether it was wading through a lake, climbing snow-covered hills or tackling tracks covered in slippery rocks and mud, it took it all in its stride with almost no fuss.
Effortless though it was, my only reservation was that some of the overhead switches were on the fiddly side to operate. I understand the logic, but having to press some twice for safety reasons seemed fiddly, while the stubby and clunky mechanical lever for switching between high and low ratios seems archaic in this day and age.
No vehicle is perfect and the Grenadier is no exception. Let’s start with the folding stuff, because even a basic two-seat Station Wagon starts at £55,000, a five-seat Station Wagon will set you back £55,000, while the two Belstaff editions (the Trialimaster or Fieldmaster we tested) start at an eye-watering £69,000.
In other words, very capable though it is, the Grenadier isn’t quite the utilitarian vehicle off-road enthusiasts had hoped for. In fact, it’s pretty much in the same price bracket as the new upmarket Land Rover Defender.
And when you consider that you needed around £35,000 to buy a Defender 110 XS back in 2015, it’ll be a while before used Grenadiers will become affordable for the masses.
Then there’s economy. Official figures for the petrol engine are 18.9-19.6mpg, while the diesel fares a little better (23.1-26.9mpg). CO2 emissions are also challenging 325-336g/km (petrol) and 276-319g/km (diesel), though INEOS is looking into an electric, or even hydrogen fuel cell variants.
Next comes safety. These days it seems odd for new cars not to have a long of safety systems and driver assistance tech.
Yes, the Grenadier has airbags and ISOFIX points, automatic hazard warning, SOS Emergency Call and basics such as anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and cruise control, but that’s as far as it goes for now.
Apparently a more extensive safety suite is expected for 2024 when it will become mandatory in the EU, but for now, commonplace Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), land-keeping systems and adaptive cruise control are not available on the Grenadier.
Finally, a bit of housekeeping. The Grenadier has an excellent 3.5-tonne towing capacity and all models in the UK get a generous five-year unlimited mileage warranty as standard.
So, all in all, the Grenadier is a great first effort from INEOS. It turns heads for all the right reasons, and as we found out during the launch, generates huge amounts of interest.
Verdict: The Grenadier is an impressive debut model from INEOS Automotive. In school report parlance, there’s definitely “room for improvement”, but ultimately it’s a practical, very capable and serious off-roader with good road manners.