It’s not a Defender. It’s not a Defender. It’s not a Defender. It’s not a Defender. It’s not a Defender. It’s not a Defender. It’s not a Defender. It’s not a Defender. It’s not a Defender. It. Is. Not. A. Defender. We clear on that? [Editor’s Note: So, it’s a Defender? –JT] Excellent. Let’s begin.
The Ineos Grenadier is under a lot of pressure to not suck. The brainchild of petrochemical billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his off road enthusiast chums, it’s a car for people who want to do proper, analog off roading, and don’t want to rely on touch screens or potentially wonky electronics. Like most incredibly expensive ideas, the Grenadier came about after a night in the pub – the Grenadier in swanky Belgravia (London). Sir Jim and friends were a little miffed that the Land Rover Defender (which the Grenadier definitely isn’t) was going out of production and wanted something to do the same job but, y’know, better. Most people, after a few beers, sign up to do a marathon or catch a venereal disease or something. Sir Jim decided to build a car.
Its development story is long and well documented. It was going to be built in the UK, but a last moment offer of a fully kitted out factory and workforce in France was too good an opportunity to pass up. It’s powered by German engines, and was designed by a Brit. It’s a very European affair.
Now, seven years after a night in the boozer, Sir Jim has his car. And he very much hopes people like it as much as he does.
What’s it packing, then?
None of that modern monocoque muck, that’s for sure. It sits on a ladder chassis, has beam axles, and big ‘ol springs to soak up rocks. Under its hood is either a six-cylinder gasoline or diesel BMW-sourced straight six linked to an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission. The US will only be getting the gas car, which means a silky smooth 245bhp and a turbo-tastic 331lb ft. You’d perhaps expect that would mean it’s a bit brisk, but you’d be wrong. The Greandier’s a hefty thing, weighing in at 5875lbs, which is lots. Ineos says it’ll hit 62mph from rest in 8.6 seconds, and that it’ll top out at 99mph. Hardly neck snapping stuff, but just as one doesn’t rock North Face to the opera, heading up Everest in a set of Vaporflies would be just as ill advised.
The car comes with four wheel drive as standard, no part time nonsense here. You can, thanks to roof mounted buttons, lock its front and rear differential, kick off hill descent control, activate the car’s off road settings, turn on various power supplies, and much more besides. It feels a little like an airplane.
There’s plenty of space for five people and their gear to get comfy inside. This isn’t a huge surprise because of its footprint: it’s 193 inches long, 80 inches tall, and 76 inches wide. That means a wading depth of 31 inches, ample for puddles both big and small. It comes with a 35.5 degree approach angle, and 36.1 degree departure angle, too, so you needn’t worry about much bar the biggest of rocks.
Ineos has two specs on offer – Fieldmaster and Trialmaster. The former is a little more plush, while the latter is aimed at the hardcore. Under the skin the two are the same. US pricing is TBC, but in the UK it starts at $72,550.
So it’s not a Defender then?
No. And if you utter the D word near anyone associated with Ineos you’ll be met with a swift “It’s a Grenadier, actually.” While it’s designed to take on the rough stuff, and with that comes a certain bodystyle, there are elements of all kinds of off road royalty in there (hello, Land Cruiser).
The Grenadier’s presence (read: bigness) does come with a rather unfortunate side effect: getting in can be a challenge. It’s so high off the ground that at 5’8” (5’9” on a good day) getting into the drivers seat was a challenge. There’s no grab handle, so you have to reach for the ‘wheel to hoist yourself in. Getting out is more of a short fall than a graceful step out.
Access to the trunk is an odd one. There’s an asymmetrically split door, with the larger side taking up all bar about a foot – this isn’t the end of the world, as you should just open the big bit, lob your stuff in, and away you go. Except the small bit opens first, leaving space for a gallon of milk and not much else. You can see what Ineos was thinking – a small first step for occasional stuff so you don’t need lots of space behind all the time, but the gap is so oddly sized you end up cracking the whole thing open anyway.
The materials inside, though criticized on social media, are pretty plush. The plastics aren’t harsh, the seats are pretty (and you can hose them down if they get too muddy, which is cool), you can press all the important buttons with gloves on, and the steering wheel is finished in a lovely brown leather.
There’s one odd bit of incongruity that’ll make you scratch your noodle though – in the center console there are three different levers, each finished differently. The handbrake gets lovely leather, the gearshifter is the standard unit you get with the ZF/BMW setup, and the lever for selecting high and low ratios is a vintage-esque cueball affair. It’s a sort of automotive powerclash that can’t quite make up whether it wants to be classy, modern, or pleasingly retro.
While it’s mostly analog and screen-free in there, there’s something missing: a speedo. There’s nothing above the ‘wheel bar a small panel for warning lights (none of which went on during the test drive). Instead, your speed, revs, CarPlay, off road info… everything is taken care of by a centrally mounted touch screen. It works well, and the UI is pretty intuitive, though for a car so lead by chunky ruggedness the fact it takes the place of real dials feels a bit off.
What is mildy mystifying is where all the space for cubby holes went. There’s a door bin, and a bucket thing in the center console, but that’s about it. No small pockets to put wallets, keys, etc in.
Getting to the rocky stuff
It’s probably fair to say that plenty of Grenadiers will spend the vast majority of their time on tarmac rather than off it. This means the rugged car has to have some on road chops, and… it does. The petrol drivetrain is quiet, only really making itself heard when you stamp on the gas. The ZF ‘box is smooth, too, swapping happily between ratios as you trundle along.
For a heavy thing, it moves briskly, which is pretty neat. Importantly, the fact it’s so damn big means you have space for your arms. In Land Rovers of old your right (in RHD cars) elbow spent most of its time either tucked by your side, hitting the door, or resting on the frame if the window was open. No need here.
It brakes straight and true, as you’d hope. On road steering is a little strange though. It keeps you busy, feeling vague at the best of times, and something of a guessing game at others. While it’s not a car designed for on road prowess, you’d hope for something a little bit sharper.
Boxy dimensions and heft don’t help in other areas – the windshield is tiny, the wipers small and not hugely effective. Also, by some quirk of aerodynamics if there’s gunk on the road the side windows get covered in a fine layer of filth remarkably easily. The combination can make it tricky to see forwards, while the rear being covered largely by a spare wheel means rear vis is also limited. Bar the rear wheel being in the way, these problems are solvable on the fly, but are kinda irritating.
A smooth ride means you won’t need to peel yourself out of it at the end of a long trip cursing yourself for having bought a car designed so obviously for not doing road work, you’ll feel decently fresh (especially if you have heated seats specced). You’ll be a little irritated when you have to make the long jump to the ground though.
Go on then, is it any good off road?
Ineos, being a car brand that wants to show off how good its new car built to go off road is at going off road, laid on a rather incredible selection of Scottish off road treats for us to play in. Whether it was counting on deep (for the UK – pipe down, Canadians) snow, then sheet ice to rock up was another matter.
Starting on easy stuff, all you needed to do was pop it into off road mode and point it at lumpy things. The ease with which it took inclines was staggering. Experts would find it fun, novices needn’t be daunted. The car’s all wheel drive set up just… goes. That’ll neatly cover the types who have the odd muddy field to cross, or perhaps who occasionally go shooting. But what about Sir Jim and his mates who want the Grenadier to explore as yet unseen territory? From what we saw it’ll manage that too.
Point it at the kind of incline you’d be nervous walking up, make sure the car’s various mechanical components (Ineos has avoided digitization where possible so the car’s easier to fix on the fly) are primed for trouble, and off you go. Of course, you can’t attack it with Dakar-winning gusto, but slow and steady will win out.
Its massive ride height helps. Spot a rut, lump, rock, small village ahead and you needn’t worry too much about whether you’ll get over it. The wheels, popped helpfully as close to each corner as possible, can simply hop on over, while the high springs should avoid any unpleasant beaching. If there is anything pointy, Ineos has the underbody well protected.
Here, the Grenadier’s chunky controls come into their own – everything is close, and doesn’t take a degree in offroadology to get to work. The roof mounted buttons are easy to stab at, but as the whole panel’s largely grey you do have to search for your mark a little. The steering, while odd on road, works wonderfully here, giving you decent control over what’s going on. Size does become something of an issue – the hood is long, so when you crest a hill, or find yourself somewhere narrow there’s an element of guesswork.
Here’s the rub with the Grenadier. It’s incredible off-road and will fulfill pretty much any overlander’s wildest dreams. But there are odd bits that don’t quite make sense. The lack of cubby holes, the tiny trunk opening, the fact you need a winch to get into the thing and a cushion to land on when you get out, the oddly ineffective wipers, strange steering, and other such small details rather get in the way. Those are all things that legacy manufacturer would have got right straight away, and they do begin to irk the more you use the car.
Then there’s the D Word. This isn’t technically one, but you get the impression that this new machine is what the Defender could have become. Land Rover could have built a car like this in the mid-aughts to evolve its darling, but it didn’t. This feels like the car that should have come somewhere down the line. It’s not perfect, but for what Ineos wants it to do it’s bang on. If you want your hands warmed, touch screens, and grab handles there’s a car out there for you, if you want to breeze up hills and aren’t bothered where to put your wallet… Ineos has your back.
Too big, too expensive, sounds like Sir Jim shoulda just bought himself a Jimny.
This is cool I guess. I love that is has the clinometers. Not as cool as the Tercel 4wd SR5, but then, nothing is…perhaps I’m biased. No unreliable carburator? Pass.
Also, Up until this article, I knew Ineos Grenadiers as a formidable cycling program that has athletes in road and mountain XC disciplines. Here’s a little background on Ineos and Sir Jim from the team site- https://www.ineosgrenadiers.com/sponsors/ineos
It’s not a pretender! It’s not a pretender! It’s not a pretender!
Like many people I took the piss when they announced this, and like many people it seems like I was wrong to. Looks like it could be quite good.
For many years, since renting a 79 Series Land Cruiser for a 2-week overland holiday in Namibia, I’ve hankered after a 78 Series wagon as the platform for a rudimentary but tough camper for exploring southern Africa. Lots of YouTubers (notably South-Africa-to-Australia-immigrant Andrew St Pierre White) can show you how.
I wouldn’t touch a Grenadier in Europe, where fuel tax, vehicle tax and running costs would render it insanely expensive. But I would think seriously about one in southern Africa. Toyota still undoubtedly has the edge, because anyone in any town on the continent can help you find spares or repair one. But I would look twice at the Ineos for sure.
Looks pretty good, it has a BMW engine though. I hate the new “Defender”, it’s sad what they did to it.
wonder if they would supply an NOS M57 D30 TU2 Diesel installed instead?