Unashamedly utilitarian, the Ineos Grenadier is a big, conspicuous, four-wheel drive that is designed for off-road duties first – and on road second. We’ve driven the five-seat passenger version and the two-seat commercial variant, and can safely say that the first vehicle produced by Ineos Automotive is a remarkable machine. The Grenadier has excellent ingredients with its petrol and diesel engines and auto gearboxes sourced from BMW, among an impressive array of proven components from respected suppliers that all mix together to deliver an incredibly capable off road vehicle that is as rugged as anything!
If you don’t know the back story, it’s fascinating. The Land Rover Defender-esque 4X4 was conceived and subsequently named after a pub called the Grenadier by UK billionaire Jim Ratcliffe and some friends in 2017. Ratcliffe, with zero car making experience, went out and bought the former Smart car manufacturing plant in France and this is where the Grenadier is made. Ratcliffe had a triangle of markers with the Grenadier; it had to be reliable, excellent in its off road ability and look good too. A seemingly odd choice of ‘designer’ was Toby Ecuyer – simply because he had no automotive design background – I’m spotting a trend here. Ratcliffe said he wanted design to follow form and function: “I want a car that will never break down”.
The commercial and passenger models share the same body with slight panel differences and of course rear seats removed in the commercial. A double cab pick up called the Quartermaster and a station wagon are also offered. The Grenadier nods to Defenders of old and there are hints of classic Soviet and US four wheel drives. There is even a hint of G-Wagon thrown in for good measure. In pure off roading terms the Ineos Grenadier makes a Land Rover Defender look average – and that’s saying something as the Defender is awesome off road. The body is rugged with plenty of tracks, lashing and mounting points for additional equipment. You can have external power sockets too. There are towing eyelets and all sorts of impressive off road under bits that are designed to last – a Grenadier is the opposite of a Chelsea Tractor – in fact it has more in common with serious tractors in terms of its capability off road.
Inside the cabin, once you have mastered the act of hopping in – it’s a climb – top tip – get the running bars/side step – essential. The cabin is comfortable and functional. Instead of drivers dial mounted behind the steering wheel you get a panel that houses warning lights. All other info displays come via a centre mounted touch screen. Now as you know the car world has gone digital screen mad – no so the Grenadier. In the cabin you will find chunky switches and controls that even find their way on to the ceiling – much like a plane or helicopter. The buttons and toggles are all designed to be operated by a gloved hand if necessary and there is a host of auxiliary switches pre wired for additional kit like emergency light, electric winches – you name it, the Grenadier is ready for it. The floor features drain valves so when its gets filthy you can simply hose out the interior.
On the road the Grenadiers weak point is its vague ‘steering box’ steering that requires lots of input just to keep the vehicle travelling in a straight line. You will find yourself making lots of little adjustments, which do become intuitive after a few days, just to keep the Grenadier from staying out of its lane. Off road the steering is geared for better performance, so we’ll cut it some slack. Our test cars rode on off road tyres which are far from precise on road on any vehicle. Simplicity was an important factor and a Grenadier has only a fraction of the electronics that keep most four wheel drives running.
Our commercial Grenadier test car featured the famed BMW straight-six twin-turbo 3-litre diesel married to a 8-speed auto from ZF. The Grenadier is built on a box-sectioned chassis with coil spring suspension and beam axles. Skid plates are standard fit. Permanent four-wheel drive features a high and low transfer case gearbox. The rear doors feature a 30/70 split with the smaller door opening first. The spare tyre can come equipped with lockable storage in its cover. There are optional packs available but as it is early days their availability is being rolled out slowly. Behind the wheel you really feel confident that you are in a very capable machine.
Is it car park and pottering about town friendly? Not really – neither were old Defenders but the new model Defender is utterly at home on or off road. The Grenadier is not a car for the school run. Ratcliffe says the firm is looking at a smaller version of the Grenadier that is electric.It is an exciting time for Ineos automotive and for a first effort the Grenadier has to be applauded.