Is this the most anticipated 4×4 of the decade?
It’s tough to say, but given the clever marketing, transparent development, and enthusiast focus that stands in contrast to some other new 4x4s, the Ineos Grenadier is definitely up there.
It’s a standout showcase vehicle that has eyes open wide and plenty of interest from Aussie enthusiasts ahead of its launch late next year – plenty of whom have put down deposits.
The Grenadier’s story is not so different to that of Tesla in some ways: a non-carmaker looking at a gap in the market and attempting to build something focussed on the end user, albeit without the EV focus.
There are creative similarities, parallels in the challenges faced and a whopping amount of dollars spent in a ground-up development of much of the vehicle – whilst in this case still utilising external manufacturers for trusted things like driveline and powerplant.
The project is the brainchild of Jim Ratcliffe, the British billionaire engineer and chairman of multinational chemical giant Ineos. The official story says Ratcliffe had a brainwave in London’s Grenadier pub in 2017, bemoaning Land Rover’s decision to kill the old Defender.
From an early point, the Ineos Grenadier project has kept a smartly planned open book regarding development, informing enthusiasts of progress highlights along the way and key choices for things such as mechanical components and design.
As fans followed the development, word spread of the new creation and the Grenadier gained a considerable worldwide following. That’s reflected in the ‘2B’ prototypes being driven across the globe, including the one you see here in Australia.
Furthermore, and critically for Aussies, Ineos recognises the global importance of the Australian market from both a validating and sales perspective. There’s enthusiastic uptake and interest locally and to be frank, if the Grenadier doesn’t work here, it won’t work anywhere!
But as always, we are interested in how well this Land Rover reincarnation actually performs and whether it is more ‘Defenderish’ in nature or actually has its own personality. For now we’re reliant on a ride-along, and a chat with the company’s local team.
This machine is built for off-road and despite its classic and classy looks, this is where it really starts to shine.
Being a passenger and a driver are two different things and it was disappointing not to be able to drive the Grenadier, but our chance will come and we can still compliment Ineos on bringing such a well-presented prototype out for local testing.
So from a passenger’s perspective here are my thoughts on its off-road performance.
Some journos may simply report that we were taken for a flog around a paddock but it was quite the contrary. A series of specific tracks, obstacles and types of terrain had been carefully selected to highlight the basic capabilities of the Grenadier.
Deliberately, the first section of track was straight up the side of a paddock with a series of rough step ups, bumps and holes. At a crawl these would have been a little lacklustre but we hit these at a reasonable speed and hard enough to have two of the occupants (we had three journalists and a driver onboard) asking what tyre pressures we were at.
Anyone who has done enough off-roading will know how important tyre pressures are and what role they play in being the first line of suspension.
In this case we hit the nail on the head: the tyres were set at 30PSI and the Grenadier was sailing over the terrain with comfort so impressive it started to raise questions on the spring set up, which I guessed correctly as a progressive rate coil.
Normally something we see as an aftermarket upgrade, the Grenadier boasts quite a decent suspension package from factory and it works well off the beaten path.
Next up was stability with a series of runs laterally across the side of a medium grade hill. Again the Grenadier handled the off-camber lean with ease, kept a sure footing and moved effortlessly onto the next section.
Across a 20 minute drive we hit rocks, varying slopes, wet grass, mud, tight tree sections and a hill top with an impressive view of the surrounding farmlands. Under all conditions the vehicle felt comfortable, capable and well within its stride. Least to say we were suitably impressed.
Without driving the vehicle ourselves we can’t comment so much on power, braking and steering, but as far as interior layout, comfort, appeal and overall driving experience, it is clear that this newcomer is in fact far from just a makeover of the old Land Rover.
This is a serious contender for all 4×4 users and a real head turner for even the typical ‘blinkers on’ Toyota fanboys, when they come to understand what the Grenadier can really do and how it does it.
Well we don’t know as they wouldn’t show us!
We suspect that the prototype we experienced had an engine bay that was far from fit for prying eyes. Not that there was anything secret or untoward, it is simply highly likely a case of not being aesthetically or visually suited to show as it is still a prototype model.
But what we can tell you is that it’s a BMW diesel engine.
Apparently it’s a 3.0-litre straight-six backed by the legendary ZF 8-speed automatic. The auto-only offering is a clear indicator that Ineos is aiming to maximise the driver’s experience and keep their hands and minds focused intently on the terrain and control of the vehicle.
There may be die-hards who argue for the feel and application of a manual but in real world off-roading, an auto is superior. In the single case where it is inferior (engine braking) a ‘torque converter lock up’ switch can quickly solve that problem – and leave no doubt that an auto can do everything a manual can off-road, and plenty more.
We are seeing more and more 4x4s these days being fitted with the ZF 8-speed and for good reason; I’m not a fan of the continually-hunting 10-speeds (like the Ford Ranger Raptor) whereas an 8-speed provides a perfect balance in having enough gears to get the job done smoothly without overdoing it.
Ineos has also said that a BMW straight-six petrol option will be available as required, but we can’t see that being so necessary here in Australia with the prevalence and preference for diesel among off-road enthusiasts.
The transfer case is also well suited to off-roading. It offers all-wheel drive (AWD) for safer on- and off-road duties, is complete with a centre diff lock, and provides a proper low-range for harder and more technical 4×4 demands.
Signing off on the holy trinity of off-road readiness (diesel donk, true 4×4 transfer case with low range and…) the Grenadier boasts Carraro axles with electronically activated locking differentials. Carraro is an Italian axle and differential manufacturer with a history in tough agricultural axles dating back to 1930.
From what we saw and experienced it is a formidable package that will provide reliability, strength and performance, and replacing the factory fitted all-terrains with mud tyres would make full use of the live axle coil suspension, locking differentials and smooth powertrain.
Who wouldn’t want one?
Modifying a 4×4 is a critical part of not only building a vehicle that suits your needs but also individualising your ride with personal touches.
It’s an important part of the 4×4 lifestyle and in many ways, it takes what is already a good base platform and turns it into a tuned performance machine that’s ready for all the challenges of remote area work and play.
Ineos has pulled out all stops in this area and again shown a unique and practical approach to being mindful of the needs of the end user.
Ineos has already been working closely with numerous 4×4 aftermarket manufacturers to ensure that data, drawings and vehicles are available to guarantee that aftermarket accessories are available almost as soon as the Grenadier launches to market.
Whilst the base product is clearly built with real 4×4 end users in mind, accessories are important and provide a substantial amount of consumer confidence in the original purchase.
Ineos says it will supply a range of accessories that will complement what will be on offer from the aftermarket industry.
So there should be a solid offering and good quality choices across dedicated accessories such as bar work, long range tanks, roof racks, suspension, snorkels and more, as soon as the vehicle is launched. Another smart idea and well-orchestrated plan.
Out of the box, the Ineos Grenadier will be one of the better set up off-roaders. Ready to hit the dirt and travel remotely, it’s a substantially solid package before you even start to consider amplifying that with a myriad of aftermarket goodies.
With a rumoured price tag of around $85k, the Grenadier is set to really stir the pot. In a way it’s the Defender that some Land Rover fans always wanted.
It also promises to offer the sort of refinement and performance that Toyota enthusiasts have been missing out on in the utilitarian space, whilst coming to market with the off-road performance of the likes of a Jeep Wrangler.
It’s almost a shame that it is so likened to (and associated with) the Defender, as the Grenadier is really prepared to stand on it’s own!
It rises from that heritage as a modern well-appointed vehicle that has been designed and built with off-roaders in mind, and from what we have seen it lives up to that promise.
When you truly get your head around what this vehicle is and what it can do, the question is not ‘who would want one?’ but rather ‘who wouldn’t?’.
And with a dual-cab utility version on the way, it is going to be a case of first-in, first-served as production numbers are going to be strictly limited at first.
Click the images for the full gallery
Want to know more about the Ineos Grenadier? Check out our recent coverage below:
MORE: 2022 Ineos Grenadier arrives in Australia
MORE: How’s the Ineos Grenadier 4×4’s development tracking?
MORE: Ineos Grenadier prototype hits Australian bushland
MORE: Yes, the Ineos Grenadier ute will come to Australia