Ineos Grenadier – Review
By Liam Bird
Imagine you’ve made few quid; you are shall we say, financially secure. What you’d really like is a proper, old-school rufty-tufty off-roader, y’know the kind of thing you can put the dogs in, set off across the fields, get everything well and truly covered in mud, and then hose it all down, inside and out, afterwards. You want something that, whatever the weather, will go almost anywhere you point it. Yet if you choose to go out for dinner in it, it wouldn’t look out of place parked outside somewhere nice. What you’re hankering after is an old Land Rover Defender, but needless to say, you’d like more than just the promise of reliability. In fact, you’d like German reliability if you could get it.
Sir Jim Radcliffe, Britain’s richest man, owner of Ineos, the world’s third largest chemical company, tried, so the story goes, to buy the rights to manufacture the old (some might say last proper) Land Rover Defender when JLR decided it no longer could. JLR wouldn’t sell. Type approval helped kill off the old Defender too.
Undeterred and recognising an old Land Rover type sized gap in the market, Sir Jim set about building his own four-wheel drive go-anywhere workhorse; one that would utilise some of the best automotive components his money could buy. Well, what he actually did was spend £1.3 billion to set-up another company, Ineos Automotive, to make what eventually will become a whole range of them. Engines, both straight sixes, either a 283bhp petrol or a 248bhp diesel, were sourced from BMW; 8-speed gearboxes from ZF; fully e-coated ladder chassis from Gestamp in Germany. The beam axles are from the Italian specialist Carraro – they also supply to John Deere, the tractor people – and I’m pretty sure the indicator and wiper stalks came from whomever it is that supply Volvo.
The result of bolting all of those bits together and then cladding them in an unashamedly square cornered and boxy body is the Ineos Grenadier. A vehicle that on first impressions, looks, well, not at all unlike a last generation Land Rover Defender. There are hints of Mercedes G-Wagen about it too, and Toyota Land Cruiser. One supposes the 4×4 body shape blueprint was drawn-up long ago. The name Grenadier, incidentally, comes from the pub Sir Jim Radcliffe owns on Belgrave Square. Trialmaster and Fieldmaster, the names given to certain specifications of the Grenadier, come from Belstaff, the wax and leather jacket maker. If you haven’t already guessed, Radcliffe owns Belstaff too.
The original plan was to make the Grenadier in Bridgend, Wales. However, being the devoted (deluded?) Brexiteer, and Monaco tax exile, that he is, Radcliffe and Ineos Automotive later confirmed that production, which started in 2022, would take place in the former Mercedes Benz plant in Hambach, on the Franco-German border. Good to see the EU still has certain benefits, eh Jim?
Unbelievably, it’s taken me since 2022 to get the chance to actually drive a Grenadier, during which time a neighbour of mine has actually bought one! I did have a ride in an early(ish) prototype, and I was scheduled to drive one at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July. Alas, very strong winds put paid to that particular excursion, so much so in fact that Goodwood had to shut their gates for the day. Who’d have thought? A 4×4 drive scuppered by bad weather…
Finally though, my time would come, the Glan Usk Estate’s woodlands my destination. The question is, do good things come to those that wait?
Pull yourself up into the Grenadier’s heated Recaro driving seat and slam the door shut – it requires a hefty pull due to the double door-seal that aids waterproofing when wading – and the first thing that strikes you is the Grenadier feels every bit as purposeful as you’d hoped it might. Chunky switches for locking diffs you can operate with gloved hands and large levers for selecting low ratio and extra driven axles adorn not only the centre console, but also the roof-space above both driver and passenger; there’s a row of overhead auxiliary rocker switches, in anticipation of all the extra lights and winches owners are expected to fit. It all feels a bit like a military helicopter cockpit. Even the thick-rimmed steering wheel comes with an extra-large horn button.
“Not much feedback”
Turn the good old-fashioned ignition key and the BMW straight-six soon settles into idle. The gear selector is BMW-sourced too. Pull it back into drive, release the proper, leather wrapped lever-type handbrake (hoorah for that!) and you’re away, the recalibrated ZF box slipping through its 8 ratios as smoothly as ever.
Thanks to those squared-off corners, the elevated seating position, and Ineos’s decision to mount the (again BMW sourced) infotainment display amidships, atop the dash, your view ahead is all-but unhindered, thus you can place the Grenadier – a car of not inconsiderable size – with ease. The ride is firm, but never jarring, the progress swift enough for something the best-part of nearly 3-tonnes in weight. Surprisingly there’s little body-roll despite the mass and higher centre of gravity, and the Grenadier can be punted along with ease.
Although, the bug-bear for some will be the steering. Off road, where the Grenadier never seems phased by anything, the low ratio recirculating ball system means there is little if no kickback should you inadvertently hit something solid or drop unexpectedly into a gulley or ditch. The payoff however, is that on road there’s virtually no self-centring, and not much feedback either. Until you get used to it, you can find yourself sawing at the wheel, weaving up the road as you struggle to find the straight-ahead position. A 13.5M turning circle makes for massive amounts of wheel-twirling come manoeuvring time too. Granted, the Grenadier was never conceived to be a Sports SUV, nevertheless a slightly sharper reaction time surely wouldn’t have done any harm at all.
Then, there’s the driver’s side footwell. On the right-hand drive Grenadiers, in order to make space for the exhaust system, there is an intrusion in the floor right where you’d ideally like to put your left foot. The result is you drive the Grenadier with your right leg sticking out somewhere towards the A-pillar – the accelerator is set way over to the right – and your left leg curled-up underneath you, your knee nearly knocking the indicator stalk. It’s not quite as uncomfortable as it sounds – for a while at least. However, after a long-schlep somewhere I suspect you’d arrive with a left leg that fell asleep long before the rest of you wanted to. There used to something called Land Rover Back, will there now be a condition known as Ineos Limp, or perhaps, the Grenadier Gait?
Niggles aside, the Grenadier is the best thing I’ve driven off-road in ages; it will go anywhere without fuss. And unlike so many modern 4x4s, you don’t feel as if you’re abusing the family car when you choose to stray off the tarmac. It is definitely a working tool first though, a luxury SUV a very distant second – perhaps even third. The 3.5 tonne towing capacity helps makes the Grenadier a near perfect long distance lugger, if you could cope with sub 20s MPG.
And that brings us to the other costs. Specced-up with a few goodies and some chunky tyres, the Ineos Grenadier – originally muted as £50K car – is now nearer to being an £80,000+ purchase – that is serious outlay for something that simply isn’t as comfortable as many of its so-called contemporaries, and is still very much the new kid on the block.
Will the Grenadier prove to be as reliable as its maker claims it to be? Only time will tell. I know of an owner whose Grenadier has already suffered from firmware gremlins and has spent more than just a night or two back at the supplying dealers. I also wonder how many owners will actually take their Grenadiers any further off-road than the car park at the local gymkhana.
If I really needed one, and I had pockets deep enough, I could be tempted; one could argue that the Grenadier lacks any direct rival. One could also equally argue… this is not the best 4×4 by far; no, this is just a tribute.
I suspect that was the idea all along.
Ineos Grenadier Trialmaster
Engine: 2,993cc BMW B57 straight-six, common rail direct injection, turbo-diesel
Transmission: 8-Speed ZF automatic. Selectable high and low-range four wheel drive.
Power: 246 bhp @ 3,250 – 4,200 rpm
Torque: 406 lbft @ 1,250 – 3,000 rpm
0 – 62 MPH: 9.9 Sec
Max Speed: 99 mph
CO2: 286 – 317 g/km
MPG: 23.3 – 25.9 (combined)
Price: from £76,000