Loch Lomond, Scotland — We didn’t witness its invention, but we can venture a guess that tools like the ax were invented very early in human history. Sharp edges, brute force, blammo. While the Land Rover may predate the pioneering military jeep like an axe, it’s also a simple tool designed for one purpose: off-road mastering. Fast-forward a lifetime or so, and you’ll meet us right where we stand today when we open the driver’s door of the Ineos Grenadier.
It’s hard not to mention the Land Rover Defender when describing the Ineos Grenadier, but the new machine is certainly not a replica of the old one. If you were asked to draw a boxy off-road utility vehicle, you’d likely draw something along the same straight line shape, but you’d probably think of any number of classic Jeeps, Randy’s, Mercedes- Mercedes Benz or Toyota design.
Ineos was founded in 1992 by Sir Jim Ratcliffe and is today the world’s fourth largest chemical company. Ineos Automotive was formed in 2017 to build a proper off-roader in the same mold as the late Land Rover Defender (the original model, not the reborn model).
With its permanent four-wheel-drive system, three available locking differentials, a two-speed transfer case, solid front and rear axles, and a hulking engine, the Grenadier not only looks like those legendary off-roaders, it also Close-roads are like them too. More traditional drills include full ladder frames and old-fashioned recirculating ball steering boxes. But it’s also not accurate to dismiss the Ineos Grenadier as merely an anachronism that doesn’t belong on today’s roads. Ineos sources its engines from BMW – U.S. models will only be sold with the B58 gasoline-fueled 3.0-liter inline-six producing around 283(ish) horsepower and 330(ish) pound-feet of torque – and the eight-speed automatic comes from ZF , Tremec transfer case, Carraro axles, Eaton differential lock, Eibach progressive springs and Brembo brakes. All of this creates a rugged platform that’s a modern interpretation of a time-honored durable component.
Off-road, the Ineos Grenadier can traverse almost any terrain four-wheels can. On a majestic expedition through the rugged Scottish countryside, we turned its stubby front end on all the usual suspects: boulder-strewn mountains, deeply rutted and muddy summits, small waterways, frozen lakes beach. The process of locking the differential and entering off-road mode is overly complicated, but once it’s done, the Grenadier’s capabilities are as expected and certainly rival any other off-road icon in the world, including Jeeps and Land Rover.
The Grenadier has 10.4 inches of ground clearance, a 35.5-degree approach angle and a 36.1-degree departure angle. The breakout is listed at 28.2 degrees, and Ineos says the Grenadier can lean up to 45 degrees on its side. A five-link suspension setup and front and rear solid axles provide 9 degrees of articulation at the front and 12 degrees at the rear for a total wheel travel of 23 inches. Those numbers are significantly better than the Mercedes G 550. Compared with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, the Grenadier has worse approach and departure angles and about a half-inch less ground clearance, but it corners better.
The engine’s torque curve is flattened, with its peak delivered between 1,750 and 4,000 rpm. The low 2.5:1 ratio works out to a crawl ratio of 53.81, or a very manageable 1.26 mph. On the other side of the hill, downhill assist automatically keeps the Grenadier at a set speed as low as 2 mph, selectable with the cruise control button.
The Grenadier is larger than the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited in every exterior dimension, but its 115.0-inch wheelbase is 3.4 inches shorter than the Jeep’s, and its high seating position and flat fenders make it easy to place its 265/70R17 or optional The 255/70R18 front tire is where you want it. Two tires are offered: the custom Bridgestone Dueler A/T offers a good street/mud compromise, while the BFGoodrich K02s would be the more natural choice given their reputation among overlanders.
Globally, the Grenadier is offered with three trim levels, all of which use the same powertrain. There’s a base model that comes standard with a center locking differential, an off-road-specific Trailmaster that gets all the extra off-road kit standard (including the snorkel intake), and a more premium Fieldmaster model that has standard leather Heated seats gray or black. We’re not sure yet what will be standard or optional for the US market, but we expect the Belstaff brand to remain the same (Ineos owns the famous British outfitter).
As much as we love driving in muck, the reality is that almost all Grenadier tires get more miles on tarmac. Fortunately, this off-roader is also very good at driving on the road. The old-fashioned recirculating ball steering ratio is slow, 3.85 turns lock-to-lock, and it is naturally not easy to return to the center at low speeds. The steering gets more precise and gains some feel as speeds go up, and the chassis is fun and communicative, so driving at high speeds on twisty roads isn’t a chore.
Aside from the lack of low-speed steering feel and considering the Grenadier’s mission statement, we don’t have much to complain about. The suspension is compliant and the engine makes a reasonable grunt. While claiming a couple ticks over 8 seconds from 0-60 isn’t going to win you many drag races — especially lined up with a similarly boxy SUV with the letter G on it — it’s actually pretty good for the rugged Fast enough for a ute. We don’t have an EPA fuel mileage rating, but we expect 20 mpg in mixed driving.
Grenadier’s interior furnishings are a compromise between practicality, functionality and understated luxury. Cloth seats and rubber floor surfaces from Recaro are standard, but leather and carpet are optional. The interior is surprisingly quiet, with engine, road and wind noise low enough for easy conversation. Much of the Grenadier’s improvement is due to BMW’s inherently smooth inline-six engine and ZF’s unflappable automatic transmission. Drivers of right-hand drive Grenadier models have the unfortunate floor intrusion problem where their left foot will naturally land on the floor, but left-hand drive models shipped to the US do not suffer from this problem.
There is no instrument panel directly in front of the driver, only some warning lights and indicator lights. Instead, almost all information is displayed on the centrally located 12.3-inch screen. The speedometer and all other readouts are well placed on the screen, although we’d always like to have the actual dial directly in front of the driver. The infotainment system features a bespoke interface designed by Ineos, with various screens and settings that can be accessed or scrolled through via the touch panel itself or the iDrive-style rotary controller. The real dials and buttons below the screen for climate and audio controls are a welcome sight, and the layout and size mean they’re very easy to navigate.
Continuing to move up to the roof, you’ll find another large control panel with all the off-road specific switches and switchgear. It’s complex at first glance, and the mix of button presses and switching processes is needlessly cumbersome, but a few off-road trips should make them second nature.
Off-road issues quickly became apparent when testing the Grenadier. Instead of installing a separate sensor inside the axle to confirm that it’s locked, engineers decided to use the already existing wheel speed sensors to detect it. That means the car’s electronic brain doesn’t know you’ve unlocked the differential until it detects wheel spin. Usually it’s no big deal, but some off-road settings can only be accessed with the differential locked or unlocked, which sometimes leads to a game of throttling back and forth in mud and rocks for the system to acknowledge its status. We hope a software update can fix some of these early issues.
We especially like the Grenadier’s optional Safari windows above the driver and passenger seats. While not as vented as the Wrangler’s or Bronco’s fully removable tops, a simple latch system opens the hatches, and a further press pushes them all the way out. We wish there were more vintage-looking skylights on the sides, but Ineos opted instead to have various mounting points on the roof. The rear cargo area is accessed via a pair of swinging doors, with smaller 1/3-wide doors optionally holding steps to the roof. Another unusual feature is the optional accessory strip along the car’s waistline, which can be fitted with various aftermarket accessories such as extra fuel tanks and flip tables.
We expect a large number of potential customers for this vehicle, as long as it is priced reasonably. We’ll have to wait a few more months before Ineos is ready to reveal pricing for the US market and its availability plans, so unfortunately we’ll have to reserve final judgment on the subject. But we’re very interested in a vehicle built by researchers at Ineos (with generous support from Magna-Steyr). From the rocky tops of Moab to the mud-buried wheel arches of the southern swamps, the Grenadier will look at home everywhere, with a few stops in Hollywood and Miami along the way.
The Ineos Grenadier is a retro bike designed to appeal to buyers tired of the complexities of modern off-road vehicles. You could say the Grenadier runs between the old Land Rover Defender and the new Land Rover Defender. It has the modern essentials required of a safe, reliable car in today’s world, while eschewing anything deemed unnecessary, including height-adjustable suspension, split sway bars or terrain management software. In other words, it’s a wooden-handled ax in a world full of shiny chainsaws. Sometimes, brute force is the way to go.