Keeping It Real

The INEOS Grenadier takes up where Land Rover's Defender left off

Recent years have seen no-nonsense, uncompromising off-roaders come under threat. Land Rover has repositioned itself as a luxury marque in an agrarian mould, with the Mercedes G-Wagon going in a similar direction.

Toyota’s Land Cruiser seems to straddle the luxury and utilitarian worlds, and falls short on both. The new Suzuki Jimny was an outlier before emissions legislation saw it unceremoniously culled from the UK automotive market.

However, it was the death of the ever-present Defender in 2016 that thrust this trend into the spotlight. Its replacement was far more refined and technologically advanced, but bore little resemblance to the old car’s simplicity and functionality.

The Defender’s demise led to a conversation in a London pub between Jim Ratcliffe, owner of British petro-chemical giant INEOS, and his friends. At that point, the apparent extinction of the unapologetic off-roader sparked the idea for Ratcliffe to create his own.

“Jim simply thought: ‘What am I going to do now?’” says Gary Pearson, INEOS’ head of marketing. The Grenadier was the result, named after the very pub where the idea was consummated.

“He has driven Defenders and similar vehicles extensively in Africa, and he’s been to both Poles. He knows exactly what he’s talking about, and he has driven the Grenadier at every stage of its development. He is customer and test driver number one.”

Ratcliffe’s passion for adventure characterises the entire project. Firstly, there’s the design of the Grenadier itself, which forgoes the complexities of air suspension, touchscreens and the kind of complicated electronics that would be difficult to repair in the wilderness. Instead, there’s a steel ladder chassis, Magna-sourced beam axles, three mechanical locking differentials and a choice of BMW-sourced six-cylinder engines.

Form is defined by function on the exterior and cabin, too. The vents surrounding the rear window may look like frivolous styling touches, but they exist only to let dust escape the interior. The spare wheel has a lockable compartment inside, in which to stow muddy boots, while the cabin switchgear is modular and can be replaced with the twist of a screwdriver. Other controls are placed on the interior headlining to be easily accessible while negotiating harsh terrain.

“It’s a business born from a billionaire enthusiast, and I think that makes such a difference,” Gary explains. “A large manufacturer usually cannot specify a ladder chassis as a platform for multiple cars, yet that is the advantage niche manufacturers such as INEOS have. Smaller, specialist vehicles are now the domain of smaller, specialist companies.”

The INEOS Grenadier is slated for release in July 2022, and the fledgling marque’s honest approach is already paying dividends: “We can’t talk about specific numbers, but we’ve had a healthy amount of reservations,” Gary smiles.