Global reveal: Ineos Grenadier to take on Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Land Cruiser
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If you take deep love for the previous-generation Land Rover Defender and swirl it around in some premium British beer, this is the result: the Ineos Grenadier, revealed globally for the first time today.
It’s a new automotive brand and a new vehicle, but the backstory is already pretty well-known. James Ratcliffe, billionaire founder of petrochemicals company Ineos, is a keen traveller/explorer and a big fan of the classic Land Rover Defender.
The Ineos-approved urban legend goes that Ratcliffe was mourning the demise of the old-school Defender and others of its ilk with colleagues at a London pub one afternoon, and the seeds of a plan to create a modern successor were sown.
Land Rover has its own Defender successor of course - an all-new model that has moved towards much more contemporary design and technology, although the company would argue it's no less capable off-road.
Read more: Giving the new Defender the beans in Namibia
But Ratcliffe thought a much more purist approach, in the spirit of the old Defender, would appeal to a certain demographic.
Following some very sober (one would hope) analysis of the global market potential, the decision was made to go ahead and in late-2017 work started in earnest on an all-new vehicle focused primarily on off-road ability and durability.
Grenadier is still 18 months away from production in the UK, but Ineos has signed off the styling and decided to reveal it at this very early stage.
That’s partly to help establish a completely unknown brand, but also to enable the company to embark on 1.8 million kilometres of durability testing “in plain sight” around the world without the complication of disguises. In fact, the more people that see it the better.
In an online media conference, Ineos naturally played up the pub origin story (including “back of the beermat” design charts) and further acknowledged the role of Defender in the whole project.
But it’s also a tad touchy about what many would characterise as obvious styling similarities to the defunct OG Defender.
“Early on we defined the engineering and chassis,” says Dirk Heilmann, chief executive of Ineos Automotive. “So we simply looked for easy-to-read [styling] forms that everybody understands.
“You need straight lines to put things on – coffee mugs and laptops. These are practical elements that simply carry on from what others have done in the past. You ask of a vehicle certain questions and quite quickly you cross the same bridges and paths.
“Looking at solutions for Land Cruiser and Land Rover… you go through that history, you end up in a similar position and find similar results.
“It’s a boxy 4x4 and so you’ll also see cues from Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. You can move things around… but you end up in the same place.”
The body is steel, the “hang on” parts like doors are aluminium for light weight. The flat surfaces and multiple mounting points are designed to create an “open source” environment for accessory makers.
Ineos emphasises that the Grenadier follows a “function before form” design ethos, but also acknowledges that it has to look good to sell. And while it says off-road ability is first and foremost, that need not rule out modernity and comfort.
“Yes, we’re building a utility vehicle,” says Ineos commercial director Mark Tennant. “But who says it can’t be comfortable? We’re not confined by some hair-shirted, spartan view of the world. You’ve got to have good seats and connectivity.”
That modernity goes for the powertrain as well. While the Grenadier rides on a ladder chassis with basic beam axles front and rear, under the bonnet there will be current-generation BMW 3.0-litre turbo-diesel and turbo-petrol engines, driving though an eight-speed gearbox.
BMW came on board as technical partner early in the project. Ineos acknowledges that the engines are very sophisticated, but they will be tuned for low-end torque and durability.
“This is the most efficient engine pack you can have these days,” says Tennant. “They are proven to be reliable and durable… these are quite low-maintenance engines. When it comes to remote markets, we will provide service wherever we sell it.”
Some of the electronic architecture is also BMW-sourced, but not all. Don’t expect interior elements such as iDrive from the German maker, for example.
Ineos is even adding its own low-range transfer case to the BMW powertrain. Expect three locking differentials and some form of off-road electronic traction control – “But we won’t get carried away with that,” says Tennant.
Ineos says EV and hybrid technology doesn’t quite cut it for a hard-core off-roader yet, especially with the ramifications for payload. But alternative power is a possibility for the future.
Interestingly, Ineos has funding from the UK government to research hydrogen fuel cell power – because hydrogen is one byproduct of the company’s petrochemical processes.
Ineos is also a principal sponsor of the Team UK America’s Cup campaign – although plans to undertake final Grenadier testing in Australasia to coincide with the on-water action next year are on hold now, thanks to Covid-19.
Grenadier will launch in Europe first, but says that global markets will “quickly follow”. The company seems particularly clued into this part of the world, referencing the broad popularity of work vehicles such as double-cab utes (note the proposed ute version of Grenadier above) and the high regard held for models like the Toyota Land Cruiser.
That also gives the best indication of potential pricing.
“We won’t be competing with double-cab utes on price,” says Tennant. “But we’re not going to be up there with [the Mercedes-Benz] G-Wagen either, which has disappeared into the stratosphere in our opinion. This is a working tool.
At this stage we'd be picking a price just over $100k (the 'Cruiser 200-series starts at $113k). But launch is a long way off yet. It'll appear in Europe late-2021; expect to see it in NZ early-2022.
And what's a "grenadier"? It was the name for a highly specialised field soldier in the 17th century. But more importantly, it's the name of a pub in London.