At one point behind the wheel of the Ineos Grenadier, the vehicle nosed down so far that the horizon appeared through the sunroof. Because it was the Scottish horizon, the Grenadier’s porthole-size sunroof framed some distant Loch like a painting. I wanted to hang it on my wall.
But because the Grenadier was, in that moment, ambling down a fifteen percent grade on snot-slick shale, I didn’t brave more than a glance before my heart jumped back into my throat.
We’ll get back to the countryside, but before we continue, some groundwork: What the heck is an Ineos Grenadier?
Picture in your mind’s eye something like the classic Land Rover Defender 110; it’s the one like a Fifties toaster on stilts, equipped with four doors, knobby tires, and an expansive rear hold. Now stir a bit of modern Mercedes Geländewagen into the mix, then sand the edges off. Add in a few modern flourishes: halo DRLs, Apple CarPlay, and a deeply civilized driving experience.
You’re left with the Ineos Grenadier, a new play on some very old ideas.
Those ideas were shaped by the usual suspects in the boxy off-roader segment: the Toyota Land Cruiser, the Mercedes G-Wagen, and of course, the Land Rover Defender. The Ineos Grenadier borrows heavily from those body-on-frame predecessors and their utilitarian chic, pushing body lines to the edge of its footprint, choosing right angles where modern design demands curves. As the Grenadier sits before you, it’s quite hard to tell what’s new and what’s old.
That anachronistic quality begs you to reiterate the question: What the heck is the Grenadier, really? It’s emphatically not a restomod, as an endless line of gussied-up old SUVs will have conditioned you to expect. Instead, the Ineos Grenadier was born from a clean sheet, designed by Brits, engineered by Germans, and currently built in an old Mercedes-Benz factory in France. (Ineos had made some big talk about starting production in Wales, to bring hundreds of jobs to the region, but plans took a sharp turn in late 2020.) Magna Steyr was brought on to consult in the Grenadier’s creation. Steyr, you may remember, build the current G-Wagen, once built the Grand Cherokee and even the Pinzgauer 4×4; they know production off-roaders.
Ineos itself, as I heard a few of the company’s employees echo, is the biggest company you’ve never heard of. Many subsidiaries fall under the Ineos umbrella, with its 26,000 employees, 194 job sites, and $65 billion in annual revenue. But mainly the company produces petrochemicals.
It just so happens that Ineos’s CEO, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, puts his company’s money where his interests lie, like cycling teams, sailing teams, the rumored purchase of Manchester United Football Club, and the execution of an off-roader that was dreamed up in a pub and loosely defined with a pen and a booze-soaked napkin. (Ineos is privately held, as you may have guessed. That means no public shareholders demanding Jim explain the huge Ineos logo on the back of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.)
So the Grenadier has traveled a long way, both metaphorically and literally, from those lines on that beer-stained napkin. Years of development and honing have led to this moment, when about a dozen near-production Grenadiers aimed up an impossible trail in the Scottish Highlands with a group of journalists and writers at the wheel. If there’s one landing a fledgling automaker must stick when building a vehicle that broadcasts supreme off-road capability, it’s this one.
From the driver’s seat, staring down a mountainside which gallops for miles down to that distant Loch, it’s clear Ineos has nailed the Grenadier’s off-road bona fides. In designing an off-roader from a clean sheet of paper, Ineos was smart not to overthink it. The Grenadier rides on a traditional boxed ladder frame; there’s a two-speed hi-lo transfer case between (optional) locking front and rear differentials; a set of proven 265-section B.F. Goodrich K02 tires writhe up the slick ground (these K02s are optional, but should be mandatory for any buyers); solid beam axles were developed by experts in the heavy-duty tractor segment; simple “steelie” wheels are available in 17- or 18-inch flavors.
Those simple ingredients offer the Grenadier a wealth of talent for navigating the rutted lines of this Scottish two-track, but software tuning has further sharpened that capability. A switchable “off-road” mode disables parking sensors, seatbelt reminders and the engine’s stop/start function,” allowing the driver to focus on the smooth application of torque required for ambling up a challenging off-road line.
An uphill assist function can hold the Grenadier in place, preventing the truck from rolling backward down steep terrain it’s just conquered, while a brilliant downhill assist function allows the driver to remove their feet from the gas and brakes and select a speed to crawl down steep and unsure terrain. The Grenadier uses wheel speed sensors to grab brakes and apply power with split-second precision. It’s a very simple concept (ubiquitous, even, with production off-roaders), but the calibration here is phenomenal.
The result of that veneer of tech laid over all that physical capability: You may be able to see the horizon out of the sunroof, but with the Grenadier’s downhill assist engaged, you never feel panicked. In the hands of a modestly talented off-road wheelman like myself, the Grenadier felt content to bounce along apocalyptic muddy country paths at 10 mph, unfazed. Or it’d play Billy goat up a steep wet gravel trail, the diffs locked and transfer case set to the low range, just happy and unfussed as could be. The Grenadier turns trails that’d make a hiker collapse into a non-event.
This performance was expected. Ineos insists the Grenadier was designed just for this brand of work and play—enabling Scottish estate owners to prowl their lands or off-road enthusiasts to probe hostile wilderness, or for U.N. aid workers to reach the remote corners of our planet. Of course, the marketing materials would say that, but the more you push the Grenadier’s limits and the closer you look around the vehicle, the louder that built-for-purpose line rings true.
The Grenadier’s suspension allows 10.4 inches of ground clearance with a 35.5-degree approach angle and a 36.1-degree departure angle. That means you can nose up the steep stuff without a care and that a Grenadier can wade through water up to 31.5 inches (a snorkel is optional, of course) before its driver considers the consequences of such idiocy. The Grenadier’s exterior is trimmed with utility belts at waist-level for attaching gas canisters, water jugs, lights, racks, storage, or whatever other trinkets the aftermarket will surely supply.
In one particularly considered trick, Ineos inverted the spare wheel attached to the back door of the rig so that the hollow portion of the wheel is facing outward, with the wheel spokes nearer to the door. A locking door covers the open side of the wheel, creating a small compartment inside the hollow of the wheel itself. There, an owner might store a pair of mucky boots instead of tossing them in the cab. Anyone who’s gone out clamming for a day will know why that’s necessary. It’s a small, heavenly detail. You see those everywhere on the Grenadier.
On our way back from the off-road trail, I wondered how the buying public might take to a vehicle that looks like a Defender or maybe a G-Wagen but is neither. The flashing lights and frantic waves of passing Defender drivers seemed a sufficient answer. Those drivers were enthused to see a conga line of purposeful-looking trucks up to their hips in dirt and grime. But maybe they looked a bit confused too. When we parked the dozen-odd, muddied Grenadiers in a parking lot for a tea and shortie break (God, I love the Scots), Land Rover drivers idled past the rigs like clockwork, slack-jawed. Then they rolled past again for another befuddled look.
Expect a lot of curious, enthusiastic stares if you buy a Grenadier.
It was hard to tell if classic Defender owners recognized the Grenadier as an evolved Defender or something completely different, but a parked Grenadier was always sure to strike up a conversation. At any rate, the smiles and waves of passing Defender owners told me that if you do buy a Grenadier, you’re inducted into the club as a card-carrying member.
The end of our day out in the Highlands brought an opportunity to sprint the Grenadiers back down Scotland’s narrow, dark highways to the warm respite of our hotel, and the promise of a peaty Islay dram or six. It was the first real opportunity to stretch the Grenadier’s legs, and the first opportunity to ask real questions of the truck as a road vehicle; as much as the off-road capability of trucks like these matters on paper, for most buyers, the Grenadier will spend 95 percent of its life gritting through drudgery on pavement.
Within mere corners, the Ineos showed its stuff.
If you’ve spent much time in lifted body-on-frames, you’ll understand the patience required to wrestle off-roaders through corners smoothly. Confident steering inputs are key. Here, the Grenadier uses recirculating-ball steering with hydraulic assist at 3.85 turns lock-to-lock. That steering, plus a relatively sophisticated suspension paired to the stick axles (in this case, progressive coil springs, anti-roll bars, and a five-link setup) means decently quick turn-in on corner entry and stable roadholding through Scotland’s brisk, tight backroads.
Navigating those corners at speed does take some skill, as mentioned. But if you’re willing to give the Grenadier the type of smooth inputs the steering and chassis ask for, the truck returns in kind. Into tight bends, you look all the way through the corner and make one smooth initial steering input. Wait a second for the body to set on all that suspension travel, but keep your hands steady in the process and don’t disrupt longitudinal stability with harsh brake or throttle inputs. By waiting out that half-second when the suspension is damping that body motion, you can point the Grenadier through any corner like you would a sport sedan.
You wouldn’t call the Ineos a Lotus Elan, but for a lifted dreadnaught of an SUV, it’s excellent. It’s a confident thing to corner, with none of the wallowing suspension motion that stilts some body-on-frame off-roaders (namely the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator). That should pay dividends when you’re running late for soccer practice or whipping up to interstate speeds through an on-ramp.
To that end, the components which lend themselves to cornering chops (well-tuned shocks and the right set of springs, along with road-friendly geometry from the suspension itself) offer superb ride quality. You don’t hear a single clunk from the frame or body when the Grenadier hits a pothole, and for ride comfort, the Grenadier will embarrass Japanese competitors like the Toyota Tacoma or 4Runner. Still, Ineos can’t match the sophistication of something with active suspension like the Ford Raptor or the magical Multimatic dampers on the Chevy ZR-2. But it’s comfortable enough in all situations that I never lacked for coddling.
The Grenadier’s powertrain follows suit, lending easygoing road manners and bolstering those off-road chops. In America, the Ineos will be powered by BMW’s turbocharged 3.0-liter B58 inline-six. The mill mates to the ubiquitous and excellent ZF 8-Speed. That pair are a favorite around Road & Track, providing glass-smooth power delivery and a flat torque curve to match. Ineos argues the powertrain has proved durable enough to serve as the Grenadier’s reliable beating heart and that the combo should be easily serviced nearly anywhere on earth.
The performance aftermarket has certainly upheld that first claim—the B58 is the darling of tuners the world over. That second part? I’m not so sure. I can’t imagine rolling up to many shops in Saharan Africa with the tools and know-how to address such a modern, complex engine. But if you’re anywhere near the first world, I imagine you’d be in good shape.
During a conversation with the Grenadier’s Lead Engineer about the selection of that engine, something else struck me. At 60 mph, the Grenadier’s cabin is quiet enough to carry on a conversation just above a whisper. The engineer explained that Ineos opted for an NVH-damping mat laid against the vehicle’s floor and roof, and the windshield itself is 5.5 mm thick, cutting wind and road noise. Surely that weight penalized the Grenadier’s efficiency, but most things that look old and roll on a ladder frame are hateful things to live with, loud as a gale at interstate speeds.
The Grenadier is not. Its cabin is a simple but civil place, with excellent Recaro seats and basic controls to operate everything else. There’s Apple CarPlay and its Android Auto cousin, sure, but that’s about as modern as the infotainment system—or the rest of the interior—gets. Toggles overhead activate your various accessories and drive modes. There’s a physical shifter for the eight-speed and a mechanical lever for the transfer case. Buttons and switches activate nearly every other feature.
A veneer of simplicity may coat the Grenadier, courtesy of its sparse cabin and old-school good looks, but Ineos earns the title of “production automobile.” Half-baked this truck is not. The Grenadier is a deeply joyous thing to live and play with, built to a quality of production and thought you simply won’t find in a restomod, lest you pay well into the six figures. Heavy hitters from Mercedes and Land Rover would beg for your Grenadier money, but Ineos offers a competitive, compelling solution for the legitimate weekend warriors, off-road junkies, and even city folk who want to broadcast a capability they never intend to use.
I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a Grenadier instead of the many alternatives, and I wouldn’t look longingly at those alternatives when I passed one on the road.
That said, fuel economy will certainly steer some buyers away from the Grenadier. At an estimated fuel efficiency around 19 mpg, according to their site, the BMW mill and its seamless ZF gearbox can’t overcome moving the Ineos’s boxy shape and all that weight through the air (a curb weight was not listed on their press material, but a note has been sent to Ineos PR). That’s no worse than my Toyota Tacoma, which over 25,000 miles has averaged 19 mpg, but with EV options abounding and gas prices soaring, it’s worth consideration.
Another American journalist insisted the Grenadier will tempt America’s yee-haw set—our rural gun and land owners with less access to EV infrastructure, people who are more likely to skate over loose gravel on the way to work and kick back with a cold one after a day of wheeling in their off-roader.
I disagree. Those buyers will stick with F-150s or Wranglers. To my mind, in America, the Grenadier will compete with luxury off-roaders like the G-Wagen and the modern Defender, or maybe the more expensive trims from Toyota, like the Tacoma and 4Runner TRD Pros, which regularly crest $60,000 after dealer markup.
The classic Defender shape, which the Grenadier apes, doesn’t broadcast blue-collar values the way it does in England. Defenders never prowled our wheat farms or our cattle ranches in America. Anything which is visually attached to that old Land Rover identity reads more like Landed Gentry than Farm Hand to the American buyer.
That’s probably just as well. Ineos hasn’t officially released pricing for the Grenadier, but expect it to start around $57,000 for a bare-bones truck and go up from there. Below $70,000, you should be able to piece together a very well-equipped truck with all the off-road doo-dads. The Ineos site offers a fair amount of customization too, as well as more complete information about the two available trims Americans will see at the vehicle’s launch.
Even with its many factory customization options, one Ineos engineer said their goal is to sell between 25–30k vehicles per year globally and that their factory is capable of satisfying the upper end of that demand in perpetuity.
Of further interest for American buyers: There’s a pickup version of the Grenadier coming around middle of 2024, which swaps out the rear cargo area for a bed. I expect that will open up Ineos to its biggest market in America: truck owners. (Boy howdy, I’d have a Grenadier pickup over the Jeep Gladiator seven days a week and twice on Sunday.) There’s also a BEV version of the Grenadier in the wings.
Ineos should find easy prey with Toyota 4Runner buyers looking for something more refined, every bit as capable, but simply different than what their flat-brimmed neighbors park in the driveway. Equally, the Grenadier offers the same curb appeal as a G-Wagen, if not the same cachet as a rig adorned with the three-pointed star. But Ineos undercuts the Merc’s sale price by hundreds of thousands once dealer markups are accounted for. Restomod shoppers or classic 4×4 enthusiasts should also be drawn in, those who want a production vehicle that mimics the simple, un-fussed joy of owning an old rig.
All that said, Ineos has not yet sorted a system of dealers or repair locations. Company officials anticipate partnering with local repair shops to service Grenadiers, but that plan’s still hazy. It may behoove curious buyers to wait out the first round of ordering while that infrastructure is established. But if you can’t wait, I’d still place a bet on the Grenadier’s reliability until that support network is finished.
At any rate, I can’t wait to see them on roads in the States. As of the time of writing, Grenadier production is ramping up to full speed at the French factory. We should see Grenadiers leaving the Continent for our far-flung shores by the end of the year. That’s when the Grenadier’s adventure really begins.