Ineos Grenadier: First Official Images, Details of New Defender-Homage Off-Roader
And yes, it will be offered for sale in the U.S.
Ineos Grenadier: The Origins
When Land Rover ended production of the original Defender in 2016, more than two million of the rough-and-rugged utility vehicles had been sold, the majority of which continue to exist on roads today. Add to that the millions of Jeeps and other off-road ready vehicles sold through the decades, plus the recent resto-mod trend of restoring classic SUVs with modern mechanicals and you have to ask yourself: Does the world really need another go-anywhere, do-anything utility vehicle? Yes, it does, says Jim Ratcliffe, an English former chemical engineer who went on to found the U.K.-based petrochemical giant Ineos, becoming a business executive reported to be worth some $15 billion in the process.
Ratcliffe, no stranger to the charms of the original Land Rover Defender in his far-flung travels to locales such as Africa and Iceland, was so dismayed that production of the iconic off-roader was ending that he offered to buy the tooling from Jaguar Land Rover and build the darn thing himself. After being rebuffed by JLR, Ratcliffe did the next best thing. He assembled a team of designers and engineers to create something of a tribute to the Defender, an all-new vehicle called the Ineos Grenadier. The model name comes from The Grenadier, a posh London pub where Ratcliffe first envisioned the vehicle he's hoping to have in customers' hands in 2021.
Ineos Grenadier: Form over Function
The Ineos Grenadier is designed as a no-nonsense, get-it-done utility vehicle with a rugged steel ladder frame and beam axle suspension front and rear, just like the Defender which its design unapologetically apes. That boxy, upright profile, the twin circular headlights and front grille with vertical bars all scream "Defender!" loudly enough that JLR's legal team tried to block the design from reaching production. That argument failed in an English court, and now the exterior design is finished, locked in, and has finally been shared with the world after months of leaked images of camouflaged development mules.
Despite the similarity in appearance, designer Toby Ecuyer says that the Grenadier's various chassis and body parts share virtually no interchangeability with the Land Rover icon and, true enough, Ecuyer has added some nifty features. For example, no roof rack is needed to carry loads atop the Grenadier; standard integrated roof bars and load pads are secure enough to hold just about anything you can hoist up there. Asymmetrical rear doors, one larger and one smaller, allow quick access to items in the cargo area, while also giving a large enough aperture to load a pallet inside.
"The Grenadier is built on purpose," says Ecuyer, "Function over form. If it hasn't got a function, it shouldn't be part of the form." Ecuyer, who designed luxury yachts before embarking on the Grenadier project, studied the stark purposefulness of various off-road vehicles as inspiration when drafting his initial sketches. "You could stand back from a distance and see how they were built," Ecuyer says, "how the structure was built, how the doors fitted on."
Ineos Grenadier: Rugged Body with BMW Power
The Grenadier is said to be built as tough as it looks. The front fenders are strong enough to sit on, while a utility rail runs around the cabin's perimeter to hang various accessories and knick-knacks from—or to lash gear to. Wiring for auxiliary lights and the like is pre-installed, with access points at the front and rear of the roof. The interior design is not yet finalized, but we're told switchgear will be largely BMW parts-bin pieces, some modified specially for use in the Grenadier.
Moreover, Ineos supports a sort of "open source" design style with the Grenadier, meaning that while the automaker itself will offer accessories specifically made for its off-roader, it will also share vital specs with third parties to design their own lines of add-ons.
Ineos' Grenadier gets its power from BMW's 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six, mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. No manual gearbox will be offered, at least initially, with Ineos deciding that most of its prospective customers will fare better with an automatic. A mechanical center differential is standard with locking functionality optional, while the axles are produced by a European tractor supplier for durability. Despite the premium powertrain, Ineos says the Grenadier won't have a very premium price. Land Rover's new Defender will start around $50,000 when it arrives in showrooms shortly, but the Grenadier is hoped to cost closer to the Jeep Wrangler's roughly $30,000 base price when it arrives in 2021. Production will be near Ford's soon-to-be-shuttered Bridgend engine plant in Wales.
Ineos Grenadier: Production and Future Plans
Ineos is intent on selling the Grenadier globally at volume of 25,000 per year, meaning that yes, if and when the final production vehicle arrives to market, there should be an option to buy one in the United States. Ineos is still exploring strategies for its sales and maintenance network, which will likely mirror Tesla's direct-to-consumer model in those U.S. states that allow it. Ineos is looking at many possible target buyers for the Grenadier, including enthusiast end users, fleet sales as off-road rentals, and even farm work vehicles. While the Grenadier will launch in four-door SUV form, the company acknowledges that other variants—such as a four-door pickup truck version—will likely follow. Ineos points, in part, to a rising upscale four-door truck market in Europe as justification.
While the Ineos Grenadier is intended as a rugged, no-frills SUV, company reps do suggest that in the spirit of the original Land Rover Defender, the Grenadier is expected to be able to be used as a regular around-town vehicle, and will be comfortable and indulgent enough for that purpose. Magna Steyr has partnered with Ineos for assistance in vehicle development, and soon the Ineos team will begin putting some 1.1 million development miles on the Grenadier over the next 12 months. Without any low-volume exemptions for crash testing, the Grenadier will also have to pass safety standards before coming to market; that's part of what spelled the original Defender's demise.
But still, we're faced with the ultimate question: Does the world need yet another go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle? Ineos is betting it does with its near-$1 billion venture to bring the Grenadier to market. Either way, we're looking forward to seeing the Grenadier in its final production form.