In 2015, the motoring world was mourning the loss of one of its greatest icons. That summer, the order book closed on Land Rover's boxy, bug-eyed brute, the Defender, marking the end of a seven-decade-long production run. While many were busy drying their eyes, Ineos boss and all-round business brain Sir Jim Ratcliffe was busy hatching a plan.
His idea would eventually become the Ineos Grenadier, a new, utilitarian off-roader inspired by the original Defender and designed to continue Land Rover's legacy. From the outside, it's easy to see where the Grenadier's designer, Toby Ecuyer, got his inspiration from. Although the car's shape very deliberately pays homage to the Defender, there are also elements of the Mercedes G-Wagen in there, too. Both are two of Ratcliffe's favourite cars, and the billionaire places great emphasis on design, off-road ability and reliability.
Every surface of the Grenadier is informed by function. The wings at the front are flat so you can place a cup of tea or tools on them, meanwhile the optional rail that runs down the side of the car allows for fixings to be bolted on in a hurry. On the inside, the switches are reassuringly chunky – big enough to prod and twist, even with wet hands or when you're wearing gloves. At the back, its 30:70 split rear door opens up to reveal a big boot, with the two-seat station wagon large enough to swallow a Euro pallet, if that's your thing. With the off-road switches mounted in an aviation-inspired panel on the roof, the Grenadier's cockpit is the ultimate antidote to the tech- and screen-heavy interiors of so many cars today.
As the exterior suggests, the driving and seating position is much like the car that inspired its creation, only Ineos has ironed out the old Defender kinks. Little things, such as a ledge to rest your arm on the door while driving, seats with more support and a sensible approach to the layout of controls, are all welcome. There's even a cute – and quieter – horn marked 'Toot' to warn cyclists of your presence. (Let's not forget, Ineos also owns Sky's legendary Tour de France cycling franchise, which is also confusingly named the Grenadiers.)
Only the slightly obscure mounting of the speedometer in the central screen is an acquired taste. Then again, when you're blazing a trail through the ruts and tufts of the South African bush, knowing your speed isn't a huge priority. Powered by a BMW-derived 3.0-litre straight-six engine – either petrol or diesel – the Grenadier relies on a tried-and-tested engine, firmly ticking that reliability box. The diesel kicks out 246bhp and 550Nm maximum torque, and the petrol produces 282bhp and 450Nm. That's more than enough to get you out of a tight spot when the going gets rough – and not too bad on the open road, either. It's certainly no Range Rover on the road, but nor is it pretending to be – it's unashamedly a utility vehicle, so Ineos is happy for you to knock the S off the SUV acronym on this occasion.
Prices for the Grenadier now start at £64,500, a jump of almost £9,500 on the £55,000 asking price when it first arrived last year. When viewed against its main competitor, the new Land Rover Defender, the Grenadier is a fair way off the Defender's £55,265 starting price. Still, it’s a great deal cheaper than the far more luxurious Mercedes G-Wagen (£131,335), so consider it a bargain in comparison.
Price aside, the Grenadier is an admirable first effort for a company with no automotive background. In an industry littered with failed start-ups, Ineos Automotive bucks the trend as one of very few new carmakers to crop up in the last 10 years and survive.
Of course, much of that is down to its founder's deep pockets, but it's also down to his vision and sheer determination to ensure that a rough-and-ready off-roader remained on the market.
Though all other carmakers shifted up into manufacturing luxury SUVs, Ineos is busy bringing a proper workhorse back to the streets, fields and trails. With plans for more models beyond the Grenadier, and Ratcliffe poised to expand his sporting empire even further, the once-unknown petrochemical giant looks set to further cement the Ineos brand as a household name.
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