Five years ago, the automotive world was introduced to a concept that promised to redefine the off-road vehicle segment: the Ineos Grenadier. Conceived by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a passionate advocate for the rugged, utilitarian off-roaders of yesteryear (aka Land Rover Defender), the Grenadier was designed to bring back the essence of true off-road functionality — a trait he thought was often overshadowed by the focus on style and technology in modern 4X4s.
In contrast to its contemporaries, which tend to favour aesthetics over utility, the Grenadier stands as a bold affirmation of Sir Jim’s vision: a vehicle where practicality, durability, and off-road capability are not just features, but the core philosophy. A vehicle that hopes to encourage owners to start working on their cars again. And a vehicle that wishes to spark fanbases and active participatory communities.
So, with stock finally arriving on Australian soil, I had the unique opportunity to put this philosophy to the test. Invited to Woodend, Victoria, I was given the chance to experience the Grenadier first-hand, both on and off-road, to see if its capabilities match its militant looks and utilitarian promises. This hands-on experience wasn’t just a usual test drive; it was a chance to see if the debutant, engineered with such precision and care, lives up to the high expectations of the segment, whilst seeing if it was good enough to cement Ineos as an automotive manufacturer.
Upon first glance, the Ineos Grenadier wears its heart on its sleeve with its exterior. It’s a blend of old-school charm and modern ruggedness, designed to stand out in a world where off-road vehicles often look a little, well, plastic. The Grenadier’s design is a not so subtle nod to the classic off-roaders, with a boxy silhouette that prioritises functionality over sleekness. This utilitarian approach is not just for looks; it speaks volumes about the vehicle’s off-road capabilities and durability.
The build quality of the Grenadier is immediately apparent. The chassis, made with a clear focus on strength, suggests a vehicle that is hard to break. Ineos has collaborated with Magna to develop a combination of E-coating, powder coating, and hot wax dip, ensuring long-term resilience against rust and deterioration guaranteed for 12 years.
Attention to detail is evident in features like reinforced bumpers, a sturdy grille, and protective skid plates, all functional details that happen to look good as a by-product. Likewise, including practical elements such as tow hooks, a snorkel for wading through water, and heavy-duty off-road tires reinforces the Grenadier’s purpose as a vehicle designed for the toughest conditions.
When it comes to wheels, the Grenadier offers a variety of options, but the practicality and aesthetics of the steel wheels make the most sense to me. They are strong, durable, and align with the vehicle’s utilitarian purpose.
In addition to its tough build, the Grenadier is equipped with modern features like LED lighting, which, unlike many modern lighting inclusions on older-styled vehicles, looks cohesive from all angles. The inclusion of a practical rear ladder provides some adventure-ready swag to the design language, while also providing easy access to roof-mounted gear and rooftop tents. Rounding off the explorer aesthetic, are the safari windows above the driver and passenger seat, offering an expansive view and just overall cool factor.
In terms of colours, there’s a plethora of solid and metallic options, including a contrast roof if you’re that way inclined, and Ineos will even customise the ladder frame if need be.
Step inside the Grenadier, and you’re greeted with a space that’s all about striking the right balance between rugged adventure-readiness and everyday comfort.
The cabin feels roomy, with plenty of headroom in every seat, adding to the sense of spaciousness. The standard Recaro seats offer the perfect mix of support and comfort, which is important if you’re bouncing around rock hopping or crossing continents. You can get the seats trimmed in both cloth or leather, but the cloth has a more practical look and feel that suits the overall package more agreeably.
Utility is the key theme here, evidenced by the heavy-duty flooring with convenient drain valves – a practical feature that suggests this interior can handle all the mud, dust, and spills you throw at it. And when the day’s work or adventure is done, you can simply hose it down, with no fuss.
Now, about that switchgear. It’s chunky, clearly labelled, and generously spaced – a thoughtful design allowing easy use (even with gloves on), and while it’s all very practical, it also happens to look brilliant as well. Above you, there’s an aviation-inspired control panel with the same beefy controls, supplying a stylish yet straightforward array of essential off-road controls within easy reach but out of the way, which is particularly handy on rough terrain.
But it’s not all Bear Grylls in this bat cave. The infotainment system is a cohesive nod to contemporary needs. It’s straightforward with a 12.3-inch touchscreen and rotary controller, ensuring that you’re connected, whether finding your way off-road with the Pathfinder Navigation or streaming music.
The integration of tech like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto means you use your favourite maps and music platforms without worrying about the often lacklustre in-built navigation systems that car brands insist on developing. Despite being a modern, digital display, because of the clever use of colour and consistent typography and graphics, the system blends in seamlessly with all of the analogue controls with aplomb.
For those who need their Grenadier to be a gear-hauler, the interior doesn’t disappoint. The 60/40 rear seats fold down, opening up a vast 2,000 litre space in the back – enough to fit anything from camping gear to even a Euro pallet. Obviously, you’ve got anchor points galore for tie-downs and cages and an auxiliary battery and electronics in the highest and driest place possible: under the rear passenger seat.
Amidst all this rugged charm, the only part that looks out of place is the BMW shifter. It looks a bit like a piece of city sophistication in a cabin that’s otherwise all about embracing the wild. It’s a curious contrast – one that probably falls into the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” category, but it would be worth a change in future vehicles.
Now, for the fun stuff.
The folks at Ineos could have just let me loose on a generic off-road course, knowing it would do the job at hand, but instead, they encouraged me to push this meticulously engineered vehicle in every scenario. I was well aware that the Grenadier had been tested and refined in some of the harshest conditions imaginable, but this was the finished product, and a lot was riding on its reliability
Cruising through the state forest, you first notice how capable the powerplant and drivetrain are. The first car I drove was powered by the robust BMW B57 6-cylinder straight diesel engine bolted to its partner in crime: the ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox. While this pairing is tried and tested in many BMWs, I was surprised at how comfortable it seemed to be under the hood of the adventurer.
The diesel engine’s impressive numbers, including 550 Nm available from a low 1250 rpm, provide the Grenadier with the strength required for challenging off-road conditions. This high torque, especially at lower revs, was noticeably excellent when navigating rough terrain, offering the low-end grunt needed for crawling over obstacles and powering up steep inclines.
Complementing the diesel donk was the infamous ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox. Renowned for its smooth operation and reliability on the road, the ZF didn’t skip a beat. Whether loading up on technical descents or accelerating through slaloms, the box responds precisely, and intuitively in every situation. Of course, when the going got tough, Grenadier’s two-speed transfer case, engineered by TREMEC and equipped with an external oil cooler, danced harmoniously with the ZF in every test. Power delivery was consistent and reliable, regardless of the terrain.
When the trail started to fade, and the rock size increased, the vehicles chassis started to shine. With short overhangs at both the front and rear and an impressive ground clearance, approach and departure angles were almost an afterthought. You’d basically point the Grenadier where you wanted to go, knowing full well it would get you there without breaking a sweat.
Driving through mud and water, the Grenadier showcases its fortitude. The solid beam axles, engineered and built by Carraro, provide exceptional wheel articulation and traction. The axle design maintains grip regardless of surface, and ensures power is being sent to the right places. Approaching water? No problem. Just make sure the deepest point is under 800mm, engage wading mode (turns off the radiator fan and parking sensors), and then the Grenadier cruises through like Moses.
When transitioning the Ineos Grenadier from its natural off-road habitat to the pavement, it presents a different character, one that balances its rugged capabilities with the demands of on-road driving. It’s a vehicle that, while primarily designed for the rough and tumble of off-road adventures, still manages to hold its own on regular roads, albeit with some expected compromises.
One of the first things you notice is the steering. It feels a bit disconnected, a characteristic that can be attributed to the Grenadier’s use of a proper steering box, a design choice favouring off-road practicality over on-road tactility. While this may detract slightly from the driving experience on tarmac, especially for those accustomed to the highly responsive steering of modern SUVs, it’s a trade-off that aligns with the vehicle’s off-road-oriented engineering.
On the road, the petrol engine variant of the BMW 3 litre shows its merits, feeling noticeably sprightlier compared to its diesel counterpart. While down on torque (450Nm), the petrol version produces 286Kw which is enough to perform an admiral 0-100km/h time of 8.8 seconds. This added responsiveness and agility are favourable in everyday driving scenarios, like city commuting or highway cruising, where the diesel’s low-end torque is less of a factor.
Surprisingly, the Bilstein suspension and Eibach springs do an admirable job at minimising body roll on the road, a notable achievement considering the vehicle’s off-road tuning. This setup ensures that the Grenadier remains relatively composed and stable on the road, even when dealing with corners or sudden manoeuvres. The balance struck here between off-road readiness and on-road composure is commendable.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that the Grenadier’s exceptional off-road performance does lead to some compromises when driving on regular roads. The vehicle’s design and build are unequivocally geared towards off-road environments, and this focus naturally impacts its on-road behavior. But considering the Grenadier’s prowess in off-road conditions, these on-road compromises can be seen as a sacrifice worth making for those who prioritise off-road capability.
The Ineos Grenadier stands as a remarkable achievement in the realm of off-road vehicles, striking a masterful balance between the analog and digital worlds. It presents itself as a vehicle that remains wonderfully analog in its driving experience and user interaction where it counts, particularly in off-road scenarios. Yet, it cleverly incorporates digital elements when necessary, like its intuitive infotainment system and advanced driver aids, ensuring you get the best of both worlds in a harmonious way.
The collaborations that Ineos has forged with specialist brands have been nothing short of a stroke of genius. Each partnership, from the engine supplied by BMW to the suspension components from Bilstein and Eibach, contributes to an engineering tour de force. These collaborations have culminated in a vehicle that doesn’t just meet the expectations set for a rugged off-roader but exceeds them in many respects.
In filling the void left in the market for a genuine, uncompromising off-road vehicle, the Grenadier does more than just occupy a niche; it dominates it. It’s a vehicle that has been eagerly anticipated and, upon arrival, does not disappoint. The Grenadier is not just a response to the market’s demand but a bold statement of what an off-road vehicle can and should be. For a new model, it deserves a round of applause, but for a new brand entirely, it deserves a standing ovation. The Grenadier is the off-road vehicle we’ve been waiting for, and for that, I can only tip my hat to Sir Jim and the very talented people who were involved in the project. Prices start at $109,000 plus on-road costs.
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