Although it may look familiar, the Grenadier is a brand new vehicle from a company that hasn’t built one before.
Precariously balanced on top a steep, rocky outcrop. Six miles of relentless vertical strikes have put the suspension to the test. Today’s tests are now at their zenith. The right-side wheel is suspended in midair with full rebound. The rear wheel, which is heavily loaded with its load, is tucked into its wheelhouse at an extremely unlikely camber angle.
The daunting off-road trail winds up the Schockl, just outside Graz in Austria, to an elevation of 1445m. Here is where the Ineos Grenadier undergoes its latest phase in durability testing. Two prototypes of the new British-designed offroader will be tested for durability over a five-week period.
A few years ago, I was one of the first to drive a series Grenadier prototypes on an off-road handling course. It was challenging, with all the obstacles. It was nothing to the intensity of the pounding I just experienced. There were no doubts that Ineos, a multi-national corporation, could produce a world-class offroader. This display has taken us from the vast valley below to the dangerous 52deg incline where we are now, without any slip-ups.
After inspecting the scene, i climb back into my car, select low range and engage the three differential locks before setting off again. Nearing the summit, the Schockl’s most difficult section is approaching. The narrow trail crosses treacherous weather-worn granite. The extreme conditions do not seem to be an obstacle to the Grenadier. It continues to make low-rev progress like it was just going to the shops. Magna Steyr engineers plan to drive around 1200 miles in the coming weeks as part of a 1.1 million-mile endurance test program to be completed on the model by mid-2022.
Autocar readers may recall that the traditional-looking, but still modern off-roader was created by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos CEO, and a group members one evening at The Grenadier pub near Ineos headquarters in Knightsbridge.
It was designed to replace the original Land Rover Defender when production ended in 2016. Now it is at a crucial stage of development. Ineos has less than three months before they plan to accept deposits to get UK sales underway next March.
Ineos has appointed Magna Steyr from Austria to oversee the initial prototype builds as well as ongoing development.
Ineos, at the same time is busy preparing the former Smart car plant in Hambach, France which it bought from Mercedes-Benz in 2019 for Grenadier production. The company plans to produce 30,000 annual volumes by the end of the decade.
Dirk Heilmann, Ineos Automotive boss, says that the goal is to create a robust four-wheel drive. His car will have a payload up to 1000kg, a trailer towing capacity of 3500kg with brakes, and a roof load rating of 150kg. He adds: “We set out in order to deliver high levels of utility. We haven’t lost sight.”
From the beginning, two versions of the Grenadier are available: a five-seat stationwagon shown here in prototype form and a two seat commercial vehicle. Both will use a standard 2921mm wheelbase. Ineos will soon launch a double-cab pick up truck and a seven seat station wagon. Both use a longer (3175) wheelbase.
As well as private buyers seeking a traditional go-anywhere-and-do-anything off-roader, Ineos expects its first model to find its niche among tradespeople and farmers, along with companies and government organisations that do their business on the land. Heilmann claims that market research Ineos conducted before Grenadier development began in earnest showed that there is now a gap between the Jeep Wrangler (and the G-Class) in the 4×4 market.
When you first meet the Grenadier, it’s difficult not to remember the Defender. The two have many design similarities, including the flat headlights, separate front fenders, flat windscreen and clamshell bonnets, button-style door handles, exposed hinges, and a barn-door-style tailgate.
While some will see the new off-roader’s familiar look as an improvement on the Land Rover design, others may not be so complimentary. It looks tough and includes many functional features. Buyers will have the option to add ‘utilityrails’ to their bodyside protection.
The prototypes are equipped with six-stud wheels and 265/70-profile Bridgestone Dueler T off-road tires.
However, the Grenadier’s purpose isn’t solely utilitarian. LED lights and other modern features give the Grenadier a modern look. One prototype we tested even featured rear parking sensors.
You will notice other modern features such as the most recent sealing technology if you look closer. Heilmann says that this vehicle category has not always been the best in this discipline. “Water, gas, and dust tightness are areas that we have put a lot of effort into getting right.”
Ineos commissioned the design of the ladder-frame chassis that forms the basis of this car. It is manufactured in Bielefeld by Gestamp, the same company that designed the Volkswagen Amarok pick up. The chassis is combined with two very sturdy beam axles from Carraro. Although it isn’t the most advanced, it still harkens back to the original Defender layout. However, it serves a purpose by providing exceptional ground clearance and can be mated with several modern systems including Bosch power steering.
The Grenadier’s inner structure is made of steel, while the body panels (including the roof and doors) are made from aluminum. The engine’s power comes from two turbocharged BMW 3.0-litre six-cylinder engines. These engines were selected for their ability deliver the kind of relaxed performance, strong torque and smooth performance that Ineos considered crucial to provide the Grenadier both with class-leading offroad performance as well enough refinement to allow it to be used daily on the roads.
Heilmann says that there were many options when we first started, including four-cylinder and six cylinder. “But, we quickly realized that the BMW inline six-cylinder petrol or diesel engines were the best match, both from a financial and packaging perspective.”
Both engines have been tuned specifically for the new two-and-a-half-tonne-plus off-roader. The petrol engine produces 283bhp, 332lbft of torque and the diesel delivers 250bhp. Heilmann claims that the diesel could be able to produce an additional 37 lb ft when the Grenadier enters production.
Through a ZF standard eight-speed torque-converter automated gearbox and Tremec’s low-range transfer case, drive is permanently sent to each wheel.
The Grenadier is clearly visible when you climb into it. To enter the Grenadier, it takes more than a simple step. It is a great place to drive, with a wide seat and a ledge that allows for you to rest your elbow on the trim. This is a marked improvement over the Defender’s original Defender, which had its driver’s door constantly intruding on the driver.
Although the dashboard is not fashionable in its depth, it is very functional and stylish. The driver’s seat is also high so you have good visibility. The bonnet and front corners can be seen in front. However, the mirrors are large enough that you can see to the rear.
We have been bound to secrecy about certain elements so we cannot tell you anything more except that the cabin will surprise many. Although it is very traditional in design and spacious up front, Ineos has added some unique touches to the controls and instruments that will be most appealing to the customers it targets.
We are immediately impressed by the BMW petrol engine’s apparent power and the smooth action of the automatic transmission when we get going. Although the Grenadier weighs in at 2600 kg and 2700kg, Heilmann estimates that it is heavy. However, there are enough reserves to provide the vehicle with sufficient in-gear and step-off qualities for high-range driving.
It is also quite refined. Although it may not be as luxurious as a luxury car, apart from a distant transfer-case whine in our prototype, the mechanical properties of this vehicle are far superior to the Defenders I drove ten years ago.
While the windscreen is great for visibility, the large side mirrors and upright windscreen can cause wind buffeting at high speeds. This is why the production Grenadier will only be able to travel 100 mph, apart from the decisions made about the gearing.
You wouldn’t expect much from the Grenadier in terms of handling finesse, given its high ground clearance and rigid beam axles. The Grenadier has a lot of body roll when turning due to its soft spring rates, masses of travel and high levels of roll. However, the roll rate is very progressive, building with the steering input so that you are always aware of how much you can push into corners.
We did not receive the most recent steering software on the prototypes we drove. They are currently operating at a slow 3.5 turns lock-to-lock, which gives them a less-than-precise feeling at higher speeds. The steering wheel is not self-centred. The 13.5-metre turning circle can also hinder manoeuvrability at lower speeds. Heilmann says, “We’re working to it.” Heilmann says that there are solutions that could be implemented to make it more efficient in this regard.
Even with its large roll, the Grenadier can still be coaxed into a lot of speed in corners. But with all that weight, it isn’t hard for the off-road-biased tires to lose their grip. Although the car is very traditional in many ways, its relaxed driving style is a big part of its appeal. It doesn’t like being rushed and prefers to drive slowly. It will be at its best when it is cruising along.
Ineos will provide us with a lot of important off-road-relevant statistics in the next months. Approach, departure, breakover angles etc. but the Grenadier’s superiority over the Schockl’s technical sections is proof that it was the right decision to use a traditional body on frame design.
Modern monocoques cannot offer the same level of axle articulation and spring travel as this modern-day monocoque. It is capable of doing things that modern off-roaders can only dream about. It feels beautifully engineered with a almost Teutonic feeling to its rigidity and weighting of various functions including the boot and door closures.
It will be a while before we see the Grenadier in its final production form. The signs look good right now. It doesn’t change the rules of automobile driving, but it didn’t intend to.
It is refreshingly authentic in its offerings, and has the kind of driving characteristics that will appeal to a small group of people long ignored by traditional car manufacturers. It’s a charming car with a lot of charm on the road. We’ve found it almost unbeatable off-road, so there are few excuses for traditional construction.
Ineos Grenadier petrol prototype specifications
Price: PS40,000 (estimated). Engine 6 cyls, turbocharged petrol Power 283bhp Torque 232lb ft Transmission 6-speed automatic plus 2-speed transmission Kerb weight 2650kg (estimated). Dimensions 4927(L x 1930(W x 2033(H). Towing capacity 3500kg Ground clearance 257.1mm. Approach angle 35.9deg