When the Ineos Grenadier was first announced it was easy to be cynical about the project.
There were lots of early ambitious pronouncements about this spiritual successor to the Land Rover Defender with little hard evidence to back them up, and there was a whiff of rich man’s plaything about the whole endeavour.
However, as we move towards a planned launch date of mid-2022, the hard evidence is mounting that this is a serious project with serious people involved.
Ineos Grenadier interior
In fairness, some of the hard evidence is still a little flimsy. The interior model is just that - a model. Lots of the switches and trim are 3D printed concepts rather than working controls but they give an idea of how the car will look and the philosophy behind its design.
Everything is clearly geared towards simplicity, usability and durability - from the drain holes in the floor to the hose-down seat fabrics. The switches are grouped in blocks of related functions, whether that’s the ventilation controls or the off-road settings. Everything is chunky and clear - so you can use them while wearing gloves or bouncing over a field - and every element is modular. That means if something goes wrong you can pull out that control or bank of controls and quickly replace individual parts rather than an entire centre console.
It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing arrangement you’ll see, and the sleek BMW gear selector looks a little out of place, but it should make operation a doddle.
The modular philosophy extends to the exterior where five-part bumpers should make it easier and cheaper to replace one damaged part, as well as allowing for the quick insertion of accessories such as a winch.
That exterior is where the Grenadier’s debt to the Land Rover Defender is most obvious. Chunky bumpers aside, the boxy silhouette is very familiar. Ineos insists “form follows function” but the look is a clear effort to appeal to Defender fans.
To enhance practicality, the Grenadier features utility rails on which to hang equipment, roof rails, tie-down points, a two-piece side-hinged rear door and robust underbody protection, along with 18-inch steel wheels wearing substantial BF Goodrich tyres.
Looking the part is one thing but Ineos insists the Grenadier has been engineered to match the off-road prowess of its famous inspiration.
A ladder frame chassis and beam axles underpins the whole arrangement - an old-fashioned but proven construction when it comes to off-road. Permanent all-wheel-drive is a given, delivered via an eight-speed ZF gearbox fitted with a bespoke low-range transfer box and three locking differentials. Power comes from 3.0-litre straight-six petrol or diesel engines sourced from BMW, tuned to offer the low-down torque needed for serious mud-plugging.
As part of its latest promotional tour, we were granted a short passenger run as the Grenadier was put through its off-road paces. The course wasn’t massively arduous but took in some rough tracks, rutted fields and some tougher forest sections with rocks, roots and steep descents to contend with. It was all the sort of terrain you’d expect any decent 4x4 to handle easily and the Grenadier was no different.
The rough-and-ready prototype, complete with big red buttons and lots of warning labels breezed through the woodland of the Roxburghe Estate without difficulty, impressing us hugely with the way the suspension soaked up rough terrain and the mechanical four-wheel-drive ate up climbs and descents without a million electronic systems.
Ineos is still testing and refining the Grenadier’s off-road performance to make sure it can meet its brief but the latest indications are promising.
Ineos Grenadier price, specification and launch date
Ineos is targeting buyers interested in a practical, durable workhorse, whether that’s for use on a farm, urban building site or in the deserts of Africa where it’s currently being assessed by the Halo Trust.
The Grenadier will be offered in five-seat station wagon and Euro-pallet-compatible two-seat commercial variants. A seven-seat station wagon and pick-up are also in the works.
Online reservations open to the general public on 14 October, with sales due to start in July 2022.
Full specifications are still to be finalised but the line-up is expected to be kept fairly basic, with a choice of a lifestyle or technical trim package on top of a standard specification level.
The Inoes Grenadier will start from around £48,000 for the two-seat commercial, with a premium of around £6,000 for the passenger version. That puts it some way above the pick-up trucks it has to contend with but Ineos bosses believe the Grenadier offers enough above these rivals to win customers over.
The brand expects to eventually sell around 6,000 cars a year and plans to have 23 sales sites operational by mid-2022. Many of these will be existing 4x4 specialists but Inoes is also working with agricultural vehicle sellers to target rural markets.
Servicing will be handled by retail partners and Bosch Car Service sites, with an aim that no customer is more than 30 miles from an Ineos-accredited workshop.
There is still a long way to go before the first cars roll off the production line but after plenty of talk, the latest signs are that the Grenadier project is heading in the right direction.