At last, Land Rover’s nemesis, the Ineos Grenadier, has been launched as a 4×4 dream mostly fulfilled
Not for the first time has a multi-millionaire wanted to get into the new carmaking business, highlights Iain Robertson, even though the pitfalls are numerous and finances can be stretched to snapping point but, when passions run high and getting what you want is all-consuming, accepting ‘No’ for an answer is just not on.
In the mid-1970s, Lotus Cars was enjoying the fruits of its labours, with mid-engined Europa, the rear-wheel drive ultra-agile Elan and the grander Elan +2S supporting its Formula One aspirations. However, it needed new retail products and ridding itself of the much adored and close-coupled two-seater Seven was a plan concocted between Graeme Nearn, of a Surrey-based Lotus dealership, and Colin Chapman of Lotus Cars. The latter was keen to see the Seven continue in production but not at his cost. A deal was struck and Nearn obtained all tools necessary to produce Sevens and set up a small factory unit. Caterham Cars, as was formed, continues to break sales records in consecutive years, has spawned several copycat operations and protects the legal rights of the Seven with vigour.
A not dissimilar operation was proposed by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, founder of petrochemical firm, Ineos, when it was announced that Land Rover would cease production of the original rugged Defender range, albeit without any published plans for its replacement models. The options were available; to take over the Solihull production plant, or to establish new premises for a continuation series. The market was excited, even though Land Rover was being suspiciously quiet about the potential. Despite several failed attempts to get JLR to listen to commonsense, the final refusal of cooperation took its time to arrive and an inevitable blue funk was cast over Ineos. Like the woman scorned, Jim’s angry reaction led to a takeover of the southern German Hambach factory belonging to Daimler-Benz, where smart cars and Merc assemblies were produced, after forging a hardware supply arrangement with former Land Rover owner, BMW. The resultant Grenadier line-up, named innocuously after Jim’s local in North London, would be a mongrel by any definition but not without purpose.
Subsequent Defender models have highlighted that high cost in now inherent to the LR breed and, as subjectively good looking, or Tonka Toy-ish, as they may be, they are also seriously expensive, which can be a bit of a bind to British farmers no longer receiving EU funds. For Ineos to be able to launch its Grenadier range from a more modest £49,000 is much to its credit, especially when you reflect on its complete start-up status. Being long-awaited is going to lead to a long waiting list, which is sure to be music to Jim’s ears. Yet, it is the overall visual familiarity with the former Defender that will stand in Grenadier’s stead. Mind you, park each of the models alongside and the similarities are a country mile apart.
All 4x4s provide their manufacturers with brand expansion opportunities, by introducing well-known specialist suppliers to the mix. In Ineos’ case, BMW, Recaro and Tremec are among them, each a practical working partner to help with the speedy development of a new manufacturer and a five years, unlimited mileage warranty underscores that confidence. BMW supplies much of the running gear, from the choice of 3.0-litre in-line six petrol, or bi-turbo diesel engine alternatives that develop a healthy 286bhp and 332lbs ft of torque, or 246bhp and 406lbs ft respectively. Bang up to date and mated to a smooth and quick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission, they ensure that whether in high, or low Tremec transfer box ranges, progress is silken and matched judiciously to terrain demands. Additional traction issues are managed by a central locking differential, with the option to also lock out both front or rear differentials electronically, when the going gets really sticky.
The Grenadier is designed to be a capable off-road workhorse and a wheel at each corner ensures shorter overhangs front and rear, while a ladder-frame chassis offers excellent ground clearance and the high-mounted engine air intake offers much-needed confidence when wading through water.
Ground clearance: 264mm
Wading depth: 800mm
Approach angle: 35.5˚
Breakover angle: 28.2˚
Departure angle: 36.1˚
Towing capacity: 3.5t
Box-section ladder frame chassis
Underpinning the Grenadier is a full box-section ladder frame chassis. Simple, strong and stable, it is designed to withstand daily punishment in all conditions. Its steel section is up to 3.5mm thick for outstanding rigidity and stiffness. Maximum protection against corrosion comes from a full E-coat treatment, internal cavity wax application and an exterior powder coat. Paying testament to the brand’s confidence in its durability, the ladder-frame is backed by Ineos Automotive’s class-leading 12-year, anti-perforation warranty.
While cabin comfort is essential, so is control comfort and, from an industry that is moving increasingly towards electronic, touchscreen-activated switchgear, it will be pleasing to find large manual switches that can even be operated wearing gloves. The touchscreen is present but as a platform for other aspects of in car information. There are protective safeguards and shrouds to ensure that certain controls are not operated inadvertently but everything is well labelled and works with satisfying refinement befitting of a £50k estate car. The Recaro seats are eight-way manually adjustable and there is bags of space to obtain a comfortable and uncompromised driving, or lounging position. Thanks to a simplified model range, the seats can be clad in durable cloth/vinyl trim, or full leather, so there is a choice.
While there may have been touch and go moments en route to Grenadier’s launch, do not feel sympathy for Sir Jim Ratcliffe, as Ineos is still a £61bn turnover group and that its funding options are secure. As a newcomer to the serious 4×4 fold, the Grenadier’s credentials have been earned during its extensive gestation period and scarcely a stone will have been left unturned to ensure that it more than lives up to expectations. Fortunately, it does not have many rivals, it drives as well on-road as it does off-road and is priced fairly keenly.