BUSINESS

Ratcliffe’s off-roader driven: We test a prototype Ineos Grenadier


The advice to potential customers when they eventually get their own chance to take the new ‘back to basics’ Ineos Grenadier off-roader for a test drive will be simple but instructive: ‘Come back muddy’.

Well there was every chance of that when we became one of the first online publications in the world to take the rugged new 4X4 for a test drive across a rural off-road course that resembled the First World War battle fields of the Somme after a particularly ferocious pummelling by artillery.

It was an exciting prospect as the new Grenadier – which is set to start from £48,000 – is one of the most talked about recreational vehicles for years. Thought not without controversy… 

Ratcliffe’s off-roader driven: During a recent visit to the Ineos Automotive factory in Hambach on the French-German border, Ray Massey took to the wheel of a pre-production prototype 4X4 to find out how it will perform away from tarmac

Grenadier is the brainchild of canny British billionaire petro-chemical tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe who, upset that Land Rover was ending production of the original rufty-tufty Defender model (which harks back to the original Land Rover of 1948), decided to fill the vacuum for himself. 

Despite launching its own all-new and award winning 21st century Defender, the noses of Land Rover bosses have been put severely out of joint by the Grenadier, prompting a string of legal actions alleging – but failing to prove – infringement of the shape of their original 4X4.

Ineos themselves are adamant that, while the Grenadier may be ‘inspired’ by the Defender and even prove to be its spiritual successor, it’s also equally inspired by the classic all-American Jeep and the hulking Mercedes-Benz G-Class, often known as the G-Wagon. 

All four protagonists share a generic boxy 4X4 shape, driven as much by what the car does, as by artificial styling cues. Like its rivals, Grenadier is a utilitarian vehicle for people who work hard and play hard.

Conceived in 2017 over a pint in a pub in London’s smart Belgravia of the same name, Ratcliffe had the financial clout to create a top team to design and engineer it, buy a factory to build it, and turn his dream into a reality.

And, after a visit to the impressive Hambach factory to see first-hand how it is built, we were invited to a muddy rural landscape in the Alsace region of France, just a short hop from the nearby German border, ready to see if the reality lived up to the British off-road icon. 

The vehicle we drove was a pre-production test model. But Ineos were keen to show how things were progressing ahead of full-production beginning in July and first customer deliveries in September. 

It’s a tight timescale and you can sense the nervous tension as we haul ourselves into the driver’s seat…

The vehicle we drove was a pre-production test model. But Ineos were keen to show how things were progressing ahead of full-production beginning in July and first customer deliveries in September

The vehicle we drove was a pre-production test model. But Ineos were keen to show how things were progressing ahead of full-production beginning in July and first customer deliveries in September

The test route was pretty thorough, with large drops, big diverts lots of holes and not an inch of tarmac in sight

The test route was pretty thorough, with large drops, big diverts lots of holes and not an inch of tarmac in sight 

Ineos themselves are adamant that, while the Grenadier may be 'inspired' by the Defender and even prove to be its spiritual successor, it's also equally inspired by the classic Jeep and the hulking Mercedes-Benz G-Class, often known as the G-Wagon

Ineos themselves are adamant that, while the Grenadier may be ‘inspired’ by the Defender and even prove to be its spiritual successor, it’s also equally inspired by the classic Jeep and the hulking Mercedes-Benz G-Class, often known as the G-Wagon

First impressions of the Ineos Grenadier in the prototype flesh

This is a big beast. And looks it from the offset. Those with childhood memories of ‘indestructible’ Tonka toys will know immediately what I mean. 

It’s boxy with a real chunky industrial feel about it. The engineering is all out on show. For instance, the door hinges are deliberately visible on the outside to portray its utilitarian roots.

Open the door and climb up and into the roomy cabin, and you could mistake being in the cockpit of a classic military aircraft like a wartime Dakota. 

As well as a dashboard instrument panel, there are switches just above and forward of your head in the roof near the windscreen – as a pilot would see. It’s a clever touch. But practical too, when it comes to washing down the cabin.

Open the door and climb up and into the roomy cabin, and you could mistake being in the cockpit of a classic military aircraft like a wartime Dakota

Open the door and climb up and into the roomy cabin, and you could mistake being in the cockpit of a classic military aircraft like a wartime Dakota

Some of the controls are mounted in a panel on the roof. This prevents them from getting wet if owners choose to hose down the interior

The control buttons all have a military-grade feel. They're chunky and robust

Left: Some of the controls are mounted in a panel on the roof. This prevents them from getting wet if owners choose to hose down the interior. Right: The control buttons all have a military-grade feel. They’re chunky and robust

As revealed by This is Money last year, the red button on the steering wheel is a dedicated horn for alerting cyclists - a feature adopted from the Grenadier support vehicles used by the pro cycling team under the same name that's funded by Sir Jim

As revealed by This is Money last year, the red button on the steering wheel is a dedicated horn for alerting cyclists – a feature adopted from the Grenadier support vehicles used by the pro cycling team under the same name that’s funded by Sir Jim

The interior is designed to be easily wiped down – though not quite hosed down – which is just as well given the amount of muddy clarts I dragged into it on my own boots.

As revealed by This is Money last year, the red button on the steering wheel is a dedicated horn for alerting cyclists – a feature adopted from the Grenadier support vehicles used by the pro cycling team under the same name that’s funded by Sir Jim.

From the vantage of the comfortable driver’s seat, it has a very high and commanding driving position. 

Hands on the wheel and a few prods of the main controls and everything feels exceptionally solid. Not surprising really when it’s built in a former Mercedes-Benz factory using its 1,000-strong workforce. Specialists Magna Steyer from Austria also lend a hand with all the engineering.

And when I fired it up from the start button, the 3.0-litre, 249 horsepower, straight-six, twin-turbocharged BMW-made diesel grumbles into life.

All that’s left is to try out the challenging quagmire in which the vehicle is waiting to take on.

Ray Massey says that, from the vantage of the comfortable driver's seat, it has a very high and commanding driving position

Ray Massey says that, from the vantage of the comfortable driver’s seat, it has a very high and commanding driving position

Ray Massey put the Ineos Grenadier through a brief - but pretty extensive - test of the 4X4's off-roading abilities - as seen in this image

Ray Massey put the Ineos Grenadier through a brief – but pretty extensive – test of the 4X4’s off-roading abilities – as seen in this image

The example we drove was powered by a 3.0-litre, 249 horsepower, straight-six, twin-turbocharged BMW-made diesel engine. BMW is also supplying the 3.0-litre V6 turbo petrol units for the project

The example we drove was powered by a 3.0-litre, 249 horsepower, straight-six, twin-turbocharged BMW-made diesel engine. BMW is also supplying the 3.0-litre V6 turbo petrol units for the project

Given that many Grenadiers will be commercial vehicles for farmers and forestry folk, it has all the credentials they would want - and in spades

Given that many Grenadiers will be commercial vehicles for farmers and forestry folk, it has all the credentials they would want – and in spades

How does the Ineos Grenadier tackle tough terrain? 

The Grenadier proved gruntingly and reassuringly agricultural in its ability to climb steep and slippery inclines and deep tracks of mud. 

No wonder rural tractor showrooms will be one of the bases for sales in the UK. And we didn’t mess around, giving it plenty of welly where possible. It responded well, we can confirm.

These 4x4s are not just for fun. There’ll be commercial vehicle versions for farmers and forestry folk who value good old fashioned no-nonsense graft from their off-roaders. And boy does this have it in spades.

The Grenadier proved gruntingly and reassuringly agricultural in its ability to climb steep and slippery inclines and deep tracks of mud

The Grenadier proved gruntingly and reassuringly agricultural in its ability to climb steep and slippery inclines and deep tracks of mud

The big wheels dug and spun independently as the four wheel drive did its thing to get us out of one hole and into another – and out again

The big wheels dug and spun independently as the four wheel drive did its thing to get us out of one hole and into another – and out again

The five-door, five seater Grenadier is built on a traditional 'ladder frame' chassis, like the Defender it is designed to replace on farms and other off-road duties

The five-door, five seater Grenadier is built on a traditional ‘ladder frame’ chassis, like the Defender it is designed to replace on farms and other off-road duties

We didn't mess around during our short test drive, giving it plenty of welly where possible. It responded well, we can confirm

We didn’t mess around during our short test drive, giving it plenty of welly where possible. It responded well, we can confirm

The big wheels dug and spun independently as the four wheel drive did its thing to get us out of one hole and into another – and out again. Frankly the photographs will give better impression than any words.  

The five-door, five seater Grenadier is built on a traditional ‘ladder frame’ chassis, like the Defender it is designed to replace on farms and other off-road duties.

Its transfer case has two speeds – high and low range – and it was I the latter I used mostly for my off-roading endeavours near the factory.

It has a towing capacity: of 3.5 tonnes, which should satisfy demand for most trailers and a ground clearance of 264mm and a wading depth 800mm, though there was no water in which to try this out.

We are one of the first online publications in the world to take the rugged new 4X4 for a test drive across a rural off road course

We are one of the first online publications in the world to take the rugged new 4X4 for a test drive across a rural off road course

Ray Massey said the test site resembled the First World War battle fields of the Somme after a particularly ferocious pummelling by artillery

Ray Massey said the test site resembled the First World War battle fields of the Somme after a particularly ferocious pummelling by artillery

Order books officially open for the Ineos Automotive Grenadier in April, with production beginning in July and first deliveries due to arrive in September

Order books officially open for the Ineos Automotive Grenadier in April, with production beginning in July and first deliveries due to arrive in September 

The vehicles used for the pre-production test are prototype 4X4s built at the Hambach factory to ensure assembly can go ahead en masse without issue from the summer

The vehicles used for the pre-production test are prototype 4X4s built at the Hambach factory to ensure assembly can go ahead en masse without issue from the summer

Is it better than a classic Land Rover Defender? 

As a reality check, there are plenty of limitations to what this off-road-only test can truly reveal. 

And for this reason, it is impossible to say if it’s better than the Defender – old and new – without trying them back-to-back. But it’s a pretty decent stab. Traditionalists will be delighted.

What’s more, we didn’t get the chance to take it out on the road – so how it handles on a highway will have to wait for another day. 

Is it better than the Land Rover Defender? Ray Massey says it is too early to tell, especially as we didn't get to try the Grenadier on road

Is it better than the Land Rover Defender? Ray Massey says it is too early to tell, especially as we didn’t get to try the Grenadier on road

At launch, the new Grenadier will be powered by BMW engines - both three-litre petrol and diesel - linked to eight-speed automatic ZF gearboxes

At launch, the new Grenadier will be powered by BMW engines – both three-litre petrol and diesel – linked to eight-speed automatic ZF gearboxes

Grenadier will be offered as a two or five-seat commercial vehicle (exempt VAT) as well as the five-seater, five-door passenger version starting from £48,000

Grenadier will be offered as a two or five-seat commercial vehicle (exempt VAT) as well as the five-seater, five-door passenger version starting from £48,000

Ineos Automotive promises engineering to overcome all conditions, with best-in-class off-road capability, durability, and reliability, to those who depend on a vehicle as a working tool, wherever they are in the world

Ineos Automotive promises engineering to overcome all conditions, with best-in-class off-road capability, durability, and reliability, to those who depend on a vehicle as a working tool, wherever they are in the world

Balancing the demands of a good off-road capability with comfort, ride and handling on tarmac is a great challenge. And the all-new Land Rover Defender –which we have driven extensively both on and off-road – sets a pretty high bar and is a class act.

But there’s nothing like a bit of competition to keep standards high – and prices keen – all-round.

Ineos has already set itself a high bar – promising that the new Grenadier will be a truly uncompromising 4X4 built from the ground up, engineered to overcome all conditions, with best-in-class off-road capability, durability, and reliability, to those who depend on a vehicle as a working tool, wherever they are in the world.

Will it fit in my garage? Ineos Automotive Grenadier 

Price: from around £48,000 (tbc)

Reservations: more than 15,000

Order books open officially: April

Full production begins: July

First customer deliveries: September

Built: Hambach, Alsace region of France

Length: 4927mm / 193.9 inches (including spare wheel) 

Width: 1930mm / 76 inches (excluding mirrors)

Height: 2033mm / 80 inches

Wheelbase: 2922mm / 115 inches

Weight: TBC

Chassis: Body on frame (‘ladder frame’)

Doors: 5 Seats: 5

Engines: BMW 3.0-litre 249 horsepower twin-turbo straight-six diesel; BMW 3.0-litre 285 horsepower twin-turbo straight-six petrol

In the pipeline: Hydrogen fuel-cell electric, and battery-electric prototypes

Drivetrain: Permanent four-wheel drive

Transmission: ZF 8-speed automatic with manual override

Transfer case: Two speed (High and Low)

Wheels: Bridgestone 17 inch and 19 inch steel and alloy wheels

Tyres: Choice of: bespoke Bridgestone All-Terrain /BF Goodrich All Terrain (both Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake certified

Towing capacity: 3,500kg

Unbraked towing capacity: 750kg

Suspension: Solid beam axles, coil springs, wheel articulation (9 degrees front, 12 degrees rear)

Ground clearance: 264mm

Wading depth: 800mm  

What’s set to come from the Ineos Grenadier? 

At launch, the new Grenadier will be powered by BMW engines – both three-litre petrol and diesel – linked to eight-speed automatic ZF gearboxes, and will also be offered as a two or five-seat commercial vehicle (exempt VAT) as well as the five-seater, five-door passenger version starting from £48,000.

A battery electric version will also be trialled later this year. But Ineos’ longer term sights are set on hydrogen fuel cell technology. 

In November 2020, Ratcliffe cannily signed a landmark deal with Korean car giant Hyundai allowing him to produce green zero-emissions hydrogen fuel-cell versions of the Grenadier 4X4 – as well as to produce hydrogen. He already produces 300,000 tons of hydrogen a year, mainly as a by-product from its chemical manufacturing operations.

More than 15,000 potential customers have already made reservations for the new Grenadier as it completes its transition to become fully operational for series production in July and first UK customer deliveries around September.

Full pricing and specifications will be announced in April when order books open officially and when those with existing reservations will have priority to receive the first full production models off the line. 

A battery electric version will also be trialled later this year. But Ineos' longer term sights are set on hydrogen fuel cell technology

A battery electric version will also be trialled later this year. But Ineos’ longer term sights are set on hydrogen fuel cell technology

In November 2020, Ratcliffe cannily signed a landmark deal with Korean car giant Hyundai allowing him to produce green zero-emissions hydrogen fuel-cell versions of the Grenadier 4X4 - as well as to produce hydrogen

In November 2020, Ratcliffe cannily signed a landmark deal with Korean car giant Hyundai allowing him to produce green zero-emissions hydrogen fuel-cell versions of the Grenadier 4X4 – as well as to produce hydrogen

More than 15,000 potential customers have already made reservations for the new Grenadier as it completes its transition to become fully operational for series production in the summer

More than 15,000 potential customers have already made reservations for the new Grenadier as it completes its transition to become fully operational for series production in the summer

Dirk Heilmann, the no-nonsense CEO of Ineos Automotive admitted to This is Money that it was a ‘stressful time’ so close to launch after a frantic 18 months: ‘We are getting close but there’s still a mountain to climb.’

Was he swimming serenely like a swan but paddling furiously beneath? ‘Flapping more like,’ he joked.

But he said: ‘This is the next step for us to become a serious car manufacturer.

‘We inherited a great facility. Mercedes-Benz invested a ton of money. And now WE have it.’

Cheekily, Heilmann’s own mud-splattered prototype Grenadier, parked outside the factory during our visit, which he uses for personal evaluation, has what one executive called a ‘non-standard adaptation’ – namely a ‘Defender’ sticker on its rear. It’s certainly a salute to their litigious Land Rover rivals. But just how many fingers?

And manufacturing manager Stephen Wilkinson from Coventry, who worked 20 years for Land Rover and latterly setting up Sir James Dyson’s abortive electric car factory in Singapore said: ‘We’re investing in the right things to get the quality right.’

Full pricing and specifications will be announced in April when order books open officially and when those with existing reservations will have priority to receive the first full production models off the line

Full pricing and specifications will be announced in April when order books open officially and when those with existing reservations will have priority to receive the first full production models off the line

Customers will also have access to digital 3D instruction manuals so that owners who like 'tinkering' and modifying – as it believes many of its buyers do - can also do their own thing

Customers will also have access to digital 3D instruction manuals so that owners who like ‘tinkering’ and modifying – as it believes many of its buyers do – can also do their own thing

Overall, Ineos is targeting 200 sales and service points, with 100 signed up so far. Customers will be given the choice of buying online, face-to-face, or a blend of the two

Overall, Ineos is targeting 200 sales and service points, with 100 signed up so far. Customers will be given the choice of buying online, face-to-face, or a blend of the two

Ineos’ network for sales, support and servicing – including an agency deal with German specialists Bosch – will offer transparent pricing, ‘hassle-free’ shopping, and practical retail outlets – including with non-traditional retailers such as rural tractor firms. There will also be a ‘flying spanner’ service to get parts and repair teams to customers in even remoter locations.

Customers will also have access to digital 3D instruction manuals so that owners who like ‘tinkering’ and modifying – as it believes many of its buyers do – can also do their own thing.

Overall, Ineos is targeting 200 sales and service points, with 100 signed up so far. Customers will be given the choice of buying online, face-to-face, or a blend of the two.

There is, however, one huge downside to the Grenadier. If you do use it as nature and Ineos boss Sir Jim intends, you are going to spend an awful lot to time hosing it down and cleaning it after your off-roading adventures.

Unless of course, you just leave all the mud and dirt caked on as a badge of honour. 

Ray says there is one thing he can guarantee to Ineos Automotive customers: you are going to spend an awful lot to time hosing it down and cleaning it after your off-roading adventures

Ray says there is one thing he can guarantee to Ineos Automotive customers: you are going to spend an awful lot to time hosing it down and cleaning it after your off-roading adventures

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