2023 Ineos Grenadier
We are one of the first to drive the new Ineos Grenadier offroader and it’s already showing its passion for adventure
The chapters of the automotive industry book are filled with stories of people who turned a passion into a business. Colin Chapman formed Lotus Engineering in 1959 after building his first racecar in his garage 10 years before. The Morgan Motor Company started as a small dealership and servicing agent. Even Enzo Ferrari started his road car business primarily to fund the race team. Browse through the history books and you’ll find plenty of car companies that seemed to be less about making money and more about a passion.
Now we’re not saying Sir Jim Ratcliffe is not in the business of making money, far from it. His Ineos chemicals company has netted a personal fortune of nearly $15 billion (R226 billion), making him the richest man in the UK. He has used some of his company’s wealth to buy one third of the Mercedes-AMG F1 team, and to sponsor an America’s Cup sailing team, an international cycling team and even the New Zealand All Blacks.
What he has also done is create his own car, the Grenadier, and while it’s the reverse of how many other car companies started, it remains a car borne out of passion.
You’ve probably read about the Grenadier or seen the news about it being displayed at a recent South African roadshow. For those who missed all that, here is a quick rundown. Land Rover announced it was canning the classic Defender. Ratcliffe tried to buy the rights to continue building it; Land Rover said no. He then decided to build his own and called it the Grenadier after a pub in London. Land Rover sued him because it looked rather like the Defender. Ratcliffe won and here we are, in Hambach in France, driving the Ineos Automotive Grenadier.
It’s a big deal because so far, Ineos has only allowed people to ride in the passenger seat. Now we have driven it but what is it? Well, it’s a go-anywhere, utilitarian station wagon SUV aimed at people with a thirst for adventure … basically Land Rover Defender, Mercedes-Benz G-Class and Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series kind of people. It’s a vehicle for those who drive from Cape Town to Cairo, cross the Andes or the Atacama Desert, and travel the famous Silk Road, or at least like to think they will do all those things.
We drove a prototype – internally called PTO1 – as the final vehicles for customers will be built only from August this year. This meant we had to accept a few flaws, like the touchscreen instrument cluster on top of the dash that displayed lots of info, although none of it was real. There were stickers urging caution, cupholders that weren’t heated but warmed by heat from the transfer case beneath, software that wasn’t properly optimised and a few other issues, but we accept these things with prototypes.
The interior has a real utilitarian feel. The centre console has a layout reminiscent of an airliner or military jet, right down to the little metal guide rails to help you find the right button while bouncing about off-road. The buttons are chunky and easy to use. Part of the brief was that you need to be able to use them while wearing thick gloves in the middle of winter … presumably a Siberian winter rather than a South African one.
It all feels like you are in control of the manifestation of the plastic off-road cars you might have had as a kid. They could do anything, go anywhere your imagination would allow and the Grenadier feels like that but with a 183 kW twin-turbo diesel engine from the book of BMW.
You can opt for a BMW petrol engine and the gearshift will be familiar to BMW drivers, too. There’s a manual selector to switch between high and low range and it has front, rear and centre electronic diff locks. Only the centre lock was operating on our test car even crossing thick mud, the Grenadier showed no sign of allowing the optional BF Goodrich All-Terrain KO2 tyres to lose grip.
There is loads of space inside; everything feels more solid than it appears in the prototype and there is this contrast of luxury with practicality. It might have nice Recaro seats, but you can only adjust them manually. The floors can be hosed out and there are minimal electronics. It’s all about getting out on adventures, not commuting to the office on a Monday morning in a freshly pressed suit.
We can’t tell you what it would be like if you did. Not because we don’t have a suit but because we didn’t drive it on-road.
Considering how comfortable it was off-road, it does bode well for when you need to amble through the CBD.We suspect this won’t be its natural home though as it looks and feels like a vehicle designed and engineered to plough through sticky mud, up the soft slopes of massive dunes and over obstacles with ease.
The Grenadier is a vehicle designed with a purpose: to take you to placeswith just the right amount of comfort and loads of practicality. If your imagination is planning some epic adventure, we totally understand because we certainly are.
TECHNICAL DATA 2023 Ineos Grenadier
- Price: R1 395 000
- Engine: 3,0-litre, six-cylinder, twin-turbo diesel
- Transmission: 8-speed, automatic
- Max Power: 183 kW
- Max Torque: 550 N.m
- 0-62mph (0-100km/h): TBC
- Top speed: TBC
- Fuel consumption: TBC
- CO2: TBC
Rivals: Land Rover Defender, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Toyota Land Cruiser
+Seems good off-road, comfortable, well equipped
01 Inside, the Grenadier mimics the cockpit of an aircraft while being both functional and pared back without being cheap.
02 With clear overlanding intentions, this four-wheel drive has already captured the hearts and minds of many adventure enthusiasts.
BUILT WITH AFRICA IN MIND
Tim Abbott knows a thing or two about the BMW powertrain in the Grenadier, having been the boss of BMW SA for many years. Now he is in charge at Ineos Automotive sub-Saharan Africa and optimistic about the future for the vehicle in the region.
He cannot confirm how many orders have been taken but local deliveries of the first vehicles are set to begin in October. By that time, three dealerships in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban should be established, although orders will be placed directly with Ineos. In addition, Abbot says they are working with BMW agents for servicing including Polokwane, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth, George and Nelspruit and owners will be able to use the network of Bosch Car Service centres.
“The key is to make sure we have excellent service, backup and parts; and that is something we are going to strive towards because we believe a lot of our customers will be adventurers and lifestylers. Many of the customers I met on the 2B Tour currently drive a 110 or 130 Defender. They have all the accessories on their vehicles and are doing a lot of kilometres, going to Namibia or Kenya.”
Abbott and his team are in discussions with aftermarket companies such as Frontrunner and Alu-Cab and, unsurprisingly, they are eyeing up the game-viewer market as well.
Initially, Ineos SSA will offer only the station wagon. It is gauging interest in the commercial vehicle option and is keen to bring in the bakkie that should be revealed in 2023. We spoke with Mark Tennant, Ineos Automotive’s commercial director and, while he wouldn’t be drawn on any other derivatives, he did confirm there are more planned. It’s unclear whether any of these will be electrified but the parent company is big into hydrogen, so, of course, it’s already producing a prototype to run on alternative fuel.