The inside story of the new Ineos Grenadier
Ineos Automotive, a subsidiary of Ineos the chemicals giant owned by Jim Ratcliffe, has revealed the inside story of its Grenadier 4×4. The new go-anywhere model, which is due to reach European customers next summer and Americans in early 2023, eschews the current trend for controlling everything through touchscreens and introduces a built-tough look that should make pilots and ship’s captains feel at home.
The five-meter long, body-on-frame utility vehicle—which aims to fill a niche vacated by the outgoing Land Rover Defender—will cost from about $75,000 the most basic version, ranging to about $120,000. Five-seat commercials and two- and five-seat station-wagon versions will be available, a pickup is definitely on the way and the company hasn’t ruled out a short-wheelbase version.
Named after a pub in Belgravia, the Grenadier has been the source of much interest to drivers who value a vehicle that can be put to work. While there’s a definite homage to the old Defender long wheelbase in the silhouette of the Grenadier, Toby Ecuyer’s design is unique in its overall shape and the details. This is especially so in the cabin, seen here for the first time and experienced firsthand, which eschews the current vogue for touch-screen and voice-recognition technology and derives heavily from aircraft flight decks, plant- and agricultural-equipment facias, and the marine control panels which is where Ecuyer’s background lies.
So, while the Grenadier has a center touch screen which looks very like that from BMW (which is also supplying the six-cylinder twin-turbo gas and diesel drivetrains along with the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission) the ancillary buttons including that for the heating and ventilation are separate, big and etch-marked with their function. Set in screw-mounted metal-finish switch panels in the centre console and ceiling, the facia looks more Isle of Wight ferry than state-of-the-art automotive, but Ecuyer is adamant that this is a long-lasting and durable solution.
“We did look at a fashionable car, but realized that this would make statements that would be fast out of date,” he says, “so we quickly dialed that back”.
Instead, the mien is tough, no nonsense and aims at looking better as it ages. Most of the options including roof lamps are pre-wired so there’s no need to dismantle the car to customize it and there are saddle-leather options for steering-wheel covers, which over time adopt the owner’s hand prints. In spite of its no-nonsense approach, however, the cabin feels airy and comfortable.
“Always in our minds was the need for a practical vehicle, but not (because it is utilitarian), rubbish inside,” he told Hagerty. “There’s no reason why a utilitarian vehicle can’t keep you warm, dry and comfortable.”
Ecuyer has worked closely with the main design and engineering offices at Magna Steyr in Austria, which is an engineering partner in the venture—part of the giant Canadian engineering giant Magna, Magna Steyr has also worked with Mercedes-Benz on its G-Wagen, as well BMW and Jaguar and also runs a number of contract-assembly plants.
On the exterior the Grenadier has a number of other innovations such as the racking systems built into the rear panels, doors and roof to enable extra carrying capacity. The company plans to open source these attachments to encourage outside companies to manufacture compatible equipment. Built-in roping points on the roof (where the old Safari window lights were mounted on a Defender) and rubbing-strip panels in the roof mean the vehicle will carry up to 330 pounds on the roof without requiring a roof rack.
Despite its utilitarian roots, Ineos thinks government and emergency services in will form just 10 percent of orders in the U.K., with the vast majority (over 55 percent) going to lifestyle markets especially in the United States where hunting and fishing pastimes often demand specialist off-road vehicles. Utilitarian markets such as farming and estate management along with ski and safari adventure firms will occupy a quarter of sales and 10 percent of the output is anticipated to go to off-road driving enthusiasts who will value the Grenadier’s solid coil-sprung beam axles and three differential locks as standard.
The company claims it has 40,000 “hand raisers” wanting to buy a Grenadier. It plans to open reservations in October. Annual production will be around 25,000 to 30,000 when the Hambach plant is at full steam, and the main markets will be in North America and Europe. Sales and servicing agents are currently being recruited.
The 4×4 was initially set to be built in Wales (along with the Portuguese plant) but that plan was abandoned in favor of the former Mercedes-Smart facility in Hambach in eastern France. In fact, since January this year, Ineos Automotive has been producing Smart cars under license for Mercedes, while at the same time preparing for Grenadier production on a line formerly intended for a large Mercedes battery-electric SUV.
“It’s given us confidence that we can produce cars to the standard required,” says Mark Tennant commercial director. He says that the Smart cars produced by Ineos have had a slightly higher quality standard and, at the same time, plant safety has improved.