- We finally get behind the wheel of the new Ineos Grenadier.
- It might look like an old Land Rover Defender on the outside, but it's much much more.
- It's a new twist on an old formula, and proves to be composed and capable.
Driven: 2024 Ineos Grenadier SUV Is a Great New Twist on Old-School Off-Roading
More than just a niche startup after all
It seems like every month, another startup automaker powers to life. But unlike the dozens of EV startups crowding the world stage, Britain's Ineos is taking a fresh approach by adopting a decidedly old-school strategy. No, you won’t find a battery-powered or hybrid drivetrain under the subtly familiar-looking bodywork of this 2024 Ineos Grenadier. It’s gas. Indeed, you won’t find much high technology at all — deliberately so.
This Grenadier is no softly sprung crossover designed for commuting, Costco and the occasional KOA campground. As a purpose-built tool, it’s meant for hardcore terrain and hardcore customers, which also means that it requires some concessions if you want to join the club.
We ventured to the Scottish Highlands for two days of on- and off-road wheeling to see if the Grenadier has enough substance to distinguish itself in a niche already stacked with legends like the Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner, Ford Bronco and Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
What is Ineos, and why the Grenadier?
The Grenadier is the brainchild of Jim Ratcliffe, founder and CEO of Ineos, one of the world’s largest chemical conglomerates. If this SUV's rectilinear bodywork has you thinking of the old Land Rover Defender, you’re picking up what this ladder-framed brute is putting down. Ratcliffe has long been a keen off-road adventurer and overlander, and when he learned that LR planned to discontinue his beloved Defender, he attempted to buy the tooling to take over production but was rebuffed.
Undeterred, as one of Britain’s richest men, Ratcliffe sketched out the blueprint for an off-road SUV on the back of a napkin over beers at a pub, then began contracting people to realize his vision. That’s not marketing hyperbole — it not only happened, but Ratcliffe actually purchased the very London watering hole where the SUV was conceived. What’s more, he named the vehicle seen here after the bar: The Grenadier.
Today, Grenadier production is ramping up in Hambach, France, in a plant purchased from Mercedes-Benz. As part of that deal, Ineos continues to build the electric Smart Fortwo under contract, making for some amusingly strange factory bedfellows.
The five-passenger Grenadier's fully boxed frame was developed by Austrian supplier giant Magna Steyr, and there’s a familiar German powerplant under its flat A-shaped hood: a 3.0-liter, turbocharged BMW inline six-cylinder paired with a ZF eight-speed automatic. BMW puts this powertrain in everything from its larger sedans to its X5 and X7 SUVs. It's a well-regarded setup even found under the hood of the Z4 and its Toyota GR Supra relative. (A BMW diesel will also be offered overseas.)
In Grenadier guise, the engine develops 282 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque. At around 6,000 pounds and stretching 4.4 inches longer than a Wrangler Unlimited, this is no lightweight sprinter. Ineos quotes 0-62 mph in a staid 8.6 seconds and a top speed of 99 mph. None of that sounds particularly impressive, but in practice, the powertrain delivers plenty of get up and go, both off the line and for confident passing on Scotland's narrow country roads. And for a vehicle with knobby tires and the aerodynamics of an armored car, the Ineos is also surprisingly quiet inside.
That BMW engine is about as exotic and high-tech as the Grenadier gets, by the way. Peek underneath — you’ve got 10.4 inches of ground clearance to do so — and you’ll spot a pair of stout live axles, just like a Wrangler. The full-time four-wheel-drive system incorporates a manual locking center differential. Front and rear electronic lockers, which can further enhance traction when off-roading, are optional.
Rugged, aircraft-inspired cabin
With new and small-volume automakers, it’s often easy to spot switchgear borrowed from other brands, but aside from an unfortunately incongruous BMW gearshift, the Grenadier’s interior is very much its own thing. It’s an environment squarely focused on the act of driving — especially off-road. Ineos has splurged on a key area for long-distance livability: wonderfully supportive and comfortable Recaro seats. Wipe-clean vinyl and cloth upholstery is standard, as is rubber flooring with drains (leather and carpet are optional).
Grenadier’s distinctive, blocky dashboard is cut low to afford better visibility and in lieu of a traditional gauge cluster ahead of the steering wheel, there’s a small “Telltale” panel, essentially an array of warning and status lights. This works fine but looks a bit cheap. Instead, instrumentation is limited to a 12.3-inch central display, which also covers infotainment. We don’t typically love combined solutions like this, but vehicle speed and other vital data is easy enough to read.
Speaking of that screen, Ineos says it’s gone to the trouble of designing its own user interface. You can’t get a traditional onboard navigation system, but there is standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, as well as a unique off-road wayfinding function with a trail breadcrumbing feature. Everything is accessed via a multi-function dial or, mercifully, touchscreen.
A meaty two-spoke steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach, but it always feels slightly bus-like in its angle. Spoke controls are self-explanatory, save for a bright-red button emblazoned with a bicycle icon and the word “toot.” Ineos owns a top-tier cycling team, and the latter is a courtesy horn to alert two-wheelers of your presence. (Whether such tooting is appreciated has been the source of significant controversy in cycling forums online.)
Our preproduction Grenadiers were right-hand-drive, and we noticed the footwell is oddly shaped due to some center tunnel intrusion. This leads to a strange driving position, but fortunately, a quick check of the passenger-side footwell suggests this shouldn’t be an issue for left-hand-drive models.
Overall, the Grenadier’s cabin has a distinctly utilitarian bent that's high-quality but not luxurious. It’s an appropriate balance, but even so, a few items are notable by their absence. For instance, second-row passengers enjoy good visibility thanks to raised stadium seating, but not much else. You won’t find cupholders, a center armrest or adjustable vents — let alone dedicated climate system controls. These are notable omissions for a vehicle that will likely serve as family transportation. In general, more cabin storage space would be welcome and a 360-degree camera system would be a helpful option for spotting objects both on- and off-road. As it is, we recommend the optional pop-out Safari windows. They make the cabin feel more special while flooding it with light.
Cargo space is solid. A maximum of 70 cubic feet is accessed through a set of 70/30-split vertical doors. There are optional utility rail tie-downs, but the split-and-folding rear seats don’t fold flat.
Intentionally basic gear
Most modern 4x4s have some sort of central controller to optimize powertrain and safety systems for various terrains: dedicated modes for sand, rocks, snow, that sort of thing. Not the Grenadier. Poke the single Off-Road button on the control panel and you’re set. It's emblematic of the “keep it simple” engineering mantra that informs this entire vehicle.
Speaking of keeping it simple, in order to shift from high to low range or lock the center differential in low-traction situations, you must stop and select neutral before heaving the manual lever adjacent to the transmission selector. It’s a satisfyingly mechanical action.
In contrast, the front and rear electronic locking differentials are activated via roof-mounted pushbuttons, near a bank of aux switches for accessories like light bars. These controls live on bolt-in panels designed for easy servicing and modification, lending the cabin a fun-yet-businesslike aircraft-cockpit feel.
Sure-footed on- and off-road
Steering will be familiar fare for anyone who has driven an older G-wagen or most 1970s or '80s off-roaders. Instead of modern rack-and-pinion steering, the Grenadier goes with a rugged recirculating-ball setup that helps maximize suspension articulation at the expense of steering feel and linearity. When driving on road, effort is light and there's a small but noticeable dead spot off center, along with limited self-centering. We drove multiple versions of the Grenadier and found this to be true whether the vehicle was fitted with Bridgestone Dueler A/Ts or BFGoodrich K02s.
The Grenadier feels robust on road, but it really comes into its own when the going gets gnarly. Our multi-day drive was framed as an expedition, and our initial foray off-road was mild, consisting mostly of snowy and picturesque (but ultimately unchallenging) two-track trails. A lengthy water crossing had been planned to test the Grenadier’s 31.5-inch wading depth, but bracing temps froze the water solid, scrubbing that challenge. On the plus side, a subsequent blast across a rutted, snow-covered beach at speed revealed solid body control and surprising ride comfort. A few steeper hill climbs (only one of which required locking all differentials) were sprinkled in, too, but it was clear the Ineos had a lot left to give.
As introductions go, Day One was a tentative, gentle toe-dip into the Grenadier’s deep pool of capabilities. Fortunately, Day Two was far more challenging. Ambient temperatures warmed overnight, melting and then refreezing the snow, turning a rocky mountainside ascent along Loch Lomond into a ski slope where it was often too slick to stand.
The Grenadier handled the jagged stones and muddy slurry with aplomb, our Fieldmaster trim’s 17-inch K02s delivering sure-footed traction with the differentials locked. With its 35.5-degree approach, 36.1-degree departure and 28.2-degree breakover angles, we only grazed our rig’s belly in a couple of particularly rocky places, and thick bash plates kept our nerves from fraying. (For comparison, a Wrangler Unlimited in the Rubicon trim has superior approach [43.9 degrees] and departure [37.0] angles, but less breakover geometry [22.6]). We never did have occasion to rely on the truck’s optional rock sliders, but it was reassuring to know they were there.
When it came time for a steep mountain descent, we engaged the variable-speed Downhill Assist, which worked excellently. In some vehicles, using hill descent control can trigger awkward, jolting progress, as well as a festival of disconcerting noises as all four wheels are individually braked to maintain a desired pace. The Ineos? Smooth sailing.
Unfortunately, on more than one occasion and in more than one vehicle, we noticed that while the front and rear differentials promptly unlocked when called for, the vehicle’s electronics didn’t always register their disengagement. Ineos reps pledge this will be fixed with production models.
There's still a lot we don’t know. We don’t have fuel economy or range estimates, and what sort of safety gear will be available is unclear, too. We’re told it should have automatic emergency braking, but it may take until 2025 until adaptive cruise control is offered.
Most importantly, we don’t have U.S. pricing. An Ineos exec confided that early Grenadiers will likely transact somewhere in the “mid-70s” — hardly cheap for a utilitarian SUV. That’s substantially more than a loaded Wrangler Rubicon or 4Runner TRD Pro and it’ll be easy to bloat the MSRP with adventure-minded options like a snorkel, front and rear winches, and an auxiliary battery. Speaking of, Ineos will happily sell you a raft of accessories, including items that connect to the Grenadier’s clever Utility Belt rail system on the doors.
On the plus side, the Grenadier is ready for overlanding excellence with a stout 7,000-pound tow rating and a static rooftop load of around 925 pounds, including the weight of the roof rack. That's significantly more than many rivals, enough for a rooftop tent with occupants or the optional full-length rack loaded with jerry cans and spares.
Sales and service
Buying a vehicle from a new, unproven brand is a leap of faith, but a five-year/60,000-mile warranty should go some way toward assuaging fears.
And where will you be able to buy one? Even Ineos' sales model is resolutely old-school: Grenadiers will be sold via traditional dealer franchises. The company is eschewing the direct-to-consumer sales model pioneered by Tesla (and copied by seemingly every new brand since). Company reps say this is because hardcore off-roaders need quick access to spare parts and trusted experts, but it should also be easier to get a sales/service network up and running quickly. About 20-25 dealers — mostly coastal and in key off-road markets like Colorado — should be online when the Grenadier launches in Q4 of this year. A four-door pickup variant is slated to join the family soon, and eventually a smaller electric off-roader will follow too.
The Ineos Grenadier looks and feels like the authentic off-roader and overlanding rig it is. Rugged yet surprisingly refined on road, it’s a single-minded 4x4 built for and by adventurers who go their own way.