Ineos has identified a gap in the market into which it plans to launch its stripped-back, fully-utilitarian 4x4
Let's say you were stranded in the middle of a desert and had to find the nearest settlement. If your life depended on it, which vehicle would you choose? If history is anything to go by, a Toyota Hilux would be a good shout – a vehicle so tough it survived being blown up in a building demolition (see Top Gear’s Killing a Toyota episode) and won last year's Dakar Rally. A Land Rover Defender would be another option, as much of an icon of rugged functionality as a Kalashnikov. Ineos, one of the world’s largest chemical producers, thinks it can do better.
Slated to launch in 2021, the Grenadier's blueprint is all-out 4x4. This means a box-section ladder frame, permanent four-wheel drive, beam axles and a boxy body that’s designed rather than styled. This stripped-back approach to building the ultimate off-roader is the vision of Sir Jim Ratcliffe, CEO of Ineos, who wanted to keep the vehicle "as simple as possible so that you can repair it in the field." The team behind the Grenadier believe there is a gaping hole in the market for a no-frills, uncompromising 4x4 which you can hose down inside and out. When production of the original Defender ceased at Solihull in 2016, Ratcliffe offered to buy – and was declined – Land Rover's designs and tooling.
The Grenadier will have to tempt customers away from Land Rover's new Defender, which launched earlier this year to rave reviews. The Grenadier's engineering team is an Anglo-German affair, fusing British design and entrepreneurship with German engineering precision. Located in Stuttgart, Ineos has announced that its vehicle will be powered by a BMW powertrain. For the record, it will use BMW's latest generation TwinPower turbocharged straight-six petrol and diesel engines. Depending on spec, these engines make anything from 261bhp to nearly 400bhp in their BMW applications.
The engine will sit on top of a ladder frame, the chassis configuration of choice for a proper 4x4. Ladder frames have been the backbone of the most iconic off-road vehicles over the years, including the WW2 Willy's Jeep. Mated to the ladder chassis are beam axles, which again nod to the vehicle's no-frills outlook. Design chief Toby Ecuyer says: "We looked at other 4x4s, we looked at tractors, helicopters, all sorts of different, really hard-working vehicles, and took inspiration. Then we started designing this very honest, uncomplicated vehicle."
Ineos has said that it wants to target aid workers, farmers, explorers and those who view vehicles as tools, so the vehicle is expected to be priced competitively; unlike Mercedes' G-Wagon, which at just under £100k (for the entry-level model) has now veered so far from its utilitarian roots that speed humps in Chelsea are about the most challenging things it will face.
It was thought that vehicle production would be split between Portugal and the UK; bodies and chassis would be built in an Ineos plant in Portugal, before cars were completed at a purpose-built factory in Bridgend, Wales. As of 7 July, however, sources say that Ineos is currently eyeing up a manufacturing plant in France, which is being sold by Daimler as part of new cost-cutting measures. The Grenadier might be British in spirit, but it will likely be wholly European in build.