As a journalist in the motoring industry we get to test new vehicles all the time. We drive the newest of the new cars in amazing settings. But what doesn’t happen often is driving a brand-new vehicle from a brand-new brand. So, when we received the invitation to the global launch of the new INEOS Grenadier it was something we were really excited about.
Since the beginning of 2020 there have been rumours flying around about a new purpose built 4×4 coming to the market. Pictures flew across the internet and in the 4×4 and overlanding community there was a buzz. The rumour was that this new 4×4 would be everything the new Defender was supposed to be. It’s fair to say that the Grenadier redefines the idea of being fit for purpose. Besides, no-one sinks £1bn-plus into building an entirely new car company in jest, certainly not Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the British billionaire and larger-than-life personality who is indivisible from this admirably square-cut device. So this first stint behind the wheel is important.
Here in sunny Southern Africa we had a couple of first production vehicles running all around the tip of the continent and every now and then we would have a glimpse of these vehicles. From the start it impressed everyone. There were no funny curves, no bragging about the 0-100km/h sprint time is or anything like that. This vehicle was purposely build for the bush. Think Land Cruiser 70 Series or the previous-generation Land Rover Defender… vehicles that are considered to be the work horses of Africa. And being work horses they had the bare basics inside. So, when we first got into the Grenadier we were surprised to see things like climate control, heated seats, leather upholstery (optional) and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
So what is it like to drive the Grenadier? Well, it is a purposely build 4×4, with solid beam axles front and rear. You would be excused for expecting the ride to be hard and bumpy, but it’s not! Climb aboard, and you’ll settle into Reccaro seats trimmed in hard-wearing cloth or leather. The driving position is terrific, and there’s acres of room. This is clearly a place in which you can get business done, whether you run a coal mine or are exploring the African bush. The steering wheel is a simple two-spoke item, with thumb controls for audio and cruise control on either spoke. There’s no instrument panel behind it, just a small screen set into the dash to show all the major off-road functions and warning lights. The speedo, tachometer, and other readouts are on a configurable screen in the centre of the dash. Different display configurations and functions are activated via a rotary controller on the centre console.
Driving the Grenadier
On the tarmac this vehicle floats effortlessly over bumps. The ride is amazing, the road handling is impressive and even with the fact that it uses a mechanical steering rack, the feedback to the driver is direct and accurate. For a vehicle of its size and weight it handles very well, with minimal body roll coming from directional changes. The wheels feels planted on the surface but it is not designed for point-and-shoot operation and tighter corners are best approached with the slowly in and quickly out style of driving. Both the diesel and petrol engines are very responsive and paired with the eight-speed ZF auto gearbox, gear changing is very smooth and I never felt like it was hunting for the correct gear in any situation. However, being a utilitarian vehicle aimed at the farmer, overlander and 4×4 enthusiast, it does lack some driver aids and safety features. There is no pre-collision warning, no adaptive cruise control, no lane keep assist… in fact, it has the bare minimum.
Off-road is where this vehicle really impresses. The Trailmaster Edition comes standard with front rear and central differential locks and is optional on the base model Station Wagon and Fieldmaster Edition, coupled to the solid beam axels there is not much that this vehicle won’t drive through. It also uses a mechanical transfer case with high and low ratios and the gear selector for the transfer case is a welcome sight in the for form of a short lever to pop it into the desired gears in the transfer case. We tested it mostly in mud and on rocky roads and it did brilliantly, paired with the BF Goodridge KO2s. It only takes a minute or two for the Grenadier to establish its off-road credentials. It grunts through the deep mud, eases down steep slopes, traverses tricky inclines, and walks across deep gutters with casual ease. What impressed me most was the manual selection option on the ZF Box. Pop the Grenadier into 4L and when you select manual it automatically engages second gear – not first but it locks it into second, this means for those short run-ups to dunes the vehicle will take off in second and keep it there until you select third or pop it back to first. Going downhill with both the diesel and petrol in first gear gave enough engine braking to lift my feet off the brakes and let the vehicle do its thing, and if you are a not completely happy to leave it just up to the engine, downhill assist is available and the speed can be adjusted to slow crawl of 5km/h.
On the overhead instrument cluster you will find all your buttons for the 4×4 driver aids, from the rear and centre diff locks to Off-Road mode and Wading mode. With off-road mode engaged most of the alarms are switched of, from seatbelt warning to the park distance control warning alarms are deactivated. To ensure that you can concentrate on the obstacle in front of you without the hindrance of beeping alarms in your ears. Wade mode for a bit of a water crossing ensures certain electrical operations get shut down and the engine fan and auxiliary fans around the motor are deactivated to protect them from water damage. The vehicle speed is also limited to ensure that the bow never gets out of hand when pushing through the water.
Under the bonnet
A striking detail is how tightly packed the Grenadier’s engine bay looks with a BMW six-cylinder inside it. While the coil-sprung Defender was mostly offered with smaller four-cylinder powerplants, there were simpler five-, six and eight-cylinder engines that took up less engine bay space than this more modern engine.
Six-cylinder BMW power is something the Defender can claim originally, using a 2.8-litre ‘M52’ petrol engine here in South Africa. These new 3.0-litre petrol and diesel motors in the Grenadier, however, do seem over-specced for something so utilitarian. But with the vehicle able to tow 3.5 tonnes there should be a bit of oomph under the bonnet and there are two power trains available for the Grenadier. With the B57 Turbo Diesel engine from BMW you get ample power (183kW) and torque (550Nm) fuel consumption on the diesel was fairly good on the road and we were able to manage about 9.5 litres/100km.
From the BMW 3.0 litre straight six B58 turbo petrol you get a decent 209kW of power and 450Nm of torque, The fuel consumption on road was slightly higher than the diesel but we still managed just under 10 litres/100km.
Both engines provide decent power and the ZF box was always on point.
On the outside
Well, it looks like a Defender, and the resemblances were close enough for the argument to end up in court between INEOS and Land Rover. It was finally put to bed when the courts decided there were enough changes on the Grenadier that Land Rover’s claim was thrown out. But this boxy shape 4×4 is a winner, there are decent approach and departure angles, the break over angle is good enough. The vehicle is fun to look at. It looks ‘bushy’.
They really tried to think of everything in the Grenadier, in the rear you have ample space and on the floor there are two tracks to strap down gear. The centre instrument cluster has a bunch of blank switches already installed with wiring going to the roof and engine bay, so you can basically fit your lights or run power to your rooftop tent, plug it in and you’re ready to use it. They are even already suited for different currents from 10A – 500A for your winch – if you like to fit one.
I tried to find fault with this vehicle and apart from the BF Goodridge KO2s, which I would change to something softer for sand, there wasn’t really anything I could really find wrong. If this vehicle was built for the streets of Sandton and Cape Town then maybe yes, there is a lack of driver safety systems. But this is not built for the city. It was never meant to be a pavement climber. I had a look at some of the accessories they had available and was a bit disappointed in some of the products, the roof rack was noisy, the awning a bit flimsy, but those things I would get from our local guys that have products that fit my needs. INEOS plans to sell between 25 000 and 35 000 a year globally and here in SA up to 1 000 a year. Land Rover was only able to sell that many Defenders twice in a year their last run of the previous Defender. And let’s be honest although this is not a Defender it is clear where it got its inspiration from. Sir Jim wanted three qualities from his Grenadier, it need to be as capable, as durable and as reliable as a Land Cruiser 70 Series. The capability is definitely there, but only time will tell if the durability and reliability will follow.
The big question probably is would I buy one? Well, later this year we should see the Grenadier Double Cab hit the streets, with spy fotos already surfacing of it being tested. So maybe I would wait for that one before I decide. But one thing I am certain about is that once this vehicle proves its durability and reliability there will be some other vehicles in this market that are going to need an update very soon if they want to stay relevant.
2023 Ineos Grenadier at a glance
Petrol engine 3.0-litre BMW ‘B58’ six-cylinder turbo petrol
Petrol power and torque 209kW / 450Nm
Diesel engine 3.0-litre BMW ‘B57’ six-cylinder turbo diesel
Diesel power and torque 183kW / 550Nm
Towing capacity 3500kg braked / 750kg unbraked
Wheel articulation 9° front, 12° rear
Differential locks Up to three e-lockers (front, centre and rear)
Approach angle 35.5°
Departure angle 36.1°
Ramp over angle 28.2°
Wading depth 800mm
Ground clearance 264mm
Tyre size 265/70 R17 or 255/70 R18
Tyre type Bridgestone AT or BF-Goodrich KO2 All-Terrain LT
Pricing starts at R1 513 100.00 for the Station Wagon
Pricing for the Fieldmaster and Trailmaster Editions both starts at R1 630 560.00
For more information www.ineosgrenadier.com