Ineos Grenadier – A Scottish Drive
One of the advantages of being very wealthy is that it allows you to make your dreams come true. For Sir Jim Radcliffe, the British billionaire chemical engineer and industrialist, this has allowed him to turn his idea for an all-new off-road vehicle into reality.
His Ineos group now produces the Grenadier and way back in October 2021 I was invited to meet the team and experience the vehicle first-hand in the lovely setting of Duncombe Park near Helmsley. Sadly, I wasn’t permitted to get behind the wheel myself, instead I had to content myself with a 30-minute passenger ride through some of Duncombe Park’s acres of woodlands. The promise of an early drive was mooted.
Fast forward nearly two years and late last month the chance to drive the Grenadier was finally offered, even though it meant a long trip north to Floors Castle near Kelso, with the chance of an hour and a half behind the wheel. I would not normally travel for such a short spell behind the wheel, but I was curious.
The question that still needs to be asked is whether the Grenadier is a serious offering, as when the first pictures emerged it was hard not to think that this was nothing more than a shameless copy of the old Land Rover Defender.
In the flash, there are definite similarities, the silhouette looking oh so familiar. A deliberate ploy to appeal to old Defender fans, now somewhat disgruntled by the new Land Rover moving unashamedly upmarket. Perhaps, but the simple shape does have certain advantages. From behind the wheel, all corners of the 4x4 are easily visible, making it easy to place on the road and of course off it, as I was to find out.
You will also observe the utility rails, intended for the easy attachment of equipment. Roof rails are a standard fit too, whilst the large five-piece bumpers offer practical advantages like the easy fitting of a winch. The also make an ideal perch for an impromptu picnic.
The passenger doors feel substantial, whilst to the rear twin doors are fitted. To the left, the smaller door opens first, ideal if you just want to quickly throw something in. Also, very useful if parked in a confined space. Looking underneath, plenty of underbody protection is fitted, which should keep key components from being damaged.
The interior is a simple one, but it does feel well put together. Comfortable Recaro seats are undoubtedly a highlight, and the wipeable fabrics are easy to clean. Switchgear is designed to be operated with gloves on, so chunky is the order of the day. Overhead, a control panel contains a mass of switches, some of which can be adapted as required for say winch operation or the like. Without my reading glasses, it was hard to identify them.
In front of the driver, sits a bank of warning lights, the main instrument panel being centrally mounted. Glancing amidships to read the speedometer may take a little getting used to. In what is intended to be quite an analogue interior, the BMW gear selector does look a tad out of place, but it does work well.
You may have guessed by now that power comes from BMW sourced engines, both 3.0-litres in capacity, straight-six, either petrol or diesel. They have been chosen for their linear and smooth power delivery. They are powerful, though I’m told low 20s mpg is what can be expected in everyday driving. The diesel will suit those who wish to tow, the greater torque being a boon.
A smooth eight-speed ZF gearbox comes as standard as of course does permanent all-wheel drive. And as the Grenadier is intended to be peerless off-road, there is of course a low-range box and three locking differentials for when the going gets really tough.
Two issues have been raised by early testers of the Grenadier. One is the space for driver to rest their left leg, with some complaining of an uncomfortable position. I did not find it to be a problem. The second is the lack of self-centring of the steering. I will admit it does feel rather unusual, but you soon get used to it. It pays dividends off-road with less kickback. I suspect most drivers would rather have a more natural setup.
My on-road time was short, the diesel-powered test vehicle proving to be plenty fast enough for the sweeping Scottish lanes. The engine is nicely muted too.
Having spent a considerable amount of time off-roading in various new Defenders, it is interesting to note how well both get the job done. The Land Rover uses clever electronic aids to enhance its off-road performance, whereas the Grenadier prefers the more time-worn path of levers and a mechanical system. Digital or analogue?
On some of the more gnarly tracks, I can report that the Grenadier rides well, remaining composed at all times. It made light work of the muddy byways that crisscross the Floors Castle estate, though there were times we needed to make sure the right buttons were pressed.
Prices seem to have jumped considerably since my day at Duncombe Park, with a 2-seat Utility Wagon being the range-opener at £64,500, VAT inclusive. In passenger form, expect to pay from £76,000 before choosing from the options list. The Fieldmaster models are aimed more at the working user, whilst Trailmaster variants are more luxurious, with leather trim, alloy wheels etc.
So, who is going to buy the Ineos Grenadier? I can also see cool, urban types buying Grenadiers, not perhaps what the company has in mind, but undoubtedly our cities are now heavily populated with large 4x4s whether we like it or not.
Farmers and builders may be drawn to the Utility models, but perhaps the price is too dear. The Quartermaster pickup is now available to order, from £66,215, so making it the most expensive of its type on sale in the UK. Of course, a range of finance plans are available.