There’s a moment, when you first clap eyes on the new Ineos Grenadier 4x4, that you have a feeling much like that of Miss Euphemia Barney when confronted with the Omshafu in Richmal Crompton’s 1923 Just William story, William The Showman.
She knows it’s a white rat, you know it’s a Land Rover Defender, but she and you both know you are being told something else entirely. So, do you trust your eyes, or what William Brown/Mark Tennant (Ineos’s commercial director), are saying?
Welcome to the Ineos Omshafu, sorry Grenadier, a rough, tough 4x4 named after a pub in Belgravia, which in turn was named after a soldier beaten to death after cheating at cards. Are we in the hands of a master card sharp or a devious schoolboy here?
More than a billion euros of Jim Ratcliffe’s money has gone into the Grenadier and the chairman and chief executive of the Ineos chemicals group is, by all accounts, nobody’s fool. He was apparently convinced of the idea of funding an all-new 4x4 workhorse while sitting in the Grenadier pub in 2017.
Due on sale in the early part of 2022, the Grenadier will certainly be tough. Its separate ladder chassis and solid axles means it’s from the same (old) school as the original Land Rover Defender, Nissan Patrol, Mitsubishi Shogun and Toyota Land Cruiser 4x4s.
It will have a BMW six-cylinder turbocharged engine in diesel or petrol forms, with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and a separate mechanical transfer box to give a set of crawler gears for serious off-roading. The solid axles come from agricultural supplier Carraro, the ladder frame from Gestamp, and engineering including the suspension is being partly developed by Magna in Austria, an acknowledged expert in the field – Magna also builds the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen.
In fact the Grenadier’s footprint is roughly similar to that of the latest G-Wagen, which is 4,764mm long, 1,867mm wide and 1,954mm high on a 2,850mm wheelbase. “It’s actually a bit narrower,” says Tennant.
For all that the design apes the old Defender’s, there’s some clever stuff in there, too; the asymmetrical twin rear doors, small hatch in the rear pillar to put small things into the cabin, the wet storage compartment on the rear wing.
“It’s a proper working piece of equipment,” says Toby Ecuyer, design head. There’s even a “utility belt” around the sides of the vehicle on to which equipment can be attached and the roof has nylon insert strips to protect the sheet metal. The body is a mix of a steel safety shell with aluminium used for the bonnet, wings and doors.
Initially this station wagon version will be offered, followed by a pick-up and eventually a chassis cab, with even more models planned in the far future.
Tennant makes no apologies for the combustion-engined drivetrain, which gives the Grenadier a decent operating range in the inhospitable places in might find itself, but says that hybrid (an off-the-shelf ZF system already exists), battery electric or even hydrogen fuel-cell drivetrains could be used eventually.
He also says the design will be “open sourced” so that others can develop their own equipment for the vehicle and share their modifications with others. Although it is as yet untested, the company claims the Grenadier will pass worldwide crash tests; it has airbags and a pedestrian crash protection system. “We’ve released details [of the car] now,” says Tennant, “so we can take the disguise panels off while we do 1.8 million kilometres of testing”.
The station wagon’s payload will be one tonne, its towing capacity 3.5 tonnes and the cost will be “nearer Raptor than G-Wagen,” says a spokesperson. To put that into perspective, Ford’s Ranger Raptor costs £42,000 without VAT in the UK. The G-Wagen starts at £92,000 with VAT (there’s no official commercial version in the UK), which means that the Grenadier will likely cost north of £50,000 without VAT.
It will be assembled at a factory in Bridgend in Wales, where an initial workforce of 200 will rise to about 500 when the plant is on full stream. Sub-assemblies, including the chassis frame and body components, will be produced in a plant in Estarreja, Portugal, which also has the capacity to eventually employ another 500 staff..
Tennant is very careful with his words when it comes to production ambitions. “There’s a range of vehicles which just aren’t there any more,” he says of the serious utilities (such as the original Land Rover Defender) which have morphed into softer SUVs in recent years. Potential markets include Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Africa, South America and the Far East. “We’re not prioritising China right now,” he says.
Volumes are modest at first. “This is a serious business proposition,” he says, “but we’re going to need a run-up to get there. We’re developing a car and a car company from the ground up.”
Eventually Ineos hopes to produce between 25,000 and 30,000 Grenadiers annually for global markets. This is interesting, as Land Rover was adamant that, worldwide, the market for the old body-on-frame Defender was only 20,000 a year and hardly worth competing for.
Hence the new Defender, which is based on a beefed-up Range Rover Sport unitary (also called monocoque) bodyshell, which it can produce more cheaply and sell to a wider audience – a short-wheelbase commercial version of the new Defender will cost around £35,000 when it appears at the end of this year.
Tennant was involved in Land Rover marketing in West Africa in the past, where he says the company sold a solid 17,000 Defenders each year. He’s diplomatic enough not to point out that there wasn’t a lot of investment in the old Defender, nor much desire to stay competing in those markets.
So, who will buy the Grenadier? Tennant says that the new vehicle will have comfort and appointment enough to satisfy more than just the rough-and-ready agricultural and utility markets, so the hunting shooting and fishing brigades, ski, exploration, adventure and outdoor pursuits markets, not forgetting cool mums and dads, will be the first targets.
Corporate fleet markets will come later as “we will have to prove ourselves to them”, says Tennant. There might even be a possibility of appealing to armed forces and civil defence, although without a V-shaped hull as protection against improvised explosive devices (IEDs) the Grenadier wouldn’t be suitable for use in battlefield conditions.
It’s brave, certainly, although as much as how capable (and comfortable) it is it’ll be how reliable the Grenadier is that will determine its future. We’ll be following it with interest.