Regular readers will confirm, with annoyed groans, that I am properly obsessed with purpose. A vehicle’s ideal usage is almost as important to me as the painful abuse thereof. And now, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to the brand-new Ineos Grenadier… which has the actual tagline “built on purpose”.
How amazingly cool does that sound? Although they could’ve also said “out of spite” because by now, most people know the story of the Grenadier’s birth. Ineos owner and all-round genius billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe wanted to buy the tooling for Britain’s now-defunct but well-loved 4×4 icon and… they said no.
The story is certainly not quite as casual but confirms one of my predictions when I reviewed the last outdated British icon: that someone would keep building it. Back then, my money was on the Indians or Chinese but little did I know that its keepers were so holy about the old dear that they’d brush off the advances of a fellow countryman.
And so it came to be that Ineos, a 25-year-old chemicals company, formed Ineos Automotive Ltd. in 2017 and committed itself to building the world’s ultimate four-wheel drive vehicle. Codenamed “Project Grenadier” (after Sir Ratcliffe’s favourite London pub), the vehicle started taking shape in an abnormally public and transparent process.
With some resemblances to the abovementioned relic, it even appeared in court but was dismissed as being too different from the plaintiff. Ineos Automotive soldiered on with an uncompromising focus towards off-road excellence and superior build quality; two characteristics which I got to experience and confirm on the Grenadier’s recent launch.
After 1.8 million kilometres of testing across the globe (including Namibia), the production-ready vehicles were available for international journalists to experience across rougher areas of their native United Kingdom. I was happy and proud to represent the Land of the Brave amidst a few South Africans, one Kenyan and some folks from down under!
And most of us agreed: we got the best part of what was a four-stage, multi-rotation off-road expedition. We drove a fleet of Grenadiers in the wintery Scottish Highlands. Have you ever been to Scotland? You should. Somewhere towards the end of day one, we rounded yet another loch (lake) and the wild but beautiful desolation kinda reminded me of something: Damaraland.
Which, by the way, is one of Sir Ratcliffe’s favourite places on the planet. Apparently he took some precious time off to join engineers and development partners in the dustier parts of our country. On top of that, every member of the Ineos Automotive team lit up when I mentioned Namibia. They’re either keen to visit, or extremely keen to return.
And now, before I get to our deeply impressive driving and off-roading bits, allow me to re/introduce you to the brand-new Ineos Grenadier. Yes, it shares some vague similarities with other vehicles but the company never wavered from their directive: to build a no-frills, no-fuss, best-in-class, durable and utilitarian off-road vehicle.
This resulted in a powder-coated box section (wax-injected) ladder-frame chassis and galvanised steel body, riding on hard-core Carraro axles which are both permanently driven by an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission and central transfer case with low-range and/or mechanical differential lock capabilities.
The solid beam axles are attached by 5-link suspension with coil springs, while braking is done by 316mm vented discs with two pistons at the front and 305mm single-piston solid discs are the rear. Power steering is still the good old hydraulically-assisted type, while the Grenadier’s turning radius is 13.5 metres.
In southern Africa, we’ll start with the “M1” 5-seater station wagon, while elsewhere you get a 2- or 5-seat “N1” utility wagon; with blanked-out far rear windows and a vast cargo area. The double-cab bakkie will probably appear in the not-too-distant future, while plans for an electric or hydrogen vehicle are currently on hold.
Power in every Grenadier comes from a BMW 3-litre in-line 6-cylinder engine in either “B57” turbo-diesel or “B58” turbo-petrol guise, both of which were re-tuned to offer increased elasticity and longevity; because that’s what a true off-roader needs. At the moment, both engine choices cost the same and Ineos isn’t considering 4-cylinder power plants.
The torque curves, power delivery and shift points of these two six-pots are different than in BMW’s, which I confirmed with kick-downs in both derivatives. Where Bavarian diesels will often reach 5,000rpm, the Grenadier shifts near 4,500rpm. Petrol BMW’s often do 7,000rpm but this one changes up almost 1,000rpm earlier.
Official power figures for the B57 turbo-diesel are 183kW @ 4,200rpm and 550Nm from just 1,250rpm, while the B58 turbo-petrol equivalent manages 210kW @ 4,750rpm and 450Nm from 1,750rpm. Because of its lower rpm limits, gearing in the diesel is slightly longer until about 5th gear, after which they are identical.
My favourite would usually be the petrol unit because I grew up with them and enjoy their larger lungs during long overtakes or treacherous sand crossings. However, the amazing turbo-diesel BMW straight six not only countered that with freakishly similar power delivery, but also trumped its petrol twin with superior torque and a better engine note!
One of the many surprises I got.
For those who are interested in consumption figures, the diesel pulls yet another ace out of its sleeve by propelling this 2.7-ton vehicle at an average of 10.5 to 12.2L/100km. The petrol will help itself to at least two or four litres more. All Grenadiers have a 90L fuel tank and limited 160km/h top speed, while 0-100km/h takes 9.9 or 8.6 seconds respectively.
Other noteworthy dimensions include 4,896mm length, 1,930-2,146mm width and 2,036mm height. Front overhang is 887mm and approach angle 35.5°, with just 874mm overhang and 36.1° departure angle at the rear. Ground clearance is 264mm, the break-over angle 28.2°, maximum wading depth 800mm and grade ability of 45°.
If, by now, you’re somehow still not convinced that Ineos Automotive was obsessed with making this the ultimate 4WD vehicle, here are a few more pointers. You only get two tyre choices: a semi off-road Bridgestone or properly knobbly BF Goodrich. Each tyre valve is made of steel rather than rubber, to prevent tearing during extreme off-roading.
At the time of publishing, there are four wheel choices for our market: 17-inch or 18-inch steel, as well as 17-inch or 18-inch alloys. This leads us neatly to the Grenadier’s three available specification levels: a no-name base model, the off-road focussed “Trialmaster” or a more adventure/lifestyle-oriented “Fieldmaster”.
Base specifications include an overhead panel with off-road switches, Pathfinder off-road navigation, LED headlights and auxiliary high beam lights, full size spare wheel on the rear door (which splits 30/70%), Recaro seats, various towing hardware, roof rails and protection strips, front and rear tow eyes as well as a “Toot button” secondary hooter, to warn foot traffic and give a nod to the Grenadiers cycling team.
Although there are 10 exterior colours to choose from, half of them are quite dark. The brighter side (for our hotter climate) includes Scottish White, Sterling Silver, Magic Mushroom (flat beige) and Eldoret (powder) Blue. Also, be sure to chat with your nearest dealer about the option of a contrast roof or chassis colours!
Depending on spec or options, those comfy Recaros can be covered in two-tone grey fabric, full black leather, or black and white contrast leather. Front seat heating is also an option. The two-spoke multi-function steering wheel is always covered in premium black Nappa leather but can be upgraded to dark brown Saddle leather.
You can obviously start with a base model and configure your own Grenadier – which I may have done a dozen times already – but the other two models have nicely-stacked options or sensible options packages. Highlights of these include the twin pop-out safari glass roofs, power heated mirrors, front and rear parking aids as well as a rear-view camera.
For the more adventurous among us, Ineos Automotive also offers various power, storage or attachment solutions like utility belts, fold-out tables, an LED light bar, rear ladder, various mounts, a roof rack, cargo box or side awning. A second battery can be fitted beside the main one under the rear seats, although it will delete one of the car’s hidden storage compartments.
And just to hammer home its 4×4 credentials – again – each Grenadier can be ordered with side steps or rock sliders, front and/or rear winches, regular or cyclone air snorkel, various exterior power points, high-load aux switch panel, checker plates, shovel, bull bar and side bars, cargo barrier, carpet or rubber mats and the sacred duo for off-roaders: front and rear diff locks.
Which finally brings me to the way this car drives. Ten points to anyone who’s still with us. My very first impressions destroyed any expectations of old-world 4×4’s because the door seals demand a proper shove, everything feels highly durable and qualitative, while the beefy combination of a turbo-six with eight auto gears feels alien at first.
Because it’s so amazing.
There’s more space and comfort inside than most people would expect, including multiple arm rests and grab handles. Again, it’s all made with off-roading in mind. So is the switchgear of the rather chunky dashboard and overhead panel, because it offers physical button distinctions and you can operate everything with gloves.
Except perhaps the more delicate (touch-screen) infotainment system with multiple audio, communication and vehicle interfaces. Apple and Android are catered for, while 4×4-fundies will revel in the multi-level information screens with various inclination, pressure or temperature read-outs. I also liked the optional altimeter and compass combination instrument.
Tarmac travel is fairly smooth and pretty effortless, while every journalist agreed that the ride is firmer and more stable than we had expected. Yes, the car feels heavy and the steering’s a bit numb at highway speeds but not only is Ineos still tinkering with final settings, it all makes perfect sense when you leave the asphalt.
Dirt roads, green lanes or farm tracks are obviously child’s play for this vehicle and it wasn’t until we hit steep muddy banks, wet fields and peaty bogs that low range or diff locks had to come out. With experienced instructors nearby, I can confirm that the Grenadier is pretty much unstoppable if you know what you’re doing.
Its makers shied away from drive modes or other unnecessary items like electronic low range engagement because it would’ve required more sensors or control modules. Instead, you have the privilege of yanking the mechanical lever yourself and – as we observed first hand – the potential of grinding the auto-box if you’re careless.
The only button-summoned nannies included here are an off-road mode (which optimises the drive train and ESP while watering down secondary nannies) or a wade setting with de-activated seat heaters, disabled seatbelt warnings and a set maximum speed for that optimum bow wave. How detailed is that?
How absolutely off-road focussed.
We got to test wading mode later that day by repeatedly driving through a half-frozen loch (lake) without so much as a single hitch. Besides the fact that I have never broken ice while driving, my other resounding memory of this trip is that almost nobody got stuck (especially the lone Namibian!) and those who did were easily able to free themselves.
Day two saw us conquer one hillside and mountain after the other, which the Grenadier aced with the same aplomb as fast motorway journeys around Inverness or Glasgow. I initially fumbled up the excellent hill-descent controls on an extremely steep and muddy downhill section, but the vehicle quickly recovered to its minimum speed of 3mph (5km/h).
Slowly crunching and bouncing your way down a slippery hell road in a 2.7-ton beast showcased the levels of engineering which flowed into this car; as did an ascent up a badly rutted and partially washed-out excuse for a track. Near the summit, my passenger smiled at me and pointed out that the recommended diff locks weren’t even engaged…
Other off-roading activities included more water crossings, deep muddy trenches, puddle splashing, fast gravel sections and a convoy u-turn on a misty mountain top. It was as breathtakingly awesome as the cars’ 4×4 abilities. And just in case you think I’m completely smitten or bought over, here are a few negatives I noted.
There’s a large protrusion on the left of the driver’s foot-well in RHD models, which Ineos disguised as a foot rest. It was initially irritating but I quickly got used to (or avoided) it. I personally dislike the dark or black wheel colours, and the gauges being part of the infotainment screen, but none of these are deal-breakers to me.
Have I mentioned yet how surprised I was with the quality and execution of this first-generation, first-attempt ever vehicle? Or its simply stellar off-road abilities? And then there was the confident professionalism of our hosts, who didn’t shower us with gifts, drown us in presentations or carefully choreograph us into a curated off-road course.
Nope. They let the Grenadier do all the walking and talking until an entire armada of international motoring journalists were not only in agreement about the product, but most of them were dreaming and scheming about how they could one day buy one.
This, thanks to its unwavering sense of purpose, now includes yours truly.
Prices (February 2023)
- GRENADIER STATION WAGON R1,513,100
- GRENADIER STATION WAGON TRIALMASTER EDITION R1,630,560
- GRENADIER STATION WAGON FIELDMASTER EDITION R1,630,560
Please consult Ineos Grenadier Windhoek for local prices or availability and prices of accessories.