IN A world where traditional live-axled, ladder-frame four-wheel drive vehicles are becoming a rare commodity, there’s a new vehicle coming to market in 2021 and it’s coming to Australia.
The Ineos Grenadier promises to bring back the old-school off-road traits adventurers appreciate, in a vehicle that has up-to-date emissions and safety tech to make it viable in this day and age.
The live-axle Land Rover ceased to exist in 2016, and even the 40-year-old Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen switched to IFS, leaving the Jeep Wrangler, LandCruiser 70 Series and Suzuki Jimny as the only vehicles to retail the live-axle arrangement both front and rear.
Ineos is a British chemicals company that operates globally, with 183 manufacturing facilities in 26 countries supplying markets around the world. Fans of F1 and yacht racing might have seen the brand name on the Mercedes-Benz F1 team cars and America’s Cup racing boats and wondered who they are.
Ineos founder Jim Ratcliffe is a proud Brit and was a big fan of the Land Rover Defender. So much so, that when JLR announced it was discontinuing the Defender as we knew it, Ratcliffe tried to buy the rights and equipment to keep the Defender in production. JLR didn’t want a bar of that, so Ratcliffe decided to do it on his own and created Ineos Automotive to build the Grenadier.
“The Grenadier project started by identifying a gap in the market, abandoned by a number of manufacturers, for a utilitarian off-road vehicle,” says Ratcliffe. “This gave us our engineering blueprint for a capable, durable and reliable 4x4 built to handle the world’s harshest environments.”
Significantly, Ineos has employed the services of Magna Steyr (who manufacture the G-Wagen for Mercedes-Benz, as well as many other cars) to get the prototype ready for testing. It also secured BMW six-cylinder engines, both diesel and petrol, to power the vehicle. Transmission will be a ZF automatic, and it will have a dual-range transfer case. The production chassis will be manufactured for Ineos in Portugal and the live axles will come from Italian manufacturer, Carraro.
Interestingly, Carraro mainly makes axles for heavy and agriculture vehicles, but it also makes portal axles for lighter vehicles. When asked if the Grenadier would be equipped with portal axles, an Ineos spokesperson said that it won’t have them at launch as the vehicle has to be affordable. However, he didn’t rule out making them available to fit in the future. Front and rear locking differentials will be optional.
The standard axles are rated to 300kg front and 925kg rear, and the Grenadier wagon will have a 3500kg GVM and 7000kg GCM. With a final weight expected to be around 2500kg, the wagon will have around a one-tonne payload, and it's being designed to accommodate a Euro pallet between the wheel arches in the cargo area. The dual rear doors are also designed to accommodate this size.
The components will all find their way to the new ‘greenfield’ factory in Bridgend, Wales, where Ineos expects to employ up to 500 staff to build the Grenadier. Initially, Ineos is planning to make 25,000 to 30,000 Grenadiers per year, but it will have the ability to produce more in the future.
On July 1, Ineos revealed what its Grenadier will look like, and there’s no hiding similarities to the Defender and G-Wagen which reinforces the type of vehicle this will be. The reveal also showed the Grenadier will be available as a five-door wagon and a four-door, long wheelbase pick-up. These will be the initial models, with Ineos not ruling out more in the future, including a single-cab pick-up.
INEOS Automotive’s CEO, Dirk Heilmann, said, “We are delighted to be able to share the design of the Grenadier so early in the process. Most manufacturers would hold back, but we are a new business, building a new brand, and we want to take people with us on this exciting journey.
“Showing the design now allows us to focus on the critical next phase of the vehicle’s development, testing its capability and durability. We have a very challenging programme ahead, as we put prototypes through their paces in all conditions, on the way to accumulating some 1.8 million test kilometres over the coming year. From today the covers are off. Testing ‘in plain sight’ without the need for camouflage wrapping, foam blocks or fake panels is an added benefit.”
All Grenadiers will be built on a bespoke ladder-frame chassis with the aforementioned Carraro live axles riding on long travel coil springs, with sway bars front and rear. This design is used to keep the vehicle simple, durable, capable and affordable. In fact, these prerequisites run across the Grenadier design philosophy and are very much in line with what we would like as 4x4 users.
The body will be made from high strength steel, with the hanging panels made from aluminium. Most importantly, it will meet all expected safety requirements, allowing it to be sold around the world including in the USA and Australia.
DEFENDER'S SPIRITUAL SUCCESSOR: Grenadier
In fact, Australia will be one of the first countries outside of the UK to see the Grenadier late in 2021 or early 2022; while left-hand-drive countries such as the US will have to wait a bit longer.
Final pricing is a long way off, but don’t expect it to be as cheap as an old Defender. Ineos spokesman said it “won’t be a cheap vehicle but it won’t be priced like G-Wagen”. We’re tipping in will start sub-$100K and be similar in price to a LandCruiser 70 Series.
With testing ramping up we expect to see a lot more of the Grenadier over the next 18 months, and we look forward to sampling the final product.
WHAT IS GRENADIER?
THE name Grenadier was chosen as it was the name of the pub in London where Ineos boss, Jim Ratcliffe came up with the plan to create his own uncompromising vehicle back in 2017.
Like all good ideas it happened over a pint of beer with the plan to build a stripped back, utilitarian, hard-working 4x4 engineered for modern day compliance and reliability.
With the design reveal in July, testing of the vehicle now gets underway with plans for a 2021 release date.