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Is this spiritual successor to the original Defender a vanity project or the real deal?

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When Land Rover retired the original Defender, petrochemicals billionaire and Defender buff Sir Jim Ratcliffe offered to buy the design rights and production-line tooling so that the model might live. JLR refused and the result is this, the Ineos Grenadier.

Only in 2017 did Ratcliffe reveal his intention to produce (from a standing start) an uncompromising, old-school off-roader in the mould of the Defender, and since then the project has rarely been out of the limelight.

Hans-Peter Pessler, Ineos Automotive’s newly appointed COO, led the development of the Grenadier for its partner, Austrian firm Magna Steyr. Among his jobs in a long career there? Developing the latest ultra successful G-Class for Mercedes

Plans to build this serious 4x4 in South Wales were shelved when the modern, well-sited Hambach plant in eastern France, where for decades Daimler built Smarts, became available. All the while, JLR and Ineos Automotive were engaged in a legal dispute over the trademark rights for the very shape of the old Defender. JLR eventually lost, and the way for ‘Grenadier’ production was paved.  

We have driven the Grenadier before, twice in prototype form (including up the truly inhospitable Schöckl mountain trail) and once in full production form. We already know that, once untethered from the public highway, this car will at least match, and possibly outperform, the original Defender.

For some, that will mean a job largely done. But now the Grenadier undergoes a full road test to discover what it’s like in a broader sense. How does it conduct itself day to day? How efficient is its BMW-sourced powerplant? Does this car feel something of a pastiche, or is it the real deal for classic Defender lovers? Time to find out.

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Range at a glance

Utility (2-seat) TD245bhp£64,500
Utility (4-seat) T282bhp£65,000
Quartermaster TD245bhp£66,215
Quartermaster T282bhp£66,215
Station Wagon TD245bhp£76,535
Station Wagon282bhp£76,535
Transmission8-spd auto 

The Grenadier comes in a trio of flavours: commercial Utility, a crew- cab pick-up Quartermaster and the five-seat Station Wagon tested here. All are offered with a choice of six- cylinder petrol and diesel motors.

In terms of trim levels, Ineos is not currently offering the basic, blank- canvas Station Wagon. Instead, you can have either a Trailmaster (identifiable by its raised air intake and steel wheels) or the Fieldmaster (fancier wheels, safari windows).

Ineos currently sells roughly two petrol Grenadiers for every diesel, though a pure-electric version is in the works, says CEO Lynn Calder.


ineos grenadier off road review 2023 01 watersplash

Land Rover’s reincarnated Defender uses an aluminium monocoque chassis but the Grenadier is strictly traditional in its approach, and more closely related to the current Jeep Wrangler. A beefy box-section ladder frame was developed, with longitudinal members some six inches tall. It’s made from steel and supports beam axles supplied by Italian tractor specialist Carraro.

For the suspension, leaf springs and air springs were considered but Eibach steel coils were eventually chosen and are paired with telescopic dampers from ZF and monstrous bump-stops. There is also a sizeable Panhard rod at each end, for reliable lateral location. Inspecting the components of the axles is no hardship because the space between tyre and wheel-arch lining is cavernous. The body sitting on top is made from spot-welded steel, apart from the doors and bonnet, which are aluminium.

The Grenadier’s silhouette is, of course, pure old-world Defender, but park the two cars nose to tail and inconsistencies surface. The newer car’s bonnet is longer, and more snouty, and has greater rake than that of its inspiration.

Its rear door apertures are also considerably larger. The Grenadier is the longer car too, its 4895mm (including tailgate-mounted spare) comfortably surpassing the original 110’s 4639mm, though the current Land Rover Defender 110’s 5018mm trumps both (and the new Defender’s wheelbase is 100mm longer than the Grenadier’s). You will notice this car’s prognathic front bumper.

Elegant? No, but it can house a winch with 5.5-tonne capability.

Weighing 2678kg (2682kg as tested), the Grenadier was never likely to propel itself with anything less than six cylinders, which is the sole offering. The car comes with a choice of turbocharged 3.0-litre straight-six BMW motors – one petrol, one diesel – selected not simply for their effortless torque delivery but also for the fact that they meet emissions standards worldwide.

We have the petrol here, which with 282bhp and 332lb ft is more powerful but less torque rich than the diesel, and returns a claimed 18.9-19.6mpg, versus 26.9mpg for the oil-burner. Neither engine revs beyond 5200rpm. 

Drive flows through an eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF (this ‘8HP51’ unit also serves the current BMW 3 Series and Toyota Supra). Downstream sits a two-speed transfer case with centre differential that was bespoke-designed and built for the Grenadier by Tremec.

There’s then an electronically locking differential from Eaton on each axle (manually lockable on the more adventure-leaning Trailmaster specification). With all three differentials locked, the Grenadier distributes drive perfectly equally to all four corners.

Down on the ground, as standard the Ineos is shod with Bridgestone’s all-terrain Dueler A/T 001 tyres, which are wrapped around 17in steel wheels (18in steelies are optional, as are painted alloys in both sizes). More specialised off-road rubber comes in the form of our car’s BF Goodrich KO2s.

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ineos grenadier review 2023 18 front seats

There’s a sense of occasion when you clamber up into the Grenadier’s surprisingly supportive, heated Recaro seats. For one thing, the driving position is magnificently high. In original Defender fashion, your eyeline almost skims the top of the side windows (though unlike in the original Defender, the sill itself fully invites a resting elbow).

On the motorway, you find yourself peering down into the cabins of other ‘full-size’ SUVs as you overtake. Visibility is panoramic, and the sense of space is heightened by the removable safari windows fitted as standard on road-leaning Fieldmaster Grenadiers, as tested here.

The Grenadier’s designers have chosen to lean into this flight deck ambience. While an array of climate controls are built into a hardy-looking panel on the centre console, switchgear relating to off-road activities is found on an overhead panel. Here you will also find chunky, pre-wired toggle switches for any auxiliary accessories fitted either inside (eg additional USB points) or out (eg a 40in light bar).

All the switchgear is supersized for use with gloves, and while the BMW-sourced central display can be touch-controlled, there’s also a large rotary control on the transmission tunnel.

Perceived quality is some way off what you find inside the new Defender, but some of that is by design and the Grenadier doesn’t feel conspicuously cheap.

All surfaces are splash-proof, and our test car’s heavy-duty flooring can be hosed out then removed to let water out through drain holes. Carpet is an option, and leather can be used for steering wheel, handbrake lever and seats, softening the functional ambience. And while some will find the military-esque graphics performative, others will love them. 

Oddment storage is lacking. The door pockets are shallow and the transmission tunnel is mostly devoid of useful recesses. Matters improve elsewhere. The cubby under the driver’s seat holds a toolkit but there’s a similar space under the passenger seat. The rear bench folds up to reveal a dry-storage compartment.

The doors of the split tailgate open wide to reveal fully 1152 litres of seats-up capacity, though flat-topped wheel-arch moulds would make the space more useful. The second row of seats fold 60/40 to swell that capacity to an enormous 2035 litres, though they don’t fold entirely flat. The plastic floor of the boot curves up at its leading edge to confine water, or as one owner will attest, sheep guts. 

Multimedia system

Ineos grenadier review 2023 26 screen

The Grenadier’s infotainment system is from BMW and uses a 12.3in touchscreen. The dash directly ahead of the driver is deliberately barren, save for a small display that shows various warning lights. It means the central display is used to show fuel level, gear, engine temperature and speed, and road speed, as well as all the usual multimedia functions.

It does so reasonably well, though looking left to see vital information never feels that intuitive, and a large rev counter would be better. Graphics and latency are fine for this kind of application, though would feel a bit out of place in, say, any BMW of similar price to the Grenadier.

Finding the off-road menu is a one-touch affair. There are readouts for driveline temperature, altitude and electrical draw, plus a satellite-based ‘Pathfinder’ programme that allows you to create and share off-grid routes with other Grenadiers.

Apple CarPlay (via Bluetooth) and Android Auto (wired) are standard. The car also has two 12V sockets (one in the armrest compartment, another in the boot) and both USB-A and -C ports.



ineos grenadier review 2023 29 engine

For reasons we will come to, you are unlikely to deploy the Grenadier’s full firepower often. However, do so and it’s unexpectedly brisk. Top speed is 99mph but our petrol test car took just 8.0sec to stomp its way to 60mph, in much the style of Joe Marler 10 metres out.

The 30-70mph dash in kickdown takes a more leisurely 8.1sec but a mid-ranking Range Rover isn’t much quicker. 

This powertrain isn’t lacking in character, either. Likeably gruff on start-up, BMW’s straight six is well mannered when unprovoked but has a rich blare when extended.

It would be mostly unrecognisable to anybody who knows it only from the BMW M340i – its various resonances are less isolated to the engine bay and its throttle response is comprehensively blunted by the weight of the Grenadier.

However, a long throttle and a breathy roar that doesn’t always tally with your rate of forward motion are acceptable for this type of vehicle. ZF’s gearbox is also as sophisticated as ever, giving intuitive low-speed control one moment and rapidly kicking down two cogs another.

Under heavy braking, the Grenadier pitches dramatically and during an emergency stop can squirm uncomfortably but it never requires steering correction. It would surely have felt more planted wearing Bridgestone’s Dueler tyres than these BF Goodrichs.

In the context of normal passenger cars, the 59.5m taken to stop from 70mph in dry conditions is worryingly long. However, for a genuine off-roader, it isn’t bad. In similar conditions, the new-gen Mercedes G350d we tested in 2019 could only manage 52.2m, and that was on more moderate all-season Pirellis. In normal driving the Grenadier’s brake feel is numb but perfectly effective and reasonably easy to modulate.

Off-road notes

Ineos grenadier rear climbing hill 0

Ineos Automotive's commitment to honouring the legacy of the original Land Rover Defender is such that it has even chosen to equip the Grenadier with technological solutions that have long since been phased out of the mass-market as rivals pursue improved refinement and practicality. Most obvious among these is the steering, which eschews the now-commonplace rack and pinion set-up for a recirculating ball mechanism, which effectively comprises a large worm screw running through a shaft, with bearings in the threads to reduce slop in its responses, and reduce wear by mitigating friction. 

The justification for equipping the Grenadier with such a conspicuously archaic arrangement is that it stops the wheel whipping around and breaking your thumbs if you hit a rock or rut off-road - meaning you needn't keep them on the rim of the wheel at all times, as is convention.

No doubt regular mud-pluggers will appreciate the more relaxed driving style this affords, but the resulting sense of disconnection between the helm and the front axle is almost as disconcerting in itself as the prospect of snapping a digit. 

Low-speed off-roading calls for a measured, precise approach that is contingent on knowing which way the wheels are pointing at all times, and precisely where on the ground they have fallen. But what the Grenadier's steering offers in durability and dependability, it concedes in feedback and predictability, to the point that the driver – counter-intuitively, given the Grenadier's analogue remit – becomes almost entirely dependent on the steering angle readout on the central screen. 

So, too, do you lose any sense of elasticity; rather than returning to centre out of a turn, the steering wheel basically stays where you put it, meaning you have to make constant adjustments to stay on track which becomes a more tiresome exploit the longer you spend off the Tarmac. 

But with that said, the Grenadier indisputably stands proud as one of the most capable 4x4s on the market. Its ability to wade at up to 800mm meant we could ford murky streams that would have entirely swallowed a sports car, the impressive articulation (around 9in at the front and 12in at the rear) kept the body flat over some truly fearsome undulations, and its ultra-short overhangs and 26.2deg breakover angle meant there was no risk of grounding out on the steepest and sharpest peaks.

Still, the Grenadier can’t quite match the new Defender. Air springs give that car 290mm of clearance (versus 264mm for the Ineos) and 900mm of wading depth (versus 800mm). A little better dexterity, too, and the Ineos's old-school chassis simply can't match the Gaydon car for refinement and comfort - any more than a cautious crawl over rough surfaces will have its occupants bouncing around the cabin. 

Screenshot 2023 09 28 at 16


ineos grenadier review 2023 03 cornering rear

The Grenadier is made on a thoroughly modern, robotised production line but it still has a throwback persona in many ways. This is most recognisable in the steering, which is by recirculating ball (for off-road resilience and to protect the driver’s wrists) and is low-geared even by class standards.

The Grenadier’s thick-rimmed, two-spoke steering wheel and the linkages it controls define much of the car’s on-road character and this set-up isn’t the easiest to rub along with.

A certain imprecision is to be expected – enjoyed, even – but the lack of self-centring action, somewhat inconsistent weighting and sheer amount of arm twirling needed through tighter bends mean anybody at the helm can never truly relax. At the national speed limit there’s plenty to occupy you.

It almost goes without saying that hustling the Grenadier isn’t for the faint of heart. Ineos Automotive clearly feels the same, which is why the car’s conservative ESP cuts in early and abruptly during on-road driving. The only option is to back things off a bit. 

Do so and the Grenadier is more agreeable, if still not able to dispel a certain agricultural-ness. Multiple corrections of course through the same corner are something you have to accept, and if there is one aspect in which the current Land Rover Defender really puts the Grenadier to the sword, it’s this one.

Comfort & Isolation

The Grenadier rides well. Its motorway gait is particularly impressive, and because this is an environment in which you need to interact less with the steering, progress feels most car-like while cruising.

With its breeze-block frontal area, wind noise is of course notable at 70mph, and the 73dBA reading the Grenadier logged is 3dBA greater than that of the diesel Wrangler we tested in 2019. Interesting, 73dBA is also an exact match for our last recording from the original Defender.

Should the newer, more expensive Grenadier do better? Perhaps. And it probably would do on its Dueler tyres. In any case, in subjective terms no testers found cabin noise to be an issue. You can easily listen to the radio or hold conversation. That superb visibility also has a relaxing effect.

On country roads, there isn’t much that troubles this chassis. Head-toss and outright bouncing are reasonably well quelled and the car’s long, progressive springs neatly cushion ridges and bumps.

If anything irks, it’s the pedal box of right-hand-drive cars. The footrest is oversized because the exhaust runs beneath it. It means the pedals are far offset to the right, which along with the upright driving position and perfectly central steering wheel mean you have to contort yourself ever so slightly. 


ineos grenadier off road review 2023 07 wading

The Grenadier lacks a direct rival. Among other hardcore off-roaders, the Mercedes G-Class is more opulent than ever and in the UK starts at more than £125,000.

Meanwhile, Toyota’s Land Cruiser is in between generations and Jeep’s Wrangler is available only with a 2.0-litre engine. This all means that the closest thing the Grenadier has to competition is… the current Land Rover Defender. In terms of residuals, the Grenadier fares reasonably well but can’t match a Defender. Right now, very little can.

In terms of price, the basic Grenadier Station Wagon, without any option packs, costs around £66,000. Ineos is aiming for all owners to be within 50km of an accredited workshop. Online manuals exist to encourage owners to work on the cars themselves, if they like, but it’s unknown how this approach tallies with Ineos’s five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty. 

Also note that, while the car’s BMW engine and gearbox is somewhat self-contained, the robust suspension will be easier to work on in the field than that of the current Defender, should anything go wrong. The Grenadier also ought to fare better on challenging boulder trails than the Land Rover, whose monocoque construction makes the sills more vulnerable.

The Ineos does, however, lack the Wrangler Rubicon’s electronically disconnectable anti-roll bars. 

As for efficiency and autonomy, with a 90-litre tank and average test economy of 17.9mpg, our petrol Grenadier’s real-world range was 354 miles. For pure touring, that figure increases a little, but expect it to shrink if you’re overlanding.


ineos grenadier review 2023 30 static front

Six years ago this machine was no more than an idea on a pub napkin, yet it’s now a fully homologated 4x4, built in a modern facility, with off-road ability to rival the very best, while oozing old-fashioned character and idiosyncrasy.

That much of the design-engineering was undertaken by veteran consultancy Magna only underscores Ineos’s intention to do things properly, and a deal to use excellent BMW powertrains has given the Grenadier one of its more prominent strengths.

Yet if the Grenadier exists as a spiritual successor to the original Land Rover Defender, it inhabits the role too earnestly. Some innovation regarding the steering set-up may have allowed the car to retain deep off-road capability and old-school feel but not at the expense of everyday drivability. A lighter construction would also have been desirable, as would a driving position able to combine loftiness with long-distance comfort. Storage could be better, too. It should be noted that the new Defender ticks all these boxes.

But despite certain shortcomings, many will love this car for its undoubted ruggedness and adaptability. Broader appeal might remain elusive, however.

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017 and like all road testers is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests and performance benchmarking, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found presenting on Autocar's YouTube channel.

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Ineos Grenadier First drives