► New phase of on- and off-road testing under way
► Prototype will recce for Ineos cycle team
► Start of production delayed to July next year
The Defender-rivalling Grenadier being built by billionaire Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Automotive has now entered a new phase of tough prototype testing – but the start of production has been pushed back from later this year to July 2022.
More than 130 ‘2B’ prototypes are now switching the focus from cold-weather and high-altitude testing in the Alps, Sweden and Iceland, and moving to hot-weather evaluation in Namibia, South Africa, the Middle East and the USA. The aim is to complete more than a million test miles, on road and off, before production begins. So far about a quarter of that distance has been covered, by the first and second set of prototypes.
Sir Jim himself drove a Grenadier up the Schöckl mountain near the Graz HQ of Ineos Automotive’s development partner Magna, and declared himself pleased with progress: ‘We've made great strides since the very early versions of the Grenadier I drove a year ago. The Schöckl is a proper challenge for any 4X4. Today was a real test for our prototypes, and they came through very well. There is still work to do, but I am confident that the Grenadier will do the job we have developed it for.’
The suspension geometry has been tweaked as a result of off-road testing, and work is continuing on the airbags after some intensive crash testing. Engineers are happy with the cold-weather calibration of the Grenadier’s BMW engines, but Death Valley and southern Africa will bring a fresh set of challenges.
After the Schöckl test, Ineos Automotive chief executive Dirk Heilmann said: ‘Reaching this important development milestone is a great step forward for the project. We only have one opportunity to get this right and our quality and performance targets for the Grenadier remain paramount. We won’t cut corners. After today’s very positive results we are on track to reach our targets and to allow the start of production in July next year at the latest.’
The Grenadier can be seen by the public at a roadshow – details have not yet been announced – and it will continue to serve as a recce vehicle for the Ineos Grenadiers cycle team, racing throughout Europe this summer.
Ineos Grenadier: what you need to know
From the off, the Grenadier was always going to have a traditional box-section ladder frame, with beam axles, permanent four-wheel drive, lockable diffs and internal combustion engines.
Says commercial director Mark Tennant: ‘Number one focus was off-road mobility and capability. An off-road vehicle that doesn’t keep on going and providing years of faithful service isn’t really doing the job. It’s got to get you out into the bush and back again.
‘It’s a vehicle designed first and foremost to be a working tool. Not everybody is going to work it as hard as some of the really exacting requirements some of our customers will have, but it’s got to be capable of that.
‘You shouldn’t have to suffer, you shouldn’t be in any pain for having a utilitarian vehicle. In terms of connectivity, screens, seat comfort, room – that’s all built in. It’s not a throwback. It’s a modern vehicle built to a certain style.’
Ramp up the rugged
The styling has a level of butchness not strictly required by the ‘form over function’ ethos. It’s very boxy, with prominent wheelarches, low-ish bonnet, near-flat glass, external door hinges, rubbing strip/utility rail along the sides, asymmetrical rear doors, a ladder to the roof, exposed tie bars, tow hooks front and rear, bash plates and steel wheels.
It looks a lot like a mix of Wrangler, Defender, G-Class and Jimny, not to mention the all-new Ford Bronco.
Design chief Toby Ecuyer says: ‘We looked at other 4x4s, we looked at tractors, helicopters, all sorts of different really hard-working vehicles, and took inspiration. Then we started designing this very honest, uncomplicated vehicle.’
Buy from the best
There are two engines, a petrol and a diesel, both 3.0-litre straight-sixes from BMW. Smartly, Ineos has a deal that covers the next generation of engines as well.
Transmissions are from ZF, axles from tractor-makers Carraro, and a lot of the development work has been done by Magna, the same people who make the G-Class for Mercedes.
The assembly process was originally intended to involve bodies and chassis being built in an Ineos plant in Portugal, before the cars were completed at the purpose-built factory in Bridgend, Wales. But the Portuguese and Welsh operations will now take place in France.
Tennant says: ‘Our peak volume we’re looking to deliver globally is in the region of 25,000 – a lot less than other manufacturers would be aiming for. That peak volume is some way off. We need a run-up. The key to this is a bit of humility and understanding that we’re not going to do it from day one.
‘We’re launching with internal combustion engines, because to deliver on the engineering blueprint we don’t think there’s another game in town right now, but like everybody we’re watching the development of technologies and infrastructure very closely.
‘What we’re doing is developing a new line of vehicles and developing a new vehicle company, a new OEM, from scratch. They’re both big investments. Ineos doesn’t do things by halves. Ineos Automotive will end up being a lot more than the Grenadier.’
Ecuyer explains how his team went about the job: ‘Our starting point was to collate our top utility vehicles. Also ones that had really proved themselves over the years. There was an honesty about them. There were certain words that kept coming up: assured, robust, faithful, dependable, purposeful. Whatever detail we were working on, did it tick any of these boxes?
‘Given our decision to go with a ladder chassis, a wheel in each corner, a big powerful engine and beam axles, that in itself already gives you some strict parameters to work within. We spent ages with the engineers testing wheel-travel angles, the exit and entry angles, getting all the mechanics right first, then we clad that, with this idea that you can see the structural themes running through, you can see how the doors are attached. Everything is very much on show.
‘The interior thinking is very much the same as the outside. All the electronics and essentials that you’d have in any other vehicle are there, but we’ve tried to do it in a very simple, uncomplicated, easily manageable way. All the switches you can operate wearing gloves.’
There won’t be many trim levels. But there will be a lot of options and accessories, and Ineos is working with aftermarket specialists to ensure they can offer good-quality bolt-ons.
Tennant: ‘We will have a range of accessories from the off, but we also want to be quite open-source, and allow people to affix existing accessories, to adapt things they already have in the garage to put on the vehicle. Hence the roof guttering allows people to, with minor mods, put an existing roof rack on as well as the one we will offer.
So, how much? ‘It’s not going to be cheap. Durability isn’t cheap. But G-Wagen has taken a path into the stratosphere from a price point of view. We don’t want to go there.’
There won’t be a traditional dealer network as such – expect a combination of experience centres, service centres and a lot of online-frst thinking.
The first Grenadier will be this wagon, followed by a shorter-wheelbase version and a double-cab pick-up with an extended wheelbase.
Check out our full story on the new Land Rover Defender