If the name Ineos isn’t familiar to you, it’s probably because you still know them by their old name, Inspec Ethylene Oxide Specialities. Ring a bell? No? Weird. Anyway, they’re a big London-based, multinational petrochemical company that happens to have a founder, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who really wanted to make a conceptual and aesthetic descendent of the Land Rover Defender. Even though he’s not affiliated with Land Rover, he was pretty much able to do so, because, you know, he’s loaded. The result is the Grenadier, and its final design was just revealed.
Ratcliffe approached Land Rover about selling him the old Defender tooling when they stopped production back in 2016, but Land Rover refused, which really isn’t that surprising.
With the option to just re-start Discovery production off the table, Ineos set out to design, effectively, a new, slightly modernized Defender, and while the result is entirely different technically and doesn’t share any body panels or glass or anything, it’s very clear where the inspiration came from.
Here’s what their press release says about it:
“The brief was simple. We set out to design a modern, functional and highly capable 4x4 vehicle with utility at its core”, said Toby Ecuyer, Head of Design. “A design that is ‘easy-to-read’, with no ambiguity about the Grenadier’s role in life. There to do everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Nothing is for show. Modern engineering and production techniques ensure the Grenadier is highly capable, but we have been able to stay true to the essence of creating a utilitarian vehicle that will stand the test of time.”
...and here’s their slow-panning design reveal video:
It’s unmistakably Defender-inspired; that strong shoulder line that runs the length of the vehicle is likely the most obvious design element, and perhaps also those cutouts in the roof for tie-downs that are in the exact same places that the Defender had roof-corner windows.
There’s some clear differences, though, like the subtle curve that all the glass has, the modernized—but still unashamedly round—lighting elements, the pedestrian-whacking-friendly hood bulge, that sort of thing.
It’s absolutely Defender-esque with all of its detailing, the external hinges, the stance and proportions, the general window and pillar shapes, but at the same time it’s all different, like those lawsuit-avoiding cars you see in video games with the funny names.
That said, the design works well, for what it is. It looks like a tough, capable off-roader designed with utility in mind, and that’s pretty much what Ineos claims they want it to be.
It’s a real body-on-frame (in this case, a box-section ladder frame) truck with solid axles and a very beefy-looking 5-link suspension setup, with separate coils and shocks to keep maintenance easier.
Engineering for the Grenadier was undertaken with help from Magna Steyr, who certainly has experience with this kind of thing, being the engineers behind the Mercedes G-Wagen, among others.
The drivetrain plan is to source engines from BMW (the 3-liter B58 turbo for the gas one, and the 3-liter B57 turbodiesel) and 8-speed transmissions from ZF.
These are all pretty safe choices, and the whole thing is made with well-proven engineering. Not a lot of new ground is being broken here, but that seems to be kind of the point. They want to build an old-school vehicle like a Discovery, with just enough updates to keep it modern enough and comfortable enough, with the screens and USB ports and other crap that today’s modern go-getters demand.
This makes it kind of a novel departure from most startup car companies today, which seem to focus on cutting-edge tech and, usually, EV drivetrains.
The company states it’ll be able to crank out 25,000 of these a year at full capacity, and they expect pricing to start at about $50,000. They also chose to release the design before starting their testing program because, it seems, they don’t feel like dealing with all the mess of camouflaging the cars.
There’s a market for these kinds of vehicles, no question, and I’m not sure Land Rover’s own new Defender is going to necessarily fill that need for many buyers who still want the old straightforward honesty and simplicity of the original Defender.
Starting a new car company is never easy, but maybe Ineos will have a better shot at it since, in many ways, they’re picking up where someone else left off. I guess we’ll find out.