This is the Ineos Grenadier – an all-new car from an all-new company, but one with a distinctly familiar look.
Just three years ago, in 2017, Ineos Chairman and car fan Sir Jim Radcliffe decided to do something other car makers seemed to be shying away from: produce a vehicle with off-road ability at its heart, a utilitarian car where form followed function.
This is the result, the first model from Ineos Automotive, and a car that takes its name from the pub where the idea was first formed. Auto Express was invited to Ineos HQ to take a look at the Grenadier and meet some of the team behind it.
At the helm of the new company is Dirk Heilmann, an Ineos employee for 20 years but, like head of design Toby Ecuyer, with no previous experience of the car industry, other than being a self-confessed petrolhead. So is that a problem or benefit for someone who’s CEO of a new car company?
“A bit of both, really,” Heilmann told us. “We’ve got a very talented bunch of automotive designers and engineers we’re working very closely with, which is massively beneficial and helpful. But equally, I think, being from a different industry and thinking about things in a slightly different way, I think that’s also helped a lot as well.”
Similarly, head of design Toby Ecuyer started his career as an architect, and more recently has been designing super yachts. “If you can design one thing, you can design another,” he said. “So, if you can design a toaster well, I think you can design a car really well, too. I think it’s more to do with your designing principles than anything else. But I think it does have benefits.”
Ex-Bentley and JLR man Mark Tennant is commercial director and revealed the guiding principles behind the project: leading with off-road mobility, durability and reliability, and design; it’s got to look cool.
Ineos has chosen its partners well to help achieve that. Magna – with decades of experience of automotive design and engineering, as well as building the G-Class for Mercedes and the I-Pace for Jaguar – is working on the engineering. BMW will be supplying six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, and ZF will be supplying the transmission systems.
The bulk of the assembly was expected to take place in a new factory in Bridgend, South Wales, so the Grenadier would be British-built, although Heilmann says it’s “international” and Ineos is understood to be in talks over the possible purchase of the Mercedes-owned Smart factory in France.
It’s some way off – the first cars will be with customers in 2022 – but Heilmann says that revealing the vehicle now means the company can get on with 1.2 million miles of testing the car in plain sight.
The look the Ineos team settled on is very traditional, very similar to an old Land Rover Defender in shape and some of the detailing, but also with more than a hint of Mercedes G-Class about it – unsurprising given Magna’s involvement, perhaps.
“We were looking at all sorts of different vehicles,” Ecuyer explained. “From Unimogs to military vehicles to aircraft to lorries and vans. To the Willys jeep, obviously, and Land Rover, the Land Cruiser, Nissan Patrol, Bronco, literally everything. They are all very uncomplicated and very honest. We thought that was a good place to try to aim for.”
Getting the maximum out of the platform – which uses a traditional, if not especially high-tech, ladder-frame chassis and beam axles – was important, as was making the most of interior space. Which is why Ineos settled on a familiar, upright shape.
Simplicity of use and maintenance were also key, with features such as the ‘utility belt’ running around the middle of the car allowing owners to attach accessories, and tethering eyes lower down the doors. And while Ineos will offer a raft of accessories, it will encourage owners to use existing kit and allow other companies to develop their own accessories. “It’s a universal system,” Tennant told us. “We want to be really open-source about it.”
Even the flat bonnet surfaces have been designed to be practical. “This is a really useful surface to sit on, put your tea on, laptop on – it’s very much a workbench in lots of ways,” said Ecuyer.
There’s also a cubby box hidden behind a rear panel, external wiring points and vertically split rear doors that open wide to reveal a space that will take a Euro pallet.
Overall, Ecuyer says the Grenadier is, “Roughly the same size as a G-Wagen. I think it’s the same height and length.”
What we won’t see for a while is the interior, but Tennant promises that it’ll be bang up to date. “We’ve got to have a level of comfort that a 21st-century consumer is going to expect,” he says. “You’ve got to have room for your elbows in the vehicle. And you’ve got to have the levels of connectivity, the screens, all the things that people have the right to expect now.”
Tennant also promised innovation in how Ineos will sell the car. “We’ll be as direct as possible,” he says, “We won’t be entirely online – we want to give people the chance to kick tyres and take a test drive.”
On pricing, we understand that at today’s prices the Grenadier would start with a four. However, with a classification of N1, it will officially be a commercial vehicle, so VAT will have to be added. That means a total starting price potentially close to £50,000 for those who can’t claim the tax back through their business.
This is only the starting point for Ineos, though. A double-cab pick-up version has been confirmed, while Dirk Heilmann has also promised that “we will have some electrification.” Instead of a full EV, that’s more likely to be a hydrogen fuel-cell set-up, which Heilmann says is well suited to the ladder-frame chassis. Work has already started on the second-generation Grenadier, he hinted.
Do you prefer the new Ineos Grenadier to the Land Rover Defender? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section…