Fans of old-school 4x4s rejoice: we got a rare look at the highly-anticipated Ineos Grenadier SUV at its Canadian debut in Toronto, and we’re happy to report that it is absolutely what the machine fans of classic Land Rovers, old G-Wagons, and vintage Land Cruisers have been waiting for. The Grenadier is a hardcore utilitarian truck for anyone who thinks modern SUVs have become a bit soft and over complicated. It’s big, boxy, and bears a passing resemblance to old Land Rover Defender.
Roughly 100 customers and would-be customers turned up on a rainy day in Toronto’s Distillery District to see the Grenadier and find out when it’ll come to Canada.
Greg Clark, executive vice-president for the Americas at Ineos Automotive, laid out the basics. He told the crowd the first cars will land in Canada in the latter half of 2023, and that he hopes to have Grenadiers available for test-drives before the end of the year. They’ll be sold through existing third-party dealers, the first of which will be in or around Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. As for how much the Grenadier will cost in Canada, that’s yet to be determined. Clark did say, however, that in the U.K., buying a five-seat Grenadier similar to the one we’ll get in North America would cost around £55,000. So, as a rough estimate, we’re guessing it’ll be around $70,000 in Canadian dollars.
For that you get a back-to-basics utilitarian 4×4 with serious off-road chops. We’re talking body-on-frame construction, three locking differentials, solid axles, and a two-speed transfer case. Towing capacity is 3.5 tonnes (7,700 lbs) which is enough to haul a boat, horse box, or camper, Clark said.
Under the hood is a turbocharged BMW straight-six — good for 281 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque — which runs through the tried and tested ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox.
“There isn’t a huge amount of choice for somebody who’s maybe grown out of a Bronco or Wrangler, but would never buy a G-Wagon, and really doesn’t like the direction the [new Land Rover] Defender has gone,” Clark says. He sees the Grenadier filling a gap in the market for an SUV that combines analog nostalgia with just-enough 21st century technology.
“If you want something slightly more grown-up, very capable, resilient and designed to last 30 or 40 years, there’s actually not much choice,” Clark says.
He’s right in that SUVs are increasingly complex and loaded with techy features like surround-view cameras and Autopilot-like driving assists — neither of which the Grenadier has — in an effort to cater to everyday drivers and not just off-road enthusiasts. For most people, that’s a good thing. But, for those who miss classic 4x4s, the back-to-basics Grenadier will be very welcome indeed.
The Grenadier is named after the pub, where, in 2017, the British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe had the idea for an old-school 4×4. If he were anyone else, the idea likely would’ve gone nowhere, but as the well-heeled founder and chairman of petrochemical giant Ineos Group, Ratcliffe had the cash to do something about it.
He spun up a new company, Ineos Automotive, which bought the former Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Hambach, France. The facility has capacity to build up to 35,000 Grenadiers annually. Ineos is also working closely with Magna, the same firm that’s been building the G-Class under contract for Mercedes for decades. All the pieces are in place, but starting a car company is nevertheless a risky business.
Is it any good?
The baby-blue Grenadier on display in Toronto was nearly production-ready, save for a few delicate 3D printed prototype parts. It’s larger in every exterior dimension than the new Ford Bronco, and is noticeably wider than the classic Defender, with the proportions of a vintage Toyota Land Cruiser. In other words, it looks like a mashup of all your favourite old 4x4s. (Land Rover lost a court battle to trademark the shape of the old Defender, which meant Ineos could go ahead with the Grenadier, Bloomberg reported.)
The rear seats are slightly cramped by modern standards, but the front seats are absolutely commanding. We love the industrial-grade switchgear found on the dashboard and on the roof. Two pop-up glass panels above the front seats give it a real safari-ready vibe. The rear cargo hold — accessed through a split tailgate — is positively gigantic. It would almost be rude not to do an overland camping adventure in one of these.
Some car magazines in the U.K. have driven early prototypes and came away with generally positive impressions, saying it did everything you’d expect. A proper on/off-road test-drive in a production model will likely have to wait until next year, at least in North America.
Is there an electric Grenadier?
Not exactly. Ineos recently announced it’s working on a second, smaller SUV that will be fully electric, but Greg Clark wouldn’t put even a rough date on when we might expect to see that in showrooms. In the meantime, there will be other versions of the Grenadier, including a long-wheelbase three-row model, and a four-door pickup. Given that Ineos is a petrochemical company, it’s no surprise the firm is also exploring the possibility of a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered Grenadier too.
We like what we’ve seen so far, and while it won’t be for everybody, the Ineos Grenadier will be hard to resist for nostalgic fans of classic 4×4.