2023 Ineos Grenadier Prototype Review: Joy in Simplicity and Old School Mechanical Grip

Miss the old Defender? Dig the G-Wagen? Here’s a perfect competitor.

byPeter Nelson|
2023 Ineos Grenadier
Peter Nelson
Share

The automotive industry went through a significant change in late 2019 when Land Rover announced that it'd be building an all-new Defender. It wouldn't be a mechanically simple, body-on-frame near-tractor, but instead, follow the same tech-laden unibody recipe as its sibling in the fifth-generation Discovery and other newer Landies. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing (the new Defender rips off-road), but it was a massive change of pace for a nameplate that had become so beloved around the globe for the past several decades. 

No longer would people be able to cosplay mud farmers in rural Lancashire with something off the showroom floor from the Coventry-based brand. However, where Land Rover left off, another company decided to pick right back up as its very first entry into the car-making realm. Enter British-based petrochemical firm Ineos.

Peter Nelson

The Ineos Grenadier takes a lot of what the old Defender was but goes even harder in the paint with capability, sturdiness, and simplicity. It's a brand new truck that's as much at home rolling around suburbia as it is crawling up and down frightening, muddy grades. It's also a master class in premium engineering and parts sourcing. I recently had the opportunity to take a North American market prototype for a brief test drive in a popular off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail area north of Los Angeles and walked away amply impressed. Here's what the Grenadier is all about.

2023 Ineos Grenadier PT02 Prototype Specs

  • Base price: TBA
  • Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six | 8-speed automatic | four-wheel drive with high and low gear sets and a locking center differential
  • Horsepower: 281
  • Torque: 332 lb-ft
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Ground clearance: 10.4 inches
  • 0-60 mph: TBA
  • Top speed: 155 mph
  • EPA fuel economy: TBA
  • Quick take: Good size, assured capability, neat looks. What's not to dig?
  • Score: 9/10

The Basics

Let's get one thing clear before I proceed: when I call the old Defender a near-tractor, I mean it with full love and respect. I used to own a 1997 Land Rover Discovery 1 (the Defender's chassis mate) and really took a shine to its immensely simple-yet-well-designed construction (it's affinity for leaking fluids and weird electrical issues notwithstanding) that made it good fun off-road as well as a solid in-town roundabout. Even if I never got over 15 mpg.

Peter Nelson

With that out of the way, the Ineos Grenadier has a lot going for it that'll pique any off-road-driving-inclined consumer's interest. It comes in three trims: the standard model, Trialmaster, and Fieldmaster. The standard is basic and intended for someone who'll either rock it as-is or seek to build out its capability in the aftermarket. The Trialmaster comes standard with front and rear locking differentials and other focused equipment. The Fieldmaster, meanwhile, is meant more for luxury and daily ability. All three come standard with a locking center differential.

The Grenadier name comes from one of Ineos founder Sir Jim Ratcliffe's favorite watering holes in London's Belgravia neighborhood. The truck is produced in Hambach, France in a facility that was previously owned by Mercedes-Benz. What's more: off-road specialists Magna Steyr—you know, makers of the G-Wagen—partnered in its development. Ineos says that its close relationship with Mercedes in Formula 1 is how all this came to be.

The exterior styling is Defender-esque for sure, though with some subtle differences, primarily in the rear glass, headlights, and tail lights. The headlights look quite cool and made for neat photos, and I think on the whole it works well.

Its boxy shape gave it great overall visibility, and its slimmer width and pronounced fenders made placing it on the trail an absolute breeze. Take note, any other automaker who might embrace the past and debut a similar kind of vehicle. There's always room for fun off-roaders. The Grenadier was smaller in person that I thought it'd be and that's very much a good thing.

Peter Nelson

Trail-Ready Chops

Inside, it's very no-frills but that's very much intentional. The overall layout was simple, intuitive, and functional, with a pleasingly no-frills and easy-to-read dash. Like the old Defender, the Grenadier can be hosed out as all crucial electrical connections are high, and the choice of materials quickly proves that. All non-seat surfaces were of a hard-yet-substantial plastic material that seems like it won't show scratches too easily. The steering wheel was also manually adjustable and there's loads of storage throughout.

My tester was equipped with an immensely cool, aviation-like overhead control panel for most functions, which I sadly didn't have the chance to fiddle with. But if I ever get more time in one you better believe I will. I might even be compelled to announce out loud, by myself, what I'm turning on or off (or rather, engaging and disengaging) like a pilot.

The seats are fully manual and made by Recaro—remember when I mentioned solid parts sourcing? They have good adjustability, are quite comfortable and supportive, and are easy to plop down into or slide right out of. The reason for no electricity here is to simply cut down the number of things that could get damaged by water; chalk it up to embracing simplicity.

The gear selector was a familiar sight: it's a ZF lever that is actually a box commonly found in any automatic BMW made in the past 10 years, yet includes a high and low gear set and is combined with the locking center differential. On the business end of both driveshafts are solid axles by Carraro, a name that's mostly in the business of agricultural and construction equipment.

Then, opposite its bell housing is the venerable 3.0-liter, twin-turbo BMW B58 inline-six. When asked why Ineos went with this over, say, a GM diesel or even Mercedes' M256 inline-six, personnel simply said that it’s proven to have good reliability (you might chuckle, but they're really not bad compared to other Bimmer sixes), and parts availability is solid due to it being such a mass-market powerplant. Ineos also did its own tuning to improve longevity, such as dropping the redline by a few thousand rpm, de-tuning the horsepower, and bumping up low-end torque.

Bolted up beneath the engine and drivetrain are several skid plates, rock sliders on both frame rails, and a Bosch steering box that actuates the front wheels the old-fashioned way. Ineos says that the Grenadier's is normally found in a common, much larger commercial vehicle in the name of strength and durability. The gas tank is also enshrouded in steel and can support the entire vehicle's weight. Not only that, but the frame isn't galvanized (the body is, however), but rather coated and injected with wax so that any fabrication shop can make any potential necessary repairs down the road. 

Examining the underside of the Grenadier drove its built-tough credentials home for sure, and even made me a little misty-eyed over my old Discovery.

Peter Nelson

Driving the Ineos Grenadier Prototype

Our test loop was a trail consisting of a smorgasbord of obstacles and terra firma in Los Angeles County's Rowher Flats OHV area. We never went over 25 mph, the tires never touched pavement, the center diff was always locked, and we never left the low gearset. This wasn't the best scenario for getting a good overall idea of how it drove, but it was the ideal setup for finding out just how good the Grenadier's visibility, clearance, and assuring mechanical grip in its favorite environment were.

The spec that I drove was a Trialmaster prototype sporting more street-centric Bridgestone tires, not the upgraded, optional BFGoodrich KO2 all-terrains. Yet, it didn't bat an eye when the surface got loose.

With the approach, break over, and departure angles measuring in at 35.5, 28.2, and 36.1 degrees, respectively, plus a wheelbase of 115 inches and clearance coming out to 10.4 inches, the boxy brute is already set up for success. My driving instructor and I rolled up and down some truly menacing grades, more menacing than most of what I've ever attempted in other off-roaders. The Ineos didn't bat an eye, and never had a speck of dirt on its front or rear skidplates.

Peter Nelson

Then, thanks to solid visibility and bodywork that quickly tells you where the wheels are, as well as the front diff housing sitting in line with the driver seat, the Grenadier was effortless to place on the trail to avoid deep ruts, jagged rocks, and other elements that might instantly kill the mood.

Thanks to brilliant suspension tuning that consists of Eibach springs and ZF conventional passive dampers that possess 23 inches of travel, body control was excellent. The axles and suspension went to work and provided a very stable and reassuring ride quality over some significant ruts and rocky sections during mildly frightening ascents and descents. Not only that, but this conventional package offers nine degrees of front and 12 degrees of rear axle articulation to ensure maximum ground contact in the hairiest of scenarios.

Air suspension isn't an option, but the Grenadier absolutely doesn't need it. Ineos says it wanted to have nearly 50% fewer electronics bolted up than its closest competitor—again, in the name of simplicity and having fewer electronics that could fail.

Peter Nelson

One trail feature was a deep gully with steep grades on either side that demonstrated the off-roader's approach and departure angle quite well—I was amazed that it never made contact with the terra firma.

Though, I was most impressed with being able to tackle what lay ahead with a more old-school approach—as in, I didn't have to engage the Grenadier's standard uphill or downhill assist traction control. With only the center diff locked, low-range selected, and either first or second gear (depending on the direction of travel), I used a steady throttle for climbing, light brake inputs for descending. The truck was absolutely unbothered and felt incredibly confident. It just crawled its way along with barely any tire slip. Again, on the more street-centric tire, not the more focused KO2 all-terrain.

Using the drivetrain instead of an electronic suite of traction control felt more like my old Discovery than most other newer trucks that I've taken off-roading. It was refreshing to know that pure mechanical grip, passive suspension geometry, and low-end torque were securely transporting us up and down gnarly changes in elevation. Modern high-end tech, like Land Rover's Terrain Response 2, is nice, but off-roading is simply more enjoyable with a more analog feel and having to actively contribute with smooth, correct inputs.

The Early Verdict

The 2023 Ineos Grenadier PT02 Prototype proved to be a lot of fun. Its styling, interior layout and comfort, substantial off-road equipment, power, and grip made it an impressive package, but I can't help but wonder how much it'll cost. Other outlets have reported estimations topping $75,000, but Ineos was hesitant to offer any numbers at all. It could surpass $80,000 considering the number of high-end suppliers, time devoted to everything bolted up to its chassis, and so on. Though considering the Mercedes-Benz G550 starts just below $140,000, there's ample wiggle room for sure.

For those wondering if Ineos will follow in LR's footsteps and offer a two-door "90" variant, that's off the table due to drivetrain length constraints. But Ineos says that a pickup is on the horizon.

In any case, I can't wait for these to go into production in earnest, and it sounds like delivery via participating U.S. dealers in the fourth quarter of 2023 is a very strong possibility. Currently, there are around 7,500 reservation holders anxiously awaiting them on our soil, with 30,000 units planned, globally, for the year.

And when these reservation holders get ahold of their handsome, new, and modern-yet-OG off-roader, they'll have all the fun in the world splashing mud all over its fresh paint.

Got a tip or question for the author about the Grenadier? You can reach them here: peter.nelson@thedrive.com

stripe