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Ineos Grenadier: can the rugged off-roader live up to the hype?

Alan Douglas spent some time with the Ineos Grenadier at the Duke of Roxburgh’s estate at Floors Castle.

There’s a special place in my heart for Land Rovers… and I’m not alone.

The brand is probably one of the best-known globally and it’s said that no matter where you go in the world, you’ll be likely to find one still giving sterling service up to its axles in mud beyond the back of beyond.

Having had three separate versions over the years, I have experienced the frustration of almost every owner and my patience and commitment to the Landie has been seriously tested.

The Duke of Roxburgh’s estate at Floors Castle played host to the Grenadier’s test drive day.

They may have claimed to be “The Best 4×4 By Far” but reliability and dependable electronics have taken a dive over recent years, to give the Japanese, Koreans and Germans a big slice of the market they should dominate.

By Jimny: Charming 4×4 is a winner

To many people, the Land Rover has gone soft, appealing to the style-conscious who are unlikely to ask their Range Rover to do anything more demanding than bump up on the kerb at their local supermarket.

The latest Defender looks good and is very capable, although I can’t see many farmers forking out more than £60,000 to use it to transport a couple of sheep to the market.

The Grenadier  must match the hard graft of the Land Rover.

The traditional Land Rover is much-missed which is why even battered second-hand examples are commanding crazy prices. Yes it was basic, from the hard seats, opening flap air conditioning and aerodynamics of a brick, but it was honest and a hard grafter.

Many tears were shed when it met its end in 2016 after more than 70 years, the victim of environmental regulations.


But all is not lost, thanks to mega-rich Sir Jim Ratcliffe, boss of petrochemicals giant Ineos which, apart from many other global operations, runs the massive Grangemouth refinery on the Forth.

The shape and form of the Grenadier shows a passing resemblance to the Land Rover.

He has created the Grenadier, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the Defender, but using the latest technology and crammed with innovative ideas.

The story goes that with his pals in the pub they reminisced about their adventures in Land Rovers and how much they mourned the demise of the classic version.

The group then apparently came up with the idea of building a replacement – but making it better. And it wasn’t just rose-tinted fantasy.

They saw a gap in the 4×4 market for a rugged vehicle which would be tougher than the Japanese pickup alternatives or the new lifestyle-focussed Land Rovers.

Can the Grenadier fill the gap in the market left by Land Rover’s demise?

Starting with a clean sheet, they took the best of what was available from specialists – linking with development partner Magna-Steyr in Austria, BMW, tractor maker Carraro for axles, ZF for gearboxes, Recaro for seats and Bosch for components – and built in all the elements that a serious off-roader needs to tackle difficult terrain, wherever that may be.

They also brought fresh ideas – every switch is labelled with writing rather than icons for immediate recognition, and is chunky so can be operated while wearing gloves – and there are toggle switches on the headlining like an aircraft cockpit with pre-wiring for roof lights or a winch.

Enthusiasm and fresh ideas helped fuel the birth of the Grenadier.

There’s an off-road pathfinder navigation programme; hard-wearing cabin materials, including saddle leather for the small steering wheel, and splashproof upholstery which can be hosed down at the end of a countryside adventure.

The rear door is split to offer access through a small panel without having to open the large section holding the massive spare wheel. Storage is comprehensive and there will be the option of a 2,000-watt AC power converter to run accessories, such as power tools.

The Grenadier has an off-road pathfinder navigation programme and ample storage.

Heavy duty roof rails provide substantial anchorage and along the side is a racking system to hold a work bench, tool store or even a mobile operating table for a vet, literally working in the field.

In the flesh, the vehicle looks less like a Defender with visual hints of the Mercedes G-Wagen and other serious German machinery like the Pinzgauer.

I got to experience its abilities on the Duke of Roxburgh’s estate around Floors Castle in the Borders. It was one of two events in Scotland to let potential customers see what’s on offer – but only from the passenger seat as the only examples in existence are prototype test vehicles.

Only prototype test vehicles are available for now

Already more than 20,000 people have registered an interest and, like me, were given the chance to be driven round a demanding off-road course where deep ruts, steep climbs, scary drops and thick undergrowth were all taken with ease.

The engine has been modified from BMW’s car set-up and is quietly confident while the smooth auto box went about its job without any input from the offroad specialist driver.

Unsurprisingly, there are no plans for an electric version but through their partnership with Hyundai we’re likely to see one powered by a fuel cell along with pickup and long wheelbase models in due course.

The splashproof upholstery can be hosed down at the end of a countryside adventure.

Ineos predict sales of around 6,000 a year in the UK and 30,000 globally, with two-thirds being the two or five-seat commercial version.

The Grenadier is expected to be the first of several vehicles from Ineos Automotive who have come in for criticism for abandoning the original plan to build the vehicle in Wales, opting instead for a ready-made former Mercedes factory in eastern France.

Ineos Auto points out that even Land Rover has an Indian parent company – and they are keen to stress that even though production may be across the Channel, they are very much British.