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First Drive: The Ineos Grenadier Pairs the Defender’s Classic Looks With Modern Grunt

We took the 4x4 on a test drive which proved it was worth the six-year wait.

Ineos Grenadier 4x4 in the water Courtesy of Ineos Grenadier

Automotive purists yearn for the design and engineering of a simpler, more satisfying era. If a Jaguar E-Type was such a great car, why not just build it again? Of course, modern crash and emissions legislation nixed that approach long ago, and the imminent bans on gas-dependent power trains will leave most future releases mechanically unrelated to their forebears. But if there’s one vehicle that gets as close as any contemporary car ever will to the atavistic ideal, it’s the Ineos Grenadier

British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a chemicals magnate and an avid outdoorsman, was aggrieved when Land Rover replaced its rugged and rudimentary old Defender with a design that shares its engineering principles with current passenger cars. When Land Rover declined to sell him the tooling to keep the original in production, he sank $1.5 billion into producing a new heir to the classic Defender that adheres to its simple ladder-frame construction and beam axles (though is, hopefully, more reliable than the bygone drudger that inspired it). Unfortunately, a series of unforeseen obstacles—including Land Rover’s subsequent litigation, the pandemic and global supply-chain issues—delayed the vehicle’s arrival significantly. But now, six years after the Grenadier was announced, it’s ready for a test-drive. 

Ineos Grenadier on snowy landscape
The stylish 4×4 on snowy land terrain. Courtesy of Ineos Grenadier

Sir Jim conceived the Grenadier to be as much a working commercial vehicle as a lifestyle choice. As such, it will likely undercut the current Defender in entry price when it goes on sale stateside, but that’s not where its true value lies. Off-roaders like this often have a cachet based on capability and credibility over cost and are bought by people with vast property that requires traversing. Consider the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, which started out as a workhorse half a century ago but has seen its sticker skyrocket. If it’s any good, the Grenadier could follow the same trajectory. And we’re happy to report it’s extremely good. 

The retro-styled 4×4 might look sufficiently different—just—from a classic Defender to keep the courts happy, but it’s palpably better made, having been engineered by Austrian firm Magna Steyr, which also builds the G-Wagen for Mercedes. Little wonder the doors close with the same pleasing thunk as those on the Merc. 

Inside, the cabin quality is equally impressive, though purposely crafted without luxury materials; the Recaro seats are sensational, and the banks of switches, which extend over the central console and even onto a second panel in the roof, make the Grenadier’s analog intentions clear. Then there’s the BMW 3.0-liter straight-six engine mated to an eight-speed ZF auto gearbox for quiet and seamless (though hardly overstimulated) progress. 

Ineos Grenadier in the water
The new model powering through water. Courtesy of Ineos Grenadier

On road, the Grenadier rides and handles far better than you’d expect of a transport with such agricultural underpinnings. You won’t confuse it with a sports car: Its demeanor is deliberate, heavy and somewhat slow, and you’ll have to wind the steering lock off as actively as you wind it on. You can still easily road-trip with a Grenadier; its street manners simply show that its priorities lie elsewhere—specifically, off-road. With all three (optional) differential locks in, the machine is unstoppable as it crawls up and down the rockiest inclines with the minimum of fuss or even input from the driver. 

The Grenadier isn’t perfect. There were some electronic niggles in our early test car, and design features like the split rear door may prove irritating. But the conveyance isn’t meant for everyone. It’s for those who look back as much as forward and who prefer to follow their own path. Or, more likely, no path at all. 

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