Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s rugged new off-roader, the Ineos Grenadier, has broken cover with a variety of clear design references to the old Land Rover Defender and a specification that could easily pass for a modernised version of the 1948 original.
Despite this, the Grenadier is an all-new 4x4 created by a ground-up team and brand, with modern components, a state-of-the-art powertrain and possibly an even more singular purpose than the icon that it seeks to supplant.
Similar in size to the latest Mercedes-Benz G-Class and powered by a modular range of six-cylinder BMW diesel and petrol engines, it’s expected to be priced from £40,000 when it hits the market late next year, initially as a five-door station wagon then “soon afterwards” as a four-door pick-up truck. A short-wheelbase car may come after, alongside other versions.
Production will take several years to ramp up for markets around the world, but insiders say it will be profitable at an annual output of about 25,000.
Ratcliffe, founder and majority owner of the £50 billion British petrochemicals group Ineos, is a steadfast devotee of the old Defender. He came up with the idea of building a replacement of his own when Jaguar Land Rover declined to sell him its designs or tooling to continue when production ceased at Solihull after 67 years in January 2016.
Two years ago, after forming Ineos Automotive, Ratcliffe enlisted his friend and favourite superyacht designer, Toby Ecuyer – who is usually based on the south coast of England – to form and lead the Grenadier design team. He also appointed former chemical engineer Dirk Heilmann as Ineos Automotive CEO and set him the task of creating the 4x4’s mechanical package, working with a band of engineers based mainly at Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria.
Named after Ratcliffe’s favourite pub in Belgravia, London, the Grenadier is being unveiled now, 18 months before its expected on-sale date, because its creators believe they will find it easier to complete a tightly planned million-mile global test programme if they can drive it “in plain sight”. Testing began last winter in Sweden. Meanwhile, two new factories are being built: one in Portugal for chassis-making and one in South Wales for final assembly.