- The Ineos Grenadier is an off-road SUV created by one of the world's richest men.
- It's meant to be an analog vehicle, unlike many modern off-roaders with lots of electronic assists.
- We got to ride in one, and learned that even with an unlimited budget, sometimes basic is best.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
The Ineos Grenadier is a car that exists because a billionaire and his friends, lamenting the death of the original Land Rover Defender, wanted something rough and ready to go exploring in.
Recently, Insider got to see just what that means by riding shotgun in the SUV - and it was a revealing insight into what can be done by a new firm with a clear goal (and a ton of investment).
The idea for the Grenadier was conceived in a London pub of the same name. Monaco-based Sir James Ratcliffe, Chairman and CEO of the Ineos Chemicals Group and one of the UK's richest people, saw a gap in the market for people like him - those who prefer their adventure toys analog, despite their virtually unlimited budget - and set out building an off-roader to suit.
Revealed in 2020 and available with a gas engine or diesel BMW motor, the Grenadier isn't like other SUVs. Competitors like the Land Rover Defender, Jeep Wrangler, and Ford Bronco use complicated electronics to get the job done, while the Grenadier relies first and foremost on mechanical input from drivers, using electrics only as a safety net for the inexperienced.
While the Grenadier will likely be competitive when it comes to price, its contemporaries have the distinct advantage of being on sale now, while the Ineos is expected to hit North American shores in 2023.
Insider rode shotgun in a prototype Grenadier model at an off-road-friendly location in East Sussex, UK, and the prototype certainly wasn't meant to be a showroom darling. Built on June 1 to see how it would fare over about 2,500 miles in "all weathers" - rain, shine, probably lava - the inside of the SUV featured blanked out buttons, screens, placeholder trim, a center console stripped bare, and utilitarian controls that even the most hardcore customer would turn their nose up at.
The Grenadier was built to be tested to extremes, not look shiny in a parking lot. It was refreshingly inornate.
Setting off in a billionaire's ideal apocalypse-mobile, the first thing you notice is how quiet it is. Usually with preproduction vehicles, you expect squeaks, rattles, and all manner of foibles, but here, that's not the case. One squeak from a fire extinguisher was notable, but otherwise it was solidly bolted together.
The BMW motor, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, felt smooth from the passenger seat. Each gearshift, albeit at a steady pace, happened with barely perceptible ease.
Easing into rougher, more forest-y terrain, the Grenadier seemed sure footed. This, an Ineos rep said, is because the car's mechanical underpinnings and old-school body-on-frame construction - rather than unibody - means a user has greater control of what the car is doing, rather than relying on a computer to spot a possible grip issue and fix it on the fly.
As the terrain got rougher, the Grenadier's ride remained remarkably unfussed. It still threw us around, but clambering up and down a small chunk of Surrey countryside wasn't back-breakingly uncomfortable. After all, it's a car designed to climb mountains, not crawl along the highway.
When manufacturers show off cars, they almost always choose locations that make those cars shine. Yet our time with the Grenadier showed that even though it's early in development, Ineos is keen to demonstrate that the newcomer is a legitimate alternative to other off-road SUVs.
The Grenadier shuns the trust of computerized ones and zeros for traditional suspension and controls. It's a purpose-built tool for specialists, rather than a Swiss Army Knife designed to do all jobs for all people.
And sometimes, that's just what people need.