INEOS Automotive has revealed the styling of the Grenadier off-roader, and it’s all looking a bit familiar. It started out as an idea three years ago, and is now getting very serious indeed, with prototypes in testing, a new deal inked with Magna Steyr, a factory being built in Wales and a section of the market pining after a direct replacement for the original Land Rover Defender.
Built from the ground up on an all-new platform, the INEOS Grenadier has been designed on purpose: namely to meet the demands of its future owners for a rugged, capable and comfortable go-anywhere working vehicle. That it looks like a Land Rover Defender is hardly a surprise – but what is impressive is just how similar it looks.
‘The brief was simple. We set out to design a modern, functional and highly capable 4×4 vehicle with utility at its core’, said Toby Ecuyer, Head of Design. We assume his is one of the easiest jobs in the industry. He continued: ‘A design that is “easy-to-read”, with no ambiguity about the Grenadier’s role in life. There to do everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Nothing is for show. Modern engineering and production techniques ensure the Grenadier is highly capable, but we have been able to stay true to the essence of creating a utilitarian vehicle that will stand the test of time.’
INEOS Automotive has confirmed that the Austrian four-wheel drive and volume-build specialist Magna Steyr will undertake series development of the Grenadier on the company’s stamping ground of the Shöckl mountain near Graz. This is great news for anyone who thinks that INEOS will have its work cut out making the Grenadier working properly off-road – the company recently perfected the new G-Wagen for Mercedes-Benz there.
The company says that Magna Powertrain has been working on the chassis and suspension systems onboard since inception. The development comes on the back of the recent announcement that the Grenadier will be built in a bespoke new factory on a greenfield site in Bridgend, South Wales, not far from where Ford announced it will be closing its engine factory. INEOS Automotive says this will create 200 jobs initially, and up to 500 in the long term. Site development is now under way to support a planned start of production in 2021.
The new car, which was conceived to replace the original Land Rover Defender now that Jaguar Land Rover has moved its successor upmarket, will be built in volumes of up to 25,000 per year in Wales. A new sub-assembly plant at Estarreja in Portugal will produce the Grenadier’s body and chassis, working in conjunction with the company’s European supply chain partners. INEOS has also confirmed that the new car will be powered by BMW’s B57/B58 engine family, so each Grenadier will have a modular 3.0-litre petrol or diesel straight six which sends its drive through a ZF-supplied eight-speed automatic gearbox and a separate low-range transfer case.
Government backing for the new plant
Marketing chief Tom Crotty told CAR, ‘the Grenadier will be an uncompromising 4×4 with a ladder chassis, beam axles, locking differentials. It [will] initially be in station wagon guise, but other bodies [will] follow, starting with a twin-cab pick-up. Aftermarket specialists [are going to] be encouraged to come up with their own configurations and accessories. There will be long and short wheelbases.’
Welsh Government Economy and Transport Minister, Ken Skates, said: ‘This announcement is great news for Wales and I’m delighted Ineos Automotive will be setting up home in Bridgend which has a long history of skilled manufacturing expertise. The Welsh Government has worked closely with the company to make this happen and I look forward to seeing the development of the new site progress ahead of the planned start of production in 2021.’
INEOS Group Chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe said: ‘We have looked long and hard at possible manufacturing locations for Grenadier across the world with lots of good options to choose from. The decision to build in the UK is a significant expression of confidence in British manufacturing, which has always been at the heart of what INEOS stands for.’
And on the design?
Dirk Heilmann, INEOS Automotive’s CEO, said: ‘We are delighted to be able to share the design of the Grenadier so early in the process. Most manufacturers would hold back, but we are a new business, building a new brand, and we want to take people with us on this exciting journey. Showing the design now allows us to focus on the critical next phase of the vehicle’s development, testing its capability and durability. We have a very challenging programme ahead, as we put prototypes through their paces in all conditions, on the way to accumulating some 1.8 million test kilometres over the coming year. From today the covers are off. Testing ‘in plain sight’ without the need for camouflage wrapping, foam blocks or fake panels is an added benefit.’
Sir Jim Ratcliffe added: ‘The Grenadier project started by identifying a gap in the market, abandoned by a number of manufacturers, for a utilitarian off-road vehicle. This gave us our engineering blueprint for a capable, durable and reliable 4×4 built to handle the world’s harshest environments. But it had to look the part as well. As you will see today, Toby and his team have done a great job in delivering a design that is both distinctive and purposeful.’
…and apparently different enough to the Defender not to have Jaguar Land Rover’s lawyers knocking on the door!