Does the world need another SUV? It just might, if you ask Sir Jim Ratcliff, a 4x4 enthusiast who always loved the Land Rover Defender, a British-built SUV that had proved its worth for decades in war and peace.
By 2017, though, the Defender, which had been basically unchanged for decades, was gone. It was replaced by a more modern and far less basic model, and that made Ratcliff unhappy.
Nursing a beer in a pub in London, he decided that if Land Rover was no longer building a Defender, his company, Ineos, would do so — despite never having built a car. This is why you've never heard of Britain's Ineos Automotive, a division of the world's third-largest chemical company, nor its first vehicle, the forthcoming Ineos Grenadier SUV.
Deciding to build a new vehicle from scratch is no small undertaking. And the market is filled with competitors with decades of experience. So Ineos is partnering with BMW Group for the Grenadier's powertrain and with Magna Steyr for chassis and suspension to create an SUV for a part of the market the company feels is underserved.
"In terms of capability and rugged dependability, you've got a vehicle that's built for a 30-year life span plus rather than a 10-year life span," said Gregg Clark, executive vice president for Ineos Automotive. Clark comes to Ineos after stints at Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Benz and Acura.
While interior design has yet to be finalized, the Grenadier's exterior is 90% finished. Unlike most modern crossover SUVs, which feature unibody construction, the Grenadier is built body-on-frame.
Its exterior is a combination of steel and reinforced aluminum. The owners can stand on the fenders and hood. The roof's static load capacity is 750 pounds — enough for you and a friend to pitch a tent on it and camp overnight.
The Grenadier's side rails feature integral L hooks for mounting jerrycans, shovels, rescue ramps, luggage and other items. Grab rails at the top of the rear side windows can be used as tie-down points or handles for climbing into the rear seats. The rear hatch door is split 70/30 and hinged like a barn-door. An optional ladder can be fitted for accessing the roof. Its windshield is fixed, but the sunroof is removable.
As you might expect of a true boulder basher, the undercarriage has front and rear skid plates, rock sliders, as well as underbody protection for the oil pan, transmission and differentials. The fuel tank is protected by 4 mil grade steel.
And the Grenadier is pre-wired with auxiliary switches so that aftermarket electric accessories, such as a front or rear winch, can be activated from the driver's seat.
Powering this off-road warrior is a turbocharged BMW in-line six-cylinder engine and ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability and a two-speed transfer case. A diesel engine will be available in some markets, but not the United States or Canada because of emission requirements.
The company is investigating the possibility of offering a Grenadier powered by a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain, and is in talks with both BMW and Hyundai about supplying it.
Ineos Automotive also has to establish a dealer network. The company expects to have 30 to 50 retailers across the United States and Canada.
Despite all of the work yet to be done, including getting U.S. government certification, the company expects sales to start in Europe in the summer of 2022, with U.S. sales to follow.
Pricing has not been announced, but Ineos Automotive expects its new SUV to slot below the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, which starts around $130,000.