Is This Boxy-and-Badass Off-Roader What the New Defender Should Have Been?

When a British billionaire couldn’t get Land Rover to sell him the plans and parts to build the old Defender…he set about making his own.

Like pickup trucks, off-road-focused SUVs have spent the last few decades tacking on more and more luxury and comfort features. With good reason, mind you; that’s what the majority of people want, and you’ll sell way more burly 4x4s to people who want to look like they’re tough off-roaders than you will restricting yourself simply to actual tough off-roaders.

Still, if any trend goes long enough, sooner or later a counter-trend will pop up. Here in 2020, we’re seeing the Return of the Stripped-Down SUV. Bollinger Motors is taking the bare-bones idea electric with its B1 SUV and B2 pickup truck; Land Rover’s new Defender may be more opulent than before, but they’re still offering a basic Hard Top version.

And then…there’s the Ineos Grenadier.

We’ll let project mastermind and Ineos chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe sum up the idea behind it: “The Grenadier project started by identifying a gap in the market, abandoned by a number of manufacturers, for a utilitarian off-road vehicle,” he said in a statement. “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.”

Or, to put it another way: the Grenadier is, to a degree, an alternative take on what a modern-day Land Rover Defender should be. Ratcliffe — a billionaire with a background in chemical engineering and a fortune made by producing industrial chemicals — was inspired to create the vehicle after Jaguar Land Rover refused to sell him the tooling and designs for the original Land Rover Defender after production ended; his hopes of continuing to build the O.G. Landie under a new name dashed, he set about creating his own interpretation of the concept with the help of Austrian automotive contract manufacturer Magna Steyr. (Y’know, the folks who’ve been building the G-Wagen for decades.)

The mechanicals are every bit what you’d hope for from an SUV that’s serious about bashing trails. BMW will be providing six-cylinder engines (both gas and diesel), while ZF will serve up the gearboxes and axles. Said axles will be solid units, with locking differentials to apportion the power flowing to all four wheels all the time. (There will, of course, be low range.) The chassis is Ineos’s own, an old-school ladder frame for old-school strength.

Much like certain other boxy off-roaders, the doors will be removable; integrated roof bars mean you won’t need a roof rack to carry cargo on top, while the smaller of the two rear doors will be able to take the weight of a ladder so you can clamber up there. Or, you can just step on the fenders; they’re designed to support the weight of a person.

Oh, and here’s the best part: Ineos very much intends to bring the Grenadier to American roads. (And then, presumably, take it off them.) Production is expected to begin in late 2021; price hasn’t been talked about yet, but given the costs of developing a vehicle from scratch (Ineos doesn’t make any other cars), we’re guessing it won’t be cheap. Still, if the Grenadier can live up to the capability its specs suggest, it might be worth every penny.

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