MOTORING

The Ineos Grenadier wants to take over where the old Land Rover Defender left off

By Malibongwe Tyilo 12 July 2020
Caption
INEOS Grenadier

As the new Land Rover Defender goes on sale, Ineos unveils a model that is uncannily similar to the old Defender, hoping to capture fans of the old model’s utilitarian looks and practicality.

On 16 July 2020, the much-anticipated redesigned Land Rover Defender will be officially launched for sale in South Africa. Enthusiasts can register online to be part of the virtual launch event. Initially, South Africans will have access to the larger five-door D110 model, which is already available to order, starting at R1,050,100 for the entry model. Later in the year, the smaller three-door D90 model will also be available, starting at R990,600 for its entry model.

When the new design was unveiled in 2019, opinion was somewhat divided. Although it received largely positive reviews, and in the UK scored a couple of awards like Production Car of the Year from Car Design News and WhatCar?’s Reader Award for most anticipated car of 2020, diehard fans of the old design also voiced their displeasure at the far more modern redesign. Besides the curvier exterior look, the new Defender’s interior is also a more refined affair with many features that have become standard for high-end SUVs, such as digital screens and infotainment systems.

Throughout its 67-year run, from the agriculturally-focused Land Rover Series I in 1948, the Series II in 1958, the Series III in 1971, through to getting its current moniker as the Land Rover Defender in 1990, the boxy utilitarian look of the Defender didn’t change much. The interior remained minimal, and the design couldn’t match the comforts of modern SUVs, nor meet the criteria for safety standards. In fact, the latter is the reason that as of 1998, it was pulled out of the US market. And as of 2020, it would not have met Europe’s new safety regulations either. The last of the old Defender went off the production line in January 2016.

Enter the Ineos Grenadier, with a design that is near-identical to the old Defender.

Nostalgia aside, the reality for the car manufacturer, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), is that losing both the UK and the US market would limit their potential sales. The SUVs market has also grown significantly over the past decade. By the end of 2018, SUVs accounted for 40% of all new cars sold globally. “There are now over 200-million SUVs around the world, up from about 35-million in 2010, accounting for 60% of the increase in the global car fleet since 2010,” says one study by the International Energy Agency.

JLR is undoubtedly looking for more ways to grow their footprint in that market, and judging by the excitement at the launch of the new Defender, it is also likely to be far more appealing to segments of the SUV market that the old Defender couldn’t, such as urban consumers who are less likely to venture into off-roading. Considering its price point and more refined interiors, it is also less about a focus on strictly utilitarian use. To be clear, it is definitely more than well equipped to take on rough terrain, arguably even more so than its predecessor.

However, the arrival of another 4×4 rough and tumble model has old Defender fans excited. Enter the Ineos Grenadier, with a design that is near-identical to the old Defender. It is Ineos’ first venture into car manufacturing. The company is one of the world’s largest chemical producers, and majority-owned by English billionaire Sir James Arthur Ratcliffe, who said of the launch of the Grenadier, “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.”

INEOS Grenadier
INEOS Grenadier Front
INEOS Grenadier Detail

The story goes that back in 2017, Ratcliffe, while at his favourite pub The Grenadier in London – which the car would eventually be named after – came up with the idea: “[It seemed] the last of the proper utility vehicles were about to stop. There was a character about them that we felt we were all gonna miss… Jim being Jim, he said ‘let’s do something about it’,” says the Ineos Grenadier’s Head of Design, Toby Ecuyer, an architect and first-time car designer with previous experience designing yachts.

The Grenadier will run on a three-litre, six-cylinder BMW engine, and in addition to the SUV, a double-cab bakkie model will be offered.

Speaking of the design that looks near-identical to the Defender, says Ecuyer: “We didn’t set out to make it look like anything else, it was just… it was always engineering-led. Right at the beginning, I remember saying that we’ve got to build something super practical.” He goes on to note that practical utility vehicles like the Defender and some models of the Pajero do have a specific visual identity, which The Grenadier follows through on.

While the interior and additional features have not been revealed yet, we’re able to glean from its exterior design many practical elements suited to off-roading enthusiasts: from the rear-double door, to the ladder for roof access, and the beltline along the side so that extra equipment can be hung. There are also roof bars and strips which would allow for loads to be attached without roof racks. The Grenadier will run on a three-litre, six-cylinder BMW engine, and in addition to the SUV, a double-cab bakkie model will be offered.

The car was revealed for the first time on 1 July 2020, and it is still more than a year from being available for retail, with the first expected to be sold late 2021 in Europe, then following up with Australia, the Middle East, North America and South Africa.

The timing of the reveal bears noting, especially considering Jaguar Land Rover’s current rollout of the new Defender. In its update to investors in June 2020, the Financial Times reports that JLR said it had only 22,000 pre-orders for the new Defender, which was below expectation and only slightly higher than the 19,000 units the old defender sold in its fiscal year 2015, sales which didn’t include the US market and only reflected just over a thousand from the European market.

Judging by looks and capabilities, and the talk of a more affordable price than the Defender, Grenadier seems set to satisfy die-hard Defender fans. How it will perform however remains to be seen. Ratcliffe expects to sell between 25,000 to 30,000 a year. DM/ ML

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