Ineos Grenadier Trialmaster: We test out the 'rich man’s vision of modern working Land Rover'

Frederic Manby takes the Ineos Grenadier Trialmaster diesel for a scenic test drive in the Scottish Borders but soon finds himself heading down memory lane into old Land Rover territory.

The season’s pheasants looked decorative in ducal grounds in the Scottish Borders, unbothered by 2.7 tons of station wagon purring towards them.

The Ineos Grenadier is in its element as we head into the private woods and public roads around Floors Castle, selected by the company for a press drive.

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Grenadier is a rich man’s vision of what a modern working Land Rover could be. It has big buttons, the instruments and speed display and bespoke navigation are in a centre block, making them easy for the passenger to reach. Focussed off-road controls — such as front and rear differentials — are on an overhead panel. The huge spare wheel is on the wider section of the rear doors.

The Ineos Grenadier TrailmasterThe Ineos Grenadier Trailmaster
The Ineos Grenadier Trailmaster

Its creator and mentor, the Ineos chemicals millionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, wanted to buy the Land Rover Defender 110 machinery when Land Rover stopped production. Nothing doing, said Land Rover, which built a new and much different Defender Sir Jim didn’t become one of Britain’s wealthiest men by sitting back. The climber, sailor and general boys’ hero (educated at Beverley Grammar School) sat down with a few chums in his local in Chelsea and started planning what is today the Grenadier. They named it after the pub — now on the map for a new type of tourist. There’s a £5 note on the ceiling with an outline sketch.

Today there is no longer a traditionally working Land Rover. Their Defender became a Discovery in new clothes. Sir Jim believed there were buyers for a modern, utilitarian 4x4 built for work and, very important this, reliability. This re-imagined Land Rover Defender is surprisingly comfortable and roomy — a far cry from that cramped Defender which was so forgotten that it never had airbags.

The Grenadier looks uncannily like that old Land Rover, with flat wing tops and extended bumpers you can sit or stand on. It has been kept simple without complicated luxuries which can go wrong. Seats are moved manually. There is no computerised air suspension which could leave you grounded in the wilderness. The interior can be hosed out. The bald statement is that it combines ‘rugged British spirit with German engineering rigour’. It was developed and tested in Austria by experts at Steyr and is built in France, in the factory where Mercedes-Benz made the Smart. Ineos bought that, part of the £1.3 billion bill to make and market the Grenadier. It can make 30,000 a year. Some 7,500 are on order in the USA alone.

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We are told that the stout German ladder chassis has extensive corrosion protection inside and out, sitting on beam axles from an Italian company which makes them for tractors. Proven mechanical systems, include Brembo brakes and Recaro seats. BMW supplies petrol and diesel six cylinder engines, automatic gearboxes come from ZF. The high and low ratio transfer gears are by Tremec. The assembly is clothed in a galvanised steel body with aluminium for the bonnet and door skins.

The back of the Ineos Grandier TrailmasterThe back of the Ineos Grandier Trailmaster
The back of the Ineos Grandier Trailmaster

More than 1.1 million test miles have been covered. Even so, the five year unlimited mileage warranty (just two years for parts) is reduced to 60,000 miles for Africa. Some minor software glitches are said to have been fixed.

All serious, focussed and hopefully very fit for the badlands, on or off road. Clients include farmers, safari and ski companies, off-roading enthusiasts, petrol-heads, working country folk, governments, construction, search and rescue and a gamut of sports and lifestyles. Most will want the five-seater station wagon but there is a more basic workers' Utility version and a five-seater pick-up called Quartermaster.

The core customer will like all this. Some others will buy the Grenadier for its new-kid appeal. A note of caution for anyone stepping out of a Cayenne or posh Discovery or Audi A7. There are compromises. The steering is low-geared and does not self-centre, so it is laborious in town, less so off-road. You get used to it. The lever for the central differential lock and low ratio gears could be better placed to reduce the muscular effort. A grab handle would help the driver get in and out of the raised cabin rather than yanking crudely on the steering wheel. The flat side windows can pick up confusing reflections.

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The basics are full-time 4x4 transmission with high and low ratio gearboxes, a locking central differential and a vehicle made for a tough, long life. There are overhead lashing bars on the roof edge. Locking front and rear diffs are standard on the Trialmaster, with BF Goodrich tyres on six-stud steel wheels, and optional on the plusher Fieldmaster which runs on calmer Bridgestones and alloys. The two models cost the same, as do the petrol and diesel engines. There will be a smaller 4x4 in 2026 probably using a BMW electric motor. A Grenadier hydrogen-fuelled demonstrator already uses the fuel stack from the BMW iX5.

Inside the Ineos Grandier TrailmasterInside the Ineos Grandier Trailmaster
Inside the Ineos Grandier Trailmaster

Prices have risen alarmingly. In 2021 the two-seater Utility entry model was expected to cost £48,000. Further development and improvements and the rising price of stuff and maybe a profits hike because of demand means the two-seater Utility now costs a whopping £64,500. A five-seater is £65,000 putting both into Discovery and Defender pricing. Your buying experience has just started. There are Belstaff editions because Ineos owns the maker of durable clothing. There is an options list which can easily add ten or twenty thousand to the bill and take you into Range Rover money. Do you want the ladder chassis painted black, grey or halo red — the latter a reference to the landmine charity supported by Ineos. Similar subtle references include the body colours: Donny grey because Ineos’s co-founder Andy Currie is from Doncaster where the skies are invariably grey (sic).

In the cabin, with large glove-friendly controls, you’ll see red and green lines. They’re the maritime port and starboard colours - Ineos sponsors Sir Ben Ainslie’s Americas Cup yachting challenge. A small red button with a bicycle logo and the word toot in on the steering wheel. Ineos owns the Grenadiers cycling team and the button sounds a less strident, friendlier horn for bike and horse riders and walkers. There is a louder horn but the toot will do.

Ineos Grenadier Trialmaster diesel. Price: £78,730 as tested. Engine: 3-litre straight six twin turbo B57 diesel. Power: 246 bhp (B58 petrol 282bhp). Torque: 405lb/ft (332lb ft). Transmission: eight-speed automatic. Top speed: 100mph. 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds (petrol 8.6). Economy: 23 to 26 mpg (29mpg on test). Petrol 19-20mpg. Tank: 19.8 gallons.CO 2 emissions:286 to 317g/km (petrol 325-336g). Length: 194 inches. Braked towing limit: 3.5 tons. Optional 5.5 ton winch. Buying: 25 dealers stretch from Edinburgh to Plymouth. There are many more service centres.

Or:Toyota’s new Land Cruiser.