Jacques Maillet, a retired RCMP officer from Ottawa, woke up early on June 1 and drove five hours to Toronto only to see the Canadian debut of the Ineos Grenadier, a shamelessly utilitarian new SUV that takes the place of classic off-roaders like An abandoned Land Rover Defender or vintage Mercedes G-Class.
Maillet says he’s not just looking for a new car, but also for adventure, like the one he took in 2014 with his wife. They spent three weeks in a Land Rover Defender driving across the vast Namib Desert along Africa’s southwest coast. “I want to buy an old Defender, but it’s very difficult,” he said. Hard to buy as vehicles are scarce, need to be imported if you can’t find them locally and prices keep going up. And, like many other potential Grenadier customers I spoke to, he didn’t like Land Rover’s new Defender, which was softer and friendlier in the suburbs. So the idea of a rugged, back-to-basics, take-anywhere SUV appealed to Maillet.
The idea also caught the attention of British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, founder and chairman of global petrochemical giant Ineos Group Holdings SA. When Land Rover discontinued the old boxy Defender in 2016, Ratcliffe felt it left a hole in the market for the utilitarian SUV. He started a new company, Ineos Automotive, and has been heavily involved in the manufacture of his first vehicle, the Grenadier.
The initial Ratcliffe concept began in 2017, but now, finally, in the summer of 2022, Ineos Automotive is taking a nearly complete Grenadier prototype on a tour of the United States and Canada to showcase potential customers. Toronto was Canada’s first stop, with about 100 people coming out to see it in the metal over the course of a day.
Greg Clark, executive vice president for America at Ineos Automotive, told the crowd that Canadian pricing will be announced before the end of the year, with the first customer cars arriving in the second half of 2023. (The original goal was 2022, but he cited changes to manufacturing plans and changes design as the reason for the delay.)
In the UK, buying a Grenadier similar to the one we would get in Canada would cost around £55,000, Clark said. For reference, without VAT or 20 percent sales tax, that’s about $70,000.
Finally, before letting customers board the vehicle, Clark politely reminds them to be careful with his tough SUV, as this particular example is a prototype, the only one in the country, and has plenty of delicate 3-D-printed parts.
Jeanette Gallagher and her husband David James came from Etobicoke, Ontario, to see the Grenadier. “I am a Benz driver, but I feel the rarity of the G-Wagon is missing,” Gallagher said. “Part of the appeal [of the Grenadier] will have something unique.” They already have one ordered.
The couple ordered a Ford Bronco – a retro-looking SUV too – but were not impressed with the vehicle after the test drive or the lack of communication from Ford after making the deposit. “Customer experience [with the Grenadier] in terms of the reservation process is much better,” said James. “You get regular updates and invites to events like this. With the Bronco, it’s like, giving [the dealer] deposit and that’s it. You didn’t hear anything. ”
At least among the self-chosen crowd in Toronto, Grenadier teased drivers from the new and old Bronco, Jeep Wrangler, Mercedes G-Class, GMC SUV, Range Rover and Land Rover Defender.
IIn North America, Ineos has taken about 5,700 deposits, with about 10 percent of those coming from Canada, Clark said. The company is looking for existing third-party dealers to sell and repair vehicles. The first showrooms will likely be in or around Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary or Edmonton.
“[Customers] love the mix of analog nostalgia with 21st century relevance; Grenadier has enough technology,” he added.
The SUV’s engine is a BMW-sourced six-turbocharged unit that produces 281 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. (Only petrol engines will be available in Canada, not diesel.) Four-wheel drive, three locking differentials, two solid axles, and a two-speed transfer box add to an SUV that should have serious off-road capabilities. The body-on-frame chassis was engineered with help from Magna International Inc., who knows a lot about the tough SUV that has been manufacturing the G-Class on behalf of Mercedes for nearly 40 years.
“There’s been some disappointment that diesel isn’t coming here,” Clark said, “but when— [customers] realizing the towing capacity was 3.5 tons (7,700 pounds) they said, ‘Okay, so I can tow my boat, my horse box, my caravan or whatever.’”
As for technology, Grenadier has several; there’s a single center screen on the dashboard, and a rear view camera, as required by law, but no fancy 360-degree view camera or Autopilot-like driving assistance like you’ll find in the new Defender or G-Class.
If you squint, the Grenadier does look like a classic Defender or a Mercedes G-Class from the 1990s. The Ineos is taller, longer and slightly wider than the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited or Ford Bronco, but with the shorter wheelbase of the two. As a result, the rear seat legroom is narrower than you might think.
Behind the seat, the trunk door swings open to reveal the largest trunk opening I’ve ever seen. It’s very broad.
From the driver’s seat, the industrial aerospace-looking switchgear on the dashboard and roof panels will make any suburban commuter feel very outdoorsy. The Grenadier has all the aesthetic charm of a good ratchet set; You’ll get traction or not, but Ineos doesn’t want to dominate the SUV market.
The Grenadier will be built at Mercedes’ former factory in Hambach, France, although Ratcliffe is pro-Brexit and originally planned to build the car in Wales. The facility has the capacity to make 30,000 to 35,000 grenades per year once things are up and running.
The SUV you see here is just the beginning, if all goes according to the company’s plans. It is seeking a hydrogen fuel cell version in partnership with BMW and Hyundai. There’s also a longer three-row model and a shorter-bed pickup version in the works. Recently, Ineos Automotive announced plans to build a smaller electric SUV, but Clark was unable to specify when it would arrive.
Ineos still has a lot of work to do before it can sell its SUV in Canada. It has not yet started full production at its French plant, so it will have to register local dealers and train personnel and get vehicles certified by regulators for sale in Canada and the US. Nevertheless, before driving back to Ottawa, Jacques Maillet said he plans to talk to his wife about placing a deposit with the Grenadier.
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