For keen off-roading enthusiasts and overlanders, the INEOS Grenadier has been one of the most hyped-up 4x4s of the past handful of years, and we’re slowly edging our way into seeing more and more production examples on the road. I’ve had a go at driving the Grenadier off-road recently, but it wasn’t until just now that I had the opportunity to really stress test the Grenadier in the most unforgiving conditions possible.
I was invited to an event hosted by INEOS, far up North, in the chilly underbelly of the Lake District to put the new Grenadier, the spiritual successor to the old Land Rover Defender, through the gauntlet to test its off-road prowess. This was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most serious, hardcore off-roading that I’ve ever done personally, and it ought to be an intense challenge for the INEOS Grenadier, as well.
The INEOS’s itinerary includes both on-road and off-road driving, which should also give me a better clue as to how the Grenadier will perform on both ends of the spectrum. Besides, among the many flaws shared by a lot of hardy 4×4 off-roaders in prior years, like the old Land Rover Defender, Jeep Wrangler, and such, is that while they were excellent when you take them off-roading, driving them on smooth asphalt often leaves much to be desired.
Just As Capable On The Road As It Is Off-Road
So, about its on-road characteristics… Does the INEOS Grenadier fall into the same trap as most other off-roaders? Well, if you mainly stick to tarmac, then it’s fine. There’s nothing outwardly negative or unpleasant about its on-road manners to speak of. In other words, you won’t need to worry about how clumsy, wobbly, or soft some off-road-focused 4x4s tend to be when you’re not driving on off-road tracks.
With that in mind, the Grenadier is definitely designed to go off-road first and foremost. As a result, you’ll probably notice its hardy nature when you’re just pootling around on paved roads. This is likely way more noticeable for folks who might not be all too experienced or have too much exposure and are desensitised to off-roaders like the Grenadier. It’s not all too bad though, so I reckon most will have no issues with it.
For example, the gearing of the Grenadier’s 8-speed ZF automatic transmission is geared for off-roading. I found that it’s got that slow, gentle gearing that is critical for off-road scenarios, where grip and traction are not always in abundance when you’re out in the bush. Therefore, even if you slam on the throttle, the Grenadier gets off the line from a stationary position, when you’re driving on asphalt, with a more gradual and cautious pace.
Recirculating Ball Steering Setup
This is expected from purpose-built off-roaders, when you take them out of their natural habitat. Another thing I’ve noticed is that, when it’s fitted with all-terrain tyres (which come by default), and more so when you’re driving on paved roads, is that you get a bit more tyre noise. It’s not excruciatingly uncomfortable or loud, but it’s certainly more audible compared to your usual city-scape, metropolitan SUV or crossover.
Elsewhere, one other interesting design and technical choice with the INEOS Grenadier is its inclusion of a recirculating ball steering layout. This is instead of a more conventional and commonplace rack and pinion steering, which is what you’ll get in most cars. When compared to rack and pinion, the INEOS Grenadier’s recirculating ball steering system is far superior (and more ideal) when you’re taking it off-roading.
For instance, when you’re driving over a boulder, large objects, or over a bumpy surface, with a rack and pinion steering setup, your steering wheel typically has a lot of kickback. The latter can really put you off-centre quite easily. Alternatively, the recirculating ball steering on the Grenadier gives you a lot of control over the steering wheel, which makes it way smoother and more controllable over highly uneven terrain.
However, the major downside of recirculating ball steering systems is that, when you use them on paved roads, and particularly while driving at higher speeds, it’s noticeably less sharp and responsive compared to good-old rack and pinion. Granted, everything on the new INEOS Grenadier was built, from the ground up, to be the very best off-roader there is out there. So, how does it perform off the beaten path, then?
Putting The Grenadier Through The Gauntlet
Even at first glance, you can already see that off-roading DNA baked into the Grenadier’s design. As such, you’ll get a really good amount of approach (35.5 degrees), breakover (28.2 degrees), and departure (36.1 degrees) angles. This ensures that it’ll have no trouble getting over some of the harshest, and most uneven terrain imaginable. Even the Quartermaster pick-up variant of the Grenadier, which offers a pretty lengthy bed on the rear end, and a longer wheelbase, it still sports good approach (35.5 degrees), breakover (26.2 degrees), and departure (22.6 angles) angles.
When you’re configuring your Grenadier, it can be spec’d with one of two powertrain options. They’re both sourced from BMW – a 3.0 inline-6 turbocharged petrol engine or a 3.0 inline-6 turbo-diesel engine. As I’ve noted earlier, either engine is mated to an 8-speed ZF automatic transmission, in addition to a permanent four-wheel drive system. I should note that during this aforementioned event hosted by INEOS, I only had the chance to drive the petrol one, so that’s what my experiences here will be based on.
In these pictures, I hope you can see just how challenging the terrain actually was, where both the terrain and the weather were working against us. By the time I was able to get behind the wheel, and do some proper off-roading, it had been raining the entire day. This aided in making the already-slick surfaces even more muddy and slippery. Plus, it didn’t help that I was positioned near the back of the convoy for the day. Here, the muddy paths, further accentuated by loose rocks and stones, had been driven over by the other Grenadiers there, smoothening and wearing down the muddy tracks even more.
Maximal Traction & Supreme Controllability
Yes, despite driving over a low grip and slippery surface, in the wet, mind you, I never had any issues with getting traction out of the Grenadier. Even when I was driving over rather steep inclines, or going down a steep decline, with loose stones, muddy surfaces, and a lot of rainwater to deal with, the Grenadier dealt with them with barely a fuss. Even for someone with only moderate off-roading experience, like me, it’s amazing to see how effortless a bone-stock Grenadier handled driving off-road.
To be fair, there were a handful of situations where low-gearing was warranted, as was the need to lock the diffs. The latter of which was really only needed once or twice, even across the more challenging parts of the off-road course that I was driving on. I found it pretty impressive that the Grenadier still managed most of it without ever needing the diff lockers enabled. INEOS fits one by default, from the factory, too!
Depending on which trim you choose, you’ll only get the centre differential locks as standard. Meanwhile, front and rear diff locks are made optional, paired with the Grenadier’s two-speed transfer case. You might notice too, in these pictures, that throughout the entire event, not a single dry patch of grass or dirt was seen. Or, at least, not at the off-road tracks that were chosen for us beforehand to drive on. From what I can see, the entire route was littered with deep ruts, slick mud, loose stones, and large puddles of muddy water.
You might even see in some of these photos, just how much the INEOS Grenadier would drift and slide from side to side, showcasing how ungodly these conditions were. Yet, they’re not a serious obstacle when you’re in a Grenadier. Just like any 4×4, you do have to be mindful and precise with your steering inputs, gearing, and throttle, as well as braking, how you position the car, when to let off the brakes, or when to power out of a tricky section.
It Makes Off-Roading Driving More Effortless
Nonetheless, the INEOS Grenadier does make these considerations a lot more tolerable and easier to cope with. That aforementioned recirculating ball steering, as I noted earlier, truly shines in these conditions.
Plus the good visibility gives you a strong sense of confidence in where your wheels are, it enables you to look down at the ground next to you. Or, if you need to peek across the bonnet onto the other side, or check your surroundings, rearward and sideward, without any difficulties.
Then, there are the all-terrain tyres fitted onto the Grenadiers that I drove. These too did a pretty fantastic job with managing grip and traction, even when it seemed improbable. A set of BFGoodrich all-terrain, off-road-focused tyres can be optioned for your Grenadier. Although, by default, it comes with some custom-made Bridgestone tyres designed for the Grenadier, which should handle off-roading just fine.
In addition, the default wheel options for the Grenadier are these awesome steel wheels, which I quite like, given how robust and durable they are for off-roading. Even if you scratch or dent your steelies, they could easily be repaired. INEOS’s attention to detail even extends to the tyres’ valves, which are made of steel rather than rubber, ensuring that they won’t tear off so readily when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Aside from that, the INEOS Grenadier’s already impressive 264mm of ground clearance did wonders for an off-roading expedition. This is particularly so when the going gets super tough, as I thought most of these routes that we drove through were impassable! INEOS had built the Grenadier to have an 800mm wading depth. While this is 100mm less than the new Land Rover Defender, it’s at least 100mm more than other tried-and-tested off-roaders, such as the Toyota Land Cruiser.
Electronic Assistance For Off-Roading Driving
It’s nonetheless a healthy amount of wading depth for most off-roading situations where you might need to wade through a ford, deep river, or stream; no problem at all. During the off-road testing that I did, my co-driver and instructor guided me through a deep puddle, which, by the end of it, just as I thought we were able to cross back onto dry land, the muddy path ahead dropped us into another, even deeper puddle.
Yet, the Grenadier took that like a breeze. It just dropped into the water, proudly pointing its front end on the way out to show Mother Nature who’s boss. There’s even a ‘wade’ mode – one of the many electronics and other driving aids built into the Grenadier – that would turn off the Grenadier’s parking aids and ADAS sensors, which are usually mounted low down on the Grenadier. Moreover, in this mode, it would also turn off the radiator cooling fans, to make sure that water doesn’t get splashed around in the engine bay.
On the subject of electronics, most of the controls that you need to stop and think about which one to use or turn on, are mounted on the headliner, with overhead switches. Here is where you’ll find all of the extra driving aids that come packaged with the Grenadier, such as an uphill and downhill descent assist, traction control, diff locks, and auxiliary exterior lighting. I particularly like just how chunky and solid these buttons and switches are to operate.
Best of all, you’ll also get additional blank switches that have been pre-wired. So, if and when you need to install optional accessories that require a simple on/off switch, you can route it back here to the overhead switches. It’s a huge time-saver and quality-of-life feature for convenience’s sake. By this point in the off-roading excursion, I was already thoroughly convinced of how otherworldly capable the Grenadier is when you put it against the tough off-road trails that the Lake District has to offer.
Accessories Aplenty To Customise Your Grenadier
A lot of these photos, as great as they are, still can’t truly capture and show just how steep some of these inclines are. But, no matter how steep they are, the Eibach-tuned 5-link front and rear suspension on the Grenadier is beyond superb. The geometry and set-up handily managed traction, with an abundance of axle and wheel articulation. All in all, I’ve come to the realisation that the INEOS Grenadier is the sort of off-roader that makes off-roading super-simple.
So easy, in fact, that you can easily put your mom behind the wheel, or someone who has completely zero experience with off-road driving, and they too can easily tackle otherwise challenging conditions like the ones that I drove through without a bother, at all. If you’re thinking of getting the Grenadier, INEOS makes sure that you can get as complete of an out-of-the-box experience as possible.
To make this possible, they offer a huge range of off-road-focused accessories, catered to the sort of folks who would make great use of the Grenadier. For instance, you can get a front and rear winch installed, as well as leveraging those utility belts and rails that run along the side of the Grenadier. Here, you’re able to mount various accessories or equipment, and they’re universal enough that you can easily mount existing ones that you already have, or aftermarket options.
Otherwise, you could option your Grenadier with roof racks and rails, an access ladder, side runners, rock sliders, bull bars, recovery kits, awnings, and a bike carrier. The latter of which could also be altered with add-ons to otherwise mount kayaks, surfboards, or some additional cargo boxes. Or, as you see here, the event had us mount a rooftop tent on your Grenadier, which makes for a fantastic overlanding set-up.
The One Off-Roader To Rule Them All?
The INEOS Grenadier is pretty much overkill for most people who might have a passing interest in 4×4 off-roaders. Admittedly, even if you might take a slight off-road excursion every once in a while, you’ll easily find other off-roaders on the market that could play on the same level as the Grenadier. However, if you’re a serious off-road enthusiast, and for others who are experienced overlanders, or for tradespeople who need a hardy commercial vehicle that can take on tough off-roading, the Grenadier is the perfect fit.
It’s also an awesome companion for those who desire a robust, do-everything exploration and adventure vehicle off-the-shelf, all neatly put together, without needing to resort to extensive aftermarket mods. It’s hard to find an equal in today’s off-roader market that can put up a tough challenge to the Grenadier. Of course, the big elephant in the room here is how the Grenadier compares against its direct inspiration, the Land Rover Defender, ever-iconic and synonymous with off-roading.
Well, if you’re looking at an older Defender, the INEOS Grenadier is every bit as back-to-basic, and it’s just as capable when you take it off-road. However, the Grenadier has significantly improved refinement, and much-needed creature comforts, and modernisation compared to the old Defenders. When it comes to the new, reborn Defender, I do think that it’s arguably a better on-road vehicle for people that need a comfy SUV to ferry about within their local town or make the regular commute out into the city, and maybe take it off-road every once in a while.
Although, where it falls short compared to the INEOS Grenadier is how the latter sticks by the same core, off-roading roots and design principles that the old Defender established itself in. Bear in mind that Land Rover has since adopted a unibody chassis for the new Defender, while the Grenadier sticks with a good-old-fashioned, and tested, full box-sectioned ladder frame chassis. If supreme off-roading is what you’re looking for then, the INEOS Grenadier is the new benchmark to beat.