British chemical giant Ineos is wading into the automotive industry to build an old-school, no-nonsense off-roader that picks up where the original Land Rover Defender left off in 2016. It unveiled the Grenadier’s boxy exterior design in June 2020 but shared no details about the interior. Over a year later, it has finally lifted the veil off the cabin.
Designers took an unabashedly function-over-form approach to shaping nearly everything the passengers will see, touch, and interact with. Sitting behind the wheel feels more like being in a plane’s cockpit than in a modern SUV. The driver faces a two-spoke multi-function steering wheel, a small digital instrument cluster, and low dashboard that clears up an unobstructed view of what’s ahead. Good visibility is important when you’re running errands, but it can become a matter of life or death when you’re somewhere deep in the jungle on a muddy, rock-strewn trail.
In an era when nearly every carmaker brags about replacing buttons with touch-sensitive surfaces, the Grenadier is refreshingly simple. Features like the heated front seats, the air conditioning system, and the parking sensors are controlled via buttons and dials neatly arranged on the upright center stack. Additional switches are grouped on a panel above the front seats, including a few added for users who need to install accessories such as a winch or work lights. It’s also interesting to note the buttons are wide and positioned relatively far apart; that’s because some drivers will operate them with gloves on. As a side note, Saab pioneered this concept in the first-generation 900.
Building a functional off-roader doesn’t mean fully eschewing technology; there are plenty of 30-year-old 4x4s looking for a new home if that’s what you’re after. Ineos added a 12.3-inch touchscreen on top of the center stack, right above a compass with a built-in altimeter and thermometer, and the software is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Navigation is provided by software named Pathfinder that reportedly works even off-road.
Recaro seats come standard, yet the Grenadier is designed to get muddy. It’s fitted with water-resistant upholstery, rubber flooring, and drain plugs in the floors, so it can be hosed out. Alternatively, buyers seeking a slightly more upmarket SUV can order carpet and leather upholstery. Several customization options are available as well. And, while the Grenadier was largely designed on a clean sheet of paper, the familiar-looking gear selector poking out from the center console hints that it’s available with a BMW-sourced 3.0-liter turbodiesel straight-six engine.
Ineos will begin taking orders for the Grenadier in October 2021, and deliveries are scheduled to begin in July 2022. Production will take place in the Hambach, France, factory that manufactured the Smart Fortwo for decades. Until then, a fleet of 130 prototypes will accumulate over 1.1 million test miles on some of the planet’s roughest terrain.