Is This Defender Clone a Rip-Off or a Reinvention?


When in 2015 Jaguar Land Rover announced that after 67 years it was ending production of the iconic Land Rover Defender, British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe saw an opportunity. Ratcliffe knew JLR was working on a high-tech successor to the Defender, and he figured it would be a much more upmarket vehicle than the old one, leaving an obvious hole in the market. To fill it, Ratcliffe tried to buy the old Defender tooling, but JLR refused to sell. Undaunted, he decided to create his own Defender-style off-roader instead. Meet the Ineos Grenadier.

Ineos is the name of the U.K.-based, multinational chemicals company Ratcliffe part owns. Grenadier is the name of the pub in Belgravia, London, where Ratcliffe first floated the idea of building his own off-roader. And the Ineos Grenadier is an unapologetic homage to one of Ratcliffe’s favorite vehicles.

The Grenadier is a body-on-frame SUV with coil-sprung live axles front and rear. Two engines will initially be available, both BMW-sourced 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-sixes, one that burns diesel and one that burns gas. The engines drive all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission and a two-speed transfer case.

Much of the Grenadier’s development work is being done is by Magna Steyr, which builds the Mercedes-Benz G-Class at its plant in Graz, Austria. The emphasis is on capability, durability, and utility, as the Grenadier is designed to be a true off-roader capable of working in punishing environments. “We are not building an SUV,” say Ineos insiders. Jeep’s Wrangler is one of the development team’s benchmark vehicles in terms of both on- and off-road performance and capability.

Though Ineos Automotive design chief Toby Ecuyer says his design team looked at Jeep Wranglers, FJ-era Toyota Land Cruisers, Nissan Patrols, and even old Ford Broncos and Mercedes-Benz Unimogs, the Grenadier looks almost a carbon copy of the old Defender. The pronounced shoulder on the bodyside; the flat beltline under the cabin; the flat-top front fenders that roll to the vertical to house the headlights; the slightly protruding grille; the clamshell hood; the clip-on roof with Alpine lights—they’re all vintage Land Rover visual cues.

The Grenadier is slightly wider and slightly shorter overall than the old long-wheelbase Defender, and the bodywork is a mixture of aluminum, composites, and high-strength steel. The Grenadier will initially launch in long-wheelbase wagon and crew-cab pickup body styles, but short-wheelbase versions are also said to be under development.

Ineos hasn’t released interior details yet but expect more old-school Defender minimalism, though with modern ergonomics. “I think it’s fair to say that our ergonomics will be about as far from Defender as we can make them,” says Ineos Automotive commercial director Mark Tennant. “The 1950s 85th percentile male is not quite the same as the 21st-century one, so clearly that’s an area of significant focus. The cars have got to be much more comfortable than some of those originals.

The Grenadier will be initially launched in Europe next year, but the North American market is very much on the radar, says Tennant, though he won’t be pinned down on timing. “From a regulatory point of view and a distribution point of view, it’s tricky,” he admits. “We really need to make sure that we don’t go into the U.S. without having everything lined up.”



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