THE NEW Defender is a proper Land Rover. Or is it?
Apologies if this sounds almost exactly like the opening to last week’s Life On Cars column, but it turns out that barely a week after it was announced that some blokes who met up in their local pub have announced their own equally no-frills off-roader. In fact, they’re so proud of their beverage-based flash of inspiration that they’ve actually named their new offering after it. I kid you not.
The Grenadier – the car, not the London watering hole famed for its whiskies and real ale – is apparently going to go on sale in 2021, so it’ll be at least a year behind the new Defender, but the chaps behind it are promising all sorts of Land Rover-ish things that farmers familiar with the old model will doubtless appreciate. Where the new Defender is going for more car-like monocoque construction for the first time, the Grenadier is sticking with an old-fashioned ladder frame chassis, which is simpler and easier to adapt to different bodystyles. It’ll have beam axles, permanent four-wheel-drive and a boxy, no-nonsense exterior. Sound familiar? Then there are the engines, which are being sourced from BMW in much the same way a certain other specialist in mud-pluggers used to do. Nor will there be any plug-in hybrids or zero emissions electric models – apparently, the car’s pale ale-swigging purveyors thought about it, but decided no-nonsense turbodiesels and petrols would do just fine, thanks.
Only said blokes, while they really did come up with the idea in the pub, aren’t overenthusiastic CAMRA members with a better grasp of Doom Bar than doomed British car designs. These chaps are not like all those tiny British sports car companies who attempt to take on Porsche with a budget of £12.50; nope, they all happen to work for a petrochemical company called Ineos, which is investing a not inconsiderable £600 million in the project. It also employs 22,000 people, and reckons it’ll take on about 500 more making the new off-roader. Three blokes nailing bits together in a shed this isn’t – and it’s pulled off a PR coup by announcing, just days after the Slovakian-built Defender was unveiled, that the Grenadier will be built right here, in Blighty (South Wales, since you’re asking).
But it’ll only out-Defender the Defender if it can get one crucial bit right; the price. Land Rover’s new offering starts at £45k in short-wheelbase 90 form, so the unapologetically unsophisticated Grenadier will have to start at a fraction of that to win over all those farmers, squaddies and forestry workers. That, I reckon, is the opening salvo in the most intriguing motoring battle in years.
All this from a couple of car nuts in a pub. Cheers!