REVIEW: MINIMAX INEOS Grenadier (Dealer Edition) •

REVIEW: MINIMAX INEOS Grenadier (Dealer Edition)

“Ineos Grenadier? Never heard of it!” is at least what I thought when I first came across it just weeks ago. It looks familiar, though, and immediately makes you think “Land Rover Defender”, doesn´t it? And it puts you on the right (offroad) track leading back to its origins: Back in 2016 Land Rover stopped making the good-ole Defender (the rugged, utilitarian, no-nonsense … proper one) and many bemoaned its demise and never really took to the new luxury-SUV Defender – often enough over a pint in the pub: They don’t make ´em like that no more, do they? Oh my, but nothin´ you can do about it, I guess – unless … but let the scale model itself, “developed in tandem with the vehicle” (so that it remarkably becomes available at the launch of the real car), tell the story:

None of them does that better than the limited-edition model of a prototype/ test vehicle that “showcases a range of vehicle options and accessories” in what the manufacturer calls Sterling Silver, one of the 4 metallic paint options out of 10 paints the original car is offered in. On the bonnet and steering wheel it proudly bears the emblem and on its driver´s side fender as well as in the rear the INEOS name badge to lay testament to how the vehicle´s story began: One of the moaners in a British pub was adventure-loving multi-national petrochemical industry boss Jim Ratcliffe, self-made billionaire, founder and chairman of INEOS Capital Ltd (mind the name´s meanings!). Now, the first idea was to simply buy the Solihull factory and continue making the Defender, as he had done with most of his other businesses. But Land Rover said “no”, which is not what puts closure on something when men like him really mean business (as in big, serious, profitable business, exploiting a gap in the market). So Ratcliffe simply founded INEOS Automotive and teamed up with people who know how to make serious off-road workhorses, like Magna Steyr in Austria (e.g. making the Mercedes G-class). Land Rover, who advertised their new Defender as “re-inventing a design icon”, did not like the Grenadier´s design which is so much more reminiscent of the Defender´s iconic design than the new Defender itself and took Ratcliffe to court over cloning their discontinued Defender – and lost.

The overall shape of the model beautifully captures the iconic Defender´s, err, Grenadier´s shape. No, seriously, the whole body shape, despite input from other capable off-road classics, is very close to the old Defender´s. The vertical sides gently curve inwards towards the window. The bonnet, very much like the original Land Rovers before they bore the Defender name (or the Toyota Land Cruisers), curves onto the boxy wings that it increasingly does not cover towards the front. The front bumper with break-thru mesh-covered inlets is more like a G-Class Mercedes. The two fully round headlights on either side of the grille lend it a look familiar to the last Defenders, even though their interior, the LED ring and reflectors nicely replicated in detail, reminds more of a G-Class Mercedes. On the model, these daytime-running lights can be mistaken for rough edges of the lenses. The LED rear lights exactly echo the headlights in shape, size and position, put into scale in excellent detail, and safe for the centre red paint dot. Two additional headlamps embedded in the grille remind me of the first-generation Land Rover, of course again with nicely detailed modern tech. All the side markers and reflectors are unfortunately print-on. The grille´s bars are vertical with perforated mesh behind it, silver accents are painted on the radiator bars.

This raises expectations to be able and look under the bonnet, but alas, although it is a separate piece with paper fitting in between the bonnet and fender and has hinges that look functional, the bonnet remains sealed. Yet, a script on the right of two black plastic insets tells us that the Grenadier is “powered by BMW”, a modified version of their X5 petrol and diesel engines, tuned to trade some of its horsepower for increased torque. This partially explains the German flag next to the British Union Jack underneath each side of the most rearward side windows: This car was initiated in Britain, is powered by Germany and made in France, to explain the French flag at this point. With manufacturing initially planned in Wales, Ratcliffe finally bought an existing Smart factory (Smartville Hambach, in fact, a just over 2-hour drive from where we live) on the French-German border from Mercedes, as they cease to make Smart cars (not to be confused with smart cars, of course).

Most of the other markings on the model, particularly the crash test target and scale decals, seems to be the “2B prototype livery” of test vehicle IG002 circulated in the media bearing the French registration (I have added), WW designating it as a temporary registration, as due for a test vehicle. It may surprise you that the number and crest in the blue field on the right do not match the region of the production plant in Département Mosselle. But that plan only transpired in 2020, while the T on the plate reveals that the registration was made in 2019, so registering it in the south of France, the Alps and Cote D´Azur region, coincides with Ratcliffe/INEOS buying Ligue 1 football club OGC Nice in that very region and his controversial decision to relocate to nearby tax-haven Monaco. Other markings that look very prototype/test/crash are the orange contrast nose and rear door (wrapping on the real car as on the model), but in fact showcase available options on the production vehicles. You can opt to have them in this Emergency Orange or Tunic Red (as an allusion to the British Grenadier Guards´ iconic red tunics) while the cross on the roof seems to be unique to the test vehicle. The Defender never had Safari sunroofs over the front seats, but in contrast to this optional feature of the original Grenadier, they don´t open on the model.  One thing that gives the Grenadier a familiar Defenderesque look on the top at first glance is the slope towards the windshield and the positioning of handle-like roof rails about where the Defender had an alpine window on each side of the roof. They help the adventurer mount the side of the vehicle and fix on-roof cargo to them. Optional L-Tracks or Airline-Tracks along the sides help to attach the kit safely, too, and are showcased by the model as one of the Grenadiers signature features. For the model, these plastic strips also include the door handles.

Mounting the roof is much easier from the rear with an optional ladder attached to the smaller left (orange) side of what is a split door, the other having the third brake-light and the Goodrich- All-Terrain-side-marked spare wheel mounted, held in place by a “Grenadier”-embossed plate. And both doors, held close by magnets, open sideways hinged on exterior hinges true to the original to reveal a trunk that has more L-Tracks. That they close cleanly without issue or a gap on the model is worth mentioning quality-wise.

Not usually one of my interests, with an off-roader we mustn´t miss the “representative underbody”, I guess. We´ll start with the wheels whose nice rugged Goodrich-All-Terrain-branded tires I have briefly mentioned on the spare. Let me add the nice rugged tread on them before we look at the rims: steel, extremely well-replicated with their stainless steel nuts in all their simplicity (but including valves), conveying the Grenadiers philosophy much better than the alloys on the Donny Grey option of the model IMO, despite blocking the view on the brakes. Front and rear have nice skidpans with two distinctively red tow-eyes each. Underneath you can see the old-school ladder frame, the exhaust system, the non-rotating drive-shaft, fuel tank, gearbox and diffs plus protective underfloor skidpans, added after input from the overland fanbase that these vulnerable parts were too exposed. The rock sliding rail running along the sides of the vehicle is mounted, the rock-solid Carraro-sourced heavy-duty axles and non-working coil-springs and shock-absorbers can be admired, too, unlike the engine bay that remains carefully hidden in a box. The print only tells us that this is a 1:18 INEOS Grenadier and gives us the address, but does not reveal the scale model´s manufacturer. The adequately utilitarian packaging (see pictures) reveals this to be MINIMAX, known to me only as the parent company for Spark, but not for diecast-metal 360-degree-access models in their own name. Sensational novelty, just like the INEOS Grenadier itself! Perhaps this is to be seen in the context of them teaming up with Schuco recently. There might be more in the pipeline!

That all four finely hinged doors to the “highly detailed interior” open, only limited by a photoetched metal slider, is to be expected, again held close by magnets and with excellent shut-lines and treadplates on all four thresholds. The interior is meant to be rugged, rubber-floored, and ready to be hosed out if you had cow-shit on your boots (to quote what Sir James Arthur Ratcliffe said), so the model keeps it simple. Simpler to replicate on scale in a soft bendy rubber is the higher spec black leather seat option for the Recaros chosen here over the standard neoprene-type utility trim that would match the Grenadier´s utilitarian philosophy (you know, hose (sh)it out) better. Fabric seatbelts with photo-etched buckles? Check! Being afraid to break these, I don´t demonstrate that the rear bench does actually fold for more trunk space. Notice the two levers between the front seats, one for the centre-diff towards the passenger side the Grenadier comes standard with and one familiar looking BMW-lever for the ZF-gearbox, another bit of German engineering, the flag points to. The other thing you´ll notice is, that the driver only has a tiny display behind the steering wheel that is replicated in the reddish-brown optional saddle leather like the good old hand-brake-lever, giving him nothing but the warning lights. All the other information is displayed on the centre screen, operated by the again familiar BMW turning knob in the centre console. Reviewers and customers have welcomed a load of physical, easily exchangeable switches in the centre console and the aircraft-like overhead panel between the roof windows, allowing integration of add-ons to pre-wired switches, while most other cars have banned buttons for multi-menu-touchscreens. One of the labelled buttons, the big red one on the steering wheel is rather peculiar: The almost legible “Toot”-button (apologies for not getting better pictures) is meant to give a milder warning than the horn to cyclists, a bicycle visibly shrunk into scale on it, too. Is that because INEOS has taken over the professional cycling team from Sky, rebranding them the INEOS Grenadiers to advertise the car? That´s PR coming full cycle (excuse the pun)!

And so does this (apologies: rather long) review with answering the remaining questions: What´s the verdict? Very good effort and a must-have for Land Rover or otherwise off-road and utility-themed collections, although it remains a shame that the bonnet is sealed. Even though it cannot hold a candle to the Almost Real Defender, it is a rare gem I would recommend for our Model of the Year Awards, and if only for the novelty and venturing off the beaten track. With the recent introduction of price categories, it would not have to compete with Almost Real, because it has a starting price of a modest 180 Euros, quickly amounting to just over 230 Euros with VAT and shipping added, still remaining in our medium price range category below what the Almost Real Defender originally cost. Where can you buy one? They are exclusively available “while stock lasts” from the official INEOS Grenadier Merchandise website “celebrating the launch of the new Grenadier Station Wagon with a range of collectable 1:18 Scale models”, which for me was an adventurously bumpy buying experience, I am sorry to say. But that´s another long story (to be told in the comments upon request). The “range” presently is three versions, this limited edition of a prototype/test vehicle  (most of the time flagged as “currently out of stock – please check back soon”, but, very encouragingly, not as “sorry, sold out”) and an Eldoret blue production version with the Scottish White contrast roof option, both of them most closely resembling the serious off-roading Trialmaster Edition with steel rims and a raised air intake on the right A-pillar, but with safari-windows and leather seats added, while the third Donny Grey option on its alloy rims, limited to 800mm-wading-depth without the snorkel represents the Fieldmaster Edition that comes with leather seats as standard (both editions named after another INEOS business, namely jacket-manufacturer Belstaff). And the name? What about the “Grenadier”-name proudly embossed on the side of the bonnet, visible through the windshield and elsewhere? Close enough in more than in name, this spiritual successor to the Defender is named after the London pub “The Grenadier”, where adventure-loving, down-to-earth ole-Defender-enthusiast Ratcliffe came up with the idea over a pint with his mates (as the legend goes). And merchandising wouldn´t be perfect, if you, in addition to the usual T-shirts, caps and mugs, could not buy Grenadier beer glasses from the INEOS Merchandise Shop too, innit? Cheers!

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12 Responses to "REVIEW: MINIMAX INEOS Grenadier (Dealer Edition)"

  1. DS Team says:

    Karsten, thanks for another great review! This model is something we weren’t aware was out there. A decent model overall, though a shame the engine area is sealed. The all-blue exterior one is a lovely piece as presented via the manufacturers’ website.

  2. Vitaliy D says:

    Looking at the photos, it reminds me something that might be produced by LCD Models. I mean, their Defender 90 Works V8 looks pretty close to this, but the LCD’s Defender 90 additionally has access to the detailed engine.

  3. Scott says:

    No matter what any one says i swear that hood opens 🤣

    • Karsten says:

      That would be news to me, great news, but news nontheless. Can you share a photo of the model with the bonnet open and advise us on how to open it (without damging the model or paintwork)?

  4. Sac says:

    “But that´s another long story (to be told in the comments upon request)”

    Do tell! :D

  5. smsr725 says:

    I am still intrigued and eagerly waiting to hear about that another long story on the buying experience. Do Tell!

    • Karsten says:

      Well, at first my buying experience promised to be easy enough: INEOS´ own merchandising website, the model available, into the shopping cart, straight to check-out, select trusty Paypal as payment method, pull trigger. Then the shock: despite numerous attempts, payment failed, after the umptieth attempt the shipping costs disappeared, which would have made succeeding payment a bargain, but still no. So I wrote to the website´s support, but except for the automated reply no reply for what turned out to be 48 hours … to tell me the mistake must be with my Paypal and declare the issue solved.
      By then, I already knew, it´s not my Paypal: Their support had advised me to first place a deposit into Paypal to use for payment as the usual withdrawal from my bank account could not be done under banking laws with a second payment service (Sage Pay) intermediating on INEOS´ side. So I wired a deposit into Paypal, but by the time it was there, the item showed as “currently out of stock – please check back soon”, which I did frequently, very frequently. I contacted the INEOS Automotive PR representative for Germany/Austria/Switzerland on the phone and by email, telling him, I needed a press-modelcar for our review, he returned friendly replies but no results. I phoned the INEOS Grenadier hotline, talked to someone in England whose dad was German, we had a nice chat, he promised to pass on my request, but no further response from further up the ladder. I tried my local BMW dealer, one of the few who do Grenadier sales and services, and the general manager checked back with INEOS merchandise who wrote me an email that they had checked with the warehouse, regretting that the limited edition was completely sold out, nothing left. Perhaps I would settle with one of the other versions. Over the weekend I started to give up hope and reluctantly decided to take the blue one if the limited edition had really become unavailable. Not that the blue one isn´t nice, but the prototype tells the story so much better for this review. I had written to a dealership in the Netherlands and wanted to await their reply (that never came).
      On Monday I had started to draft my review based on the blue, when suddenly the limited edition became available on the website. So it was not sold out as I had been told! Happily and excitedly I tried to buy, but despite a sufficient deposit, payment through Paypal failed yet again. As I do not have a credit card, I asked my dad for his details, but payment once again failed. Finally my brother was able to complete the buying process for me with his credit card, before the model once again was shown as “currently out of stock – please check back soon”. He, a business IT specialist, did not find the buying process to be easy and straightforward either. This could have been the happy ending, but wasn´t quite. Despite their policy to ship the next day and let me know the tracking number, nothing happened for a week. I contacted them again, got the tracking details showing that a label had been created but the parcel not sent on its way. My heart sank: Had they sold an item to me they no longer had in stock? Luckily, it started moving soon and arrived with me on Friday from the Netherlands. And now, the website shows it as “out of stock”.

  6. YTNYC says:

    Just read a fascinating article about the real car itself on which this model is based. So a couple of clarifying points: #1) Grenadier has very little, well, pretty much nothing in common with Land Rover Defender or any other Land Rover! In fact, the exterior design is all new, the engines are from BMW (perhaps expectedly resulting in a front fairly close in design to G-wagen), mechanically and in terms of controls it has nothing in commom with Defender either. In fact the owner of INEOS wanted to purchase the rights and tooling for Defender when it was discontinued in 2016, BUT COULD NOT, so he hired a design team to develop his own analog of what Defender was and could have been, but again- this is not any continuation or developmemt of a defender; it is a complete ground up and does not enter Defender lineage at all- this is in response to reviewer’s remark how this model is a must for Defender collectors… Cheers!

    • Karsten says:

      Well, if you read carefully (not just the conclusion), this is just what I said. It is a must-have for fans of the old Defender as the Grenadier is the Defender’s spiritual successor, more than the new Defender. That’s how it is viewed and was intended, or why did Land Rover sue Ineos? But thanks for the summary!

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