A what, you say?
A new, body-on-frame, beam-axled, full-time-four-wheel-drive, made-in-England utility 4x4, that’s what.
At least, if the plans of billionaire British businessman Jim Ratcliffe come to pass.
A couple of years ago, Ratcliffe, the CEO of Ineos, and several friends were chatting over pints in their favorite pub, the Grenadier, lamenting the demise of the Land Rover Defender and its likely metamorphosis into something entirely different. One idea led to another, and soon Ratcliffe—the owner of several Defenders— had a plan in place to carry on the spirit and function of the original. Those plans are near enough to completion that a test mule is reportedly being thrashed in the Austrian Alps, and an introduction is planned for mid-2020 with sales starting in early 2021.
The specs for the Grenadier are enough to make a die-hard “classic” Defender fan swoon. In addition to the characteristics listed above, the vehicle will employ a steel chassis and alumin(i)um body panels. The center differential will lock, and cross-axle diff locks are promised—something Land Rover stubbornly eschewed throughout the lifespan of the original.
In fact, so often and so specifically has Ratcliffe referred to the original Defender that, reportedly, the current Indian owners of Land Rover are watching the proceedings very closely indeed, waiting to pounce if it appears the Grenadier is nothing more than a thinly disguised continuation of their late product.
Ineos Motors has confirmed the sourcing of BMW power plants for the new vehicle, a 3.0-litre petrol and a 3.0-litre turbodiesel. It has also confirmed intention to build several body styles including a pickup—a configuration notably lacking on the new unibody Defender.
This might sound like just another pie in the sky fantasy if Sir Ratcliffe were not reportedly England’s wealthiest man, and were a factory not already being built in Bridgend, South Wales. Intriguingly, commercial director Mark Tennant has made several references to “the U.S. market.”