'Strapped in?' I asked my rear passenger as I contemplated the potential carnage ahead.

I was at the wheel of the chunky new Ineos Grenadier 4X4 – brainchild and dream of British billionaire entrepreneur Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who was so upset by Land Rover's decision to scrap the previous Defender that he decided to create his own back-to-basics rugged rival, much to their annoyance. 

It takes its name from the Grenadier pub in London's Belgravia where in 2017 he conceived the idea over a pint.

But is this 4X4 full of fizz or a glass half empty offroader? We've put it to an extreme test.

The Ineos Grenadier's official global launch took the form of an extended expedition from the royal Castle of Mey near John O'Groats in Caithness and across the Scottish Highlands, including over remote mountainous private estates not usually open to the public with more roaming stags than people.

I had already driven an early pre-production prototype around a quagmire-like off-road course near the hi-tech factory in Hambach in France where the British-designed, German engineered 4x4 is built. But this was my first real test of it on home soil on and off UK roads.

So here we were on the wintry shores of a freezing loch in the Scottish Highlands which we'd reached by descending down a steep, and slippery off-road track specifically designed to test its mettle.

So far so good. 

However, the heavens then opened up and that vertiginous track – which we now needed to ascend to reach the road and coffee-stop at the top (where indeed Sir Jim himself was waiting) was now resembling the Somme First World War battlefield.

So much so that first one, and then a second vehicle became bogged down, blocking the way for the rest. 

After something of a delay, they were eventually rescued and pulled out. And I was next in line.

Determined not to make it a hat-trick, and pretty sure from watching those who went ahead that it was lack of 'commitment' by the drivers, rather than any lack of mechanical or performance prowess by the Grenadier that was the problem, I decided to go for broke.

What happened next is, in my mind at least, replayed in cinematic slow motion. But set in low ratio. 

With engine revving, all-four wheels engaged and spinning, and brown soup-like mud and dirt flying in all directions, we roared, barrelled and slid full pelt up that steep hill, through the ruts and water-filled ditches to the top.

I apparently performed what one eye-witness described as 'Tokyo drifting' through the clarty morass. 

But as the Grenadier responded instantly to my intuitive and instinctive turns of the wheel, the all-wheel drive traction took hold, the wheels gripped, we dug in and pelted up that hill – and reached the top.

'Was that you?' asked the first of many among the laughing crowd at the top.

Certainly was.

'I hope you got it on film', I asked of the camera, video and drone teams filming the event.

So during two full days of off-road driving through the beautiful wilds of the Scottish Highlands, I can affirm I always had every confidence in the Grenadier's old-school off-roading ability.

And that included negotiating some really hairy narrow mountainous tracks in pitch dark with nothing but air, gravity, and a prayer between me and the loch far below.

Dramatic episodes aside, what's the Grenadier like in the round?

Designed both for work and pleasure, up close, it really is a big and imposing beast. Almost military in its presence. 

And yes, at first glance you might mistake it for a previous generation Land Rover Defender. 

Next Ineos will be a small 4X4 EV... 

A compact all-electric 4X4 will be the next off-roader to bear the Ineos badge, the company's billionaire boss Sir Jim Ratcliffe revealed while launching the new Grenadier.

It will be launched in showrooms in 2026 to form the second model line-up in an expanded range for the Ineos Automotive brand.

And hinting that he had effectively signed off, he said: 'It looks pretty good'.

Sir Jim said the smaller battery-powered zero-emissions 4X4 is about the size of a Toyota RAV4 and will have a range of 400km (248 mile) – which is more than that's enough 'to get you from London to Manchester.' 

A number of variants of the electric 4x4 are planned.

He also teased that they had already decided on a 'clever name' – not a number- for the new electric off-roader, but declined to share it.

The electric 4x4 is being developed in conjunction with Ineos's engineering partner, Austrian specialists Magna Steyr.

He said it will be a serious off-roader:' It's a bit smaller than Grenadier. If it's an off-road vehicle it has to be rugged.'

This year Ineos Automotive will also put a prototype hydrogen fuel-cell electric Grenadier on the road ahead of going into showrooms by the end of the decade, he added.

However, he thinks widespread hydrogen use is still 'a long way away' because of the lack of a hydrogen re-fuelling infrastructure.

> Read our report on the future if hydrogen filling stations in the UK

Both share the same boxy exterior and are built around a traditional ladder-frame chassis. However, a string of legal challenges by Land Rover to scupper Grenadier's progress have failed - as courts deemed that the squared-off 'look' of the classic 4x4 is generic as form follows function. 

And in any case, in what may prove a costly oversight, Land Rover had failed to properly protect their original vehicle's design.

All around and inside the new Grenadier there's great attention to detail. 

Its industrial nature of is celebrated and not hidden away. That means the chunky door hinges are exposed and made an explicit feature.

You'll get fit and improve your abs getting in and out. It's quite a jump up from the ground into the driver and passenger seats. And not everyone's got tall Sir Jim's long legs.

Once inside and contemplating the solidly functional dashboard with its 12.3-inch touchscreen and plenty of analogue buttons and chunky dials, what instantly grabs your attention is the aircraft-style control and switch panel above your head. It makes the commanding front of the vehicle feel like a real aviation cockpit.

Available to buy now are two five-seater station wagon models aimed at private buyers, both available with petrol or diesel straight-six cylinder BMW engines linked to eight-speed gearboxes and priced from £69,000 on the road: the Fieldmaster is aimed more at lifestyle customers, while the Trialmaster (complete with snorkel) is for more hard-core off-roading fans.

They are called 'Belstaff Editions', after the motorsport-inspired clothing brand which Ratcliffe's Ineos also owns.

In addition there are two more versions classed as 'light commercial' vehicles: a two-seater Utility Wagon priced from £55,000 and a five-seater Station Wagon from £58,000.

Out on the highway it has real grunt and punchy acceleration, and is a relatively comfortable ride for such a brutish off-roader, though the steering on tarmac is not always as pin-sharp precise as I'd have wished.

Its powerful BMW 3.0-litre 286 horsepower straight six-cylinder petrol engine powers the 3.5 tonne leviathan from rest to 62mph in 8.6 seconds and up to a more than adequate and unlikely to be tested top speed of 99mph.

Lots of help off-road too with off-road and wading modes and downhill assist.

But it's predictably thirsty averaging a gas-guzzling 18.9 to 19.6mpg - making the 90 litre fuel tank an expensive necessity at currently around £135 per fill-up (assuming £1.50 per litre) - with CO2 emissions likely to turn environmental campaigners green of between 325-336g/km.

For going through water it has a wading depth of 800mm.

Options aren't cheap 

Riding on 18-inch alloy wheels, my car as driven with leather trim and easy to clean rubber flooring cost £79,390 thanks to £10,390 of options and accessories including: an integrated heavy duty winch (£3,345); 'Donny Grey' paint (£925); protective rock sliders (£883); heat reflective privacy glass (£430) and a 'Rough Pack' including differential locks front and rear and BF Goodrich Tyres (£1,765).

In addition to the standard centre locking differential in the two-speed transfer case, hardcore customers can opt for front and rear electronically-actuated diff-locks.

I also drove a pretty capable Trialmaster priced at £72,041 (including £3,041 of extras) with a 249 horsepower 3.0 straight six-cylinder BMW diesel engine and loads of pulling power capable of hitting 62mph from rest in 9,9 seconds and with a similar 99mph top speed.

The Grenadier also displays a sense of humour amidst the practicality and options to personalise.

A special red 'Toot Button' on the steering wheel offers cyclists a softer more friendly warning of hour presence in place of a blaring horn.

With paint names, 'Scottish White' reflects the legs of Ineos founder Sir Jim's Scottish friends.

'Donny Grey' honours Ineos co-founder Andy Currie who hails from Doncaster 'where the skies are invariably grey.' 'Magic Mushroom' you can work out for yourself.

First Grenadier deliveries are underway now, order books stretch to six months, there are 24 sales and service centres in the UK out of 200 globally, and at peak his pristine factory in Hambach, France, will produce between 25,000 and 30,000 Grenadiers a year, of which a third will go to the USA.

The parent Ineos Group now employs 26,000 people across 36 businesses in 29 countries and with annual sales of around £45billion.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe says: 'The idea behind the Grenadier is t develop a 4X4 that will be an uncompromising, no frills, no fuss vehicle that provides the best-in class off-road capability, durability and utility.

'It will support those who depend on a vehicle as a working tool, wherever they are in the world.'

I suspect if he'll be toasting his launch success in the Grenadier pub.

Will it fit in my garage? Ineos Grenadier: Fieldmaster

Price from: £69,000

Price as driven: £79,390

Length (inc spare wheel): 4,895mm/Length (without spare wheel): 4,683mm

Width: (with mirrors): 2,146mm/Width (mirrors folded): 1,930mm 

Maximum height: 2,050mm

Wheelbase: 2,922mm

Gross weight: 3.5tonnes/Unladen weight: 2.669 to 2.736 tonnes

Engine: BMW 3.0 litre straight six-cylinder 24v petrol

Power: 286 horsepower (183kW)

Transmission: ZF 8-speed automatic

0-62mph acceleration: 8.6 seconds

Top speed: 99mph

Fuel economy: 18.9-19.6mpg

CO2 emissions: 325-336g/km

Fuel tank capacity: 90 litres

Wheels: 18 inch alloy

Tyres: BF Goodrich KO2 (in 'Rough Pack')

Wading depth: 800mm

Loadspace: Up to 2,025 litres

2023-02-08T00:19:24Z dg43tfdfdgfd