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New INEOS Grenadier Quartermaster pick-up driven in Italy

Words: Elliott Hughes | Photos: Ineos

Magneto has charted the INEOS Grenadier’s development from the very beginning, test driving the car in 2B prototype form in the quagmire of a disused mine in Hambach, eastern France in 2022, before getting behind the wheel of a production-spec model on the global media launch in Scotland, 2023.

Those early experiences confirmed that the Grenadier was every bit the imperious off-roader it was designed to be, albeit with a few too many on-road compromises to make it easy to recommend to most buyers over a similarly priced Land Rover Defender or Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. Even so, for those prepared to live with the trade-offs afforded by an unashamedly old-school, simple and utilitarian 4×4, there’s little out there that can compete with the INEOS.

As the latest addition to the Grenadier line-up, the Quartermaster pick-up leans even further into the model’s rugged utilitarian character. By virtue of its bodystyle, the Quartermaster promises all the off-roading wanderlust of the regular car, with the added practicality of a load bed that measures 1562mm long by 1617mm wide – easily enough to haul a standard Euro-sized pallet.

The Quartermaster’s boxy pick-up profile perfectly suits the Grenadier’s personality – perhaps even more so than the original Station Wagon

The Quartermaster’s boxy pick-up profile perfectly suits the Grenadier’s personality – perhaps even more so than the original Station Wagon

In the metal, the Quartermaster is a large and imposing beast. Although equally wide, at 5440mm long, it’s 545mm longer than the Station Wagon, while its 3227mm wheelbase is 305mm longer than its stablemate’s.

Aside from manoeuvrability – which was never the Grenadier’s forte to begin with – the biggest drawback of all that extra metal is a larger rear overhang (1328mm compared to 827mm for the Station Wagon), which could compromise the Quartermaster in highly demanding off-road scenarios.

Numbers aside, it certainly looks the part. The Quartermaster’s boxy pick-up profile perfectly suits the Grenadier’s personality – perhaps even more so than the original Station Wagon. As with the Station Wagon, the exterior is also peppered with practical, purposeful design details that are refreshing at a time when car styling is often so needlessly fussy and overdone.

One example is the Utility Rail system running down each side of the car. These allow you to bolt on almost any attachment you can think of, from jerry cans to picnic tables, and resemble the tactical rails on a soldier’s rifle.

Other clever features include the cup-holders moulded to the inside of the tailgate (which itself can support 225kg, so helpfully doubles as a place to sit), the incredibly strong load-bay bars, and accessory mounting points on the roof that are accompanied by pre-wired power outlets.

But what is it like to drive? My test car was a road-biased Fieldmaster model equipped with BMW’s venerable 3.0-litre B57 diesel engine. Being a Fieldmaster, the car was also equipped with heated leather Recaros, 18-inch alloy wheels, removable Safari Windows in the roof, front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. Front and rear locking differentials and knobbly BF Goodrich rubber are fitted as part of the optional Rough Pack.

The lengthy test route meandered through the bucolic Tuscan countryside, with on-road sections peeling off into tight, off-road trails that snaked through thick forests. While the route wasn’t as challenging as traversing the Scottish Highlands in the bleakness of winter, it still presented numerous opportunities for the Quartermaster to demonstrate its mettle as a mud-conquering off-roader as well as its on-road manners.

Unsurprisingly, the Quartermaster easily shrugged off the off-road sections that included the usual obstacles: steep, rocky ascents, narrow trackways littered with loose boulders and a 45-degree bank that tested the articulation of the Carraro-engineered beam axles. The only real challenge was refamiliarising myself with how to operate the roof-mounted off-road switchgear, as well as the stubby lever that engages the transfer box and locks the centre differential.

I’ve never found INEOS’ off-roading systems particularly intuitive to use – partially down to the placement of the buttons, and also because you have to be stationary to engage the diff locks and transfer box. That said, the hardcore contingent of the Grenadier’s target audience are unlikely to find it difficult to get accustomed to.

On the twisting roads of the Tuscan countryside, the Quartermaster felt largely identical to the Station Wagon. It rides surprisingly well for a car underpinned by a ladder chassis and beam axles, and in terms of refinement, it is leagues ahead of the old Defender. Another nice surprise is the inclusion of the excellent Premium Sound System option with the Fieldmaster version, which adds a subwoofer and an uprated amplifier.

Two gripes road testers had on the Grenadier launch was the oddly shaped driver’s footwell and the steering. Happily, the first problem can be struck off the list for buyers in left-hand-drive markets, because the bulge in the right-hand side of the footwell is then on the passenger side, but for better or for worse, the recirculating-ball steering system is a characteristic of all Grenadiers.

This is a set-up favoured by old Defenders, and is beneficial for off-roading because it stops the steering wheel from kicking back over obstacles and potentially breaking your thumbs. Unfortunately, it offers next to no feel and barely self-centres – so it can easily catch you out when pulling out of junctions. You acclimatise to the steering pretty quickly, but it nonetheless requires constant adjustment while on the move. 

It’s no secret that the Grenadier has a couple of compromises – that’s the very nature of the vehicle it was created to be. The question is whether its target audience is prepared to make such compromises – and the problem is, I fear they belong to a very niche group, particularly in the case of the Quartermaster.

Depending on specification, the maximum payload of the Quartermaster is either 760kg or 835kg, which means it doesn’t qualify for the UK’s flat commercial vehicle tax, which mandates a minimum carrying capacity of 1000kg. With a starting price of £73,515 and £85,201 for the Fieldmaster version tested, that might prove too much of a bitter pill to swallow.

Read more about INEOS here.

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