Best 4x4s for off-roading: Ineos Grenadier vs Jeep Wrangler

Many SUVs look more butch than they really are, but what's the most capable four-wheel-drive model on the rough stuff? Our off-roader megatest reveals the answer...

Ineos Grenadier vs Jeep Wrangler

Ineos Grenadier 3.0L Turbo Petrol Trialmaster Edition

List price £76,000
Target Price £76,000

The Grenadier’s off-road kit list is heavier on mechanical hardware than it is on clever gadgets. You get proper off-road tyres, a low-range gearbox, three locking differentials and a raised air intake, plus a wading mode that cuts the cooling fan. We’re testing a 3.0-litre petrol car; diesel power is also offered.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4dr

List price £62,520
Target Price £62,520

Topping the Wrangler range, the Rubicon has front, centre and rear locking differentials, rugged off-road tyres, hill descent control and a low-range gearbox. You can even increase suspension travel at the push of a button. The sole engine offered is a punchy 2.0-litre petrol, with an automatic gearbox.

Even if you’re not remotely interested in off-roading, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the Ineos Grenadier. Dreamed up by Sir Jim Ratcliffe to take up where the original Land Rover Defender left off, the Grenadier is a wilful throwback to a time when off-roaders relied on mechanical dexterity, not fancy traction control systems, to clamber their way through the countryside. 

The Grenadier’s underpinnings mirror those of the original Defender; the steering, suspension and structure are very similar. Our test car had a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine (sourced from BMW) and rugged Bridgestone Dueler H/T off-road tyres.

Ineos Grenadier front off-road

The Grenadier’s singularity of purpose is perhaps only matched by one other SUV on sale today: the Jeep Wrangler. Tonka Toy styling and the fashionable ‘lifestyle’ image the Wrangler has acquired through Hollywood appearances in The Dukes of Hazzard and Clueless make it easy to forget that it’s actually just as focused and uncompromising as the Grenadier, especially in this Rubicon form. 

Like the Grenadier, the Wrangler wears chunky off-road tyres (in this case BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KM2s), and you can lock its front, centre and rear differentials to summon traction in sand and mud. Both cars supplement their gearboxes with a mechanically engaged low range to better deploy power at low speeds. The Wrangler, though, trumps the Grenadier by having a detachable front anti-roll bar, mechanically untethering the front wheels from each other and helping to keep the tyres in contact with the ground over the roughest terrain.

Jeep Wrangler front off-road

That feature, combined with its fractionally lower gearing, made the Wrangler easier to control over rock-strewn terrain. Even if you accidentally stab at the accelerator, progress remains smooth and controlled, and the vast travel of its suspension helps its body to remain upright.

In the Grenadier, you need to be more deliberate with your accelerator inputs, and the movement of its upright body is more constrained by its suspension, so it can’t ooze over obstacles quite so fluidly.

Ineos Grenadier specs

Ineos Grenadier off-road specs

The two SUVs were more evenly matched when it came to negotiating the gravel hills and rutted sand slopes; both machines shrugged them off with little fuss. Only on the dreaded Horseshoe were the crucial differences highlighted, particularly when it came to steering response.

As we mentioned earlier, the Grenadier uses an old-fashioned steering set-up that’s supposedly more robust and shockproof than the set-up in the Wrangler. However, it provides precious little feel, is slow to self-centre and requires a ponderous 3.85 turns from lock to lock. On more than one occasion, we struggled to tell where the front wheels were pointing – not ideal when your next movement is crucial.

Jeep Wrangler specs

Jeep Wrangler off-road specs

The Wrangler also makes the process of manually locking the differentials and setting the hill descent modes much easier. For example, if you want to lock both front and rear differentials at the same time, you simply flip a rocker switch, and to unlock them you press a big, red button labelled ‘Off’. The Grenadier requires a multi-step process, and getting it wrong can confuse the system, preventing engagement. Also, unlike the Wrangler, you must disengage the Grenadier’s front and rear differentials before you can use hill descent control; this caught a number of us out. 

As a result, while the Grenadier could follow the Wrangler anywhere, it often took a few attempts to clear the obstacles cleanly. The Wrangler’s less exotic 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine felt more suited to the task at hand than the Grenadier’s six-cylinder engine, too. It goes to show that experience counts when it comes to excelling off road.

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