The pursuit for a proper philosophical successor to the Land Rover Defender continues under the auspices of billionaire British businessman Jim Ratcliffe. In the past two years, Ratcliffe's chemical company INEOS has created the standalone division INEOS Automotive, put CEO Dirk Heilmann in charge of a team of auto industry veterans, and contracted with MBtech on the vehicle's development. The codename for the old-school 4x4 is Projekt Grenadier, and the latest news is that BMW will partner on gas and diesel engines.

After Land Rover announced the end of the Defender, Ratcliffe tried to purchase the rights to continue production. When Land Rover wouldn't agree, the plan was to build a copy of the Defender. Ratcliffe said the design hadn't been trademarked in Britain, and he would preserve the original lines by treating the Solihull-built box "like a listed building." However, as Projekt Grenadier evolved, and as Land Rover worked to promote its own Defender rebirth and trademark its historic handiwork, the INEOS initiative has morphed into a slightly different offering.

Only very slightly, though. Ratcliffe said, "It will be a robust, no-nonsense utility vehicle, with an emphasis on reliability, durability and peerless off-road capability. It will have... more angles than curves, and have a wheel at each corner. It will not be a Defender." Aluminum panels "flat enough to rest a mug on" will hang on a steel body-on-frame chassis, the curb weight described as "fairly light." The target market comprises a global crowd of explorers and off-road enthusiasts; industries like agriculture, forestry and mining; and NGOs like the U.N.

Development engineers target Toyota reliability, but a build as simple as possible to enable remote repairs when needed. Functional chops will come from solid axles front and back, with permanent four-wheel drive. An automatic transmission isn't confirmed, but is said to be the most likely choice. Payload will be about 2,000 pounds, towing capacity around 7,500 pounds.

The interior goes back to the 1950s, showing off a bunch of "chunky rubber" and only applying leather where cowhide is the most logical choice. Don't expect carpeting or sound deadening, do expect plug holes for hosing the cabin down. Instead of a proprietary infotainment system, the instrument panel could house mounts and spaces for an owner's devices.

The company didn't identify which BMW engines will serve under-hood, but those motors will be the most modern facet of the "brand new, old-souled" Projekt Grendier by far. With worldwide homologation planned, and considering the variety of industries targeted, four-cylinder BMW TwinPower Turbo units are good candidates. These won't be off-the-shelf units, either, BMW having cleaved off a development budget for the program's current-spec motors. INEOS wants the engines to be compatible with low-quality fuels in places where one might "pull a plough, lead a safari, clear a minefield, cross a river."

Ratcliff is investing about $800 million into developing Projekt Grenadier, which is close to the number you'd expect from a major OEM. Roughly 200 MBtech engineers work full-time in Stuttgart on development, with another 50 embedded INEOS engineers. There seemed to be doubt about a short wheelbase model due to return on investment, but Autocar says station wagon and pickup truck body styles on two wheelbases are still planned. INEOS hasn't selected a production site yet, but it will manufacture the truck instead of farming the build out.

The specs and pricing give the Projekt Grenadier a strange competitive set. In most ways the truck channels historical military 4x4s like the Willys, Series 1 Land-Rover, and first J40 Toyota Land Cruiser. But it's got a BMW engine, and is chasing the market craze for smaller double-cabs like the Ford Ranger, Volksagen Amarok, and Mercedes X-Class. Nor will Projekt Grenadier be cheap, with pricing expected to come in around the high £30,000s to low £40,000s to start. The Mercedes X-Class starts with a four-cylinder diesel starts at £35,238 ($46,671) in the UK.

INEOS wants feedback and recommendations from 4x4 enthusiasts and people who use rugged SUVs for work. A survey on the Projekt Grenadier site is gathering user data on truck design, powertrain, safety, build quality, and how runabouts get used — from fuel to gadgets to the aftermarket.

Designers are poring over a full-sized clay model now, and a test mule has roamed the Austrian Alps since last summer. A reveal should come next year, with production to start in 2021 for a European launch. Before then, you can have your say on what the final truck will be. The Projekt Grenadier codename comes from the Grenadier pub in London's Belgravia neighborhood, where Ratcliffe got the idea for all of this. You can submit an idea for the production on the project website. And the permanent moniker will be picked this summer.

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