The INEOS Grenadier: How does this 4×4 fair on the sodden hills of Royal Deeside?

It’s rare that I need to be asked twice to head for the hills, but if there’s an opportunity to go off road then I’m definitely most at home on my own two feet, or sat astride a faithful steed. But life is all about stepping outside you comfort zone, so swapping horsepower singular for four rather large wheels and the equivalent pull of the many many equines that INEOS have succeeded in packing under the bonnet of their Grenadier seemed like a fitting challenge.

For anyone unfamiliar with the INEOS Grenadier, it’s a beast of a 4×4 that brings together the best of British design, with renowned German engineering. The marketing material will tell you that it has been tested over 1.1 million miles from the high peaks of Austria to the inhospitable dunes of the Sahara. But how will it fair on a sodden and muddy hillside in Royal Deeside, following what feels like the wettest and coldest start to a year in living memory, with this rank amateur at the wheel?

We are to be let loose on the 25,000 glorious acres that make up the Glen Tanar Estate. The perfect place to put the Grenadier’s off road abilities and super-cool Pathfinder navigation system to the test. Specifically designed to plug the gaps left where no sat nav dares to tread, Pathfinder is a waypoint-based navigation tool that is specifically designed for off-road adventures. Drivers can download existing GPX files (an industry standard format for geographic information like waypoints and tracks) to the Grenadier’s system. Clicking on waypoints activates a compass function to guide the driver in the direction of the next waypoint marker. The distance to the waypoint, bearings and coordinates are all shown on screen to make getting lost almost impossible.

An evening in the lap of luxury at The Fife Arms in Braemar, with it’s incredible collection of art and quirky whisky bar, is followed by my first experience of driving the Grenadier. I’m easing myself in gently on the road, and enjoying the revelation that avoiding potholes probably isn’t required in this particular vehicle.

We discover more about the challenge in the impressive surroundings of the Ballroom at Glen Tanar. The day is to be spent in pairs collecting points for a variety of activities. First, we are to put the Grenadier through its paces under the expert guidance of our driving trainer Richard. We’re faced with a very slippery off road track, with a selection of muddy puddles that are easily deep enough to swim in. Poised at the top of a vertiginous slope I’m genuinely terrified at what lies ahead. Richard’s reassurances that the car will look after me and that I just need to trust its abilities see me through and within minutes I’m able to breath again. By the time I’m half way round the course, with its mogulesque tree roots, seemingly impossible quantities of mud, steep climbs and sheer drops I’m relaxed and dare I say it, enjoying myself.

Our next test will be to find a memory stick pre-programmed with the waypoints we need to navigate our way around Glen Tanar. This involves jumping in a kayak and following a map to where the sticks are hidden in the low hanging branches around a pretty little lochan. Then it’s back to the Grenadier and we’re off to find our own way around the estate and back to a cottage where lunch awaits.

By this time I’m confident enough in the Grenadier to be enjoying the drive, and taking in some of the stunning scenery that can be spotted from the elevated viewpoint of the driver’s seat. The couple of minor detours that we took were entirely down to both driver and passenger entering sight-seeing mode to spot red deer, black grouse and the snow-capped peaks that rise above the Cairngorms National Park.

The afternoon is filled with clay pigeon shooting (the less said about my scoring during this activity the better) and more navigating around the estate. Before we head to the historic Raemoir House near Banchory for the evening. In the surroundings of this grand old country house our last challenge is to be a quiz on all things Grenadier, and on Scotland. To say that this gave my Scottish partner and I an unfair advantage over our English counterparts would be over-egging the pudding. So let’s just say that we won the trophy fair and square for Scotland!

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