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2024 Ineos Grenadier Vs. 2024 Lexus GX 550 Overtrail+: Which Is Better Off-Road?

ineos grenadier lwb station wagon trialmaster 2024 lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 01 exterior group front angle scaled jpg 2024 Ineos Grenadier LWB Station Wagon Trialmaster (left), 2024 Lexus GX 550 Overtrail+ | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

If you have roughly $80,000 to spend on a new off-roader, the good news is that you have some pretty interesting choices — two of which take polar opposite approaches to heading off the pavement. After taking both the 2024 Ineos Grenadier and 2024 Lexus GX 550 Overtrail+ for a quick off-road spin at the Midwest Automotive Media Association’s 2024 Spring Rally, I’m all the more convinced that we’re living in a golden age for unpaved fun.

Related: 2024 Lexus GX 550 Review: Go Anywhere, Do Anything

The Old-School Ineos Experience …

ineos grenadier lwb station wagon 2024 05 exterior dynamic offroad profile scaled jpg 2024 Ineos Grenadier LWB Station Wagon | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

These two body-on-frame SUVs may be in a similar price range, but they’re about as different as it gets. The Ineos Grenadier ($73,100 to start and $83,750 as tested; all prices include destination) is a purpose-built off-road SUV that channels the off-road greats of yore. It isn’t just retro in its styling, it’s a gloriously manual driving experience with a delightful but bare-bones interior full of physical controls.

Electronic off-road assists are few, with the Grenadier spec sheet only listing hill start assist, downhill assist and automatic traction control — and no selectable terrain or traction modes. The one I tested off-road was a lower-trim long-wheelbase variant, but it was plenty capable, with 17-inch steel wheels shod with fat all-terrain tires, a locking center differential, and solid front and rear axles. It’s so purpose-made for dirty adventures that installing carpet is an extra cost, with the interior designed to be hosed out after a day of fun.

It’s also designed to be upfitted and customized, with side-mounted accessory rails that can hold up to 77 pounds of extra off-road gear, simpler suspension components made for tough terrain, a roof solid enough to stand on and even a panel of blank switches to add powered accessories. A second battery sits under the rear seats to let you use accessories and lighting while the Grenadier is off.

Under the hood, the Grenadier has the same BMW turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine found in the Toyota Supra and BMW Z4, albeit in detuned form. Its 282 horsepower and 332 pounds-feet of torque gets sent through an eight-speed BMW-sourced automatic transmission and a two-speed mechanical transfer case. An optional Rough Pack adds electronically locking front and rear differentials that are activated by a physical overhead button.

… Versus Lexus’ Technical Wizardry

lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 44 exterior dynamic offroad front angle jpg 2024 Lexus GX 550 Overtrail+ | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

On the other hand, there’s the Lexus GX 550 Overtrail+ ($77,250 to start and $80,915 as tested). It’s a luxury SUV that takes a more tech-heavy approach to wheeling. The GX 550 was completely redesigned for 2024, and even the base trim level has some off-road tech with a standard limited-slip locking center differential for better traction.

The Overtrail trims, though, are the most trail-ready of the crop, with 33-inch all-terrain tires mounted on smaller 18-inch wheels, an extra locking rear differential, drivetrain and stability control management modes tuned for off-roading, windshield wiper deicers, headlight washers and strengthened roof rails. It also features the Electronic Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that disconnects the front and rear sway bars from inside the cabin for extra wheel articulation on tricky obstacles. A multiterrain monitoring system helps you see the trail ahead and around you. The plus mark in “Overtrail+” simply adds more luxury features like massaging front seats, heated outboard rear seats and a hands-free power liftgate.

Like the Grenadier, the GX 550 is also powered by six cylinders, albeit in twin-turbo V-6 form. That V-6 is good for a more-than-adequate 349 hp and 479 pounds-feet of torque, all sent through a 10-speed automatic.

Getting Muddy

ineos grenadier lwb station wagon trialmaster 2024 03 exterior dynamic offroad profile scaled jpg 2024 Ineos Grenadier LWB Station Wagon Trialmaster | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Admittedly, my time off-road in both SUVs was brief. However, being able to sample both nearly back to back on many of the same obstacles was enough to get a good grasp of how these two differ. Recent storms meant that the course was extra muddy, and the soft dirt surface of the trail degraded significantly over the day. Fortunately, both of these SUVs were up to the challenge.

While engaging the Grenadier’s differentials was as simple as holding down a button for a few seconds, shifting the permanent four-wheel-drive system into low range required the use of a physical knob and a bit of inching forward in Neutral to engage. I was charmed by the old-school feel of the cabin the second I twisted the metal blade of its ignition key. Most of the interior controls are physical buttons and knobs, which is ideal if you’re wearing thick gloves to wheel on a cold day. There’s even a charming “Toot” button on the steering wheel meant to get someone’s attention with a quieter, more polite horn.

The only thing directly in front of the steering wheel is a small panel to display various warning lights, with a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen with instrument displays and infotainment functions sitting in the middle. Forward visibility is great as a result, and judging where the Grenadier’s edges were was easy as it’s a big squared-off box. Should you need to hop out to judge a trickier obstacle, there’s an off-road mode that turns off the warnings for open doors and unlatched seat belts.

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The driving experience is as manual as the controls, and if you like looking back at a tough obstacle and going, “That was all me,” the Grenadier lands squarely in dream-car territory. Keeping it moving over obstacles and through muddy patches without spinning your tires and digging into the mud requires some finesse. Part of me wishes it had a manual transmission so I could have even more control over how it crawls over rocks, but you can at least manually select 1st gear to keep it rolling slowly.

There’s another unique-in-its-class feature that gives you an additional amount of control: an ultra-slow recirculating ball steering rack that makes it easy to place your wheels exactly where you want them. Sometimes careful wheel placement makes the difference between barreling over an obstacle and gently climbing up.

While you can spec the Grenadier with rock sliders for additional underbody protection, none of the obstacles on this particular course were hardcore enough to need those. The biggest obstacle here was mud, and lots of it. The Grenadier was as susceptible to sliding into ruts as anything else I drove, and navigating the slimiest parts of the course required patience and skill. Sometimes I had to back up and get a running start when I tried to crawl through the slippery stuff too slowly, but the locking differentials did their job for the most part, confidently sending power to multiple wheels at once so the one with the most traction could hook up and get the Grenadier moving.

ineos grenadier lwb station wagon trialmaster 2024 06 exterior dynamic offroad rear scaled jpg 2024 Ineos Grenadier LWB Station Wagon Trialmaster | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

And Now for Something Completely Different

If you just want to explore and do it in comfort, it’s hard to go wrong with the Lexus GX 550 Overtrail+. Unfortunately, the course had gotten a lot more rutted by the time I tested out the Lexus, and the staff deemed it off-limits to certain steeper or more difficult obstacles because of its lower ground clearance — 8.9 inches compared to the Grenadier’s 10.4 inches.

It’s the thick, soupy mud where the Lexus really shined, though. I set off in the Lexus’ mud terrain mode, and the system simply figured it out, sending just enough power to the wheels with the most traction even in the slipperiest turns of the course. It was still susceptible to sliding into ruts, but it required significantly less finesse to make it through the deepest, thickest mud than the Grenadier did.

This was the more powerful of the two SUVs, and its transmission shifted incredibly smoothly out on the course. It could get up to surprisingly fast speeds even in 4-Low on the less muddy wide-open parts of the course, and its ride was less bumpy than the capable but lower-tech Grenadier. Between these characteristics and its ability to sort out even the most ham-fisted attempts at driving through muddy turns, the Lexus felt far more accessible to people who may just want to explore some cool trails, but don’t want doing so to be a challenge.

lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 43 exterior dynamic offroad front angle scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 42 exterior dynamic offroad front scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 ineos grenadier lwb station wagon trialmaster 2024 02 exterior group front angle scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 45 exterior dynamic offroad profile scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 59 interior front row scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 60 interior steering wheel scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 62 interior center stack display scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 64 interior center console controls scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 63 interior gearshift scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 67 interior backseat scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 68 interior backseat usb scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 47 exterior front scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 52 exterior rear scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 55 exterior rear cargo scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 51 exterior rear angle scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 49 exterior profile scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 56 exterior wheel scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 43 exterior dynamic offroad front angle scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 42 exterior dynamic offroad front scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 ineos grenadier lwb station wagon trialmaster 2024 02 exterior group front angle scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 45 exterior dynamic offroad profile scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 59 interior front row scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 60 interior steering wheel scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 62 interior center stack display scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 64 interior center console controls scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 63 interior gearshift scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 67 interior backseat scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 68 interior backseat usb scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 47 exterior front scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 52 exterior rear scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 55 exterior rear cargo scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 51 exterior rear angle scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 49 exterior profile scaled jpg lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 56 exterior wheel scaled jpg

Its steering is faster than the Grenadier’s, but this made it simpler to navigate tight turns. Like the Grenadier, the fact that the Lexus GX is a big, boxy vehicle makes it easy to judge where its edges sit, but the 360-degree and forward camera views came in handy for navigating tight turns or making sure I wouldn’t hit large boulders or trees that were perilously close to the trail. That useful forward-facing camera also comes with guidelines to show where your wheels will travel and where the edge of your truck will go. More controls are in the large touchscreen, but drive modes, the four-wheel-drive system and other off-road-specific controls are engaged with physical buttons on the center console.

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It’s All Down to Priorities

A purpose-built off-roader like the Ineos Grenadier comes with quite a few compromises when it comes to every other use. The interior is all function, with a hard plastic dash that felt like it could withstand desert heat without cracking but is guaranteed to turn off folks who expect everything to feel plush in an $80,000-plus off-roader. The seats are fairly hard, with rear seats that don’t fold down completely flat. Wind noise is loud, with its roof rails nearly whistling at highway speeds (you’ll feel cross-breezes, too). Plus, that same slow steering rack that’s delightful off-road makes it rather cumbersome to turn everywhere else.

lexus gx550 overtrail 2024 57 interior front row scaled jpg 2024 Lexus GX 550 Overtrail+ interior | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

The Lexus isn’t perfect on the road, but it’s a lot more comfortable overall. You won’t mistake its driving manners for anything but an SUV, the head restraints sat a bit too far forward for me (I’m 5-foot-4), and the steering wasn’t as isolated from the vibrations of the drivetrain and the road as you might expect from a Lexus. It’s big and luxurious, though, with a more modern interior plus the features and materials that belong in an $80,000 off-roader.

The Lexus GX 550 Overtrail+ is the more friendly choice for less experienced off-roaders and those who need something for regular daily driving. The Ineos Grenadier is so much fun to crawl around that it’s a spectacular choice for folks looking for a dedicated off-road toy, or simply an extra challenge off-road. There’s really no wrong answer here.

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News Editor Stef Schrader joined Cars.com in 2024 but began her career in automotive journalism in 2013. She currently has a Porsche 944 and Volkswagen 411 that are racecars and a Mitsubishi Lancer GTS that isn’t a racecar (but sometimes goes on track anyway). Ask her about Fisher-Price Puffalumps. Email Stef Schrader

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