You had me at “twin-locked” I hear you say…
Great Wall Motors are serious about Australia and they also look to be serious about offroading. The Tank 300 is a proper offroader, and it’s under consideration for the Australian market from 2022. So, is there enough for us Aussies to get excited about?
The Tank 300 is a separate-chassis 5-door wagon with an independent front end, live rear, part-time 4×4 system, low range and front/rear cross-axle differential locks with the usual electronic driving aids. It also has “CCO Creeping Mode” which is basically the same as Toyota’s Crawl control – set a speed and the car keeps moving at that speed up, or down hill, except the GWM version has about eight speeds ranging from 4 to 12km/h. GWM have also copied Toyota’s Turn Assist feature where the inside rear wheel is braked to tighten the turning circle. And on the GWM website I see photos of an integrated 9500lb winch, plus there appears to be two recovery points at the back and two at the front. There’s also an adaptive terrain system – think Land Rover’s Terrain Response.
Tyres are Cooper AT3s in 265/65/17 albeit in passenger construction, but at least the same size as most utes like the Ranger, and 17s not 18s! The fuel tank is largish 80L and the powerplant is a 4 cylinder 2.0L petrol turbo good for 167kW and 387Nm with an 8-speed automatic. The park brake is electronic, brakes are discs all round, there’s a huge touchscreen and an array of modern safety aids. The vehicle is relatively small – it’s 4760mm long compared to say an Everest at 4892mm and Wrangler 4-door at 4785mm. The rear seat is a 40/60 split, and folds totally flat as the second-row seatbases fold up. The spare is full-size and tailgate mounted. Under the boot is a nice big space begging for a water tank or maybe extra fuel tank, and the body is boxy so makes the most of its size for storage. The sidesteps are not utterly useless either, not rocksliders but at least up out of the way.
I had a good look over it at a press event, and a short drive over obstacles that I’ve previously driven in a 2WD Vitara, so no hardship for the vehicle which means I can’t really evaluate its offroad performance. I can say it’s a lovely cockpit to be in, and the engine is revvy but the low range and 8-speeds means you’re never short of torque. There is the usual confusion of controls and usability issues I’ve found in every Chinese vehicle; mis-translations, over-use of touch screens, car started talking to me in Chinese..but this was after all a left-hand drive Chinese car so some of that, but not typically all would be fixed for English-speaking countries.
So my drive was by no means a roadtest, but from what I could see this looks to be a serious offroad vehicle which would give most of the other wagons a decent run for their money thanks to the lockers, excellent angles and decent clearance. Combine that with a stylish interior, distinctive exterior, rev-happy petrol engine and I personally think this will be a winner for Australia if GWM bring it in at their usual competitive price point.
Right now, the affordable true offroaders are the Jimny and the Wrangler…sort of. For many the Jimny is too small and lacks a decent safety rating, and the Wrangler is great but expensive and not for everyone. I think the Tank 300 will fit nicely alongside those two and offer Aussies a real 4WD which wouldn’t cost much to buy or presumably, run.
Personally, my cars are a Ranger and Lotus Elise. Neither are ideal daily-drives, and I don’t want a boremobile runabout. So I like the idea of an affordable daily-drive 4X4 which still has serious offroad capability but doesn’t cost a lot, has a long warranty, all the new-car features and the latest safety gear. Tyres are already decent, add a lift, winch, snorkel and I’m day-trip ready so I can leave the Ranger for long-range touring. Really, really like the idea of a budget, modern, capable wagon.
So yes GWM, I say bring it here immediately! Do you agree, and what price would you pay? Or would it not matter, as there’s a significant anti-China sentiment based on its geopolitical and economic activity that we shouldn’t buy Chinese goods, particularly not directly from Chinese manufacturers. But principles don’t always hold firm against price competition….