12 April 2024

Much to be Tank-ful for: Chinese charmer staking claims in 4WD landscape

| Paul Gover
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4WD on a hilltop

Showcasing a bold exterior design backed with world-class 4WD technology, a luxurious interior and advanced technology, the GWM Tank 300 is poised to become a strong option for those looking to explore Australian roads, tracks and beyond. Photos: Supplied.

The GWM Tank is not as big as it looks in pictures. It’s considerably smaller than the vehicle it is most often compared against – the Toyota LandCruiser – despite having the bluff, boxy styling of a serious off-roader.

Then again, compared with the cult classic Suzuki Jimny, it’s relatively large. With the size question out of the way, the Tank 300 – a larger Tank 500 is also on the way to Australia – is one of the most enjoyable and convincing Chinese newcomers on (and off) Australian roads. It has head-turning good looks, solid punch from a 2-litre petrol turbo engine and is well priced from $46,990 drive-away.

It’s also a serious off-roader but has a cabin that, unlike a lot of Chinese vehicles, looks and feels fairly classy. But … once again for something from China, it has overly intrusive driver-assistance systems and it’s never going to match a LandCruiser or Prado for people who buy their cars for the (very) long term.

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However, GWM – remember it stands for Great Wall Motors – has done a good job and its Tank sub-brand is shaping as something a bit different in a carscape flooded with me-too SUVs all competing for the same family buyers.

4WD splashing through a stream

The Tank 300 is attracting interest as a serious off-roader, with plenty of overtaking push and low-down grunt.

The Tank 300 started in Australia with a hybrid model but it’s the regulation petrol turbo that promises the most impact. There are two equipment levels, the Lux and the Ultra, which take the drive-away pricing up to $50,990. They share an engine with 162 kW of power and 380 Nm of torque, with an eight-speed auto and part-time four-wheel drive. Claimed economy of 9.5 litres/100 km is fine, and can be beaten with a light foot at highway speeds, but the Tank only has a 2.5-tonne tow rating.

For people who want to do serious travel and towing, the Tank 500 is expected to give a 3.5-tonne hitch limit. The basic 300 comes with plenty of good stuff, from LED headlights and a pair of 12.3-inch display screens to electric front seats, a sunroof and all the regular drive-assist systems.

4WD steering wheel and dashboard

Offering strong value for money, the Tank 300 comes with an impressive list of mod cons.

Moving up to the Ultra brings bigger alloys, wireless smartphone charging, better sound and – importantly for off-roaders – a locking front differential. To help convince newcomers to the Tank team, there is a seven-year warranty with unlimited kilometres, with capped-price servicing and roadside assistance for the first five years.

Plenty of people are potentially looking at the Tank 300 for its styling and the equipment package, but things are also pretty good in most areas. The back seat is fine for adults, with USB ports and air conditioning, and it folds fully flat for maximum luggage space. There are also roof rails.

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On the driving front, the Tank 300 gets along well with good overtaking push and the sort of low-down grunt that works for off-roading. It rocks and rolls a bit on country roads, and could do with better tyres and more braking power, but it’s acceptable for the class and price. There was no chance for serious work in the bush, but there are good reports from specialist testers.

The car is quiet and it rolls along nicely, although the front seats could do with better shaping and support. The aircon is fine. However, the infotainment hook-up could be glitchy at times and, importantly for some people, there is no satnav. That means relying on an app.

So there is plenty to like and GWM is earning a solid reputation with its other sub-brands, including Haval. The Tank 300 is not a Toyota, but it is good value and it’s a Chinese arrival that’s definitely worth a look.

GWM Tank 300

  • Position: SUV for fun stuff
  • Price: From $46,990 drive-away
  • Engine: 2-litre, 4cyl petrol turbo
  • Power: 162kW/39Nm
  • Transmission: 8-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • Plus: Styling, interior design, name
  • Minus: Typically Chinese, so missing the final finessing
  • THE TICK: A great name and a good deal
  • Score: 7/10

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