Great Wall Motors, or GWM as they’re now known, have some history locally, and in the past, it was clouded with some negative perception. If they keep building cars like the 2023 Tank 300 Ultra though, the industry is in for a shake up.
First impressions of the Tank 300 are loud. The cost optional and bright Dusk Orange metallic paintwork (one of five shades on offer) really stands out. Machined 18-inch alloys complement a mix of black plastics, and painted metallic grey accents.
It looks good, kind of like a hard-top but slightly awkward, version of a Jeep – a similarity that more than one person will draw. It feels and looks bigger than what it is – with a 2,750mm wheelbase and 1,608mm track.
That makes it 200mm shorter in wheelbase but just under 10mm wider in track compared to a Prado. In comparison to a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, it is 250mm shorter in wheelbase and again, under 10mm wider in track width.
Grabbing one of four door handles allows access to an airy and spacious cabin. There’s an unexpected luxury vibe here – with heated and cooled diamond stitched black Nappa leather seats front and rear.
It’s the start of a long list of inclusions for this top-of-the-line model. A 9-speaker Infinity sound system with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are controlled by a 12.3-inch infotainment screen – which at times would catch too much reflection.
The touch sensitive volume controls on the right side of the screen get annoying so we substituted those with the controls on the heated tiller. Sometimes the importance of simple switchgear can be overlooked, especially on less than perfect dirt roads.
The centre screen is complemented with another 12.3-inch instrument display for the driver, both of which come together to appear like one elongated high-definition screen across the dashboard.
Both driver and passenger get ports to charge devices, and there’s one pleasingly positioned behind the rear-view mirror that can be used for a dashcam. The centre console has a quality feel, in line with the rest of the interior accommodations.
It truly feels like one could be sitting in a European cabin here. That is until you notice what looks like the yolk out of an Abrams tank as a gear selector, which is flanked by a range of buttons controlling various drive functions.
Further up, we found two rotary dials to select nine, yes nine, drive modes and transfer case controls. The seating position is comfortable and when combined with low doorlines makes for excellent visibility.
It’s a valuable characteristic when four-wheel driving, particularly in challenging conditions, but is just as useful driving around town. Rear occupant space is plentiful, easily accommodating this writer’s sub-10-year-old children.
You could easily seat two full size adults for a long drive, with rear occupants getting their own aircon outlets, along with USB ports to handle device charging. The luggage compartment is accessed by a swinging gate with a peculiar handle/latching system.
There is a soft touch button on the outward facing side of the handle, which unlocks the gate allowing you to swing it out. It was a little fiddly and our thoughts went directly to this failing when remote. Some things are just best kept simple.
Nevertheless, there is 400-litres of space that can be expanded exponentially by folding the rear seats down. On the safety front, the Tank 300 Ultra features adaptive cruise, autonomous emergency braking, and blind spot monitoring.
Lane departure and lane keep assist, rear cross traffic assist, and an excellent surround view camera and traffic sign recognition are also included. We ended up switching off just one of these functions.
If you guessed it was lane keep assist, you’d be right. Even when dialled down it was simply too aggressive in the way it would take over steering. In a car with this sort of roll centre, it’s downright unsafe.
On road, it’s quite pleasant. The controls (other than the annoying indicator) are all easy to use and responsive. The 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine develops 166kW at a lofty 5500rpm; characteristic for a highly strung small capacity petrol engine.
Thankfully all 380Nm of torque comes in between 1800 and 3600rpm, so you don’t really need to wring its neck. Truth be told, we never felt like it was struggling at all. It’s more refined than expected too, with little resonance or vibration under any conditions.
Sitting behind the engine is a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission. One thing we found a little annoying was the suspension. The combination of the wheelbase and the damping rate meant it would bottom out or wallow around corners at times.
The former was often accentuated by longer speedhumps, where the front shocks would bottom out while the rear would find its most decompressed point, only to then come down and unsettle everything all over again.
The reality is, slowing right down removes this issue, but we wonder how it’d be on an 80km/h dirt road. It’s clear though that there’s been plenty of thought put into the GWM Tank 300 Ultra’s off road capability.
From the modes mentioned earlier, to factory front and rear electronically controlled diff-locks, and even a “tank turn” function which controls inside rear wheel speed to cut the radius of a turn (handy for doing a U-turn on a tight track); it’s all here.
For real world comparison, it sits between the Prado and Jeep for ground clearance (224mm), and approach angle (33-degrees), but has a better departure angle at 34-degrees. It has a braked towing capacity of 2,500kg.
It has the lowest GVM, at 2,552kg, and the second best tare weight, at 2,155kg. This leaves very little payload, well below both the Prado and Wrangler. With a braked towing capacity of 2,500kg, it is fractionally better than the Jeep, but 500kg below the Prado.
We took to the dirt to test it out and although our time was short, the Tank 300 demonstrated surprising capability, even on road-biased tyres. Through some moguls, the independent front suspension was prone to lifting a wheel, although that’s not uncommon.
The Jeep would flex over this sort of obstacle, but it’s also almost twice the price (and that’s worth remembering). Like that vehicle, the Tank is equipped with a front diff lock, so if the wheel being cocked presented an issue, it could be engaged to pull it through.
We never needed anything more than the rear locker though, which was quick and easy to use. Great clearance along with approach and departure angles meant no part of the body touched the earth at any point either.
In fact, the only thing that really held it back was the tyres – with the Michelin Premacy SUV rubber pretty useless on dirt. While the 2023 GWM Tank 300 Ultra isn’t perfect, its $51,585 drive away price represents incredible value.
The fact it comes with a 7-year unlimited kilometre warranty means there’s plenty of pocket change for personalisation. It’s great for pottering around town in or for long road trips, and well surpassed our expectations off road.
In fact, it far surpassed this writer’s assumptions in every facet. The competition should be watching closely. You can find out more on the GWM Australia website. If you’re keen on one and need finance, talk to CreditOne.
Our test vehicle was provided by GWM Australia & New Zealand. To find out more about the 2023 GWM Tank 300 Ultra, contact your local GWM dealer.