GWM Tank 300 takes cues from off-road icons

REVIEW | GWM Tank 300 gives Jeep thrills for less money

Brenwin Naidu Motoring editor, reporter and presenter
GWM’s Tank 300 is handsome albeit derivative in styling.
GWM’s Tank 300 is handsome albeit derivative in styling.
Image: Supplied

The sport-utility vehicle genre has some fascinating niches.

Among them is a realm of contenders united by shared characteristics of a boxy exterior, tall ground clearance and bona fide off-road prowess. They have different dimensions and executions, but with a similar essence of toughness.

Think Jeep Wrangler, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Suzuki Jimny, Land Rover Defender, BAIC B40 and most recently, the arrival of the Tank 300. Not all direct rivals in price and position, but the ethos is shared.

In case you forgot, Tank is a brand under the Great Wall Motors (GWM) group. Later this year, an even larger and more luxurious offering in the form of the Tank 500 is set to arrive locally.

The Tank 300 has a familiar look about it, drawing on that square-edged stylistic template seen on those models mentioned in the beginning of the article.

Yes, you would be forgiven for thinking of it as a Chinese Jeep Wrangler.

Visually, the rugged appearance of the Tank 300 echoes that of the American contender, down to the round-eyed gaze and clamshell bonnet. It has some aesthetic fizz of its own, however, with nifty wrap-around headlamp inserts and a broad grille, incorporating the distinctive brand logo.

It almost looks like the face of an aggressive bull, but GWM says the logo is a pairing of the letters “T” and “U”.

According to the company, the “T” symbolises the brand’s focus on technology and trends, while the “U” aspect refers to emphasis on the user, in addition to uniting fans of the great outdoors.

Sounds like a stretch, but luckily, the core substance of the Tank 300 holds promise.

Orange body paint makes a statement.
Orange body paint makes a statement.
Image: Supplied

For starters, it rides on a sturdy ladder-frame chassis, so the off-road potential is very much present. It has a ground clearance of 224mm and a wading depth of 700m.

Its approach, break-over and departure angles of 33 degrees, 23.1 degrees and 34 degrees respectively, are up there with vehicles of similar ilk. Of course, four-wheel drive is standard across the board, as is an electronically-controlled rear differential lock.

Another trick in its off-road arsenal is a function dubbed Tank Turn, which locks the inside back wheel, sending all available power to the rest of the wheels, allowing the vehicle to perform a 360-degree turn with minimal back-forth movement.

Pricing kicks off at R725,950 for the Super Luxury model, the Ultra Luxury goes for R775,950 and the electrified HEV Super Luxury costs R851,950.

A seven-year/200,000km vehicle warranty and five-year/75,000km service plan is included. The HEV Super Luxury gains a separate eight-year/150,000km for the high-voltage system and battery.

All models use a 1,967cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged-petrol unit – the HEV Super Luxury benefits from an electric motor with 78kW and 268Nm. The internal combustion engine produces 180kW and 380Nm. A nine-speed automatic is deployed. Meanwhile, the non-hybrid models deliver 162kW and 380Nm, making use of an eight-speed automatic.

We tested the HEV Super Luxury. Aside from the obviously familiar styling, the next aspect that made an impression was its cabin. Like the exterior, the cabin is reminiscent of other products – a little bit of G-Class here, sprinklings of Wrangler there, but the vibe is quite plush overall.

There is a strong perception of tactile quality, with chunky switchgear, ample surface padding and a set of generously-berthed front seats.

Buyers are going to find a lot to delight in from a standard features perspective, with leather upholstery, electrically-adjustable seats and nifty ambient lighting included from the bottom up. Semi-autonomous driving functions are standard across the range, so is an impressive 12-inch display boasting conjoined screens.

It serves as the instrument cluster and central display. Those who plan to use the Tank 300 on paths less travelled will appreciate the information tabs displaying body roll angle, direction of travel, steering wheel angle and altitude.

From a safety perspective, the model is fitted with seven airbags and a pre-crash safety-belt system that braces occupants before impact.

On the road, we found the Tank 300 to be surprisingly refined, with a notable amount of polish smoothing over the robust ladder-frame architecture. A multi-link suspension setup does duty at the rear axle.

Composure at freeway speeds is commendable, complemented by superb noise insulation, making for a hushed experience. Steering and directional stability also seemed well-resolved, despite the chassis being fettled for off-road ability. It did not wander noticeably as dedicated 4x4 vehicles with a tall centre of gravity are prone to.

The cabin takes inspiration from 4x4 peers, with high perceived quality.
The cabin takes inspiration from 4x4 peers, with high perceived quality.
Image: Supplied

On the performance front, the boosted petrol and its electric setup gives the Tank 300 an unexpected sense of urgency. Although we did not time the 0-100km/h sprint (and no figures are supplied by the manufacturer), the pace of the vehicle was well suited to confident merging and holding steady momentum in urban settings.

As it can drive on battery power alone at low speeds, progress in stop-go traffic is silent and emissions-free. Driven sensibly, you can expect to see fuel consumption around 9l/100km.

The Tank 300 has substance beyond its retro-themed, derivative styling. Priced well, generously-equipped and boasting the correct hardware for genuine off-road ability – in addition to delivering pleasant road manners – it is one of our biggest surprises of 2024 so far.

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