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GWM Tank 300 Hybrid 2023 review

Curt Dupriez
Deputy editor

GWM romps into the off-road scene with a cut-priced, luxury-tinged, hybrid 4×4, the Tank 300. And it’s a more credible contender that we’d expected

Good points

  • Instant electric torque off-road
  • Quiet running in the sticks
  • Pliant ride comfort in the rough
  • Roomy, well presented cabin
  • Wonderful 360-degree camera system
  • Enticing value proposition

Needs work

  • Poor advertised fuel economy
  • 2500kg braked towing
  • Unproven durability
  • Not yet tested on-road
  • Some axle binding off-road
  • Some derivative styling

Tank. Cool name. Even if it might confuse friends, family and, well, anyone you tell that you’ve bought a “tank” for the daily commute or to, more suspiciously, attack the landscape.

But a good many Aussies might because there’s certainly much going for the GWM Tank 300’s unorthodox pitch at the ute-based, midsize wagon-bodied 4×4 set occupied by the likes of diesel stalwarts such as Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Toyota Fortuner.

GWM Tank 300 2023 rear 3/4

The Tank 300 is different. Certainly in particular spin on design – with more than a passing nod to fat-flared cultmobiles such as Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco, sprinkled with touches of Mercedes-Benz G-Class – though most obviously in its choice of turbo petrol-electric hybrid motivation.

The Tank 300 is no unibodied pretender, nor a stylised grand touring Toyota Prado wannabe (in a formalised sense).

Instead, it flaunts body-on-frame construction like dedicated all-terrain machines do, underpinned by dual-range 4×4 drive and a gamut of off-roading spec and stats that, on paper, deserves consideration amongst the proven 4×4 establishment.

Or at least proper attention, skeptical or not, with an unprejudiced eye.

GWM Tank 300 2023 thumbnail

The notion of the petrol-electric format might prove a barrier to entry for diesel-weaned Aussie off-roading lovers, though this fresh spin isn’t without output credentials.

The 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four’s 180kW and 380Nm is hot hatch potent. Add 78kW and 268Nm of electric augmentation and the total tally is 258kW and 615Nm. In comparison, a Fortuner’s 2.8L oiler outputs 150kW and 500Nm.

Somewhat conventional is the Tank 300 hybrid’s nine-speed automatic torque convertor automatic and electronically switchable dual-range for 4H and 4L drive.

GWM Tank 300 2023 badge 2

While, like convention, range selection is performed stationary in neutral, one of any of the dizzying drive modes – from Sport to high-revving Mud mode – can be accessed and changed on the move. Plus, there’s the so-called ‘tank turn’, auto-wheel braking to enhance rotation in tight maneuvering situations.

More complex is the hybrid system four different operating modes: full EV drive for low speed; direct petrol drive (with light electric support) at higher speeds; parallel petrol-electric drive for high-torque (towing) and off-road situations; and petrol-only ‘energy recovery’ mode for brake-actuated battery regeneration.

The Tank 300’s P71 body-on-frame “off road” chassis, shared with the large Land Cruiser-esque Tank 500, brings some sophistication to the nail-tough backbone: the front control arms are aluminium, while the rear end fits coil springs – ala Isuzu MU-X – rather than the trusty ox-cart-style leaf design.

GWM Tank 300 2023 front 3/4 road 2

There’s more. Of the two variant grades, the entry Lux, at $55,990 driveaway, fits 17-inch wheels, an electronically controlled differential lock and two-piece underbody protection.

The flagship Ultra Hybrid, at $60,990 driveaway, brings 18-inchers, adds a front locking differential, and more comprehensive three-part shielding underneath.

Those prices, right? Even without dipping into safety, driver assistance and other key features – more later – the Tank 300 swings a hefty multi-terrain hardware and software trickbag for not unreasonable money.

GWM Tank 300 2023 wheel

Performance? Unknown, though some global markets suggest it’s a sub-eight-second prospect – not bad given key midsize 4×4 wagon rivals are double-figure prospects during Chasing Cars’ own independent testing.

However, the Tank 300 Hybrid is only rated to tow 2500kg braked, which is down on the likes of Fortuner (3200kg).

Fuel economy? GWM Haval Australia quotes a “certified” 10.3L/100kms, which is, for a petrol-hybrid, frankly terrible. The caveat is that the company is “working towards” recertification with a 8.3L target for Tank 300 Hybrid.

GWM Tank 300 2023 twins

According to the horse’s mouth, fuel economy isn’t the main game here: it’s the advantage of electric torque – and its hybrid format – across the rough stuff…

To demonstrate, the local arm launched the Tank 300 to local media entirely off-road, at some of the tough trails at the Australian Automotive Research Centre near Torquay in Victoria.

The moment you fire up Tank 300 and get moving, you’re bombarded by a sensory experience quite unlike that of the median ladder-framed 4×4 wagon set.

It’s quiet and bereft of the familiar diesel rattle (of course), and there’s a refinement and slick shifting between the petrol and electric propulsion superior to your typical Toyota format. Instantly, it feels like a very comfy off-roader.

GWM Tank 300 2023 hill back

This is paired by a suspension tune – and, undoubtedly, its coil-sprung DNA – that’s soft and round and completely bereft of the fidgety vertical movement we’ve taken as customary for family haulers hewn for serious off-road purpose.

Not just across well-graded gravel, either, but skirting along high-frequency corrugations the Tank 300 is impressively settled, providing polished isolation from the landscape’s broken surfaces.

It’s not perfect. Drop a chubby 18-inch tyre into a divot or sharp pothole and, occasionally, the impact bangs through the cabin.

GWM Tank 300 2023 dirt road rear

It’s no Ford Ranger Raptor for ground smothering. But if you and the family do head bush for long stints, first impressions are that the Tank 300 might make for a properly comfortable option for a wagon of its size and all-terrain aspirations – one that’s less likely to induce carsickness in the back row against its logical alternatives.

Of course, proof in off-road pudding comes down to capabilities across challenging landscape, and the AARC’s off-road course is, in areas, not to be trifled with in substandard machinery.

The Tank 300 offers decent 33-degree approach and 34-degree departure angles, its short overhangs (and lack of tow hitch) proving more than ample for all of the course’s humps, yumps and sharper dips.

GWM Tank 300 2023 hill front

Ground clearance is 224mm and wheelbase is, at 2750mm, short enough to offer ramp over capability that only occasionally nudges the crest of dirt mounds. Not once did the GWM beach itself on a Victorian landscape peak.

It mounts a set offset moguls and it seems the wheel articulation isn’t as elastic as some 4×4 out there. But even see-sawing at the peak, with only two wheel touching mother earth, it makes steady progress across without the need to engage either axle diff to coerce traction and forward motion. Nice.

It shifts between 4-high and 4-low quickly and with some hilarious sonic video game fanfare through the speakers – you can switch this off, apparently – before the Tank 300 reveals its first glitch.

On full steering lock, the front axle reveals a loud clunk as if it’s binding up, even though the front diff lock hasn’t been activated. Strange…

GWM Tank 300 2023 water

Next up, the water wading test. The pool is long and 600mm deep and this is exactly the sort of venue I’d usually diving into only with a diesel. Surely a turbo petrol four pot and a high-voltage electric drive system shouldn’t be immersed in any body of water nearly that deep.

But in the Tank 300 goes, sunk halfway up its door skins for 20 or so seconds, before crawling out the other side. Strike me as surprised. The Tank 300’s wading depth is around 700mm. Impressive stuff.

Next up, a blind drop off, the lack of forward visibility exacerbated by the wagon’s bluff nose, but it fits a wonderful 360-degree camera system, viewed via the media screen, with a handy forward camera to skirmish the drop.

GWM Tank 300 2023 hill rear

It also records a full undercarriage view moving forward – good for negotiating tricky terrain directly below – and the lenses remain crystal clear despite the recent wading trip.

A key litmus test is a steep incline that runs up about 80 metres, becoming steeper still halfway up. It’d usually demand low range I imagine, maybe a locked rear diff, but without any mode or setting fiddling I just squeeze the right foot and the Tank 300 just climbs, easily and effortlessly.

The powertrain is quiet and seems completely unstressed – it’s an eerie sense compared with the noisy, strained diesel clatter that usually accompanies a low-range hillclimb.

GWM Tank 300 2023 hill

But even in 4H the turbo petrol engine isn’t sweating at all, mainly because the electric motor is plying its peak torque with ease at crawling pace. How the Tank 300 climbs is effortless.

Downsides? The instant response of the hybrid powertrain is very peaky for low-speed off-road precision even in 4H. In low range, it almost bucks if you even think about touching the throttle pedal.

There might be a duller response in the machine’s nine terrain modes or some other setting. But that exploration for a deeper dive some other time.

The jury is out on how well suited the Tank 300 is to Tarmac. Once we get one through the Chasing Cars garage soon…

GWM Tank 300 2023 interior

Two 20-minute loops of the off-road course at the helm, and one from the second row as a passenger, sheds decent light on the Tank 300 Ultra’s cabin. And it’s most good news for the GWM’s circa-$60k ask.

Up front, the dash and its circular vent rob heavily from Mercedes-Benz, while other details are very Jeep-esque. Cabin proportions also take a heavy loan from G-Wagen, especially the swinging rear door and cargo area.

So original, its design is not. But if you’re after a cut-priced experience with much of the effect…

GWM Tank 300 2023 seats

Visibility is excellent, build quality seems solid enough, and there’s enough nice looking and feeling materials to seem well worth GWM’s asking price. The seats are excellent, leisurely and softly padded if supportive and dipped in plush nappa leather, with a tonne of electric adjustment for the driver.

There’s certainly a level of quality emerging from Chinese brands that, while not certifiably premium in execution, feels like exceptional bang for buck.

There’s also a sense of celebration in the presentation in the likes of GWM – and BYD and MG – that leaves some big label competition feeling like the competition is, at times, rolling their arms over.

Packaging, too, is excellent. And row two is a fine place to spend time, even at walking pace negotiating a rough off-road course.

GWM Tank 300 2023 seats rear

It is incredibly roomy, especially for knee and headroom, and the rear passenger experience is made all the better with superb seating, low-sill windows offering great visibility, and an essential array of air vents, device power and cup holders.

Also noteworthy is the cabin’s sealing properties. The Tank 300 gets caked in bulldust by day’s end, but the quality of the rubber sealing means very little of it creeps through into the cabin or luggage space. It’s quite a big deal for a hard-core off-roader doing double duty as a family vessel.

On that, the Tank 300 carries a five-star ANCAP rating and offers a well-rounded array of active safety and convenience systems. All-speed forwards AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection as well as adaptive cruise control is augmented by lane keeping and lane following smarts, and it fits rear cross-traffic alert with braking (also known as reverse AEB).

GWM Tank 300 2023 seats boot

Its seven airbag coverage includes a front-centre coverage. Stumping for the Ultra adds automated parking and auto reverse tracking, so the wagon can retrace its path out of tricky parking spots and the like backwards.

Good first impressions? You bet. Though the local launch was a snapshot that certainly demands more thorough and broader-viewing examination for a true picture.

But it’s a sign that China is getting serious about pushing upmarket, lifting ambitions and gradually raising pricing to suit.

In short, the Tank 300 does, for the most part, achieve what its maker sets it out to do. Here is an interesting, fully off-road capable, quite luxurious and comfy offering that really clocks in at a price band that does appear very solid in the value stakes.

GWM Tank 300 2023 dirt road 2

It is Jeep Wrangler and G-Wagen essence at a significantly more palatable outlay.

And further, it offers a truly alternative powertrain that is surprisingly adept at walking the walk along a path rarely trodden. So far so good.

But the Tank 300 Hybrid will need every trick in its arsenal to lure buyers in a niche segment where Aussie buyers are traditionally welded to convention and the traditional nameplates that trade on it.

And we’re keener than hot English on a barbecued rump to see how the Chinese newcomer fare against the likes of its key (diesel-powered) rivals such as MU-X, Pajero Sport and Fortuner.

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