The Chinese luxury-infused all-terrain SUV mightn’t benchmark many areas, but it is an enticing do-all package at a seductive price
Or, perhaps more accurately, where does this midsize SUV with luxury leanings and solid on-paper all-terrain credentials fall short of expectations for the four-strong range starting from just $46,990 driveaway?
Its choice of Lux ($55,990 D/A) or high-spec Ultra ($60,990 D/A) stacked up well on value and its novel-for-segment petrol-electric format proved impressively capable at the newcomer nameplate’s Australian debut.
Thing is, the local launch of the hybrid versions was exclusively off-road. But what about on-road and around town, where surely a good many owners will spend the lion share of seat time?
And what of the more affordable petrol versions – same Lux and Ultra grades – with a price cut down to $46,990 and $50,990 driveaway respectively in trade for less-prodigious turbo-petrol four-cylinder power?
The Tank 300 Ultra petrol on test here, sampled for a week via the Chasing Cars garage just prior to its Australia release, really is the strongest city slicker pitch of the four available variants.
And it’s the ideal version with which to assess whether Tank 300’s champagne-aspirations-for-beer-money has genuine merit, or any merit whatsoever.
Embodying the polite boulevard cruiser appears no mean feat for GWM’s midsize SUV. It’s built with ladder-frame construction, features dual-range switchable 4×4 with locking diffs at both ends and a gamut of off-roading trickery.
None of this is unusual for protagonists in its segment, though none of the Chinese wagon’s Thai-built rivals promise much of a luxurious experience.
Further, the diesel competition outswings the 2155kg Tank 300’s petrol-fed 380Nm propulsion by some measure in the torque department. Fortuner, for instance, is 500Nm.
Given all this, how nice, polite, comfy and liveable could this Tank 300 petrol recipe possibly be?
Then there’s the cut of its jib. At 4.8 metres long and around 1.9m tall and wide, the Tank 300 appears like the lovechild of a Jeep Wrangler and a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. That’s the schtick it’s selling.
However, the Jeep (from around $80K as a four-door), for all its charm, is the antithesis of luxury motoring, while the boxy Benz, now only available in top-spec AMG G63 guise, wants for around a cool $400K…
That said, the Tank 300 Ultra’s quasi-premium pitch starts with a lengthy equipment list with some features unprecedented for of its size and pricing.
The Tank 300 Ultra petrol clocks in at $50,990 on national driveaway pricing. Sat below it is the entry Lux at a buck-banging $46,900 driveaway. The walk up to the hybrid versions of the Lux and Ultra packages commands $55,990 and $60,990 respectively.
Features offered as standard in the Ultra grade tested here include:
This doesn’t cover off some nice 4×4-centric inclusions such as the Terrain Mode Selection traction suite with nine modes, Assisted Turn (for off-road maneuverability), Crawl Mode (5-12km/h low-speed modulation).
Lacking in our tester, though offered in the hybrid Ultra trim, are Auto Reverse Tracking (for backing out of tricky and tight situations) and Auto Park Assist semi-automonous parking.
Premium paint, such as our test car’s Dusk Orange, costs an extra $595.
Two things immediately strike this reviewer about the Tank 300 experience: it’s very smooth and very quiet. Not purely against its Thai-built diesel competitors, but outright.
Of course, the Tank 300’s polite running is largely down to the turbo-petrol format employing a 2.0-litre turbocharged four good for 162KW and 380Nm – genuine hot hatch output and, impressively, while running on crappy 91-octane fuel.
This is not, however, the higher-compression two-litre unit used in the Tank 300 hybrid, 18kW healthier in engine power alone, and a formidable 258kW and 615Nm of total system delivery once electric assistance clocks on.
The powertrain is not without drawbacks. It is thirsty, its 9.5L/100km claim sailing on and settling into double figures in most real-world driving situations as the turbo four does battle with over 2.1 tonnes of heft.
Another penalty is towed braking: backed by an eight-speed automatic and switchable 4×4, the Tank 300 petrol is rated to haul just 2500kg, which is down on rivals such as Fortuner (3200kg).
But this is a damn fine powertrain by measures of performance and refinement. At the Chasing Cars test track, the Tank 300’s returned a best of 8.48sec for the 0-100km/h sprint.
It’s no rocketship, though it’s considerably brisker than the workmanlike prowess we’ve witnessed from testing rivals Fortuner (11.0sec), MU-X (11.29sec) and Pajero Sport (11.81sec) in our own assessment.
It’s really the drivability that shines brightest. Its whispery soundtrack accompanies a well-polished marriage between the engine and transmission that’s impressively polished, responsive and cooperative.
The auto slips cleanly between ratios, mid-range torque is quite accessible during balance driving, and the engine never really seems overly stressed or inadequate, save perhaps for when the Tank 300 is fully loaded with occupants and payload, when it can sweat a little.
This luxo-tinged politeness is mirrored in the ride quality. The double wishbone front, coil-sprung live axle rear combination is quite compliant and most road nasties not filtered out by the nicely resolved damping are massaged out of the general on-road experience by the chubby 60-series rubber.
Impressively, it’s not flaccid nor overly floaty either across large dips and lumps, the chassis maintaining good body control when you’re plugging along at pace.
However, it’s not infallible – hit a particularly nasty road hole carrying speed and it will jolt up through the chassis to a degree, but this is a very minor blot for what is otherwise a resoundingly disciplined tune.
Handling is competent. The steering is very light at low speed and absent of much feel however the Tank 300 is driven, though not to major fault, and its high assistance makes it friendly around town and when parking.
In the corners, it’s neither particularly aloof nor enthusiastic, but for a ladder-frame 4×4 it’s acceptably cooperative and surefooted, settling in nicely as a family-hauling grand tourer thanks to an underpinning sense of security and solid enough roadholding.
Outward visibility is also excellent, thanks to the low window sills and large glass area, though the combination of the large wing mirrors and chunky A pillars do cause some sizable forward peripheral blind spots, while the high bonnet does obscure nearfield objects quite a bit.
Thankfully, the 360-degree camera system, with its huge high-resolution display in the media system screen, is utterly fantastic.
When it comes to good first impressions, the Tank 300 Ultra cabin makes a strong case. At least for what it is and what it’s gunning for.
The bluff, boxy theme is on point for the all-terrain pitch and is not unlike what you’ll find in a Jeep or Ford’s Bronco, though the GWM does climb as upmarket as it can on a relative budget and does so (mostly) handsomely and with a big sense of celebration.
That said, it’s not entirely individual or original: the dash, the circular air vents and the conspicuous dual 12.3-inch flat-panel display eyecandy rob unashamedly from Mercedes-Benz.
Cheap plastics are easy, low-hanging fruit to pick on – particularly the conspicuous silver-look dash inserts – but, as a whole, the cabin execution really does punch above its fiscal weight.
There’s a lot of quality-feeling, soft-touch materials for a vehicle this size at its price point, and particular praise is worth for how well-put-together and solid it feels.
The (partial) Nappa leather pews are convincingly premium and areas of faux leather material, where you can tell, are quite tactile and welcoming.
The stitching and trim work, too, really should give the likes of Hyundai and Toyota some cause for concern, while the soft-trimmed dash top and ornate door cards present well above mainstream expectations.
There’s also some charming uniqueness. The chunky door grab handles are a real treat, the wheel feels suitably fancy and even the oddball transmission selector adds a bit of quirky interest.
The dual 12.3-inch screens are sharp and the skin content is quite stylised without robbing blindly from another carmaker, though the media system itself is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to content.
What it does offer, such as the 360-degree camera system and nine-speaker Infinity-branded audio, are very good for the Tank 300’s pay grade. But there’s no proprietary sat-nav, Apple and Android phone mirroring is wired and, strangely, there’s no DAB+ offered in petrol variants.
Details apart, it’s a quantum leap above the Thai competition when it comes to comfort. The cabin feels much wider and airier than most rivals, the roominess exacerbated by the glass roof, upright A pillars, the low window sills and large glasshouse that affords excellent outward visibility from both the first and second rows…
Row two is seriously impressive. Again, the sheer width affords proper three-adult roominess in the rear and because GWM wasn’t tempted to squeeze three rows of seating into the Tank 300’s interior packaging, the five-pew format affords properly generous knee and head room.
Much like the front, the rear accommodation is very comfy, afforded by tilt (but no slide) adjustment of rear seating that’s impressively shapely and supportive. If the Tank 300 isn’t class leading here it’s very damn close to it.
The sheer weight of the full-sized spare wheel mandates that the rearmost door swings horizontally and there’s no option for a liftback tailgate. Good for old-school off-roader charm, if not so great if you’ve inadvertently reverse parked into enclosed carspace.
Still, the door opens to the kerb to reveal a nice, square and deep luggage space of which GWM doesn’t advertise volume but looks to be a fair bit more than 400 litres or so of capacity.
It’s a nice flat load space that nicely carpeted, with ample clearance for really bulky objects and both 12-volt and 220-volt power available, the latter if you fancy firing up the coffee maker during trips into the bush.
On that, as demonstrated in our off-road experience with the hybrid version, the Tank 300 is also very well insulated in its door jambs and seems quite impervious to fine dust penetration into the cabin or cargo space.
The Tank 300, in all of its powertrain guises, was awarded five stars by ANCAP in late 2022. It scored 88 and 89 percent respectively for adult and child occupant protection, 81 for vulnerable road user protection and 85 percent for safety assist.
The petrol version of the Tank 300 fit the following safety features that includes:
Missing in high-spec Ultra trim if offered in both Lux and Ultra hybrid versions is front cross traffic alert with braking and the High Way Assist driver convenience system.
The Tank 300 fits seven airbags, with front-middle, front, side and full-length curtain coverage. It also fits Isofix mounting points on the rear outboard seating positions.
If there’s one complaint about the Tank 300 safety credentials it’s that the lane departure warning system is quite overbearing and incessant in an urban environment. Hopefully GWM can bring a more relaxed calibration to the Aussie market that’s fitter for around town consumption.
The servicing schedule for petrol version of the Tank 300 is slightly unorthodox: the first service is 12 months/10,000kms, while every service thereafter is 12 months/15,000kms.
In total, the outlay is $2000 for five years and 70,000kms, where services one, two and five cost $300 per visit while services three and four are at $550 per visit.
Warranty is a fulsome seven years of unlimited-kilometre coverage.
As mentioned, the double-figure thirst will hit the hip pocket over the ownership experience though, again, the turbo four does run happily on the cheaper 91-octane fuel.
We saw 12.5L/100km around town and 8.9L/100km on the highway in our testing. The wagon fits a 75-litre tank.
While the Tank 300 parks itself in the company of the few as a niche adventure-filled all-terrain proposition, it lands at a price point that really ought to attract many buyers well beyond 4×4 enthusiast circles.
What really swings in the GWM SUV’s favour is that it’s quite a different pitch than many of those in the company in which it keeps.
It’s nothing like the tiny cult car off-roader that is the Suzuki Jimny. It’s vastly cushier, comfier and more on-road friendly than Jeep’s Wrangler. It’s way more attainable than a G-Wagen.
Unlike Ford’s Bronco, you can actually buy one in Oz. And while Mahindra’s Scorpio promises similar buck-banging all-terrain value, it lacks the Tank 300’s Tonka Truck charms and safety features.
Sure, it’s not as tough-towing as the Thai-sourced diesels out there, but it’s quicker, roomier and a vastly more pleasant place to spend the long hours in while traversing the hot-mix. And the Tank 300 may well prove just as capable off-road, too, though on that the jury is still out…
Yes, one big lure is that the Tank 300 presents a lot of metal, glass, rubber and features for not a lot of money. Even if quality wasn’t there, a workmanlike execution might still be worth consideration – and recommendation – for some buyer tastes.
China has quite the reputation for affordable motoring if you’re happy to trade depth for a hip pocket saving.
But the Tank 300 petrol, in high-spec Ultra trim, does rise above fair and reasonable occasional in a few areas. It’s built surprisingly well, it’s very quiet and comfy to drive, and general refinement levels are beyond expectations. The luxury-lite result really does have a lot of appeal.
It perhaps doesn’t need to be quite as good as it is for the money it wants for. But indeed it is, and in areas that will matter to a lot of prospective owners.
Sure, there’s plenty of room for improvement. But that’s not the point. What the properly capable all-terrain motoring circles really lacked was a solid and appealing all-rounder at a genuinely attainable price, complete with a long warranty.
The Tank 300 proves that go-anywhere capability isn’t an excuse for an otherwise humdrum package or stratospheric pricing for a broader 4×4-centric segment that perhaps needs a bit of a wake-up and shake-up.
Scorpio presents a lot of all-terrain SUV promise as a seductive price point. But does it deliver in the experience where it needs to?
Variant tested ULTRA PETROL
Key specs (as tested)
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