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GWM Cannon Alpha Lux Diesel 2024 review


GWM has also launched its new larger Cannon Alpha pickup with hybrid and diesel power. Is the oiler the sweeter pick of the range?

Good points

  • Premium cabin presentation
  • Well specced for outlay
  • Punchier 2.4-litre over existing 2.0L
  • Grippy on-demand 4×4 system
  • Crisp dual 12.3-inch displays
  • More fuel efficient than hybrid

Needs work

  • Agricultural rear axle ride quality
  • Irritating driver monitoring system
  • Can’t match other utes with grunt
  • Misses out on split tailgate
  • Transmission needs more refinement
  • Tiring over long distances

Utes are everywhere in Australia. Everywhere you look, you’ll see one. You’ll probably see numerous examples during your morning or afternoon commute. Whether it be for work or play, Australians are obsessed with this particular vehicle type.   

Global automakers have realised this huge sales opportunity and so the ute market locally is continuing to expand. Kia’s first ute, the Tasman, is locked and loaded for 2025. BYD will bring its first Shark ute, a hybrid, to Australia this year. 

And now GWM has built a slightly larger and more premium stablemate to the existing Ute Cannon called the Cannon Alpha to broaden its dual-cab offerings. 

While the headline news is that GWM has become the first automaker to bring a petrol-electric hybrid ute to Australia, it’s also offering its Cannon Alpha with an uprated 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine. 

Sure, it’s got more power than a Cannon X or XSR, but how does the Alpha move the ute game forward? Or does it merely stick to the formula established by its smaller Cannon siblings?

Well, it’s time to find out with the entry-level Lux diesel version.

What are the Alpha Lux Diesel’s features and options for the price?

Our test vehicle is priced at $51,990 driveaway and is the entry-level ute in the new Alpha range. 

As standard, the Lux diesel grade is offered with the following features:

  • LED headlights and daytime running lights
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Dual 12.3-inch screens for touchscreen and instrument cluster
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Six-speaker sound system
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto 
  • Electric rear differential lock
  • Four drive modes
  • 360-degree camera 
  • Artificial leather upholstery 
  • Tyre pressure monitoring 
  • One-piece tailgate 

As for options, our Alpha Lux diesel was stock as a rock, however a range of accessories will be available for the vehicle in time. 

I think the Chinese-built ute is well specced for its outlay and doesn’t seem to skimp on features. A comparable Ford Ranger XLT 2.0-litre costs roughly $70,300 driveaway (NSW), while a Volkswagen Amarok Style with four-pot turbo-diesel power will also easily tip over the $70K driveaway bracket.

After having just recently reviewed the higher-spec Ultra in Hybrid flagship form ($64,990 driveaway), the $13K-more-affordable base Lux grade doesn’t seem that far off in terms of standard equipment. 

How does the Alpha Lux Diesel drive?

The big change for GWM’s premium ute offering is the use of a larger-displacement 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engine that produces 135kW/480Nm, backed by a four-wheel-drive system fitting a nine-speed automatic transmission. This is up from the frankly underpowered outputs of the standard Cannon utes’ 120kW/400Nm. 

So what is it like on the road?

Around town, the Alpha diesel feels punchy enough in most instances. Frankly, it doesn’t feel notably less-powerful than the (255kW/648Nm) petrol-electric Ultra Hybrid powertrain, to be completely honest. 

The 2.4-litre is lacking some refinement, as is the case with a lot of oiler fours, but after driving the Alpha diesel for a few hundred kilometres this powertrain returned quite favourable consumption. Its average of 8.8L/100kms as tested proved a fair bit better than the Ultra Hybrid I drove just prior to my diesel experience.  

For comparison, the hybrid petrol was only achieving combined consumption of between 11.0 and 12L/100km.  

GWM says it has fitted a new variable-geometry turbocharger to this 2.4-litre diesel, but I must say I didn’t find the response to be as instantaneous as I would have expected. As for the rest of the driveline, I found the nine-speed automatic transmission to be a little laggy and unresponsive, too.  

The transmission just lurches, rather than engaging swiftly. It’s quick to get into the higher gears, but this ultimately affects response. 

The most noticeable bugbear with this Alpha ute, and something that also plagued the hybrid, is the ride quality. Sure, utes will struggle in offering ride comfort like some passenger vehicles or SUVs, but this Alpha ute is a constantly tiring experience. 

Unladen, the rear axle seems to pick up every irregularity in the road surface and that is transmitted straight into your backside and up to your neck. The vertical movement from the leaf springs is uncomfortable and the whole experience seems unrefined, even though this ute has been marketed as a more premium offering. 

The real benchmark for ute ride quality is, in my opinion, the Volkswagen Amarok, which feels extremely car-like in the way it goes down the road. The related Ford Ranger is a similar experience. I was hoping that this Alpha would be a step above, but I came away from driving this ute a little disappointed. 

As for handling, this GWM Cannon Alpha feels its weight (at 2489kg) and heaves its way through corners. The slow steering is light but not particularly communicative. 

That said, I drove the Alpha through some very wet days here in Sydney and found that the on-demand four-wheel-drive system was particularly effective and the 265mm rubber fitted to be quite grippy. 

There was very little slip off the line or when cornering. Bring too much right-foot enthusiasm and you’ll be met by the traction control that makes a very strange sound. I guess that means it’s working…

The last thing I’ll bring to your attention is the active safety aids, which I believe aren’t ideally tuned for Australian roads, something we’ve also found with the brand’s Tank 300 and Tank 500 SUVs.

If the driver monitoring system doesn’t annoy you when it talks to you every time you do a split-second glance at the touchscreen, then the lane keep system will tug at the wheel aggressively, making you fight to stay in the middle of the lane. 

These systems need a thorough overhaul. They become more of an annoyance than anything and actually take away from the driving experience. 

As we only had a relatively short three-day loan of this Alpha Lux diesel, we didn’t get the opportunity to drive it off-road. Maybe this is where the Alpha really excels, but for now, we are just going to have to wait for a more extensive test of this ute in the near future.

What is the Alpha Lux Diesel’s interior and tech like?

Inside the Alpha Lux diesel, this interior is a big step up over GWM’s smaller stature Cannon utes. And the big thing is that buying the entry-level Alpha does not mean a cheap and nasty experience. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. 

At first glance, the interior feels much like the higher-grade Ultra variants, and is nicely finished. Cabin materials feel premium, it’s well built and offers decent quality. The buttons are tactile and nicely clicky, and while some people might find the fake wood-grain trim a little cheap, it’s refreshingly different for its segment.

This Lux variant uses two 12.3-inch screens, one for the centre touchscreen and one for the digital instrument cluster. The touchscreen is smaller than the 14.6-inch screen of the Ultra grade, but I didn’t particularly find myself wanting for the larger screen. 

The infotainment software is clear, easy to navigate and of high pixel quality. Climate control is largely controlled through this touchscreen, which is a bit of a shame, but that’s the way things are going in 2024. 

There are some physical climate buttons, but once pressed, it brings up a climate menu on the touchscreen, overtaking Android Auto or Apple CarPlay projection. This is where you’ll find the temperature adjustments, for instance. 

Although it doesn’t offer a whole stack of functionality, the 12.3-inch instrument cluster is also of high quality, and projects information such as the vehicle’s position on the road, lane keep assist, odometer and, obviously, speedometer. 

As for the seats, the Lux is fitted with synthetic leather upholstery, but the seats themselves are comfortable and quite supportive. There is six-way power adjustment for the driver and four-way for the front passenger.

Other useful features include generous cupholders, USB-A charging ports, deep door bins and plenty of storage, though this entry-grade Lux trim misses out on a wireless charging pad. 

In the second row, the Alpha is spacious, largely thanks to its longer overall dimensions. Adults will have enough room to ride comfortably back there for a couple of hours. 

The second row also gains air vents, as well as a USB-A charging port. A fold-down centre armrest provides two cup holders and more storage if you need it. 

In the rear tray, GWM Alpha Lux owners will get a standard design tailgate, unlike the 60:40 split design available on the Ultra grade. 

Tray dimensions are 1500mm long and 1100mm wide between the rear wheel arches. There are four tie down points, two at the front and two at the rear, for those wanting to carry big loads. 

Payload is, at 760kg, 25kg up on the Ultra Hybrid trim, if still short of the magic one-tonne figure available in the ute segment’s leading lights.

Altogether, GWM has really lifted its game with the premium feeling interior with enough technologies I think will satisfy a lot of buyers’ tastes.

Is the Alpha Lux Diesel a safe car?

GWM is yet to have the Alpha safety tested by ANCAP, but it is hoping the model will receive a five-star rating once assessed. 

As standard, the GWM Alpha is fitted with the following safety systems and features:

  • 7 airbags
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection
  • AEB junction assist
  • Lane-keep assist
  • Emergency lane keep
  • Rear cross-traffic alert 
  • Lane change assist 
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Driver monitoring system

In the real world, on Australian roads, the GWM Alpha might stack itself with safety gear, but it falls short in the calibration and execution of some of these features. 

The driver monitoring system, which plagues the Tank 300 and Tank 500 also, is poorly tuned, over-sensitive and will speak to you if it thinks your eyes are anywhere but the road ahead. 

I found that even if I looked at the touchscreen to see where you were going via Google Maps, the system would tell you off, time and time again. 

While you can turn this off through the depths of the settings, the system will come back on again with every start of the vehicle, which is beyond irritating.

The active lane keeping was also worrying, constantly nipping and tugging at the wheel. Sometimes it was fine, while other times it’s infuriating. 

I believe that it’s one thing to put safety systems into a car, but it’s a different ball game to make them work well for our local market. 

What are the Alpha Lux Diesel’s ownership costs?

GWM offers a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty for its utes, including the new Cannon Alpha.

In terms of servicing, it’s still unconfirmed what the GWM Cannon Alpha diesel will cost to service in Australia over five years. 

With fuel economy and efficiency, GWM claims its 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engine will use a combined 8.9L/100km. We got just under that, recording 8.8L/100km over a mix of driving over a testing distance of around 140 kilometres. 

Bear in mind that we have also recently tested the hybrid-petrol version of the GWM Cannon Alpha, and it performed worse than claimed, averaging around 11.5L/100km combined.

The honest verdict on the Alpha Lux Diesel

GWM should be praised for bringing a new, larger iteration of ute to the Australian market. And at a price that keeps rivals honest. 

While the new Cannon Alpha’s 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engine doesn’t move the game forward, what it does succeed with is a premium cabin experience that isn’t always seen in this segment. You’ll likely need to spend pretty serious money to get an equivalent interior in a Toyota Hilux or a Ford Ranger.

Quality materials and premium finishes seen throughout this ute are far from the stereotypes of ‘cheap and nasty’ Chinese vehicles of the past. In this regard, Japanese, Korean and Thailand-built utes should pay attention to what GWM is doing.  

Apart from its interior, GWM’s new Alpha ute is also a spacious and practical ute for a fairly affordable outlay. That $51,990 driveaway price is tempting.. 

But, there’s some improvement to be done here.  

The agricultural and bouncy ride quality, its seriously annoying active safety software and a laggy and unresponsive nine-speed transmission all hurt the Cannon Alpha’s aspirations of being, in my mind at least, a truly premium ute. 

Here at Chasing Cars, we think the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok set the benchmark utes for the car-like way they go down the road, and the new Alpha lags behind to some degree with a tiring on-road ride quality that impacts comfort over longer trips. 

After all, road-tripping is something that a lot of Australians love to do, and do so frequently.

On the GWM Ute Cannon Alpha’s Australian website, this exact vehicle we have on test is described as one “offering an exceptional driving experience that’s both refined and versatile, setting the standard for luxury and utility in its class”.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a swing and miss for GWM this time round. 

All in all, I think the Cannon Alpha would be a very serious contender if it can further fine-tune its on-road ride quality and ADAS safety gremlins.  

At the end of the day, we might do a bit of off-roading from time to time, but for a good stack of Australians, it’s more about how a ute drives on the blacktop for the lion’s share of the ownership experience.  

But while a high-grade Volkswagen Amarok or Ford Ranger might be generally nicer to live with, you do need to dig much deeper into your pockets than what the Alpha Lux asks for.

I look forward to seeing how the GWM Cannon Alpha improves with time. It’s an underdog story worthy of your attention.

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