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GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 review


GWM has become the first automaker to bring a hybrid dual-cab ute to the Australian market, but is it ready to take on the mainstays?

Good points

  • Premium cabin experience
  • Comfortable seats
  • Value packed with features
  • Quiet and refined hybrid engine
  • Generous second-row equipment
  • Grippy on-demand 4×4 system

Needs work

  • Agricultural ride quality
  • Thirsty hybrid system
  • Doesn’t feel like 255kW
  • Laggy transmission
  • Incredibly sluggish Eco mode
  • Annoying driver monitoring system

The future is inevitable: utes sold in Australia will need to be much cleaner for the environment. And turbo-diesel engines are not likely to be the answer. Approaching NVES legislation in Australia won’t put an end to the ute market locally, but it might be a sizable shift a lot of us aren’t necessarily ready for. 

Chinese automakers are making a big push globally not just for pure-electric cars, but also with hybrids and plug-in hybrids. And so, with that, GWM has just become the first to bring a petrol-electric hybrid ute to the Australian market. It’s called the Cannon Alpha

In doing so, GWM has managed to beat rival Chinese automaker BYD to market in the electrified pickup race – just. The Ford Ranger PHEV is still some time away, so the road appears clear for GWM for now. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 driving front 7

Marketed as a larger and more premium option to the regular Cannon, and the most powerful ute GWM has ever produced, the Cannon Alpha has been promoted as a big step up in terms of how a ute should perform as a vehicle for work or play, or both. 

Australians will be offered the choice of two powertrains, a hybrid-petrol 2.0-litre four-cylinder and a more conventional 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder option. 

Pricing will start from $51,990 driveaway for the Lux turbo-diesel but will climb as high as $64,990 driveaway for the Ultra Hybrid we have on test today. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 driving rear 3

It’s a compelling price, considering you’d be stretched to get a Toyota Hilux SR5 turbo-diesel for that kind of outlay. 

Sure, petrol-electric hybrid power won’t be for every Australian taste, but we’ve had a first drive of the Ultra Hybrid and have lived with it day to day. 

Is this ute fit for purpose in the Australian market? Is it a polished and capable product? And lastly, is it efficient?

Well, it’s time to find out. 

What are the Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid’s features and options for the price?

The Ultra Hybrid ute we have on test is, as the top of its range, heavily specced. As standard, the flagship includes the following:

  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • 14.6-inch centre touchscreen
  • 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto
  • Leather-accented upholstery
  • Electric sunroof

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 driving interior 2

  • Head-up display
  • Front and rear wireless chargers
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Front and rear heated and ventilated seats
  • 10-speaker Infinity sound system
  • 64 colour ambient lighting
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • LED headlights and front fog lights
  • Front and rear differential locks

In terms of value for money, GWM certainly packs a lot into the Alpha for the outlay. 

The Ultra Hybrid ute can certainly be awarded for its high levels of specification and wouldn’t feel out of place when compared like-for-like to a high-spec Ford Ranger or Toyota Hilux.

How does the Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid drive?

Jumping behind the wheel of the Alpha and firing up the hybrid system is a very quiet sequence of events; quite unlike a lot of the turbo-diesels that crowd the current market. 

This Ultra Hybrid grade uses a 180kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor integrated into the nine-speed automatic transmission. It produces total system outputs of 255kW/648Nm. The electric motor alone makes 78kW/268Nm and is assisted by a small 1.76kWh battery pack. 

Around town, this hybrid setup is refreshingly quiet and smooth. It’s totally suitable for this sort of city cruising, which is important considering that this Cannon Alpha will likely see plenty of time doing day-to-day errands. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 driving

But if you need to pull out of a junction quickly, or jump onto the highway where a decent application of throttle is needed, you’ll most certainly be met with some transmission hesitancy and delay.  

This transmission lag is particularly present when adjusting the drive modes of the Alpha. Several modes are included, such as Eco, Normal and Sport, which affect the overall powertrain calibration. 

The Eco setting was particularly unresponsive to my throttle inputs. I tested the mode stopping and starting in some quiet suburban backstreets and the lag from the powertrain was prevalent. While I understand that not everyone will choose to use the Eco mode, I felt that the way the transmission behaved was towards the more unpolished side of things.  

GWM Australia states on its local website that the Alpha ute is “larger, smarter and gutsier than ever”, but I didn’t personally feel the almighty shove you should expect from a 255kW and 648Nm combination. Sure, it feels punchy enough, but I was half expecting more grunt and fanfare from this flagship hybrid setup. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 front

A lot of it could be to do with weight. The Cannon Alpha in Ultra Hybrid trim is advertised at 2575kg, so not far off the very-related, mechanically-identical GWM Tank 500 that weighs in at a significant 2605kg.  

And you can really feel the hefty mass on the road, as the Alpha lurches and heaves through corners. 

When you do get the Alpha Ultra Hybrid up and running at higher speeds, your focus begins to shift away from the engine department and straight to the suspension tuning of this big bruising ute. Whether you’re driving across small undulations or big, jolting bumps or potholes, the Alpha is, unfortunately, a firm, unsettled and slightly tiring ride. 

While I didn’t have the opportunity to have some on-road, second-row seat time as a passenger during this first impression test, I suspect that the agricultural-feeling leaf-sprung rear end of the Alpha could shake your kids up quite a bit. It’s a shame. 

I was expecting a more premium version of the brand’s ute series to be a more premium-riding experience. Yes, true, utes aren’t likely to ever ride quite as well as a passenger vehicle or a softly-setup SUV, but I was left expecting quite a bit more compliance from the Alpha’s ride quality. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024spare

GWM’s new ute just doesn’t have the same sophistication and sure-footedness as the setup sitting underneath a new-gen Volkswagen Amarok or a Ford Ranger, for instance.

After driving non-stop for over two hours across city, highway and winding roads, I honestly got out feeling a little more fatigued than what I’ve felt with some other utes in similar driving conditions. 

On a more positive note, GWM’s on-demand four-wheel-drive system does wonders on wet roads. You won’t get a snappy rear-end with this sort of system and I genuinely felt safe and stable, rather than scared-for-my-life like I do in some utes with an empty tray. 

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take the new Alpha ute off the beaten path, which might just be where this premium-marketed ute really succeeds. That’ll have to be for another day. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 front 3/4

On the black top, the GWM Cannon Alpha ultimately feels a little rushed and unfinished. Although it would have affected payload (735kg) and towing (3500kg braked), GWM could have put a more refined multi-link rear suspension setup in the Alpha.

GWM might be pushing this new Alpha ute as a premium one, but the new dual-cab is still quite some way off behaving and riding like benchmark utes in this popular segment.

What is the Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid’s interior and tech like?

Inside the Cannon Alpha, things have definitely taken a leap, rather than a step, above the higher rungs of the Ute Cannon range. This is a very nice place to sit and spend time in. 

Cabin materials are almost entirely soft to the touch, the build quality feels solid, the buttons tactile and responsive and there is certainly a European design feel to this interior. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 interior

Main touchpoints, like the steering wheel, are trimmed in faux soft leather, while the driving selector reminds me more of an aircraft joystick than drive selector, though its design certainly pushes the game forward. 

Prominently, the use of fake wood grain trim across the dash and door cards adds a bit of pop and pizzazz to the cabin, even if it’s not real wood. A strange ambient light-up dash for the front passenger dash fascia also features, which is a cool party trick if one that’s not entirely necessary. 

The command module controlling most of the Alpha’s infotainment and climate is a large 14.6-inch touchscreen, which runs wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto. 

It’s a nice clear and high-definition screen. Android Auto looks frankly massive on it, but still retains clarity and quality. Climate controls are also run through this touchscreen, which is a bit of an annoyance, however there are a few physical climate buttons, like fan speed control, below the touchscreen. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 multimedia buttons

Up front for the driver is a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Like the bigger media screen, it’s also very high quality, but doesn’t have much variety in functionality. However, it’s easy enough to find trip computer information, odometer readouts and even watch the hybrid system working away in a handy real-time graphic. 

As for practicalities and features, the Alpha Hybrid also gains a panoramic sunroof, a head-up display, a 10-speaker Infinity sound system, a wireless charging pad and two generous cupholders. 

If you prefer to use a cable for your phone, the ports are strangely tucked completely out of sight below the driver’s left knee. In low light, it’s actually a bit tricky finding the ports, but I guess you’d get used to this after a few days. 

Driver and front passenger seats are well upholstered in a leather and faux leather blend, are fairly soft and comfortable and feature both heating and ventilation, along with plenty of electric adjustment. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 interior front seats

In the rear, passengers get quite a lot to play with and have plenty of room, even for full-sized adults. The rear bench is electrically-adjustable, as well as heated and ventilated, too. Name another ute with rear seat ventilation… 

USB charge ports, a wireless charger, air vents, generous door pockets and two cupholders all feature in the second row. Pretty impressive, I must say. 

In the rear tray, Alpha Ultra Hybrid owners will gain a unique split tailgate, which can also open like a standard ute tailgate. Tray dimensions are 1500mm long x 1100mm wide and there are four tie down points to strap down your load. A spray-in bedliner also features to prevent scratching the precious GWM paintwork. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 interior detail

As mentioned, payload is 750kg, or around a quarter-tonne short of the ute segment’s leading lights. 

All up, the Alpha really impresses with a good dose of premium cabin materials, high levels of specification and equipment and easily enough room for the whole family.

Is the Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid a safe car?

The new Cannon Alpha has not yet been tested by ANCAP, however GWM expects a five-star result to come in the following months after launch.

As standard, the Alpha Ultra Hybrid is fully-packed with safety, both passive and active, including:

  • Seven airbags
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Rear cross-traffic brake
  • Forward collision warning 
  • Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection
  • AEB junction assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Emergency lane keep
  • Traffic sign recognition 
  • Driver attention monitoring 
  • Tyre pressure monitoring 
  • Adaptive cruise control

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 driving front 4

But how does this all work in the real world?

Well, GWM seems to be struggling somewhat with the local tuning of some of its active safety assist features. Here at Chasing Cars, we have experienced similar issues in both the Tank 300 midsize SUV and the Tank 500 large SUV

The main issue here is the driver monitoring system, which is overactive and audibly talks to you constantly, telling you to keep your eyes on the road. 

In theory, this is a very good idea, but if you take your eyes off the road for a split second to check where you are going via the Google Maps on your Apple CarPlay, the system will ping you for it, time and time again. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 360 camera

This annoying monitoring software can be turned off through the submenus, but it will return with each and every start of the vehicle. Not good at all. 

And to add to this frustration, the lane-keep assist and vehicle distance alert weren’t calibrated much better. 

To test whether I was going crazy or not, I did a simple test: I counted five seconds between the car in front of me and the nose of the Alpha and yet the car thought I was still following far too close. 

The lane keeping consistently nips at the wheel, which can be a little hair-raising when driving on narrow city roads. 

I straight out think that the GWM safety systems need a rethink and a recalibration for our market. Safety is important, and shouldn’t be rushed just to tick a box. The automotive industry needs to make sure their vehicles are tuned accurately for our roads and our day-to-day driving conditions and environment.

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 driving front 9

What are the Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid’s ownership costs?

The new GWM Alpha Ultra Hybrid ute is covered by GWM’s seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. 

As for servicing, it’ll be required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. 

For servicing costs, GWM has told us it’s still working on the five-year figure for the Alpha, but expect to pay around $2750 over five years, or what it costs to service the mechanically-identical Tank 500 Hybrid SUV

For fuel efficiency, GWM claims that the Alpha Hybrid will use 9.8L/100km combined, however, during our week of testing, we saw a combined figure of between 11-12L/100km, which is certainly more than expected. Don’t be surprised if you see that figure continue to climb if towing or off-roading. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 digital dash

The turbo-diesel engine, which will be also tested by Chasing Cars very shortly, has the lower claimed fuel economy of the two powertrains:  it’ll drink 8.9L/100km combined. 

On a positive note, the Alpha Ultra Hybrid only requires relatively affordable 91-octane unleaded fuel.

The honest verdict on the Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid

So where do I stand with the new Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid after spending a week living with it? 

There’s a fair bit to consider with this new Alpha ute. It’s been marketed as the most premium and most powerful GWM ute offering yet and I certainly think it hits those claims, at least in the brochure and spec sheet.

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 rear 3/4 2

This newcomer definitely sits a few rungs above a standard Cannon ute because it is well finished and built, and its interior doesn’t seem that far off what you’d see in European vehicles. 

The Alpha also has an impressive interior, great screens and technology and is spacious enough for both front and rear occupants. 

In terms of powertrain, there is some refinement needed here. The hesitant nine-speed automatic transmission and slow response time in Eco mode from the hybrid system left me wanting for a little more. 

And for a 255kW/648Nm hybrid system, it just didn’t feel as grunty as what this larger-dimension ute really deserved. 

Plus, it’s quite likely that the 2.4-litre turbo-diesel will be the more fuel efficient choice, which might confuse buyers being lured by the hybrid format for fuel economy benefits. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 tailgate 2

Sure, the turbo-diesel won’t be as quiet and smooth sounding as the hybrid, but at the end of the day a thirsty hybrid system is somewhat hard for me to recommend. 

The real not-so-good point for me was the bouncy, unsettled and jiggly ride quality of this ute. For a premium segment vehicle, I did expect a more comfortable driving experience.

And to top it off, irritating and constant driver monitoring reminders and poorly tuned lane assist made me come away from my road test a little disappointed. 

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2024 driving interior

So, yes, I believe the GWM Cannon Alpha needs some tweaks here and there, but underneath it’s got really good bones. It offers great practicality and a smart cabin with sophisticated technologies. 

With some key updates, this ute could be a real winner. 

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the Alpha is far from a cheap-feeling Chinese ute. It certainly goes a long way to dispel such preconceptions about the quality of vehicles sourced from its homeland.   

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