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Saturday, October 23, 2021

GWM Tank 300: Meet China’s Jeep Wrangler off-road rival

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The limited-edition Tank 300 has hit the international off-road scene with a serious thud, and for a couple of very good reasons.

Apart from being the first in a fleet of well-built, well-appointed, and well-priced SUVs and off-roaders from GWM, this Tank 300 comes from factory pre-fitted with a range of accessories and modifications.

The fact all 300 of the initial run were sold out via promotions on Chinese TikTok in less than three minutes (yes you read that right), sends a clear message about how China is embracing the off-road lifestyle – and how the likes of Toyota better watch out.

Far from being a threat to the ‘king off the road’ (LandCruiser), this is a positive step for off-road enthusiasts. It hopefully spells the start of a greater diversity of offerings and better pricing – and as a four-wheel driver, I’m excited.

Factory variants of the Tank 300 are referred to as the Conqueror or Challenger. The limited edition off-road model we’re interested in is called the Yunliang Tank 300.

What does that mean? Firstly, GWM has stepped up by rebranding from Great Wall to GWM and backing it with improved vehicles.

Secondly, its eyes are firmly set on the off-road scene. The GWM Cannon is selling well in Australia, and a line-up of wagons starting with the Tank 300 is hopefully on the way.

Thirdly, unlike some of the pairings we often see in Australia – where companies partner with a manufacturer for a limited list of upgrades to a so-called specialist vehicle, generally centred on a wheel and tyre package, decals, a minimalistic lift, a tonneau, and a faux roll bar – GWM has partnered with China’s biggest off-road accessory expert, Yunliang 4×4.

The result looks like something a real four-wheel driver would actually want, and there are no fancy decals involved.

Let’s take a closer look at the vehicle and its off-road additions.

Pricing

Before getting started on the good stuff, it’s worth mentioning pricing.

We’ve seen estimates that the Tank will be priced from $45,000 or $50,000 in Australia, which is great for GWM but a tad disappointing for Aussies as pricing in China for the Tank 300 kicks off at around $40,100 and tops out at $52,000 for the special pictured here.

At this stage we have no estimate for what the limited-edition model would actually retail for in Australia, but it won’t be priced like an entry-level model.

Off-road 

The limited-run special comes courtesy of Yunliang 4×4, China’s biggest importer and distributor of 4×4 accessories with a focus on American and Australian brands.

Heading up the company is off-road pioneer Yunliang, a man who has spent the past 15 years or so building a business and a community of off-roaders in China. He is without a doubt one of the key forces driving the off-road scene across this part of Asia.

He’s the biggest importer and distributor of leading brands like Australia’s very own 4×4 accessory giant, ARB.

Late last year, Yunliang approached GWM and put forward his proposal; a bold attempt to strengthen the brand and cement its off-road future with a limited run of modified Tanks from the factory.

Somehow he was able to convince GWM to participate, and it committed 300 units to the project.

The specialised accessory package starts with upgraded wheels and tyres.

Taller rims with a wider offset are shod with 265/75 R17 BFGoodrich KO2 All-Terrain tyres (equivalent to 32.65 inches in tyre height).

To make room for the larger tyres and to provide additional ground clearance a full K-Man suspension system has been added, utilising precision-built remote canister adjustable shock absorbers with matched coil springs and bespoke upper control arms to maintain steering and tyre geometry through the independent front suspension.

Both the front and side chassis sections have been strengthened, and pressed steel armour has been added in the form of a rear step and front bull bar.

A 12,000lb Warn winch sits at the ready, and behind the bar there’s steel underbody protection plates stretching all the way back to the transfer case.

The Tank 300 comes with a rear factory locker; to maximise traction and off-road ability the Yunliang 300 has been fitted with a front locker. The air filter has been redesigned along with a snorkel to improve cold air induction whilst protecting the petrol motor from dust, debris, and water intake.

Inside the engine bay the windscreen washer bottle has been relocated to suit the modified layout. Outside, the camera system has been adjusted to suit the raised height of the vehicle. For a more aggressive appearance, wider off-road flares have been added along with a redesigned bonnet packing a pair of tough looking black air vents.

The Yunliang Tank 300 also gets the standout lime green paint option, unseen in the normal range.

The tyres will improve traction, as will the front and rear lockers. Additional height via the suspension lift offers improved approach, departure, and ramp over angles, as well as the longer shock absorbers allowing increased articulation.

Front and rear bar work and underbody guards offer improved protection. The winch will provide plenty of recovery power for any unforeseen circumstances, and the snorkel offers further protection and performance including the ability to more safely tackle water crossings.

Overall it’s a decent off-road package that covers all of the basics in a factory-backed body.

What’s under the bonnet?

The Tank 300 is armed with a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine packing 167kW and 387Nm.

It offers a 100km/h sprint time of 9.5 seconds with a fuel economy figure of 9.3L/100km.

True enthusiasts will hope for a diesel variant with higher torque figures, and it’s rumoured we could see that happen. For now, Australia has an odds-on chance of only getting the petrol to start with.

The engine is matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. That is backed by a real transfer case offering part-time 4×4 (rear-wheel drive, 4Low, and 4High options) to manually match the terrain at hand. It’s a good basic package.

Mod-ability

With a solid list of accessories already added there’s not a lot left to do. Either way, there are no aftermarket parts for the vehicle yet anyway.

It’s simply too fresh to the market. Considering the price and how well the limited edition has been received, there will no doubt be a wave of new accessories on the horizon.

CarExpert’s Take 

Will we see the limited-edition Tank 300 in Australia? It’s unlikely, but it’s a step in the right direction.

We love seeing manufacturers taking enthusiasts seriously. We love the fact GWM is having a real crack at providing well-built SUVs and off-road vehicles. We are excited to see the growth in overlanding, touring, and off-roading.

We totally love the fact GWM went out on a limb to work with the highly-regarded Yunliang 4×4 to create something tuned for what the customer wants (and the sales proved it). 

Would we drive one? Given the chance, yes. Let’s put the challenge out to GWM – how about we build our own version of the limited-edition Tank 300 and we can then road test (or off-road test) it under our very own conditions.

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