The small ramshackle shed known as McIntyre’s Hut is stocked with supplies like baked beans and bottled water, and it’s clear why. You don’t want to get stuck out here.
You’re deep into the eucalypt forests of the Brindabella National Park by this point, with one road in and out. Well, when I say road, it’s called Waterfall Trail, and with a bit of rain, I’m told it’s more of a glacier. A sign near the start hints at this, too: “WARNING: Dry weather trail only. High clearance 4WD only. Not suitable for trailers.”
Our small group has decided to tackle it in the new GWM Tank 300, on Michelin road tyres.
Many will say we’re stupid. After all, Great Wall Motors has come out of the blue with a serious, bona fide, chainsaw-in-the-back off-roader and we’re expected to believe them?
It’s true reliability is unproven. And try rocking up to an outback pub and asking if anyone might have a spare thingamy for a GWM Tank 300 lying around – you’ll be laughed out of the postcode, where in a Landcruiser, there’d be multiple cries of “Yeahwegotchamate”. Whatever thingamy you might be after.
But all the signs are good. Shift the gearbox to low range and the drive mode to ‘Mud’, and even without engaging the front or rear differential locks, the Tank walks down Waterfall Trail. And most importantly, up again. No struggle. No slip.
And that’s before we engage the ‘Tank turn’ feature, which locks the inside rear wheel so it can corner on a yuan.
There are two models – the Lux and the Ultra – and two drivetrains – a 2-litre turbo petrol, or a slightly more powerful version of the same engine mated to an electric motor to make a hybrid system. A longer Tank 500 with seven seats is on the way.
Where the petrol can gad about town in two-wheel drive, the hybrid uses four wheels all the time. But with claimed fuel consumption figures of 9.5 litres per 100 km and 8.4 litres respectively, you’re not buying the hybrid for fuel savings.
The drivetrain isn’t terribly refined, either. You have to work to achieve a smooth take-off – whether it’s the engine unsure about when it should come online or the nine-speed automatic transmission – and Sport mode sends a jolt through the car like you’ve just given it a shot of nitrous.
But the rest makes up for it.
Outside, the Tank rolls all the best bits of the Jeep Wrangler, Suzuki Jimny and Ford Bronco into one rugged package. The proportions are spot-on. The only thing you might pull a quizzical face at is the design of the daytime-running lights until you realise they’re quite stylish.
There are also (good) hints of Range Rover. Inside, you’re cocooned by heated and cooled leather seats and carpets so silky you feel compelled to squirm your toes into them, and there are two 12.3-inch digital screens and illuminated air-conditioning vents ahead of you. It’s all a bit plush.
On and off road, the impressive luxury continues. The steering is light, but you’re never left wondering if it’s still connected to the wheels. There’s not the usual soggy boat-i-ness, no creaking from the chassis, and you could almost say the Tank corners flat.
The best part about heading off-road is that emergency lane-keeping assistance leaves you alone. It’s an incredibly dull system, boggled by things like white lines that go around corners.
There’s also a camera watching you at all times to make sure you keep your eyes on the road. Look away from the bitumen for half a second too long and an audible message reminds you to “Please concentrate while driving”. It makes you want to watch Ben Hur on the screen just to spite it.
For some reason, the Tank also thought it helpful to notify us that adaptive cruise control and traction control were out of action when in low range. And it makes a dramatic, explosive sound whenever Drive is selected.
But you’re inclined to ignore all of these oddities and any lingering question marks over long-term durability when you get to the price: the Lux starts from $46,990 driveaway and the Ultra from $50,990.
That’s half a Landcruiser (thingamies and all).
2023 GWM Tank 300 Ultra HEV
- $50,990 plus driveaway costs
- 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol, electric motor, 258 kW/615 Nm
- 9-speed automatic transmission, 4WD
- 8.4 litres per 100 km combined fuel usage
- 2331 kg weight, 2500 kg tow capacity
- 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
This car was provided for testing by National Capital GWM, Tuggeranong. Region has no commercial arrangement with National Capital Motors.
Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.