/ 25 February 2024

GWM Tank 300: Contender for best-value 4×4 SUV

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The Tank 300’s engine output is 180kW and the battery dishes out 78kW for a combined 255kW and 648Nm of torque.

It’s been a tease for nearly six months now  but the Tank 300 is officially here and available for purchase. What you’re reading is an exclusive review of the Tank 300 Hybrid Super Luxury model, which was launched in South Africa this week. 

Let’s start by answering some of the questions surrounding the brand itself. 

What is Tank and where does it come from? The short answer starts with GWM, or Great Wall Motors, the listed Chinese car company that has seen commendable success in South Africa since it started here in 2007. 

In 2016, GWM bought out the local importers and became its own wholly owned company under the name Haval Motors South Africa. 

GWM produces the Haval brand of vehicles, retailing midsize SUVs, the P-Series, Steed pick-ups and the Tank brand. 

Tank is GWM’s more serious luxury 4×4 marque and this 300 is the smaller of the two versions destined for South Africa. The larger car, the Tank 500, is the size of a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. 

The Tank 300 is a difficult car to position in terms of competitors because it seems to sit in its own niche segment. 

One could compare it to a BAIC B40 Plus in size alone but the Tank 300 is larger, more capable and simply more car than the BAIC. 

You might be tempted to compare it to a Jeep Wrangler but that is in a much higher price bracket and a totally different proposition. 

This HEV was the first model offered at the launch, with two additional petrol-powered models joining it in the next few months. 

A plug-in hybrid version made its debut in China earlier this year but there are no firm plans to bring that here as of yet. 

The hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) featured on these pages is powered by a hybrid powertrain combining a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol motor with a lithium-ion battery. Engine output is 180kW and the battery dishes out 78kW for a combined 255 kW and 648 Nm of torque all in. 

This system is mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission that ably distributes power to all four wheels via an all-wheel drive system with electronic management and drive mode configuration. Four-by-four escapades are what the Tank was made for. 

For a start, the all-wheel drive system manages and controls the off- and on-road traction really well. Dive into the terrain modes and 4×4 functions and you quickly realise how much has been built into the Tank 300. 

Low-range and differential-locking applications are push-button easy and the experience is enhanced through cleverly augmented reality graphics which give a 360° view of the vehicle. 

Approach and departure angles are 33° and 34°, respectively, with a 224mm ground clearance and 700mm wading depth. While there are higher-riding and wading 4x4s out there, the Tank 300 impressed with its 4×4 prowess.

That hybrid system, with its torque availability from 1 700r/min makes the 4×4 trudge even better. Add a Crawl Cruise Control function for the slow, but progressive climbs, as well as a nifty Tank Turn feature. Stay with us … 

The Tank Turn feature allows very tight turns in confined spaces by locking the inside back wheel and sending drive to the other wheels. You can do a full turn without much forward or backward movement. It’s something you might never use but it’s good to know it’s in the kitbag. 

The only addition we’d recommend, if you were looking at high levels of off-roading, would be to swap its Michelin Primacy road tyres for more rugged all-terrain tyres. 

The off-road ability is, thankfully, matched by on-road comfort. The Tank 300 left a lasting impression, thanks to its refinement, comfort-skewed damping and all-around solidity. 

It feels like a far superior product to what you might expect — and also to what you would expect at the price. 

The seating position is excellent, with good visibility for a boxy vehicle like this. 

The engine is responsive and ably powerful for such a heavy model, though it does take a few split seconds for the system to respond when you floor the throttle. 

Given its body-on-frame ladder chassis setup, the Tank 300 does feel top-heavy around corners and even under hard braking. The weight transfer is felt in all directions and can become a little unsettling when conducting emergency brake tests. 

Interior comforts aren’t lacking in any area. There are sufficient grab handles throughout the cabin for easy access to the raised body and the aircraft-style gear shift selector is a really cool touch. 

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Despite its impressive off-roading ability and rugged looks, the GWM Tank 300’s interior is not lacking in creature comforts and technology.

The cabin experience is cool too, with two 12.3-inch touchscreens side by side for what feels like one large, uninterrupted display. The backlighting on this could be improved, particularly in direct sunlight, but it is a comfortable compromise when driving at night. 

Something that might annoy some drivers is the soft-touch indicator stalks which take some getting used to. 

What are the practical traits of the Tank 300? A 400-litre boot in which sits a tailgate-mounted, full-sized spare wheel. A 12V power socket is located in the boot too, for the addition of fridges and suchlike. 

Towing capacity is reported as 750kg of unbraked mass and 2 500kg braked with a 50kg load limit for roof racks. 

It is equipped with a lengthy list of safety features, leading to a five-star rating with both the European New Car Assessment Programme and Australasian New Car Assessment Program. 

The Tank 300 is an impressive product to open the balance sheet of this new brand’s introduction into South Africa. 

At a price of R851 950, it will undoubtedly be considered within the broader SUV context. There are many well-appointed SUVs available at this price, with efficient engines and reasonable equipment but none of these look like the Tank 300 and none of these will get you as far up the mountain. 

It is impressive as a 4×4 model made even better by doing a lot of the other stuff well too. 

Full launch pricing for the Tank 300 range is: 

• Tank 300 2.0T 8AT 4×4 Super Luxury: R725 950 (available late Q1);

• Tank 300 2.0T 8AT 4×4 Ultra Luxury: R775 950 (available late Q1) and

• Tank 300 2.0T 9HAT 4×4 Super Luxury: R851 950. 

All models are sold with a 7-year/200 000km vehicle warranty and a 5-year/75 000km service plan. The HEV model has an additional warranty that covers the hybrid system and battery for eight years and 150 000km.