Review: GWM Tank 300 – Built Like A Tank & Coming To Malaysia!

It would be too cliché to start a review by saying Chinese car makers have come a long way, but it really is true. While some have been in the market for only a few years, others have been ploughing away at the industry for decades.

Of course, the automotive industry is unforgiving and is one of the most highly regulated industries in terms of safety, technology and emissions. So, there are mountains after mountains to climb for any car maker to succeed.

Sometimes they fail too. The recent safety concerns concerning a Chinese brand has put car buyers on edge over the manufacturing standards of cars from China. But this should not affect the entire Chinese industry and blanket statements regarding the Chinese car makers in their entirety should be avoided, because there are other brands that have been in the market for longer, comply with every requirement, and even do their own research and development to create some of the most impressive cars the world has seen.

Take GWM for example, it has been in the automotive industry for over 40 years and has sprawling complexes dedicated to research and development, manufacturing and has even invested heavily in current technologies such as electric vehicles and batteries. As well as in future technologies such as hydrogen, the cleanest form of combustion there currently is.

GWM also has a number of brands under its wing such as Ora, Haval, Wey, Poer (pronounced as pao) and the mightiest of them all, the Tank brand.

Each of these brands have their own unique proposition. The Ora brand focuses on electric vehicles with a touch of femineity. Wey also is an EV brand but is more upmarket and goes up against the likes of BMW. Poer is a pick-up truck brand that is making waves in markets such as Australia and then there is Tank, an off-road focused brand that creates some rugged vehicles that look like they can survive a nuclear fallout.

The Tank brand is the focus of this article as it will soon be available in Malaysia. There are a number of Tank models, the Tank 300, 400, 500 and the 700 (we are not sure why there is no 600 in the range). The 700 is the flagship SUV and looks like a cross between a Mercedes G-Class and a Land Rover Defender. It is filled to the brim with tech. Its headlights for example incorporate 32 different patents and are one of the most advanced in the industry.

But it will be available in our market since it is only available as a left-hand-drive model, for now. The Tank 300 though has been marked for a Malaysian introduction and will apparently make its debut this year.

The entry level Tank has all the good design cues of a Suzuki Jimny and a four-door Jeep Cherokee. It also has some classic design lines such as the bulbous bumpers and side skirts, the rounded headlights, the spare tyre mounted on the side-hinged tailgate as well as that evergreen boxy side profile.

It is not exactly a very original design, but it is one that has stood the test of time, like the Jimny and G-Class, there is no mistaking them for anything else. So, as far as design goes, the Tank 300 is in the right direction to become an icon.

However, GWM has borrowed heavily from Mercedes-Benz for the interior of the Tank 300. From the vertical dashboard to the rounded air-conditioning vents as well as the digital meter panel that seamlessly merges into the centrally mounted digital infotainment screen to create one massive 24.6-inch screen. Just like in a Mercedes-Benz. In fact, even the positioning of the all-wheel-drive controls are in the same place as a G-Class.

The influence is clear, but while some car makers will try to hide their influences, GWM did not make much of an effort at all, for better or worse, we admire that.

If you are unfamiliar with Mercedes-Benz interiors, you will find it to be very impressive. Quality feels good, even after hours of torturing the car off-road and driving it up and down a flight of stairs (really!), nothing rattled or fell out.

As for comfort, the electric seats are big and well bolstered. The rear too offers generous leg space while the 400-litre boot space is decent. Interestingly, GWM has also incorporated a picnic table into the boot space. The boot floor panel doubles up as the tabletop while the table legs are neatly tucked away near the tools. So, if you ever find a nice spot, all you have to do is remove the boot floor panel, screw in the legs and you have a fairly big picnic table.

There are only two problems for us – the first being the boot floor is carpeted, so if you ever spill anything on the table, you risk stinking up the entire car. And secondly, there is no tonneau cover, so it is either you heavily tint the hind three windows, or everyone that walks past your car will be able to see what you have in there.

The GWM Tank 300 has been designed and built for the rugged outdoors, and this is evident in its design, build quality and some of the incorporated features as well. Even its powertrain is a pleasant balance of efficiency and ability.

Powering the Tank 300 is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine putting out 220PS and 380Nm of torque. Power is sent to the wheels through an eight-speed gearbox while drive can be switched between all-wheel-drive and two-wheel-drive at the press of a button, and in the latter, power is sent to the rear wheels exclusively.

Fuel consumption on the other hand is rated at 9.5-litres per 100km, which you could argue is quite high. But the car is quite big, measuring in at over six feet tall and about six and a half feet wide, it is over 15 feet long and weighs 2110kg. All of that heft requires some power to move which in turn requires quite a bit of fuel.

On the move, the Tank 300 does a surprisingly great job at keeping noise and vibrations level down to a minimum. The double wishbone front and multilink rear suspension is brilliant on and off-road, absorbing the bumpy stuff while maximising traction. All while keeping interior noise down to a minimum thanks to double glazed windows supported by a soundproof windshield. This makes the interior feel as comfortable and quiet as some luxury cars, which is something you need to feel to believe.

But don’t let all that fool you, the Tank 300 is a serious off-roader as well, and offers electronic features designed to crawl over the toughest of terrains as well as traditional set ups such as a differential that can be locked at the touch of a button. It also features nine different driving modes that adapt the car to life on the tarmac or the rugged outdoors.

GWM was keen to let us try out the abilities of the Tank 300, so they let us drive the car down some flight of stairs where traction was minimal since the car only sits on the edges of the steps. It did not lose traction up or down the stairs.

Next, they let us drive up a slippery 45-degree incline that was quite slippery. But the Tank 300 has something called a Creep Mode where the powertrain works with the electronics to provide power without breaking traction so the driver could focus on steering the car. So though it looked intimidating, it was quite a breeze.

They also let us loose on a dry riverbed that was riddled with rocks that could tear the tyres, firmly embedded into the soft sand. Usually you would have to reduce the air of the tyres to enlarge the contact patch so that the tyres don’t get bogged down, not with the Tank 300 though. As long as you kept your foot on the accelerator, the clever electronics distributed power to the wheels that could keep the car going forwards. In all honesty, it made you feel like an off-roading hero.

The SUV segment is demanding where only the very best do well. This is especially so with off-road SUV’s where toughness needs to meet comfort and safety. It is a segment that has long been dominated by the likes of the Toyota Fortuner and the Ford Everest, and you need to have quite a product to compete against such giants of the industry.

But with what we experienced with the GWM Tank 300, there is no question about its ability. It even has a complete ADAS suite that makes life safer on the road. The real question though is the price. GWM did not reveal its price and did not drop any indications either. But we only need to look at our neighbours in the north to have a clue.

In Thailand, the GWM Tank 300 is priced at about the RM220,000 region. Would GWM Malaysia offer the same price range? That is all speculation for now, but as far as we are concerned, the Tank 300 is a proper off-roading SUV that would appeal to those whose lives dances on the fringes of the urban rat race and the great outdoors. We sure hope that GWM Malaysia makes it more affordable than a Toyota Fortuner.

Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged
Power: 220PS
Torque: 380Nm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Suspension: Double wishbone (Front) / Multilink (Rear)
Price: Not yet available

We like: Design, interior, off-roading prowess
We don’t like: No tonneau cover

A car stirs the soul, a motorbike is the soul. Keshy has been a motoring journalist for over a decade and has written for and founded a number of Malaysian motoring titles including Piston.my, Bikesrepulic.com, Motomalaya.net and other mass media titles.

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