GWM enters the hybrid ute race

Damien O’Carroll
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GWM is set to launch its largest ute to date in New Zealand, which could also be the first full hybrid ute to land in the country when it arrives here in the middle of this year.

The GWM Cannon Alpha is essentially a ute version of the GWM Tank 500 SUV, sharing a lot of frontal sheet metal and its underpinnings with the luxurious off-roader. As such, this puts it larger than the current crop of one-tonne utes (Ranger, Hilux, Amarok, etc), but smaller than the big Americans like the Ram and Silverado.

The Cannon Alpha will be available with a diesel engine, but will also share the Tank 500's petrol hybrid powertrain, making it quite likely to be the first hybrid-powered ute to go on sale in New Zealand - Toyota's Hilux hybrid is slated to start deliveries around the same time as the Cannon Alpha, but is only a mild hybrid with a 48-volt assist system, while Ford's plug-in hybrid Ranger won't be here until next year.

The Cannon Alpha will will be available in several trim levels, with lower spec vehicles packing a 135kW/480Nm 2.4-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine with a nine-speed automatic transmission and part-time 4WD with low range Borg-Warner transfer case. Upper spec Cannon Alphas will get the Tank 500s 255kW/648Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engine with the same transmission/transfer case.

Maximum braked towing capacity for both powertrains is 3500kg and the Cannon Alpha will also be available with front and rear locking differentials, depending on spec.

While the current GWM Cannon is larger than the Ford Ranger, the Cannon Alpha takes it even further: at 5445mm, the Alpha is 35mm longer than current Cannon (which will remain on sale alongside it), as well as being 57mm wider (1991mm) and 38mm taller (1924mm). It's wheelbase of 3350mm is also longer than that of existing by 120mm.

Much of this increased size goes into the cabin, with the Alpha boasting more rear legroom than other double cab utes, as well as reclining rear seats. The cabin itself is straight out of the Tank 500, with higher grades getting the same luxurious Nappa leather upholstery with heated, ventilated and massaging front seats.

Along with the hybrid powertrain, the Cannon Alpha also brings another new feature to the New Zealand ute segment: a unique 60/40 split rear tailgate that can be opened in two different ways. A short press on the button on the rear tailgate provides access to the rear tub via the 60/40 barn door style opening, while a longer press on the same button drops the full tailgate in a more traditional ute fashion.

GWM says it will reveal more details around specification and pricing closer to the Cannon Alpha's mid-year launch.


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