The next major rival for the Tesla Model 3 in New Zealand looks likely to be a GWM Ora sedan that looks suspiciously like a Porsche Panamera and comes in a range of colours that includes Amethyst Purple and Diamond Pink.
Surprised? Probably not. We’re all getting used to bold design choices from Chinese makers as they turn their attention to export markets.
So meet the GWM Ora Sport, which you might know from overseas media coverage as the Ora Lightning Cat. Just as GWM has done with its entry-level EV hatchback for Australasia - it went from the Chinese-market name of Ora Good Cat to simply “GWM Ora” – this model is called “GWM Ora Sport” for this part of the world.
Well, it’s not technically called anything at the moment, because it’s not officially signed off for sale in Australia or NZ. GWM head of marketing and communications Steve Maciver says there’s a “strong chance this will be coming to market”. Given GWM’s local people have gone to the trouble of thinking up a new name and taking media to the Australian Automotive Research Centre (AARC) near Melbourne to have a quick spin in the thing, you’d have to say it’s very strong indeed.
But what exactly is it? Aside from being an alarmingly obvious, shall we say, “homage” to the Panamera, the Ora Sport is a medium-size sedan with pure-electric power (Ora is GWM’s BEV brand). So it’ll be a natural rival for the big-selling Model 3, as well as the forthcoming BYD Atto 4 (aka BYD Seal). GWM describes the Sport as a “streamliner coupe”, so you’d have to put the Hyundai Ioniq 6 in there too.
It’s easy to focus on the comedy value of the look and colour, but the Sport is a high-tech machine. It’s based on GWM’s modular BEV platform (so a scaled-up version of what’s underneath the smaller Ora), it will likely feature GWM’s new proprietary SVolt battery technology and the top version will be very, very fast.
Sport comes in single or dual-motor configurations. The former is 150kW/340Nm, the latter an attention-grabbing 300kW/680Nm with 0-100km/h in just 4.3 seconds. No WLTP range figures yet, but the under the more lenient NEDC regime it goes from an impressive 555km for the single motor to a staggering 705km for the 82kWh dual motor.
As with the entry Ora, first impressions suggest the fit and finish is right up there and GWM promises “a lot of high-end features”, including heated/ventilated/massaging seats, Harman Kardon audio and panoramic glass roof.
No word on pricing, but Maciver says: “GWM stands for value. We don’t have sign-off on pricing for this vehicle, but the value proposition will be strong”.
An entry Sport would surely start close to where the smaller Ora hatch finishes, in the $60k bracket, to stay clear of the $80k Clean Car Discount cap and undercut the $68,900 Tesla Model RWD. But there would also probably be a substantial premium for the dual-motor model, given the extreme performance potential.
We drove the single-motor version at a GWM AARC drive day alongside other new product, including the entry Ora and Tank 300 hybrid. It was brief to be sure: a couple of kays around a tightly controlled test loop at no more than 100km/h. But enough to get a sense of the confidence and polish of this car – and enjoy the comedy sound generator in Sport mode, which lends a growly ICE-like soundtrack to the cabin under load.
It’s hard to get past the styling, which will be awesome to some (count us in) and embarrassing to others. But it’s an impressively executed machine from a company that knows its way around electric technology.
More to the point, you have to refer to the Universal Law of BEV: it doesn’t matter how strange it looks if it’s well-made and goes super-fast. Tick, tick.
GWM ORA SPORT
BATTERY: Up to 82kWh battery with single or dual electric motors
POWER: 150kW/340Nm (single motor), 300kW/680Nm (dual motor)
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, RWD or AWD
RANGE: 555-705km (NEDC)
PRICE: Model not yet confirmed for NZ