GWM Tank 300 Lux Hybrid review: off the beaten track

Damien O’Carroll
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sport utility vehicle
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  • Quirky exterior looks
  • Impressive level of quality and tech in cabin
  • Surprisingly good on-road manners
  • Driver assists are brain-scrapingly annoying
  • The extensive pre-flight procedure to turn the above off
  • Power delivery down low is slightly laggy

Any SUV calling itself “Tank” has a lot to live up to. And so when you rock up to collect it and it is bright orange, then it is off to a  good start in my opinion.

The Tank 300 is utterly unapologetic in a lot of ways, the brilliant colour of our test car being just one of them. Its retro styling, surprisingly luxurious interior and rugged 4x4 underpinnings make no apologies for what they are, despite seeming at odds with one another.

The gloss black spare wheel centre cap is a bit out of place, but you're stuck with it: the reversing camera is embedded in it.

As an example, the 300 sits on the same ladder chassis as the GWM Cannon ute, with double wishbone suspension at the front and a solid axle with coil springs at the rear, making it a pretty traditional off-roader in terms of chassis set up.

But in a completely non-traditional move, the Tank 300 is powered by a small-for-the-segment 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engine that still manages to pump out 162kW/380Nm or, in the case of the bright orange one you see here, a hefty 255kW and 648Nm from the same engine with an additional electric motor/hybrid system.

The 300's hybrid powertrain is shared with the larger Tank 500.

Then there is that interior - it goes hard on a lot of Mercedes-style design cues, with what is a genuinely surprising level of quality that really isn’t that far off the cars it is stylistically imitating, albeit with more hard plastics lower down in the cabin.

Which is also at odds with its seriously capable off-road underpinnings, but in keeping with its decent ride and very modern powertrain. Which is where it all starts making sense.

Then there are those deliciously retro - and let’s be honest; derivative - looks that evoke visions of G-Wagen, several Jeeps and even the Suzuki Jimny, but after spending more time with it, actually makes me think more of Cold War-era military vehicles like the Soviet UAZ-469 and, more specifically, its Chinese cousin, the Beijing BJ212. What is going on here?

Interior quality is impressively high, but the lower you get the harder the plastics become.

I mean, honestly, it doesn’t really matter - the Tank 300 is a properly capable off-roader with a surprisingly good ride, a remarkably high-quality and properly luxurious interior, an impressively high-tech powertrain and some undeniably distinctive looks.

Then there are those deliciously retro - and let’s be honest; derivative - looks that evoke visions of G-Wagen, several Jeeps and even the Suzuki Jimny

Personally, I love the way it looks, but then I also love the colour, so take that as you will. But I also love the interior and the sheer quality on display  in it. I also love the way the hybrid powertrain really digs in and propels the Tank 300 forward at open road speeds.

The boot offers up a decent 400 litres of cargo space, increasing to 1635 with the rear seats down.

But there are, unfortunately, things I don’t love about the Tank 300, starting with the worst high-tech offenders in it - the driver assist/alert systems.

While these have been calmed down for the local release of its larger Tank 500 sibling, the original settings for the techy assists required to claim its 5 star ANCAP safety rating are incredibly intrusive in the 300.

The worst of the lot is the driver attention monitoring which, while overly sensitive, actually grates more by the way it alerts you. While a quiet chirp or chime would be fine - a gentle flashing light would be better - the Tank 300 mutes the audio and announces to you in an excruciatingly long and detailed way how you are not paying attention to the road and really should pay more attention to the road, you know, because paying attention to the road is what you should be doing, so please do pay attention to the road.

You will either absolutely love the Dusk Orange paint, or loathe it with a passion. There is no middle ground here.

And it does this constantly, whether you are gazing absent-mindedly off into the distance (which is when you want it to do that), glancing briefly down to check your speed (when you really don’t need it) or actually paying proper attention to the damn road. And I don’t need my antisocially loud heavy metal listening interrupted for that, thank you very much.

But there are, unfortunately, things I don’t love about the Tank 300, starting with the worst high-tech offenders in it - the driver assist/alert systems.

Then there are all the other over-excited beeps and digital screams it emits for various other minor infractions, like daring to drift slightly close to a white line, making a pre-flight-like procedure of jumping into the  touchscreen to turn every damn one of the assists off a necessity, purely for the sake of your sanity.

The interior has its quirky features too, like the chunky little gear selector that looks like a robot shaking its fist at you.

But even then it won’t truly leave you alone - for some reason I could not get to the bottom of, it would often dip the audio volume as if to make an announcement, but then just… not. It was almost like it was making a very passive/aggressive point about something.

The other slight irritation relates to the same issue the Tank 500 has, in that the low-down power delivery is slightly laggy for some reason, despite the presence of the hybrid system to theoretically fill in any turbo lag holes.

Still, like the 500, when the 300 is up and running, it is truly prodigious in terms of its acceleration, making the most of its big torque and power numbers to power out of corners and overtake with ease.

Anyone else see Cold War-era 4x4 looks in the Tank 300? Just me?

Handling-wise, rather than being averse to corners and somewhat crude like you would naturally expect from a ladder chassis SUV, the 300 handles more like what you would expect from a biggish crossover SUV on a monocoque chassis and road-biased tyres, in that it will default to a safe, predictable understeer when pushed and offers up no nasty surprises.

In fact, with its competent handling, luxurious interior, high level of tech, properly capable off-roading abilities and brilliantly quirky looks, I have a strong suspicion that the Tank 300 could well be my favourite SUV of the moment.

If only it didn’t interfere with my obnoxious taste in music.

The GWM Tank 300 is fantastic, but sadly flawed by its over-enthusiastic driver alerts and assists.

ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder and electric motor POWER: 255kW/648Nm GEARBOX: 9-speed automatic CONSUMPTION: 8.4l/100km PRICE: $56,990

What are the key statistics for the GWM Tank 300 Lux Hybrid?

The hybrid version of the Tank 300 hooks the standard version's 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder engine up to a hybrid system with a single electric motor to pump out an impressive 255kW of power and 648Nm of torque. The 300 shares this powertrain is shared with its bigger brother, the Tank 500.

Is the GWM Tank 300 Lux Hybrid efficient?

For a large, capable off-roader, it's not too bad, but that "hybrid" designation in its name may set expectations a bit higher (or, rather, lower) than the 8.4l/100km that GWM claims for the Tank 300. But that's because GWM makes no bones about the fact that the 300's battery and electric motor is there to add more power and torque, and not necessarily turn the 300 into a fuel miser.

Is the GWM Tank 300 Lux Hybrid good to drive?

Yes, it is. While it is still a big ladder chassis truck, the Tank 300 has a decent ride and is surprisingly good at tackling corners. Also, those big power and torque numbers make it truly satisfying to power out of corners or overtake slower traffic.

Is the GWM Tank 300 Lux Hybrid practical?

With plenty of cabin space and lots of handy storage areas scattered around it, the Tank 300 is particularly practical for families. Boot space of 400 litres is fine, but a bit tight for the segment.

What do we like about the GWM Tank 300 Lux Hybrid?

While polarising, the looks are definitely a highlight if you like them. The remarkably high level of quality in the cabin is also a high point, with the stylish leather seats also being nicely comfortable. And while it still feels like a big truck, the ride quality is right up there with the best of its ladder chassis- based competitors.

What don’t we like about the GWM Tank 300 Lux Hybrid?

The driver assists. All of them. They make the strongest possible case for a single, configurable button that instantly turns off the most annoying ones...

What kind of person would the GWM Tank 300 Lux Hybrid suit?

Someone who wants to actually go off road, but doesn't want to sacrifice day-to-day comfort and luxury, but doesn't want to pay Range Rover prices to get that. Also anyone who appreciates Cold War-era 4x4 styling. And orange.


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