2024 GWM Tank 500 off-road review

Posted on July 2, 2024Comments Off on 2024 GWM Tank 500 off-road review

Is this really a tank? Is it better than the Tank 300, or just bigger?

The 2024 GWM Tank 500 is a large 4×4 wagon and is the latest from the Tank range to land in Australia.

Capitalising on the success of GWM with the Cannon first and more recently the Tank 300, the Tank 500 broadens GWM’s off road offerings with a serious contender to take on Toyota LandCruiser Prado.

Walking up to the Tank 500 its size is clear. It’s bigger, more imposing and more muscular than the already tough-looking Tank 300. Sliding into the cabin there is no doubt in the attention to luxury, design and comfort.

This is a beautifully appointed cruising rig or daily driver, that for the price bracket oozes class and personality. Yes, I’m sold on the Tank 500 if first impressions count, but let’s take it for a spin and really get to know her first.

Today we’re driving the Tank 500 Lux Hybrid, the base model. It’s comfortable, clean and simple in a welcoming way, and it’s a step up again in appointment and build quality of the Tank 300 and Cannon.

The faux woodgrain interior trim blends in seamlessly, offsetting the faux leather and providing subtle tones to the clean and modern lines. The centrally mounted analogue clock with ticking hands is a classy touch that actually works well from a design and layout standpoint.

But there is no doubt in the level of inbuilt tech and refinement at play here, with a large display screen boldly creating a centralised point of attraction on the dash.

Road noise is noticeable and there’s a distinct driveline hum as you power slightly to maintain speed. The central screen is huge at around 40cm from corner to corner, and there is way too much information and too many functions for me to explore on this short test drive.

It’s definitely something that you would have fun exploring and setting up.

Similarly, the dash cluster has been replaced by a digital widescreen with a highly intuitive display that offers everything from a radar map of which lane you’re in, to a real-time energy usage readout on the right and a digital speedo on the left. It’s clear, intuitive, and not just easy to read; but also functional and aesthetically pleasing.

A camera facing the driver sits on the closest A-pillar, which facilitates driver attention monitoring and the frequent prompts quickly become annoying – ‘please concentrate whilst driving’. The Tank 500 clearly has plenty of tech and fortunately it’s not too hard to adjust it to suit your own personal tastes and driving style.

Aside from the hum and slight vibration at around 75km/h, the ride is smooth, effortless and extremely comfortable. The Tank 500 is definitely a big step up from the Tank 300 which is a bargain at the price and certainly well-appointed, yet more of an enthusiast or entry-level vehicle.

Off-road

The multiple driving modes and 4×4 controls – including the rear diff lock switch – are all located on the centre console just south of the transmission gear selector; which by the way is similar to the one in the Tank 300 and is beautifully designed to be different yet functional. It’s a nice touch.

The 4WD modes are well indicated and easy to select, engagement of 4L is quick and hassle free, as is the rear diff lock activation. On dirt the hybrid system springs to life delivering what feels like plenty of useable torque.

We didn’t get to test it on any major hill climbs, and the short steep ascent we were hoping to play on was wisely left off our drive due to the low-slung rear plastic skirt which would have been damaged on the steep entry point.

With that said, it was smooth to drive in low range, feeling stable and strong, and there was plenty of control and traction considering it was running only highway-type tyres that were at full road pressures.

We carefully pushed the Tank 500 to the limits of its suspension travel yet it flexed well, maintained traction and actually drove through the sections where we did manage to get tyres off the ground. There are two key reasons for this…

Firstly, the vehicle is actually very well balanced and the factory suspension works adequately. This helps greatly in keeping the vehicle level and stable on uneven terrain.

Secondly, just like the Cannon (Ute), the Tank 500 comes armed with a factory rear electronic differential lock. It’s quick and easy to engage, and fully selectable so it’s 100 per cent on or off and provides a considerable improvement in tractability resulting in a confident and controlled drive from both rear tyres even in extreme circumstances.

Team all of that with the true low range locked transfer case, and the result is a well equipped and capable off-road vehicle with plenty of potential to add accessories and enhancements to do even more.

The Tank 500 offers 224mm of ground clearance; a wading depth of 800mm; as well as approach, break over and departure angles of 30 degrees, 22.5 degrees and 24 degrees respectively – backing up our concern for the reduced rear angle due to the low hanging plastic bumper).

It also boasts a braked towing capacity of 3000kg, and an unbraked capacity of 750kg. Certainly not the greatest figures, but a clear step up from the Tank 300 and in my humble opinion, most likely a more just and reasonable rating than the broad range of dual-cab 4×4 utes on the market that often present with inflated towing capacities.

My time with the Tank 500 was brief, yet it left me wanting to do more. The experience gave a strong sense of capability, control and confidence and my initial thoughts are that if the reliability, durability and resilience can be proven, this will make one hell of an Aussie tourer and a real threat to the big brands of the off-roading space.

It’s also worth mentioning the amply sized central screen comes to life off-road when you are in low range and the large display of the off-road camera system is highly beneficial. On the flip side, the traction control execution is rough, noisy and unnerving.

The loud bangs and groans from the front end are disappointing for a vehicle that is built with so much quality and class, and filled with such high levels of tech and finesse.

Starting can also be a tad confusing when off-road. On a number of occasions the vehicle seemed to randomly not want to start no matter what combination of brake, mode, gear selector, handbrake and push to start combinations we tried.

During such a short test it was hard to know if it was ‘we’ or the ‘vehicle’ that was confused, least to say it was quite strange to experience and we didn’t come across this challenge at all when on the black top.

What’s under the bonnet?

In a move that might put some Aussie buyers offside, there’s no option of diesel power currently for the Tank 500, but we’re in a changing market and the ‘green’ aspect of the Tank 500 Hybrid may just be the deciding factor for some city- and family-orientated enthusiasts who may be contemplating a taste of the off-road life and outdoor adventures.

Technical Specifications GWM Tank 500 Hybrid
Engine 2.0L 4cyl turbo 48V HEV
Transmission 9-speed automatic
Power 180kW
Torque 380Nm
Electric motor Single motor, transmission mounted
Power 78kW
Torque 268Nm
System power 255kW
System torque 648Nm
Fuel consumption (claimed) 8.5L/100km
Fuel tank capacity 80L
Fuel rating 91 RON
Kerb weight 2432kg

Mod-ability

At this stage available accessories and modifications for the big Tank 500 are extremely limited.

One Aussie company is leading the way though. Savage Tech Australia is dominating the Tank and Cannon space providing a wide range of enhancements, upgrades and accessories.

It already has its own Tank 500 and is rapidly developing a full suite of products to amplify the 4WD’s performance, capability and look. Currently, available options include suspension kits, bull bars and plenty more on the water!

CarExpert’s Take

Toyota you’re on notice! The Chinese are coming and are far from done in Australia when it comes to the Tank range.

The drivelines are proven, the tech is sound, build quality is on point and the prices are reasonable. The only thing left for GWM (and other Chinese brands) to do now is to prove their enduring reliability.

Amongst a range of brands and vehicles, I own an old LandCruiser. I am a fan and will never doubt the durability and proven performance of Toyota. But from my perspective, and whilst Toyota has deservedly earned the right to dominate the 4×4 market, it has clearly been upping the prices and it is brands like GWM that are raising awareness and competition.

But like I have asked before, will we see Toyota bring prices down, or once established will GWM push its prices up? Either way, competition is great. The Cannon, Tank 300 and now Tank 500 are ticking boxes and claiming plenty of sales – if you’re still a doubter, your head is buried deep in the sand.

Let us know what you think in the comments below – are these vehicles really a challenge to the big Japanese brands? And whatever your answer, is that just an opinion or do you have direct experience with these new Chinese vehicles?

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