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HomeINDUSTRY NEWSBRINGING OUT THE BIG GUNS

BRINGING OUT THE BIG GUNS

GWM SHINES AT THE BEIJING AUTO SHOW

Shanhai Pass, or Shanhaiguan, is a major pass in the Great Wall of China and the easternmost stronghold along the Ming Great Wall. As the first barrier for guarding the frontier between North and Northeast China it is also known as the “First Pass Under Heaven”.

In recognition of its importance in the history of the Great Wall, GWM has incorporated the Shanhai name in its line-up to describe the latest, bigger derivative in its Cannon pickup range. Positioned above the P-Series, the Shanhai Cannon is 5 445 mm long, 1 991 mm wide, stands 1 924 mm tall and has a wheelbase of 3 350 mm (in comparison, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak is 5 350 mm long, 2,015 mm wide and 1,886 mm high).

Known as the Poer Sahar in Thailand and Cannon Alpha in Australia, the Shanhai Cannon was first introduced in China in 2022, with a HEV version and a V6 bi-turbo petrol model released earlier this year. To align it with the P-Series bakkie, it will be branded P500 locally, with its smaller sibling renamed P300.

The new P500, together with the Tank 500, will form the spearhead for the next onslaught from the Chinese manufacturer on the South African market, and these two big guns, as well as a revamped Haval Jolion and H6, are expected to reach local shores within the next three months. 

Prior to the Auto China Motor Show in Beijing, we were also invited to GWM’s home base in Baoding to be introduced to a host of new models in its arsenal – including the new Haval H9, the Tank 700 and 400, the Ora 07 (Lightning Cat), the latest Ora 03 (Funky Cat), the interesting Ora Ballet Cat and some Wey models.

GWM P500

The P500 double cab bakkie is undoubtedly one of the most important and exciting new models in the GWM order of battle. With a squarer visage than the P-Series and headlight treatment reminiscent of the Ford F150, the bigger P-Series is imposing, the top variant even more with its black grille, model-unique bumpers, extended black wheelarches, side-steps, snorkel, and blacked-out power bulge on the bonnet.

Locally, the new flagship bakkie range will be powered by a new 2.4-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine (delivering 135 kW and 480 Nm of torque) with power sent to the wheels via a nine-speed auto transmission and GWM’s Hi4-T four-wheel drive system, or with the same 2.0-litre hybrid turbo-petrol engine used in the top Tank 300 model.

This means the P500 HEV will have 225 kW and 648 Nm of torque available, with a standard nine-speed auto’ box and 4×4 drive. Unfortunately, we will not receive the biggest Cannon, endowed with a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol mill that delivers an impressive 260 kW and 500 Nm of torque.

Sampling the big bakkie (and a selection of other models) on short handling tracks laid out on the Baoding testing grounds, the power delivery from the V6 was notable, but the weight of its more than two-tonne bulk was tangible in the short corners.

Besides the difference in size compared to the normal P-Series, the P500 features an innovative tailgate multi-function tailgate design, making it possible to open it in a split barn-door style or the traditional drop-down fashion. The top models also offer a wading depth of 800 mm, a three-mode “all-terrain” drive system with diff locks front and rear, and the ability to tow 3,500 kg.

Sharing its underpinnings with the Tank 500, the P500 keeps the voluminous and luxurious cockpit layout and instrumentation of its Tank donor, including the expansive 14.6″ infotainment system, a 12.3″ digital instrument cluster, wood and leather trim, climate control with rear vents, heated and ventilated front seats, and electrically controlled reclining rear seats.

Systems such as Park Assist. Driver Attention Alert, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Change Assist will be standard, and other amenities include front and rear parking sensors, a reverse camera, and a 10-speaker Infiniti sound system. So, given its size and specifications, as well as pricing starting from around R750,000, the new GWM P500 can seriously threaten the established leisure double cab bakkies in the market.

TANK 500

The GWM Tank 500, the second model in the Tank range, has been around for three years but was recently updated with a PHEV derivative and GWM’s new Hi4-T system. With a ladder-frame chassis, ride height of 223.5 mm, wading depth of 800 mm and an approach angle of 29.6º, the Tank 500 is not only luxurious inside but also suitable for some real off-roading, and as such, it may well be a strong Prado-contender.

 Locally, the Tank 500 will most likely be available with the same engine and drivetrain options as its P500 pickup offshoot, most likely with Luxury and Super Luxury specification levels, and on the test tracks, the performance of the lavishly equipped HEV derivative confirmed its “comfortable cruiser” credentials.    

Also available for testing were the new Tank 700 and Tank 400 models, attractive with their modern, angular, and robust styling. The flagship Tank 700, with the 260 kW V6 twin-turbo petrol mill under its gaunt hood, provided some good fun on track, squatting on its rear haunches under hard acceleration like a Range Rover Sport.

Whether it will make it to Mzansi remains to be seen, as the 700 (and, for that matter, the Tank 400) is currently only available with left-hand drive and the turbo-petrol engine. Still, while the Tank 400 is not under consideration at all (a pity, in my view), the 700 may be equipped with right-hand drive and a newly developed turbodiesel engine in the future.

NEW HAVAL H9

With the Haval H7 seemingly on its way here, it has also now been confirmed that the second-generation Haval H9, the seven-seat four-wheel-drive flagship in the Haval SUV range, is set for local introduction. Extensively redesigned and redeveloped, the new H9 has an attractive boxy appearance, similar to its Tank counterparts. 

A competitor for the Land Cruiser Prado, Land Rover Defender and INEOS Grenadier, the H9 sports a much bolder face with a large, upright grille and distinctive round LED headlights. Seen from the side, it has a pronounced shoulder line, with a more upright glasshouse and square rear windows.

As a key model in GWM’s export plans, the latest H9 is based on an updated and more rigid ladder-frame chassis than its predecessor (discontinued locally in 2022) and will be available with high and low-range gearing, differential locks and a “second-generation off-road drive controller” with up to six driving modes.

Locally, it is expected that the H9 will be available with either a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol delivering 167 kW mated with an eight-speed auto transmission, or the turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder diesel mill developing 137 kW coupled with a nine-speed auto gearbox. A HEV version can follow later.

The interior of the H9 brims with high-quality materials and upmarket detailing, and its instrumentation and infotainment systems are contained in two 12.3″ screens, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and a 10-speaker sound system.

Our initial impressions were that this model is much more resolved and sorted than its predecessor. Timing for the H9’s arrival in South Africa is yet to be confirmed, but the spruced up Jolion Pro (complete with rear spoiler) and the revamped Haval H6 will make local landfall in the next month or so. 

Regarding Ora, indications are that the rapid 07 flagship with its Porsche Panamera copied design can most likely be introduced locally in limited numbers, while the titivated 03 models are already on their way here. The frivolous Ballet Cat – an electrified copy of the final VW Beetle – is (thankfully) not on the shopping list.

What was crystal clear from our visit to the impressive GWM facilities is that the Chinese auto giant now possesses enough high-quality and high-end products in its Tank, Haval and Ora arsenals to unleash a further devastating onslaught on the South African new vehicle market.

Report by FERDI DE VOS | Images © FERDI DE VOS / SUPPLIED

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