BUYERS GUIDE - UTES & CAB CHASSIS MEDIUM
The renamed Great Wall 2017 Steed model had greatly improved specifications. A single cab model was released in early 2018 and the replacement model, in China, in August 2019. The Cannon was launched in Australia in 2020.
Said to be completely new from the ground-up, the 2020 GWM Cannon ute brought significant improvements in safety, connectivity, capability and comfort.
The GWM Ute lineup at launch consisted of three 4×4 Dual Cab grades: entry-level Cannon, mid-spec Cannon-L and range-topping Cannon-X.
All models were powered by a new 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine with 120kW and 400Nm, and claimed 9.4L/100km economy, driving through a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission.
The powertrain was Borg Warner’s TOD (torque on demand) and a rear differential lock was standard, as were four-wheel-disc brakes and an electronic braking brake with auto-hold.
Opening the GWM ute range was the Cannon, priced from a highly competitive $33,990 drive-away with a seven-year unlimited-kilometre warranty, five-years roadside assist and with the following comprehensive list of features: forward collision warning (FCW) and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection; lane departure warning (LDW); lane keep assist (LKA); lane change assist; rear cross traffic alert (RCTA); adaptive cruise control (ACC); traffic sign recognition and overspeed alert; vehicle stability control; tyre pressure monitoring; reverse camera; kerbside camera (passenger side); rear parking sensors; seven airbags, including front centre airbag; collision automatic unlock function; collision automatic fuel-cut-off function; hill start assist and hill descent control.
Also standard were: 18-inch aluminium wheels; body-coloured bumpers, wheel arches and mirrors; power-adjustable door mirrors; LED headlights with auto on/off; daytime running lights; fog lamps with auto steering function and side steps.
But wait, there was more: keyless entry; push button start; air-conditioning; steering wheel controls; paddle shifters; 225mm (nine-inch) LCD touchscreen; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; power outlet for dash camera; 12V power outlet; two front USB ports and one rear USB port.
The Cannon-L, priced at $37,990 drive-away scored: sports bar; spray-in tub liner; easy up/down tailgate; cargo ladder; leather-wrapped steering wheel; heated front seats; six-way power adjustable driver’s seat; automatic climate control with rear vents; front parking sensors; 360-degree-view camera; chrome grille, door handles and mirrors; power-folding door mirrors; roof rack; privacy glass; anti-glare rear-view mirror and a 220V power outlet.
The Cannon-X was priced from $40,990 drive-away added: leather seats; tilt-slide steering column; colour instrument cluster; wireless charging; four-way power-adjustable passenger seat; variable power steering modes; second row 60/40 seat and voice recognition.
The ANCAP five-star safety performance of the post-August 2021 GWM Ute is a marked improvement on its two-star predecessor, the GWM Steed, rated by ANCAP in 2016.
GWM Ute models built from August 2021 performed well in ANCAP testing, achieving full points in side impact and far-side impact tests for both adult and child occupants; full points in testing of active lane support system functionality; strong scores for driver protection in frontal impact crashes and a high level of protection in rear impact whiplash crashes.
However, ANCAP’s full width frontal and whiplash tests revealed deficiencies with the performance of front head restraint and steering column components in GWM Ute models built between September 2020 and 31 July 2021.
Owners of vehicles built between September 2020 and 31 July 2021 were strongly advised to have the rectification action completed as soon as possible so that their vehicles could also meet five-star ANCAP safety requirements. The upgrade was free of charge.
The Cannon on and off road
‘Cannon’ seemed a weird name when we first heard it, but the product tested well enough to predict it’s an apt title for a ute that could cut the traditional-brand opposition to ribbons.
Because of the high levels of on-board equipment we initially thought our test vehicle was the range-topping 42-grand Cannon-X, but it was actually an ‘L’ model that had a remarkable RRP of only 38 grand at launch. That made it the best-equipped, value-for-money ute in the market.
The Chinese were quick to realise that Japanese-brand utes didn’t have suspension spring rates and dampers that warranted copying, so they did the job themselves. When we tested the available Chinese utes, both the LDV with Sachs shock absorber option and the standard Cannon utes had better standard suspensions than any of their Japanese-brand competitors.
The empty Cannon rode firmly, but with great spring control. With 350kg of old timber posts in the back the ride smoothed out considerably. Handling was flat and predictable on all surfaces, with not too-interventionist electronic stability and traction control.
The Cannon’s torque on demand 4WD system was also a step above the still-common part-time-4WD systems fitted to most utes. It’s designed to operate in rear wheel drive until traction becomes marginal, when it switches seamlessly to 4×4 operation.
Braking was never an issue, thanks to four-wheel disc brakes that traditional-brand utes don’t have. You have to spend around eighty grand to get four-wheel discs on most non-Chinese utes.
On paper, the Cannon was down on peak torque, compared with traditional brands, but that deficit was masked to a great degree by its standard ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. (Gears are there, remember, to multiply the available torque.) We’d love to have checked it with at trailer in tow, but this early-release vehicle didn’t have a towbar.
However, four bums in seats and 350kg in the tray didn’t affect performance at all. Economy depended very much on how it was driven: we saw a best of 7.3L/100km and a worst of 9.8L/100km.
Working with the Cannon proved low-effort: gas-strut-assistance for the bonnet – no hot prop to handle or heavy bonnet to drop on your head – and gas-strut controlled tailgate lowering, so no risk of smacking a little kid on the head with it.
But our absolute favourite was the tailgate’s hidden secret: an integrated boarding step that made getting in an out of the tub easy and safe. Why doesn’t every ute have that feature?
The engine bay was beautifully finished and all service items seemed well positioned. A snorkel fitment should be easy enough, given the Cannon’s inner-mudguard air inlet. By moving a couple of electrical modules it should be easy enough to fit a second battery under-bonnet.
The test vehicle was fitted with road-pattern Cooper tyres, but it coped with corrugated and rutted dirt quite happily and clean-sheeted our rocky test climb with only a ground-touch on one of the plastic side-steps. Under-body rock protection looked very effective.
A standard rear diff lock ensured the traction control system didn’t have to work hard off-road. Low-range gearing engaged at rest without delay and disengaged as readily, using a dial control.
Low-speed gearing allowed walking pace rock-shelf climbing and provided some assistance to the hill descent control system on very steep grades. However, low-range engine braking and HDC needed wheel-brake help on very steep sections.
A high-set seating position gave the driver an excellent view of off-road hazards and that was greatly enhanced by forward-facing and rearward-facing cameras. The 360-degree camera’s display view and clarity were the best we’ve encountered in any medium-priced 4WD vehicle.
Another stand-out for the Cannon was its lane-keeping system: easily the best of any vehicle we’ve tested, including the systems fitted to quarter-million-dollar heavy trucks and luxury SUVs.
The GWM system didn’t need clear, white-painted lane markings and was happy to detect the difference between a bitumen road edge and the grass verge as a ‘lane marking’, prompting the driver to steer away from the road edge. Very impressive.
Adaptive cruise control was also intuitive and very easy to operate.
The large display screen was one of the clearest we’ve seen and was visible even in strong sunlight.
Noise levels inside the Cannon were exceptionally low and would have been lower still with tyres that didn’t roar like the Coopers did.
We’ll reserve final judgement until we get to do a tow test, but our solo-vehicle loaded and empty running suggested that the GWM Cannon is a game-changer that should have more familiar ute brands taking a long, hard look at themselves – particularly given the absolutely outrageous prices they’re charging.
Check out our video of the test:
Great Walls were absent from the
Australian market for some time, following court proceedings between Great Wall Motors and the former distributors. However, Great Wall returned in late 2016, via its own distribution network.
After less than wonderful publicity the market return wasn’t easy.
Great Wall Motors called the 2017 dual-cab utility the ‘Steed’ – a name that had been used in other markets.
Great Wall Motors Australia (GWMA) then managing director, Parker Shi, said the decision to go with the Steed nameplate was unanimous with the local team.
“In China the Great Wall ute is called Wingle, which translates to ‘horse’. That’s why it was called the Steed in the United Kingdom and why we have chosen that name,” Mr Shi said.
The initial release was a dual-cab 4×4 diesel ute, priced at $29,990 driveaway
“The new Steed is the ute Australian farmers and tradies have been looking for,” said Great Wall Motors Australia General Manager Tony Carraturo.
“Australians are renowned for recognising a great value proposition when they see it, and we are confident the new Great Wall Steed will strike a chord that resonates around the country.”
The Steed’s replacement model, the Pao, based on a new P71 platform, was released in China, in August 2019. As our photo shows, it had Haval-styling up front.
The China-market engine was the Haval two-litre turbo petrol, mated to a ZF eight-speed auto transmission.
The initial launch was a passenger-oriented model, but an off-road version was imminent.
It came with options that included three diff locks, a winch and rough-terrain shock absorbers.
Another version was an all-electric ute, with a claimed range of up to 500km.
The all-new GWM ute was launched in Australia in late-2020.
What you got in the post-2017 Steed
The Steed 4×4 was powered by a 2.0-litre
turbo-diesel (GW4D20B) Euro V engine, driving through a six-speed manual transmission to a BorgWarner, two-speed transfer case.
This wasn’t the normal part-time ute driveline setup that everyone else uses, but a torque on demand (TOD) full-time/part-time 4WD system that’s seen in many SUVs.
Unlike all utes except the top-shelf Super-Select Triton models and the VW Amarok auto the Steed could be driven on hard surfaces in high-range 4WD, without risking driveline damage.
The Borg Warner TOD system was linked to the Steed’s stability and traction control systems, giving it better on-paper tractive ability than many of its competitors.
Engine output remained a modest 110kW at 4000rpm, with 310Nm of torque in the 1800-2800rpm band. The possible upside of these relatively low figures was less combustion chamber pressure, reducing the likelihood of crankcase blow-by and EGR system coking.
Standard runing gear included 16-inch aluminium wheels, shod with 235/70 R16 tyres and the full-sized spare wheel was steel.
The Great Wall was 305mm longer than its predecessor and 30mm higher. The ute tub was 155mm longer and came standard with a stainless steel sports bar, four tie-down points and a liner. The Steed had a theoretical payload capacity of 1010kg and a braked towing capacity of 2000kg.
Equipment levels were extremely high for this
price point: halogen headlamps, LED tail lamps, daytime running lamps, front fog lamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, heated front seats, powered driver’s seat, climate control air-conditioning, cruise control with steering wheel-mounted buttons, tyre pressure monitoring system, auto headlamps and wipers, auto dimming rear-view mirror, colour-coded, heated side mirrors, six airbags, including full-length curtain airbags, Bosch
V9.0 ESP, hill-start assist control, six-speaker sound system with CD/AM/FM/MP5/USB/AUX, Bluetooth phone control with audio, three-point rear seat belts, side steps and rear parking sensors.
The post 2017 Steed range came with a three-year/100,000km warranty and three years’ free roadside assistance.
A single cab version was launched in
early 2018, with dual airbags, ABS brakes, Bosch ESP stability control, hill hold control and tyre pressure monitoring. Inside, the Steed single cab had durable fabric seats, air-conditioning and an auto-dimming rear vision mirror.
The Steed Single Cab boasted a claimed 1198kg payload, with a tow rating of 1700 kilograms.
It came complete with a locally manufactured aluminium tray, measuring 2400mm long by 1777mm wide, with drop sides for easy access.
On and off road
We checked out the new Steed over 2000km
of town and country driving and some site work in the Victorian High Country.
The latter section involved snow driving after an unseasonal blizzard
that proved the worth of the new vehicle’s TOD driveline and traction and stability control. All worked well.
The Steed came fully equipped, but there were some minor quirks: we couldn’t get the radio to scan accurately in Australia’s AM band and Bluetooth connection wasn’t intuitive.
The power steering had too much hydraulic assistance and felt like the Ford Ranger’s horrible all-electric system.
Those issues apart, the Steed was relaxing to drive and ride quality was no worse than in any of its competitors. Nearly all ute makers have yet to discover shock absorbers that cost more than about 20 bucks each. A decent set of after-market dampers would make a world of difference, we’re sure.
Speaking of suspension, the Steed retains a practical, easily-adjusted torsion bar/wishbone front end that is more rugged than the now-common, coil-spring semi-strut arrangements seen on virtually all utes. At the back, taper-leaves with helper leaves coped with a half-tonne load.
The little engine sat in a spacious bay, allowing good access to everything, but the fuel filter was located a tad low-down for our liking
Great Wall continues with a forward-located oil pan, meaning that the ute leads, literally, with its sump. There’s a steel protection plate to help prevent damage, but the sump should be at the rear of the engine, not at the front.
The front end clearance was uppermost in our minds on rocky snowfield sites, but traction control proved effective in limiting wheelspin.
The six-speed main transmission shifted beautifully – Ford and VW take note – and the clutch was light, but with good feel of the friction point. The transfer case was operated by dashboard buttons and moves from 2H to AWD and low range were quick.
Because the Great Wall diesel didn’t have the torque of its competitors the box needed some stirring on grades.
AWD could be selected on the fly at speeds
up to around 80km/h without clutch action, but low-range selection required a stop and a dip of the clutch.
Our only issue with the transmission was a loud whine in all gears when under load.
Great Wall claimed 9.0L/100km economy for the diesel engine and that’s exactly what we got.
Towing wasn’t its forte, but for solo-ute work the Steed was fine. The price was unbeatable.
If the 2012 Great Wall bodywork reminded you of the previous-generation Rodeo there’s a good reason for that: it was a reasonably accurate copy. However the Great Wall 4WD model was technically up to date, thanks to a common-rail, two-litre, turbo-intercooled diesel.
The engine’s claimed figures of 105kW at 4000rpm and 310Nm at 1800-2800rpm were on the low side, in comparison with the big boys, but so was the price
of 23 grand for a 4WD cab/chassis!
The crew cab was also well priced, at $27,990. An asthmatic 2.4-litre petrol engine with figures of 100kW at 5250rpm and 200Nm at 2500-3000rpm was optional, but you wouldn’t want it.
The petrol engine coupled to a five-speed manual and the diesel, to a six-speed.
Oddly, towing capacity of short-cab models was 1700kg, whereas crew-cabs scored a 2000kg rating.
Mechanically, the Great Wall seemed well bolted together and the engine bay was accessible. However, the engine looked like it had been shoe-horned in, rather than purpose-designed: the sump was at the front of the engine, behind a modest plate that wouldn’t offer adequate protection when rocky trail driving.
The Great Wall had ABS braking, but no stability or traction control system.
Fit and finish was quite good and the V200 rode and handled like a previous-generation 4WD ute. Ergonomics were fine and cabin noise was low.
On formed surfaces the V200 single-cab tray-back we tested was a modest performer by modern standards and suffered from considerable
turbo lag. However, the transmission shift action was light and postive and the clutch had good feel, so gear-changing wasn’t a chore.
Off-road the Great Wall was OK on modest trails, but we were ever conscious of the engine sump position.
If you are in the market for a low-priced 4WD ute a used V200 could be the go, but don’t expect it to perform or tow like a Ford Ranger. A possibility is fitting a slide-on ute camper, for a budget-priced tourer.