The GWM Cannon has become the first full electric utility in Australia, the Alpha Ultra Hybrid muscling in between the Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux and Isuzu D-Mac and the full-sized pick-ups from Chevrolet, Ford, Ram and Toyota.

The Cannon dual cab flagship also strengthens GWM’s New Energy Vehicle strategy, becoming the brand’s sixth NEV offering following the Jolion Hybrid, Tank 300 and 500 hybrids and Ora EV.

Coming in three variants with a 2.4-litre turbocharged diesel engine, or 2-litre turbo petrol motor, the latter linked with a hybrid powertrain, all are mated with a nine-speed automatic transmission and full-time 4×4 system.

Prices start at $51,990 for the Cannon Alpha Lux diesel, the Alpha Ultra diesel comes in from $57,990, while the hybrid Alpha Ultra takes flagship honours from $64,990. All are drive-away prices. . All are covered by the maker’s seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

Standard equipment includes LED headlights, a 360-degree camera, dual zone climate control, locking rear diff, 12.3-inch instrument cluster, 12.3-inch information screen, wireless smartphone mirroring, six speaker audio, power adjustable driver’s seat, leather-style upholstery and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The Ultra grade adds panoramic sunroof, 14.6-inch infotaiment touchscreen, heated, ventilated, massaging front seats with power adjustment, while the Ultra Hybrid takes on head-up windscreen display, power folding exterior mirrors with memory, semi-automatic parking assist and auto reverse assist.

GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid buyers enjoy a seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, seven years roadside assist and five years of capped price servicing.

As mentioned above, the new Cannon Alpha leaves the opposition (literally) in the shade, with dimensions of 5445mm long, 1992mm wide, 1924mm height, and 3350mm wheelbase, and 35mm longer overall, 57mm wider, 38mm taller and 120mm longer between the front and rear wheels than the standard GWM Cannon Ute .

This gives the newbie a solid stance on the street and the test vehicle’s black paintwork offers maximum contrast, with just enough chrome work, and LED headlamps.

The tailgate holds a few surprises. The whole soft-open gate folds down at the press of a button in the centre of the GWM hallmark. Touch the same button for a second and the 60/40 gate opens barn door-style for ease of loading and unloading the tub.

Nappa leather upholstery and heated, ventilated, and massaging front seats are complemented by a heated steering wheel, plus two-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated rear seats with welcome function and wireless phone charger.

Rear leg and head room are generous and occupants can take advantage of a panoramic roof and sliding rear window as in the Nissan Navara for extra ventilation.

Inside, there is a 14.6-inch infotainment touchscreen, a 10-speaker Infinity sound system, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, head-up windscreen display and wireless smartphone charger. An unusual addition is an analogue clock, found more in top-shelf saloons such as Bentley and Lexus, and 64-colour ambient lighting,

The range-topping 2-litre turbo petrol hybrid engine delivers a combined 255kW of power and 648Nm of torque against 135kW and 480Nm of the 2.4-litre turbodiesel. Both are hooked up to a nine-speed automatic transmission and full-time four-wheel drive with lock-up front and rear differentials.

The Ram 1500 V8 pick-up has been available with a mild-hybrid system for some years.

This is no mild hybrid where the electric motor only assists the internal combustion engine and cannot drive the wheels without using the ICE, as with the Ultra Hybrid.

No word on the Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid ANCAP safety rating yet but the GWM Tank 500 SUV, which shares much of its platform and cabin with the Alpha ute was recently awarded a top five-star rating by ANCAP.

Standard safety features include autonomous emergency braking (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, front and rear cross-traffic assist, lane-keep assist, lane centring, emergency lane-keeping, traffic sign recognition and surround-view camera with transparent chassis mode.

Cannon diesels have four parking sensors up front and four at the rear, while the Ultra Hybrid has six up front and six at the back. The Alpha offers seven airbags, including a front-centre bag between the driver and front-seat passenger.

First up, just a word about the ‘voice of the vehicle’: Has driving come to this? During time with the Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid the person behind the wheel (and passengers) were ‘assaulted’ by a constant stream of inane audio and visual female pleas to ‘concentrate on driving’ for seemingly little reason. ‘Florence’ in the machine even urged the driver to ‘take a break’.

The source of all this ‘evil eye’ was a camera attached to the A-pillar focused on the driver – so distracting. In the end, this driver could not even bother to seek out a way to switch off the system: too busy concentrating on driving.

From rest, the turbo-petrol was a tad tardy on the take-up and when engaged had a tendency to lurch off the mark. On the move, the big fella was relatively easy to get on with, although the suspension had a habit of resisting easy going over blemished bitumen.

Overtaking was capably executed, and light steering came into its own on slow parking manoeuvres, which were not the ‘friendliest’ with such a bulky vehicle. GWM claims a fuel consumption of 9.8 litres per 100 kilometres in the combined urban / highway cycle.

The test hybrid recorded at worst, more than 15 litres per 100 kilometres around town and 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres on a trip down the motorway.

Three all-terrain drive modes, eco, normal, sport, are very much set and forget for the driver. Sport mode reduces throttle power regeneration, while Normal/Eco mode increases deceleration of system-regenerating energy. It can also lock front and rear differentials.

Towing capacity is a healthy 3500kg braked and 750kg unbraked. Wading depth is up to 800mm.

The GWM Cannon Alpha is big on things like interior space and towing strength, and the Ultra Hybrid frugal on fuel use. On the downside, the touchscreen is not easy to manipulate while on the move. As for the intrusions of ‘Florence’ in the machine, if that’s artificial intelligence, you can shove it!

Looks – 6
Performance – 8
Safety – 7
Thirst – 5
Practicality – 7
Comfort – 6
Tech – 7
Value – 6


MODEL LINE-UP (All prices drive-away)
Cannon Alpha Lux diesel $51,990
Cannon Alpha Ultra diesel $57,990
Cannon Alpha Ultra hybrid $64,990

SPECIFICATIONS (Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid 2-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, electric motor, 9sp auto, AWD)

Configuration: four cylinders inline
Maximum power 180 kW
Maximum torque: 380 Nm
Fuel type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined fuel cycle: (ADR 81/02) 9.8 L/100km
CO2 emissions: 225g/100km

Electric motor:
Maximum power: 78kW
Maximum torque: 268Nm
Total maximum power 255 kW
Total maximum torque: 648 Nm
Battery capacity: 1.76kWh

DRIVELINE: Nine-speed automatic, on demand four-wheel drive

Length: 5445 mm
Width: 1991 mm
Height:1924 mm
Wheelbase: 3350 mm:
Turning circle:13 m
Kerb weight: 2575kg
Fuel tank: 80 litres

Front: Ventilated Disc
Rear: Ventilated Disc

Seven years / unlimited kilometres




About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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