Cars > Driven

GWM Tank 300: A ‘budget’ Jeep Wrangler

Haters gonna hate, but this could do for many of us

Looks intimidating, but surprisingly comfortable and capable. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

Jeep Philippines just recently launched the 2024 Wrangler Sport, which rings the cash register at P4,790,000. Wranglers have long had a reputation for off-road ability, but they’ve never been cheap to own or maintain.

Enter GWM (Great Wall Motor) with its Tank sub-brand, and its first, locally available model, the 300. From the slab sides to the round headlamps and the tall windows, it’s not hard to see where the design “inspiration” came from.

And while it’s tempting to dismiss it as another Chinese knockoff, I have to admit that several days driving this Tank in the city and a fair amount on some trails left a positive impression.

Eye-catching LED headlamps with a horizontal element to match the slats on the grille. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

The sole powerplant offering here is a 2.0-liter turbocharged, in-line-four gasoline engine rated at 215hp and 380Nm.

It has an eight-speed transmission and part-time four-wheel drive, with lockable front and rear differentials. It has front double wishbones and a five-link Panhard rod system at the back for good articulation, but probably won’t top that of the Wrangler with its live axles and sway bar disconnect.

The 2.0-liter engine is smooth and punchy, but lacks the old-school rumble of a diesel or a six-cylinder.
The shifter looks like a Thrustmaster. Controls for the part-time 4WD are intuitive. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The cabin is a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a utilitarian ambience, but the Tank’s gray-and-silver cockpit looks nice with large, round silver bezels for the air-conditioning à la Mercedes-Benz, a thick-rimmed steering wheel with intuitive controls, and a 12.3-inch instrument cluster elegantly paired with an infotainment screen of similar size to make it look like one unit.

The seats are wrapped in pliant Nappa leather; the grab handles are liberally placed throughout the cabin; and all the switches and materials have a quality look and feel. It puts to shame some Japanese SUVs, to be honest.

There’s decent space behind the second row for a bunch of suitcases, and a full-size spare is mounted on the sideways-opening rear door.

That's honestly a good-looking dashboard.
The two, customizable screens offer a wealth of information.
The 360° camera system is essential for low-speed, off-road maneuvering. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

The engine feels smooth and torquey, making maximum torque from 1,800-3,600rpm so you rarely ever need to redline it just to overtake. Fuel economy is about what you’d expect for this displacement in a blocky vehicle weighing over 2,000kg: 5-6km/L in the city, and 9-10km/L on the highway.

While the four-banger is quiet until around 4,000rpm where I can make out a satisfying snarl, part of me still wishes for the more macho, old-school rumble of a big diesel or a brawny six-cylinder.

Despite the rough-and-ready styling, the ride is luxury-car soft. It feels cloud-like on the road, though not to the point of bobbing up and down with every dip and rise.

The 700mm wading depth will make you look forward to shallow river crossings. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

On the fire and gravel roads of Santa Ines, jitter is practically nil such that it’s tempting to go faster and risk being rude to the local communities.

Approach, departure, and break-over angles are 33°, 34°, and 23.1°, respectively, enough to give you the courage to go off the beaten track. Ground clearance of 224mm and a 700mm wading depth are also respectable figures.

It also sports some underbody protection. Being a rather tall vehicle, however, you’ll want to take those curves a little slower to avoid that top-heavy feeling.

Selecting four-wheel-drive modes is easy with a cluster of buttons and a rotary dial beside the shifter. The “tank turn” mode is pretty nifty as it allows you to execute a tighter turn radius by locking the rear differential while you go full lock on the steering wheel.

It has good angles for exploring on a trail. PHOTO BY SAM SURLA

There’s also enough power on tap, with good throttle modulation, such that you can do donuts until your passengers throw up. The steering is also precise and quick to respond for an SUV, so getting the tail out in a slide is fun rather than hair-raising.

For the kind of off-roading that most potential owners will subject it to (that is, not hardcore trailblazing), the Tank feels more than capable and un-intimidating.

As a daily driver, the Tank has enough presence on the road to keep away the bullies while not being so large as to be unwieldy. The seats offer good lower back support, but lack substantial side bolsters to keep you from sliding around in the twisties. The back is quite comfortable with lots of headroom and knee room.

However, smaller people (below 5’8”) and those with hip problems may need to install step bars as it’s quite awkward to heft oneself up onto the seat and back down again. Which all the more makes the grab handles essential.

Admit it. You at least want to try it.
Front seats are power-adjustable.
Good space at the back, too. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

Only one variant of the Tank 300 is offered here, and that comes with a nine-speaker Infinity sound system; front, side, and curtain airbags; four-wheel discs with ABS; stability control; electronic parking brake; and advanced driver aids like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, traffic sign detection, 360° cameras, and emergency braking. It also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

All that for P2,678,000. Not cheap, but fair considering how capable the Tank is on and off the road, and without actually feeling spartan like, you know, a real armored fighting vehicle.

It’s slightly more expensive than the tried-and-tested Toyota Fortuner GR-S (P2.65 million), and significantly more than the aging and soon-to-be-replaced Mitsubishi Montero Sport (P2.37 million).

It wears 17-inch Cooper all-terrain tires.
The standard nine-speaker Infinity audio system is pretty good. PHOTOS BY SAM SURLA

But whereas those two industry stalwarts tend to feel big and cumbersome in day-to-day driving, the Tank actually feels light on its feet for its size, while offering serious chops off the beaten track.

Time will tell if GWM will provide the predictable and reliable aftermarket support that the Japanese brands provide, but the Tank 300 makes a solid first impression. A poor man’s Wrangler? Maybe, if you can consider only having P2.678 million to spend for a vehicle as poor.

If you’ve got the cash and are willing to take a chance, go for it.


Engine2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline
Transmission8-speed automatic
Power215hp @ 5,500rpm
Torque380Nm @ 1,800-3,600rpm
Dimensions4,760mm x 1,930mm x 1,903mm
Drive layout4WD
UpsideComfortable ride. Capable off-road tech. Loaded with comfort features and driver aids.
DownsideSoft suspension leads to heavy brake dive when panic-braking. High step-up can be a problem for the vertically challenged.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.