The Dark Horse Dual Cab: 2021 GWM Cannon X Ute
The new Cannon X marks a great leap forward for GWM’s 4x4 dual cab offering, and proves itself a worthy contender in the segment
IT’S armed with a new engine, a German gearbox and a luxury interior. The 2021 Cannon X Ute carries a strong message from GWM – we want the dual cab market. And damn it, they’re having a proper crack at it too.
To get it, their flagship Ute will have to compete with Aussie market veterans like the Triton GLS and HiLux SR5. Still, overcoming competition won’t be the greatest obstacle for GWM’s top trim 4×4 dual cab. It’ll be overcoming stigma.
GWM have evidently worked hard with this car to shake the bad wrap from its previous tin-can craftsmanship. Nonetheless the price tag rouses suspicion – a mere $40,990 before on roads for a massive ute decked out with several luxuries and ample accessories.
As it turns out, there isn’t much to doubt about the Cannon X. It’s a dual cab edging closer to the winning formula of extreme affordability and high standard, and away from the poor reputation.
We began our road test by throwing the car into mid-level off-road conditions. The X shares a drivetrain with the standard and L variants – offering a 4×2 with torque on demand transfer case for variable torque distribution to the front wheels.
In 4×4 mode, there’s a selection for 4WD low-range with rear differential lock. Without the centre diff locked we could skim up loose, inclined sections of track, skidding briefly and then regaining composure as the front wheels grabbed.
In tougher sections, we bumped it into neutral to engage 4L. Low range is geared well, and using the increased torque efficiently the car felt capable as we bobbed over some boulder-heavy areas.
With the rear diff locked and traction control on, the X clawed meaningfully up sandy ascents. Unladen ground clearance is a decent 232mm, but the 21.1mm breakover angle meant we had to pick our lines.
We were reluctant to push the car too hard after hearing a couple of unusual knocks from the rear axle while in 4L. While they weren’t a symptom of failure, they were off-putting.
Back on the tarmac we could settle down and take the time to appreciate the luxury spec interior exclusive to the X, as well as gauge performance under normal driving conditions.
The upgraded interior is an important point of difference from the mid-range Cannon L too. Here, a large portion of the additional cost – exactly $3000 – converts into value for the driver.
It shares many features with the L, including the 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, heated seats, Apple CarPlay and a 360-degree parking camera.
On top of that, it adds genuine leather with argyle cushioning throughout, a 7.0-inch LCD instrument cluster, wireless charging pad, voice recognition, a tilt/side adjustable steering column, and stylish footwell illumination.
The advantages of the exclusive interior continue in the rear cab. An armrest offsets the luxury with some family-friendliness, and 60/40 split seats give flexible storage options for your work gear.
Standard on all models is a 220V outlet and USB port at the back of the console. Overall, GWM’s SUV styling intentions are visible. Luxuriousness has been achieved without being exaggerated, resulting in an attractive and user-friendly space.
We enjoyed travelling in style while driving the Cannon X, and the good sensations didn’t end there. As you chug about, there is an unmistakeable feeling of sturdiness and quality.
Unlike its predecessors, you get the sense this GWM has been made with nuts, bolts and welds rather than eBay parts and zip ties. That feeling was reinforced as we weaved through some of Sydney’s hazardous residential areas.
The good bitumen was welcomed by our test car, which broke into a smooth and agreeable glide. If a daydreamer coasted out from a laneway, the disc brakes at every wheel brought all 2-tonnes to a halt hard and fast.
Although we anticipated a firm ride from the Cannon’s front double wishbone and coil spring setup, improved damping would do wonders for comfort, and create a bit more harmony with the leaf springs in the rear.
The trade-off is exceptional handling for a dual cab. The X is rigid in turns, and let up remarkably little body roll through roundabouts and hairpins – a marked improvement from the mushiness of the old Steed.
Handling is hindered only by the same steering vagueness we noticed in the Cannon L earlier this year. Three electronic power steering modes offered solutions to this, but only partially delivered.
If you can tolerate the heaviness past quarter turn, Sport mode sharpens responsiveness for a more connected feel. Light mode simply exacerbates the vagueness. Comfort mode is the default with standard tuning.
On the safety front, there is no shortage. Features include forward collision warning, secondary collision mitigation, lane change assist and side, curtain, dual front and centre airbags.
Rear sensors that detect oncoming vehicles proved highly useful during our test, reducing the stress of driveway reversing.
Powering the Cannon X is GWM’s new 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder intercooled turbo diesel, producing 120kW and 400Nm. Conscious of these mild figures, its encouraging note and steady power delivery didn’t leave us clutching at the wheel, desperate for more grunt.
The 2.0-litre manages to gulp up 9.4-litres/100km. While there is a short lag when setting off and some hesitancy past 3000rpm, both these issues are improved vastly in Sport mode, which gives additional get up and willingness to rev.
Laden the Cannon X has reasonable ability. We did our best to max out the 1050kg payload with sleepers and bags of concrete. The X wasn’t overly fussed by the weight, with enough torque and balance for the job.
It did however falter when lugging it all uphill. GWM claims a 3000kg towing capacity.
Under any circumstances, credit must be handed to the 8-speed transmission planted in the Cannon X courtesy of German manufacturer ZF Friedrichshafen. Intelligent in its ability to choose the right gear, you rarely need the paddle shifters to give it a nudge.
It sails up through the gears, and prompts compression braking downhill without the aggravating tendency to get stuck in gear once the road levels out.
By the end of our test, we’d developed a strong appreciation for the exterior of the car in both practicality and appearance. Up front you get powerful high and low beam LED headlights and automatic turning lamps.
Running down the car are side steps between the 18-inch alloys. Up the back is an anti-corrosion tub liner, four anchor points, and a stainless sports bar. The tailgate has soft-lowering gas struts, and from the centre of the gate pops an American-style step ladder.
Aesthetically, the Cannon X looks tidy yet tough, an appearance which continually grows on you. While there is some mix and matching of competitor styling – a bit of Ranger here, a bit of HiLux there – it still presents uniquely.
Standing back from the X, you inspect it with immense satisfaction. And that is the essence of this car. If you buy a Cannon X, you won’t kick yourself for not spending a bit extra on a Triton.
Nor will you whimper and stamp your feet as a Ranger drives by. You will be satisfied. And sure, the X has shortcomings, but they are largely forgivable. Although we can’t speak for long term reliability, we spent a month with our test car and it didn’t miss a beat.
Beyond this, it comes with a 7-year warranty. Give this car a chance and what you’ll discover is a hard-working, mostly well behaved, and nicely groomed workhorse. Unlike GWM’s former weak and ailing Steed, the Cannon X Ute is a workhorse worth owning.
As we mentioned, the 2021 GWM Cannon X Ute is priced at $40,990 plus on-roads. You should check out your local dealerships on price, or take a look at a website like PriceMyCar to get the best deal.
This article was first published on Exhaust Notes Australia.
Our test vehicle was provided by GWM Haval Australia. To find out more about the 2021 GWM Cannon X Ute, contact your local GWM Haval dealer.