GWM’s new flagship ute has been spied undisguised in Australia, ahead of an expected launch this year.

    This right-hand drive prototype Shanhai Cannon was spotted in Melbourne. Unlike previously spied examples, there’s no camouflage affixed to the vehicle.

    The ute may wear the Cannon Alpha nameplate, given GWM trademarked the name locally in November 2023.

    CarExpert understands the Cannon Alpha will launch around mid-year. It had previously been expected to arrive during the first quarter of 2024.

    Given the dominance of diesel power in the local ute segment, such an engine is likely. But GWM is rolling out more hybrid models and this ute will be offered with a hybrid powertrain in China, so this would be a likely starter for Australia.

    That would make GWM the first brand to have a hybrid in the Australian ute market – excluding Toyota’s limited-run Tundra, which isn’t yet on sale at scale. Ford is introducing a plug-in hybrid version of its top-selling Ranger, but it won’t arrive until early 2025.

    “The business case for the Shanhai Cannon Ute is making good progress but still not yet finalised. That said we hope to be in a position to share some more news on that front in the coming weeks,” said a spokesperson for GWM Australia.

    “I can confirm that we have one of these new models here for local testing and evaluation. This is a regular part of the planning process that we employ while evaluating any new model for a potential local launch.

    “GWM Ute has again shown strong growth in 2023 and the addition of a new, larger variant is something we believe would be a positive addition to the range.”

    The Cannon Alpha is only marginally larger than the GWM Ute. It spans 5440mm long, so only 30mm over the Cannon, but it’s still large – it’s 70mm longer than a Ford Ranger, though it’s considerably smaller than an F-150.

    As seen on this prototype, there’s an unusual split tailgate. GWM also offers in China a clever multi-lid bed divider, which splits the tray into three separate compartments.

    The turbo-diesel engine has more grunt than that in the regular GWM Ute, being a larger 2.4-litre four-cylinder unit with 135kW of power and 480Nm of torque, mated with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system.

    Less certain for our market is the flagship twin-turbo 3.0-litre petrol V6, which pumps out 260kW and 500Nm.

    For the hybrid, it’s expected GWM will use the same powertrain as the Tank 300. This model features a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine producing 180kW of power at 5500-6000rpm and 380Nm of torque at 1700-4000rpm, paired with a 78kW/268Nm electric motor.

    Total system outputs are 258kW and 615Nm.

    The new ute is expected to be pitched as a more premium lifestyle ute. That’s because instead of a leaf spring rear suspension like the GWM Ute, the Shanhai employs a multi-link coil-sprung back axle and double wishbones at the front.

    In China at least, it’s offered with electronically locking front and rear differentials, a panoramic sunroof, a power tailgate or barn door setup, semi-autonomous parking assist and a full suite of active safety and driver assist features.

    These include highway driving assist, front and rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, and safe exit warning.

    GWM continues to expand its local range, adding vehicles from its GWM ute, Haval and Tank SUV, and Ora electric vehicle (EV) lines.

    The Cannon Alpha will sit at the top of the local range along with the Tank 500, a hybrid-powered rival for the Toyota LandCruiser Prado that’s due here in the second quarter of 2024.

    William Stopford

    William Stopford is an automotive journalist based in Brisbane, Australia. William is a Business/Journalism graduate from the Queensland University of Technology who loves to travel, briefly lived in the US, and has a particular interest in the American car industry.

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