The Tank 300 is GWM’s latest introduction to the Australian 4WD scene.

    It packs turbo-petrol power, bluff looks, a quality build and substantial off-road ability, though it’s let down by dismal load-carrying and towing capacities – critical points that need to be urgently fixed.

    While consumer concerns have been raised over the vehicle’s long-term reliability and spare parts availability, the Tank 300 has arrived long after the release of the new breed of GWM Ute, which realistically should quell any such questions as mere speculation.

    There are now countless stories and examples of high-kilometre and well-travelled Cannons surviving the toughest outback adventures here in Australia and having no more issues with warranty, servicing, breakdowns and spare parts availability than any other manufacturer.

    But the Tank 300 represents a little more than your garden-variety 4WD and, as a mid-sized wagon, the debate over this new model and its place here in Australia continues with passionate cries from all sides.

    Many feel it has no place here as a Chinese-built petrol offering in a market space owned by the Toyota Prado, while others feel it is a much-needed addition to the segment, a great option for those interested in something a little bigger than the Suzuki Jimny and overall a well-appointed 4WD that represents high value at a reasonable price.

    What many don’t realise is that the Tank 300 has been available in China for some time, thousands have been sold and the aftermarket accessory industry in China has gone nuts over this vehicle, further adding to my claims that this is one of the most important 4×4 vehicle releases of the year.

    And it’s not just a raft of accessories being developed and released. Much like the Toyota LandCruiser 79 here in Australia but even more so, we are seeing an extensive number of Tank 300s being built as prototypes, fully accessorised packages and even specialised factory-equipped projects between the vehicle manufacturer and aftermarket accessory manufacturers.

    With so many new concepts hitting the market at once, the overseas excitement, thirst for and interest in modifying this vehicle has been nothing less than feverish. From basic ‘bling ups’ to ‘full on’ off road builds, we are seeing it all in China and so we wanted to take a closer look at one of the recent concept builds from the China-based and hugely successful accessory manufacturer TopFire.

    Based in Chengdu in the southern central province of Sichuan, TopFire is an off-road aftermarket accessory manufacturer that was spawned from a background of fashion and design blended with a passion for off-road automotive excellence.

    With a primary history of developing unique-looking bumpers, parts and accessories for Jeeps, this TopFire Tank 300 project is far less polarising than the firm’s typical eclectic offerings and represents a clear shift to a more mainstream design to pick up the booming local market with the Tank 300.

    With prices for the TopFire Tank 300 in China sitting just shy of AUD$58k for a relatively well-accessorised vehicle (see the list of upgrades below) and knowing TopFire’s status as an elite brand that commands decent pricing, it’s a good sign that thousands of these have been sold locally in China and that the 4WD scene there is thriving and growing.

    While the TopFire Tank 300, or its variants, won’t be coming to Australia, the fact that these vehicles are being so heavily modified in such high numbers is a great sign for not only Tank 300 fans but also the global 4WD community.

    With the increased popularity of off-roading in China and the boom in sales of local Chinese-made 4WDs and accessories, it’s not a far stretch to see that the market changes there will have an impact on what we see here in Australia and within the global 4WD industry.

    First and foremost, we will see a continuation in the diversity, quality and innovation of accessories and vehicles from China but there will also be an increased demand for Australian-made products and brands to be imported there.

    While many don’t realise, there is a substantial market in China for high-quality Australian-branded products and we know of one Chinese-based off-road distributor in Beijing who frequently does between 10-15 million Australian dollars’ worth of ARB product into China every year.

    With that being just one brand (and one distributor of three that ARB has in China), the current and potential off road market for Australian brands in China is substantial.

    There are several versions of the TopFire Tank 300, and pictured here are two such examples. Many simply have different colour schemes and some small variation in the cosmetic changes and additional ancillary accessories.

    The Tank 300 starts as a squarish, muscular-looking rig and these enhancements from TopFire follow the same theme and accentuate the styling without being too over-the-top.

    Replacement bonnets with vents improve engine bay temperatures. Wider flares provide coverage for the oversize tyre package (wider rims fitted with BFGoodrich 285/70 R17 KM3 mud terrain tyres).

    Improved articulation, comfort and handling comes from a two-inch lift with performance remote reservoir adjustable shock absorbers. A snorkel provides cooler and cleaner air for the engine intake while also protecting the engine during water crossings.

    The roof rack provides extra storage (the Tank 300 has a relatively small rear cargo area) as well as mounting points for LED light bars, a ladder and other accessories. A rear steel bar provides back end protection and there’s a reinforced spare-wheel mount to support the heavier off-road tyre.

    Up front, a steel bar is added for protection and provides a secure mounting point for the XD9000 Warn winch. There’s even the option of rear window mounting racks for additional accessories like slimline fuel and water containers.

    The TopFire Tank 300 is typical of the style of a prototype vehicle but it’s still important to note the value and potential of these collaborations, even on a basic level let alone the actual impact for the long term and bigger picture scenarios.

    Imagine being an aftermarket accessory provider and in one hit you sell a thousand sets of tyres, a thousand winches, a thousand snorkels, a thousand front and rear bars, etc. That is some serious coin that should be raising some eyebrows!

    With that much of an injection into, through and around the off-road industry (in any country) the ramifications for the 4WD community worldwide should be considerable.

    In short (as I have covered this in greater depth in another similar article covering the TopFire Cannon), and generally speaking, more spend, more innovation, more competitiveness, more players in the space and overall, more interest in off-roading globally, the winners are going to be the 4WD end users. We will see more companies bringing better products to market and at better prices (just like the GWM Tank 300 and Cannon).

    But it’s not just limited to vehicles. Aftermarket accessories are booming too as the world continues to go 4×4 crazy and we are going to see a lot more of these collaborations.

    ARB has lead the way in Australia with its exclusive relationship with Ford, accessorising the Ranger and Everest and not to be left out, TJM has followed suit with its Thailand head office recently releasing a fully TJM kitted-out new-generation Triton in collaboration with Mitsubishi as that model comes to market.

    These are extremely positive steps by both ARB and TJM and considering the interest in this TopFire Tank 300 and its potential, we are going to see far more of this type of thing in the future. Of course, we don’t have the market size of massively populated countries like China and India, but as mentioned above, the scope and potential benefits for the off-road automotive industry worldwide are extremely positive.

    Keep following CarExpert for news on where our exciting automotive industry is heading.

    Would you take home a TopFire Tank 300? Let us know in the comments below.

    MORE: Everything GWM Tank 300
    MORE: Chinese off-roaders are getting tougher – check out this GWM Ute

    Simon Christie
    Simon Christie is a Contributor at CarExpert.
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