2024 GWM Cannon Alpha Review

The 2024 GWM Cannon Alpha is here, offering big style and features at a low price. So what's the catch? Let's review it!

Matt Brand
Expert reviewer
Updated on
June 26, 2024
Saucey score

Pros

  • Incredible value
  • Luxury interior space
  • Great technology

Cons

  • Diesel feels underpowered
  • Payload is below average
  • Ride quality is harsh
Car specs

135kW + 480Nm

$57,990 (Driveaway)

8.8L/100km

Unrated.

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Are you also disheartened by current Ute prices?

We’ve recently reviewed the updated 2024 Toyota HiLux SR with ‘V-Active Technology’ – AKA 48V mild-hybrid – and it will cost you $56,120 before on-road costs.

That nets you a 9-year old generation of HiLux, with an 8” infotainment display, cloth seats, a plastic steering wheel, and a single USB-A port up front, and a part-time 4WD system with a locking rear differential. So really, you don’t get a huge amount for quite a bit of coin.

Enter GWM – the Chinese automotive manufacturer – who have just released their Cannon Alpha into the Australian market starting at just $51,990 AUD drive-away for the diesel lux trim, extending to $57,990 driveaway for the mid-spec diesel ultra, and $64,990 for the top-spec hybrid ultra.

So by the time you’ve paid on-road costs of the rather basic SR HiLux, you’re knocking on the door of the top-spec GWM Cannon Alpha.

Some of the inclusions you get as standard across the GWM Cannon Alpha range includes a full-time 4WD system with locking rear and front differentials, LED lighting, reclining rear seats and a 14.9” display.

All the while, getting a 3.5 tonne braked towing capacity.

Not to mention, sitting somewhere in size between a Ford Ranger and Ford F-150, you are getting a whole lot of extra metal.

So what’s the catch? Well, the GWM Cannon Alpha is certainly not perfect. So let’s talk about that.

How much does the GWM Cannon Alpha cost?

As far as 4x4 utes are concerned, the GWM Cannon Alpha is exceptionally sharply priced.

Today we’re reviewing the spec we would most recommend, the Cannon Alpha Ultra Diesel, though I’ve spent time driving the Ultra Hybrid during a prototype drive several months ago.

For perspective, the SR HiLux 4x4 with an automatic transmission and  2.8L turbo-diesel (not even optioning its new 48V hybrid system) will set you back $59,601 on the road in Victoria.

Now look at this pricing.

2024 GWM Cannon Alpha Pricing

  • GWM Cannon Alpha Lux Diesel - $51,990
  • GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Diesel - $57,990
  • GWM Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid - $64,990

Note: Price is driveaway and $AUD

What’s the exterior like?

Talk about presence.

The Cannon Alpha is huge in Ute terms, but perhaps not as big as you may think.

It’s dimensions are 5445mm in length, 1911mm in width, 1924mm in height and rides on a massive 3350mm wheelbase

Compared to the segment’s no.1 seller, the Ford Ranger, the Cannon Alpha is 75mm longer, 73mm wider, 40mm taller and has an 80mm longer wheelbase.

And you can tell, it’s bloody enormous – but even over our week of testing, it never felt too big to park in urban environments which was rather logic bending to my mind.

Being based on the same underpinnings as the GWM Tank 500, but with leaf-spring suspension at the rear like most Utes, from the front the GWM Cannon Alpha looks identical to the Tank 500.

However, because in its home market of China it is known as the Poer Shanghai Cannon, Poer being the brand its sold under, you see many remnants of that not changed for our market.

For instance, the giant badge in the centre of the front is a Poer logo (kinda like a backwards P), there’s ‘POER’ spelt in the fully LED headlights (which are very bright, great to see!) and you cannot miss the almost comically huge Americanised chrome grille.

If you’re looking for the ultimate rear-view mirror bully, the Cannon Alpha stacks up as a rather imposing beast.

The side of our red-coloured tester looks very mean. The Ultra Diesel rides on 19” alloy wheels, wrapped in Giti Xross highway terrain tyres, which although are fine for road use, do not stack up for off-roading.

We got to drive earlier prototypes a couple of months ago, and these tyres were prone to popping when coming into contact with jagged rocks commonly found on off-road courses.

Moving along, you score a 360-degree camera as standard, and tinted privacy glass keeps rear passengers shaded from bright sunlight.

Interestingly, when you open the rear doors which wrap around to the back of the cab, there are hidden storage cubbys on each side built into the frame, which is a cool touch.

Then there is the rear, which is arguably the least cool angle of the Cannon Alpha. Simply put, it just looks like a big Ute – which is fine.

Though unlike most competitors, you actually get LED lighting for the rear too – so it feels GWM haven’t skimped on inclusions other major manufacturers often do.

What’s the tub, practicality and towing like?

Despite its overall large size, the GWM Cannon Alpha has a smaller rear end than the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger.

However, what the ‘Ultra’ variants of the Cannon Alpha get over those utes is a split tailgate design. Meaning with a short press, you can open the rear as a ‘barn door’ style or a long press will open the tailgate like any other normal ute.

It’s a neat feature, allowing you to actually make use of the rear bumper step which would otherwise be blocked by the opened tailgate.

The Cannon Alpha’s cargo bed is 1520mm in width (1100mm between the wheel arches), 150mm in depth and 500mm in height.

That means, compared to a dual-cab Toyota HiLux the Cannon Alpha’s cargo bed is 125mm narrower in width (9mm narrower between the wheel arches), 70mm deeper and 19mm taller.

Even worse for the Cannon Alpha, when compared to a dual-cab Ford Ranger, the bed is 64mm narrower in width (124mm between the wheel arches), 47mm shallower in depth and 29mm shorter.

Payload doesn’t get much better, being 821kg for the Lux Diesel, 760kg for the Ultra Diesel and 735kg for the heavier Hybrid variants.

It’s not terrible by any stretch, but about a couple hundred kilos less than an equivalent HiLux or Ranger.

Good news, though, the GWM Cannon Alpha is the first GWM product in Australia to receive a 3.5 tonne braked towing capacity.

What’s the interior like?

Stepping into the interior of the GWM Cannon Alpha, and you cannot help but wonder why other manufacturers can’t achieve a similar level of design for an even greater cost.

Firstly build quality. It’s fantastic.

Touch around and you will be hard-pressed to find an ounce of scratchy plastic, with soft-touch leatherette and plastics in most places.

The faux wood printed onto a plastic panel on the dash looks a little naff, but other than that, the interior presents beautifully.

You’ll also notice more Poer badges, with the steering wheel centre being a giant backwards ‘P’ and wrapped in nice and soft leather.

That leather extends to the seats, which have 9-stages of heating and cooling and an actually effective massage function with variable intensity of programs.

Unlike GWM products of old, the seats have plenty of support and adjustment, including automatic adjustment for the passenger seat.

If you want technology, GWM also has you covered. The centre-piece is a 14.6” infotainment display right in the centre of the cabin which has wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and some of the best compute power in the industry.

It also sounds great, with a 6-speaker sound system in all grades bar the Ultra Hybrid, which nets an even better 10-speaker setup.

Unfortunately, it still suffers from some confusing menu layouts and poor translation from Chinese to English.

Also annoying are the air-conditioning buttons, which are missing arguably the most important physical control – the temperature. Instead, you must press ‘auto’ and then adjust the dual-zone temperature on the display, which just seems silly.

Especially since there is a blank button that could be used for temperature…

That also extends to the digital instrument cluster, which is also rather striking in design though not the most customisable display I’ve come across.

If you love charging devices, you’ll love the Cannon Alpha. In a hidden cubby next to the drivers leg, you’ll find a USB-A port and USB-C port up as well as a 12V socket. There’s also a wireless charger, with a cable passthrough for those who still prefer a wired connection.

The centre tunnel buttons – which uses real metal buttons mind you – allow you to switch between drive modes, and are also where you can activate the low-range transfer case, rear-locking differential and front-locking differential.

The Cannon Alpha also has some impressive off-road stats, with a wading depth of 800mm, an approach angle of 28.5 degrees, a ramp-over angle of 19 degrees and a departure angle of 23 degrees.

Speaking of centre tunnel, the centre armrest opens up to reveal plenty of space with an air-conditioning duct to keep drinks cool. You also have removable cupholders, though they are very deep and will de-lid small-to-medium coffee cups (trust me, I know…).

The glovebox is large, and the door bins are felt lined to stop things rattling around. Seriously, when do you ever see this on a Ute.

Don’t forget to look up either, because you’ll find a large panoramic sunroof.

Overall, when you consider this costs less than a low-spec HiLux SR which still comes with a plastic steering wheel, the interior is such a nice place to be.

What are back seats like?

If you’ve been looking for a ute that doesn’t compromise back seats, and don’t want to spend well into the 6-figures for an American truck like the F-150, RAM 1500 or Chevrolet Silverado, then the Cannon Alpha may just be what you have been looking for.

You get dual air-vents, dual usb-a ports, map pockets and leather seats.

At 5’11”, I have achres of leg-, head- and toe-room to stretch out thanks to the larger than average body of the Cannon Alpha.

You also get some really nice touches, like a powered rear window to slide open behind the rear seats and a large felt-lined storage area underneath the centre seat.

You can also drop the rear armrest, and gain access to a couple of cupholders, more felt-lined storage and a phone storage area.

If you stretch for the Ultra Hybrid, you gain heated and cooled seats for the rear, a wireless charger in the rear and electronically adjusting rear seats.

Don’t worry though, if you go for the other variants you can still recline the seat – just manually.

What’s under the bonnet?

If you’re looking for a hybrid ute, GWM will happily sell you their Cannon Alpha Ultra Hybrid, but it isn’t the powertrain I would go for. More on that in the driving section.

It uses a 2.0L turbo-petrol 4-cylinder petrol engine combined with an electric motor sandwhiched between the engine and transmission, producing a combined output of 255kW of power and 648Nm of torque.

The engine I recommend is the 2.4L turbo-diesel 4-cylinder engine which outputs a rather weak 135kW of power and 480Nm of torque.

For all variants, power is sent through to a permanent 4WD system via a 9-speed transmission.

Fuel economy for the hybrid sits at 9.8L/100km while the diesel comparatively sips 8.9L/100km.

How does the GWM Cannon Alpha drive?

If you were looking for a bit of a catch, you’ll find it in this section.

Versus the GWM Tank 500, it just doesn’t perform as well.

Firstly the diesel engine, although my personal pick, is really slow.

In fact I timed the 0-100km/h sprint at 11.88 seconds, which means overtaking on the highway isn’t going to be the easiest task.

At lower speed, the GWM Cannon Alpha diesel actually shuffles along fine with plenty of torque, but its brick like shape and 2432kg tare weight means that anything above about 80km/h is a slow affair.

The 9-speed automatic transmission thankfully works fine, though expect some slow responses at low speeds and a rather frustrating disconnect.

Once you get moving though, its shifts are relatively imperceptible, and it works fine.

Ride quality is also rather poor, with the leaf-sprung rear quite firm on anything other than long stretches of highway.

Keep in mind we don’t have any extra weight over the rear axle which would smoother out the ride, however we test all our Utes in this way.

Handling is quite good when turning the Cannon Alpha into it sports mode, with a surprising amount of mechanical grip. Steering firms up, and never feels vague.

However braking the Cannon Alpha is rather cumbersome, not because the brakes can’t handle it; but because the pedal calibration is just off. It’s not a linear pedal, meaning ~30% or so of braking force and not much happens, and then ~40-50% of travel on the pedal and the brakes will grab relatively hard.

If it sounds like I’m being harsh, I am. The reality is, for most people you will be able to excuse the overall driving experience when you remember just how low this Ute is priced.

So why not recommend the hybrid over the diesel? Well, a few reasons.

In our review of the Tank 500 hybrid, I did quite like the overall feel of the hybrid powertrain. However that is not available with a diesel, and if it were, I would recommend it too.

Firstly the entry price for the hybrid is $7,000 more, and although the on-paper power and torque figures are far higher, in day-to-day driving you never really notice it.

Then there is the question of system complexity. Me personally, I would rather have less moving parts than more. And more than once with the hybrid powertrain in the Tank 500, a flooring of the accelerator would not properly compute with the hybrid powertrain, and I would be ‘stuck’ for several seconds in EV only mode at ~40km/h before the engine finally kicked in.

Payload also drops by 25kg from the Diesel Ultra, which reduces an already low enough usable payload (though admittedly, not by much).

But really, the biggest issue is fuel economy. It’s hybrid is more setup for power and torque boost than efficiency, and so whereas I was happily seeing 8.8L/100km over highway and urban driving in the diesel, the hybrid powertrain spits out closer to 14.0L/100km.

So, in real world driving, the hybrid will use 50-100% more fuel to operate. Which is a lot.

What do you get with the GWM Cannon Alpha?

GWM Cannon Alpha Features by Grade

Lux Diesel

  • 2.4-litre turbo-diesel engine (135kW/480Nm)
  • Automatic LED headlights
  • Automatic high-beam
  • Dusk-sensing LED headlights
  • Fixed side steps
  • One-piece tailgate (hinges from bottom)
  • Electronically locking rear differential
  • Hill ascent and descent control
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • Full-sized steel spare
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Spray-on tub liner
  • High-mounted tub light
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Front and rear parking sensors (four sensors on each end)
  • Black leatherette-accented interior
  • Six-way power driver’s seat
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Synthetic leather-look seat upholstery
  • Light, Comfort and Sport steering modes
  • Standard, Sport, Eco, 4L, 4H drive modes
  • Auto hold
  • Tilt and reach-adjustable steering wheel with paddle shifters
  • 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster
  • Six-speaker sound system
  • 360-degree camera with 'clear chassis' view
  • Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection
  • Lane-keep assist
  • Lane centring assist
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Front and rear cross-traffic alerts with braking support
  • Traffic sign recognition

Ultra Diesel (Adds over Lux Diesel)

  • 60/40 split-opening tailgate
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Electronic front differential lock
  • Auto-folding side mirrors
  • LED front fog lights
  • Genuine leather-accented interior upholstery
  • Eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat with memory and welcome function
  • Six-way power-adjustable front passenger seat
  • Heated, ventilated and massaging front seats
  • Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
  • Wireless smartphone charger for front occupants
  • 14.6-inch infotainment touchscreen

Ultra Hybrid (Adds over Ultra Diesel)

  • 2.0-litre turbo-petrol hybrid system (255kW/648Nm)
  • Two-way power-adjustable rear seats with welcome function
  • Heated and ventilated rear seats
  • Rear wireless phone charger
  • 64-colour ambient interior lighting
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Memory for side mirrors
  • 10-speaker Infinity premium sound system
  • Head-up display
  • Analogue clock under infotainment screen
  • Automatic parking and reverse assistants
  • Upgraded front and rear parking sensors (six sensors on each end)

How much does it cost to run?

As of writing this review, GWM have not released servicing pricing.

However, the GWM Cannon Alpha comes with a 7-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Is the GWM Cannon Alpha safe?

The GWM Cannon Alpha is yet to be tested by ANCAP, however based on its sibling under the skin - the GWM Tank 500 - receiving a 5-Star ANCAP, it's likely this will too.

The GWM Cannon Alpha comes with an extensive array of features designed to protect all occupants.

Key safety features include:

  • 7 airbags
  • Autonomous emergency braking with detection for both pedestrians and cyclists
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Front and rear cross-traffic alerts with braking support
  • Lane-keep assist
  • Lane centring assist
  • Emergency lane-keeping
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • 360-degree camera system with a clear chassis view
  • Front and rear parking sensors

For parking assistance, diesel models come with four sensors at the front and four at the rear. The Ultra Hybrid model is equipped with an upgraded six sensors at both the front and rear.

Final thoughts - should you buy a GWM Cannon Alpha?

The 2024 GWM Cannon Alpha presents a compelling alternative to more established Ute models on the market, such as the Toyota HiLux. Offering competitive pricing, it provides a range of premium features and technology typically found in higher-end models.

The Cannon Alpha's strengths lie in its robust feature set, including a full-time 4WD system with locking differentials, advanced safety features, and a luxurious interior with high-quality materials and modern technology. The diesel variants deliver respectable fuel efficiency, while the hybrid option offers impressive power, though at a higher fuel consumption rate.

Despite its many positives, the GWM Cannon Alpha is not without its drawbacks. The diesel engine's performance can feel underwhelming, particularly during highway overtaking, and the ride quality could be improved. The hybrid variant, although powerful, tends to be less fuel-efficient in real-world driving conditions.

Overall, the GWM Cannon Alpha offers excellent value for money, especially considering its comprehensive list of features and competitive pricing. It stands out as a versatile and well-equipped Ute that meets the needs of both urban and off-road drivers, making it a strong contender in its segment.

Saucey score breakdown

8.1
/10
Performance
6.5
Maintenance Costs and Warranty
8.0
Comfort
6.0
Fuel (or EV) Efficiency
8.0
Safety
8.0
Interior Design and Features
9.0
Value for Money
10.0
Technology and Innovation
9.0
Is it fit-for-purpose?
8.0
Practicality
8.0
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Matt Brand
Matt Brand, the esteemed car critic from Car Sauce, offers unparalleled expertise on all things automotive. From new car releases to pre-owned options, he provides in-depth analysis and honest evaluations to guide readers through the car-buying process. Join us as he delves into the exciting world of motoring.
Car specs

135kW + 480Nm

$57,990 (Driveaway)

8.8L/100km

Unrated.

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