GWM Cannon-XSR: Who left the bugs in?

2023 GWM Cannon XSR ute 6

What is it?

The Great Wall made an unchallenged impression on the landscape of China during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644).

Conversely, established as recently as 1984 (2009 in Australia), the titular motor manufacturer has played an impressive leading role in China becoming the largest exporter of motor vehicles in the world. 

With no let-up in sales of the Great Wall Motors four-door, five-seat 4×4 ute, a new range- topping variant  has landed Down Under in the form of the rugged Cannon-XSR. 

Taking the robust foundations of the GWM Ute dual cab platform, the new XSR adds a number of key features to boost off-road versatility and modern design.

These include a different four-wheel drive system plus extra off-road features designed to make it easier to take off the beaten track. 

2023 GWM Cannon XSR ute 7

What’s it cost?

GWM Cannon has its sights set on one of the most competitive segments in the automobile world.

Priced at $52,990 driveaway ($51,490 for ABN holders), at $6500 more than the former flagship Cannon Vanta, the XSR pits itself against the Nissan Navara SL Warrior automatic ($61,250 before on-road costs), Mazda BT-50 Thunder ($73,945), a base dual-cab 4×4 Ford Ranger or Toyota HiLux, or to a lesser extent, a top-spec version of a SsangYong Musso or LDV T60. A tough task.

Exterior upgrades befitting the Cannon-XSR’s range-topping status come in the form of a new front grille treatment, a sports bar which extends further down the side of the rear tub and the addition of a snorkel.

Red brake callipers add another design perspective unique to the flagship, while roof rail, side steps and tub liner are boosted by a pop-out step in the tailgate topping off the ‘kit bag’.

Front and rear bumpers are steel to add toughness to the XSR, while LED headlights and tail lights keep the Cannon in line with the latest in automotive lighting technology.

An important part in delivering an improved off-road experience is the combination of a new rugged 18-inch alloy wheel, finished in black, and mated to a 265/65 R18 Cooper All-Terrain tyre.

A 7.0-inch colour instrument cluster and 9.0-inch LCD touchscreen have their shortcomings, with difficulty accessing information and lack of satnav and digital radio.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are present, as is wireless charging, plus front and rear USB ports.

The audio quality in the test vehicle was a letdown and not the easiest system to manipulate.

The six-speaker sound was as scratchy as a Sixties tranny.

And with the 360-degree camera in action on the screen, the audio controls were neutralised, even the stand-alone volume knob on the dash.

Cannon XSR has earned a top five-star ANCAP rating at 2021 standards thanks to seven airbags (including front centre position).

Active safety systems include autonomous emergency braking and forward collision warning.

There’s lane departure warning, lane keep assist and lane centring.

Also on hand are adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors and 360-degree around view camera.

Like all GWM products, the new Cannon-XSR is backed by a 7-year unlimited kilometre warranty, five years roadside assistance and five years capped price servicing.

2023 GWM Cannon XSR ute 2

What’s it go like?

With room for five adults in relative comfort, the dual cab boasts heated leather-appointed seating with six-way power adjustable driver’s and four-way front passenger seat.

Leg and head room in the rear are good.

The ute’s rear seats also allow for some additional storage.

Backrests fold down, bases flip up leaving lockable boot-like capacity with protection from the weather.

The decor, with its abundance of understated soft surfaces presents far more luxurious surroundings than normally found in a working ute.

A sunroof is now also available. Making its Ute debut on the Cannon-XSR it opens up a rare link with Nature for driver and passengers.

The powertrain is the same as the rest of the GWM Ute range, with a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine mated to a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, serving up 120kW of power at 3600 rpm and maximum torque of 400Nm at an easily accessible 1500 rpm.

Considering the weight being carted, even with turbocharging, the performance of the ASR on road is little more than average.

Throttle and gearbox do their best with what’s on offer, which is far from the best in the segment.

The maker puts the fuel consumption at 9.4L/100km on the combined cycle.

The test vehicle regularly averaged well into double figures.

Tow rating is 3000kg braked, 750kg without stoppers.

To say the ride on the black top was rocky is an understatement, while steering was vague, even lackadaisical at the best of times.

And, if only the lane assist would go away.

Lane-keeping assist was over intrusive and rived the steering wheel left or right, apparently for little reason, even to a puzzled driver who was fully under control.   

On the upside, a new part-time 4WD system with selectable high and low 2WD and 4WD with front and rear locking differentials has been added to provide better control in tougher off-road conditions.

Crawl mode and turn assist by braking, unique to the Cannon-XSR, now make their debut on the GWM Ute.

A passive front stabiliser has been added to further enhance handling in the most extreme conditions while an underbody chassis guard and unique fender guards play their part in offering the best possible exterior protection.

2023 GWM Cannon XSR ute 9

What we like?

  • Five-star ANCAP rating
  • Leg and head room in the rear are good
  • A sunroof is now also available
  • 7-year unlimited kilometre warranty

2023 GWM Cannon XSR ute 3

What we don’t like?

  • Where do we start?
  • Poor ride
  • Average performance
  • Vague steering
  • Heavy fuel consumption
  • Lack of satnav and digital radio
  • Audio quality a letdown

2023 GWM Cannon XSR ute 5

The bottom line?

Delving into the test vehicle glovebox uncovered an owner’s manual for the Poer.

What? Turns out this is Chinese for Cannon.

Buyers could come across a few more quirks in this Chinese flagship. Compared to rivals it’s still a work in progress. 

2023 GWM Cannon XSR ute 1


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GWM Cannon XSR 4x4 dual cab utility, priced from $52,990 driveaway
  • Looks - 8/10
  • Performance - 6/10
  • Safety - 7/10
  • Thirst - 4/10
  • Practicality - 7/10
  • Comfort - 5/10
  • Tech - 7/10
  • Value - 7/10

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