By: Colin Windell
JOHANNESBURG - Perception and position are the two keywords that come to mind at the launch of the all-new Great Wall Motors (GWM) P-Series pickup – a hefty range consisting of 16 distinct variants.
Perception comes from the belief Chinese products are inferior. However, as the largest Chinese automaker and an exporter to many countries around the world where it has to comply with safety and quality specifications far more stringent than our own, this is not like a ‘Made in China’ item such as those infesting tourist souvenir shops.
The perception portion was also heightened by the announcement the day prior to the launch the old Steed bakkie had scored zero in the AASA/NCAP crash test ratings. This is not the place to discuss those results but just to say the new P-Series represents a quantum leap upwards in safety standards.
Position plays it role in how GWM, through local operation, Haval Motors South Africa, has pitched the product – dividing it into two groups, Commercial and Passenger, even giving them different front grille designs.
The Double cab is available in both versions, but single cab is available only as a commercial version. There are also both manual and automatic transmissions available in all versions except the single cabs, which utilise manual transmissions.
The entire range of P-Series bakkies has high levels of safety, more safety than any previous GWM pick up.
Crash bags feature on all models and vary from two on base models up to seven in the top specification, while vehicle stability and traction control is standard across the range as well as hill hold assist.
Park distance control is standard on all models and, moving upward in the range it changes from reverse camera to a full 360 view in the flagship.
The all-new P Series uses an Armour system body design as well as a high strength ladder frame, which together create improved torsional and bending stiffness.
Convenience and value-added items are also in abundance in the form of a damped rear tailgate, an exclusive rear step that integrates into the tailgate, a standard plastic bed liner, and a standard roll bar on certain models.
4X4 derivatives of the P Series are capable off-roaders featuring 232mm of ground clearance as well as an entry angle and exit angle of 27 degrees and 25 degrees respectively. Borg Warner takes care of the TOD Intelligent all-wheel-drive system featuring 2H, Auto and 4L modes and various Off-road modes.
The P-Series offers just one engine choice, a 2.0-litre turbodiesel that delivers 120kW and 400Nm of torque. This product marks the first time that GWM will introduce auto transmission on a pickup and this being the ZF 8 Speed Auto gearbox.
SO WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Single Cab Manual – SX 4x4 MT
In keeping with modern design trends for light commercial vehicles, the P-Series is bigger than ‘traditional’ bakkies with dimensions similar to its opposition counterparts such as Isuzu D-Max, Hilux and Ranger.
First impressions on the road with the workhorse 4x4 variant reveal a well-appointed cabin with quality plastic finishes and seats supportive and comfortable enough to make long hours in the ‘office’ a whole lot more pleasurable.
Standard fare includes hydraulic power steering, adjustable steering column, steering wheel controls, 3.5-inch instrument cluster, two USB ports, 12-volt power socket and cruise control among them. For safety, there are dual crash bags, anti-lock braking, traction control and hill start assist on that list.
Putting it through a 4x4 obstacle course showed it had plenty of ability to master the course with little effort, so can be used by corporates operating in rural environments. Out of on the road, especially dirt roads, the only complaint is it is, perhaps, a touch too rigid and stiff.
However, these were all brand new very low mileage so the leaf spring rigid axle rear suspension probably needs a bit of driving to loosen it up to the ‘sweet spot’. Front suspension is via a double-wishbone arrangement and this follows through on the full range.
The vehicle was unladen, so that might change with a full load on the back. In terms of the engine, the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel provides ample power in the middle and upper reaches of the rev range, lacking a little under 2000rpm.
Passenger LT 4x4 8AT
GWM has chosen, with the Passenger automatics to make them all-wheel-drive with a full low range selector.
These units are gifted a ZF gearbox and this is a stunning piece of equipment – although paddle shifters are offered for manual changes, I found the gearbox was more than up to the task of selecting the right ratio at the right time.
The only time manual becomes necessary is negotiating extreme obstacles, when it ideal to pre-select and/or hold a specific gear. On this front, the camera system fitted to the flagship rivals vehicles costing more than R1-million and the driver can switch front view to rear view, 360-degree view or front-wheel view depending on the need at the time.
The vehicle uses a mechanical centre differential that operates automatically – and the clunk as it engages or disengages can be a touch disconcerting if not pre-warned. In real time, this is extremely efficient, ensuring the vehicles has the best possible traction at all times and eliminating the need to switch from one level of control to another.
Riding on 18-inch tyres (compare to the 17-inch on the Commercial), the flagship gains a 7-inch display inside as well the entire bag of ‘goodies’ including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keeping control and lane centre keeping control, forward collision warning an auto braking, traffic sign recognition and wireless charging.
Equally adept at defeating off-road obstacles as its Commercial counterpart, the luxury flagship is fully geared to a leisure lifestyle with all the fixtures and fittings anyone is likely to need.
In China, GWM has held a market share of between 24% and 31% since 2010, but since the P-Series launch late in 2019, that figure jumped to 42% and then again to 54% in 2020 – more than double its closest rival.
In South Africa more than 50 000 GWM bakkies have been sold since 2007 with a market share of around 2% annually.
GWM P-SERIES PRICES
Single Cab 2.0 TD Commercial
SX 4X2 6MT - R339 900
SX 4X4 6MT - R384 900
DLX 4X2 6MT - R359 900
DLX 4X4 6MT - R404 900
Double Cab 2.0 TD Commercial
SX 4X2 6MT - R369 900
SX 4X2 8AT - R404 900
SX 4X4 6MT - R414 900
SX 4X4 8AT - R449 900
DLX 4X2 6MT - R389 900
DLX 4X2 8AT - R424 900
DLX 4X4 6MT - R434 900
DLX 4X4 8AT - R469 900
Double Cab 2.0 TD Passenger Version
LS 4X2 8AT - R434 900
LS 4X4 8AT - R479 900
LT 4X2 8AT - R499 900
LT 4X4 8AT - R544 900
All models are sold with a five-year/100 000km warranty and five-year/100 000km service plan, as well as five-year/unlimited mileage AA roadside assistance.