GWM Ute: China’s HiLux gets hardcore treatment

China’s leading 4×4 specialist Yunliang is working directly with GWM (Great Wall Motor) to produce this, the ‘Black Bullet’ edition – and there’s a lot more to it than just the styling add-ons.

Yunliang, run by its namesake who has spent the past 15 years or so building a business and a community of off-roaders in China, is that country’s biggest importer and distributor of leading brands like Australia’s own 4×4 accessory giant ARB.

Our exclusive reveal of the Yunliang 4×4 GWM Cannon ute comes hot on the heels of the Yunliang 4×4 Tank 300 limited edition – all 300 of which sold via social media in just three minutes.

Similar to the Yunliang 4×4 Tank 300, the Black Bullet has been set up with a custom look, specific accessories, and a dedicated marketing plan aimed solely at serious off-roaders.

This is a rapidly growing lifestyle in China and all across Asia.

While there’s no plan right now for this particular iteration of the GWM ute to come to Australia, it certainly demonstrates how future hardcore versions of China’s Ranger and HiLux might appear.

The regular GWM Ute is selling in strong numbers here thanks in part to keen pricing and available stock.

The story of the Black Bullet concept actually dates to 2019. At that year’s Beijing Auto Show, the two companies put together a customised ‘off-road’ GWM Cannon that drew so much local and international attention it led to the formulation of the Black Bullet concept.

It’s taken two years, but the partnership has proven it’s worth, and the Black Bullet Cannon is being launched in China on September 28.

Set to sell for the equivalent of $49,000 to $53,000 in that market, the modified model pictured is a pre-production example of what will be offered. But there are already orders for 400 units and GWM is confident of more after the vehicle’s official launch.

What do you get?

Many of the accessories have been designed in-house by Yunliang and his team, manufactured under his own brand ‘Mark Road’ and donning the moniker MR.

These include the double-coloured rock lights on the sides of the bull bar, the bull bar itself, a rear bar/step and the snorkel.

For off-road insurance a 12,000lb Warn winch has been shoehorned in behind the MR bull bar, and to maintain traction the aftermarket offset rims are fitted with BFGoodrich 285/70R17 KO2 all-terrain tyres.

A two-inch lift is achieved through an ATLAS adjustable nitro-charged suspension setup and a widened wheel track provides a more muscular look and better stability and handling on- and off- road.

Extended upper and lower control arms push the front wheels outwards and whilst we don’t know the exact details (yet), the rear has been widened to match.

As a bonus and to maximise cross-differential traction, the Black Bullet also sports the same Eaton differential lockers as the options available for Haval 3 and 5.

Rugged side steps have been added to protect the sills and act as rock sliders, flared guards extend to cover the widened wheel track, and front and rear recovery points are presented in the signature red highlight colour.

The rear roll bar makes a statement on design and flamboyancy with large wind-swept shapes with red inserts adorning each side. We are yet to resolve what they actually do but they do seem to be for some type of storage.

Whilst the outside looks modern, tough and ready for anything, the inside gets a range of stylistic improvements as well.

The upholstery has been customised for a new look and feel, featuring bolder colouring and a blazing red mountain emblem that’s replicated on the dash. A strong colour theme gives the interior a fresh look and contrasts the detail and styling on the outside.

With bright red highlights sharply contrasting the deep black, the vehicle overall is to my eyes an appealing blend of style, functionality and statement.

Clearly someone with a flair for design has put some thought and effort into making the vehicle and its matching accessories look different, and at a time when we seem to see more and more of the same, the Black Bullet for want of better term looks like it is licensed to kill.

So what is missing? In line with Asian themes, towing is not a consideration and Australians have a mad fascination with towing all sorts of things from boats to caravans and toy haulers to work trailers.

We need towing and load carrying specs and ability, and we are yet to see this information in regards to either the Yunliang Tank 300 or the Black Bullet.

Next would be power and torque figures with some attention to tuning and performance (how else are you going to haul those massive loads all over the countryside?).

Bigger picture

Love it or hate it, the Black Bullet is a wake-up call for other manufacturers to take the off-road community, market and consumers far more seriously.

Pricing, marketing, collaborations and accessorising are now squarely on the table as achievable points of difference with comparative and competitive perspectives.

The message from GWM is clear: it is making a bold assault on the off-road and SUV industry. As its standards climb and offerings, pricing and willingness to target the enthusiast evolve, it will become an ever-more serious threat to some of the established players on the field.

Either way more options, improved value for money and better manufacturing standards create a win/win situation for consumers and that is what we really care about.

And if you read between the lines of all that, the simple message to take from the Black Bullet is to give the consumers what they want and not what the manufacturers think they want.

Will we see the Black Bullet here in Australia? All we can say at this point, is that it has been offered for private distribution and we will wait to see how that pans out.

Maybe GWM Australia’s factory backed operation will follow the bold stance of its head office and do it themselves. We are certain that a limited edition of “Aussie Outback ready” Black Bullets would sell. What do you think?

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