China has discovered a new passion for utes of all shapes and sizes, with the country now responsible for pushing the dual-cab boundaries further than even Australia or the USA.
Don’t believe us? We’ve digitally toured the halls of the Chengdu motor show in China to pick our five favourite utes that will make the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger — and even the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150 — look positively old-school by comparison.
None are currently being offered in Australia, but that could soon change, with Great Wall and SAIC both represented in our market, which means nothing is off the table.
For now, though, join us as we get lost in the weird and wonderful world of Chinese utes.
Great Wall and Shelby Dragon Bullet
The Great Wall Shelby collaboration is real
What began as a whisper doing the automotive rounds — that Chinese ute maker Great Wall or GWM was partnering the American performance icon Shelby to create a mega ute that would take aim at vehicles like the Ford Ranger Raptor — has now been well and truly confirmed, with the Dragon Bullet, or Baja Snake, taking the stage in the Chengdu.
This collaboration focuses on upping the off-road credibility of the Great Wall Cannon, with a reinforced chassis, Fox off-road shocks, Toyo all-terrain rubber and twin spare tyres should something go badly wrong.
It’s also 63.5mm higher than the standard GWM Cannon, and serves up approach and departure angles of 33.2 degrees and 29.5 degrees, and like in the Everest edition, we’d expect to find three locking differentials, and a 4WD system has been upgraded to include manually switchable 2H, 4H and 4L functions.
Like the rest of the GWM ute range, you’d expect to find a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine good for 120kW of power and 400Nm.
The price? A sharp 300,000 yuan, or around $65,000 in our money.
Great Wall Denso Cannon EV
The Great Wall Denso EV
While we spend a lot of time pondering who will win the race to an electric — or even a diesel-hybrid — ute in Australia, that race has already been run and won in China, where the Great Wall Denso is just one of the EV utes on the market.
Powered by what the brand bills as the world’s first “coaxial integrated electronic drive axle”, the Denso gets an electric motor that produces 150kW 300Nm, while its on-board battery pack will deliver some 405km in driving range.
It’s available in two body sizes, 4362mm and 4602mm, with the latter offering more space in the tray. Speaking of which, both will carry close to a tonne.
Also impressive, Great Wall is promising the Denso will support L4 autonomy, which is hands-off, eyes-off driving in most, but not all, conditions. There’s also V2L and V2V tech on board, too, so you can drive it to your favourite campsite then use the remaining battery juice to power your stuff.
Yunliang ‘Black Bullet’ edition
The GWM Black Bullet
The Black Bullet began life as a concept car, but is now expected to officially go on sale, giving China a genuine answer to off-road heroes like the Ford Ranger Raptor.
Using a GWM Cannon as its base, the ute is then handed off to Chinese accessory specialists Yunliang, who get busy fitting it with just about every tough toy in its arsenal.
And we’re talking serious kit: at the front, there’s a bullbar that houses a 5.5-tonne recovery winch and external LEDs. There’s also a snorkel, new front and rear bumpers that better the approach and departure angles and BFGoodrich all-terrain tyres.
And that’s just outside. Under the skin you’ll find a wider stance that hides serious suspension changes, thanks to Atlas adaptable dampers that produce another 50mm in front lift, all of which is supported by new forged control arms. Finishing the deal are twin locking differentials.
In fact, the only real question mark is on the powertrain, with the Black Bullet sporting an unchanged version of the Cannon’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel, which means an unchanged 120kW of power and 400Nm of torque.
SAIC Niu Mowang
The SAIC Niu Mowang
Helped along by a crowd-funding campaign used to gauge interest in the model, the SAIC Niu Mowang is now expected to hit mass production, with the final version expected to debut at the Beijing show next year.
In the meantime, we have this concept version to scratch our itch, which paints a picture of what to expect, starting with SAIC’s 2.0-litre twin-turbo-diesel donk which pumps out an impressive 500Nm and pairs with a ZF automatic gearbox.
You also get roof-mounted LED lights, off-road rubber, a roll cage for when things get seriously hairy, winches, tow hooks, cargo boxes and more.
The body work is lined with anti-scratch strips to protect you from tree branches, and there’s increased ground clearance and tougher underbody protection, too.
Jiangling Yuhu 7 Fishing
Jiangling Yuhu 7 Fishing Jiangling Yuhu 7 Fishing
It’s called the Fishing Edition for a reason, but this Jiangling Yuhu 7 also doubles as what just might be the coolest camping truck of all time.
For one, you get bespoke storage for your fishing gear - including a place to put your live fish - as well as spotlights if night fishing is your thing.
If you’re tired of fishing, or just tired, you can climb to the roof of your truck, where you’ll find a tent, and there’s a fridge, an awning, a washing pool, a gas stove, a guest area and even roof-mounted solar panels to keep your car and equipment topped up.