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GWM Ute Cannon takes aim at Ford Ranger Raptor, Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain, Nissan Navara Warrior and Toyota HiLux Rugged X utes as butched-up, off-road-focussed Black Bullet flagship pick-up edges closer to production

Ready... aim... fire! The Cannon ute-based Ford Ranger Raptor rival is likely to take cues from the 2020 Black Bullet Concept.

Great Wall Motors (GWM) is working on a Ford Ranger Raptor-rivalling version of its newly-released Cannon pick-up truck range, promising more aggressive styling, greater off-road capability, a more luxurious interior treatment and upgraded technologies inside and underneath.

While no specific release timeline has been revealed, it is understood that a development of the 2020 Black Bullet Overlanding Concept first shown at the 2020 Beijing Auto Show last September is the basis for the Chinese brand’s flagship ute, and would sit above the recently-released Cannon-X Dual Cab that’s currently priced from $40,990-drive-away.

According to GWM Australia head of marketing and communications, Steve Maciver, the fledgling brand is well aware of the growing appetite for a more powerful and rugged ute range-topper and is eager to satiate the demand.

"There might be opportunities beyond (Cannon-X),” he told CarsGuide in Melbourne earlier this week. “It's going to have to come down to the right product.

“Head office has already shown a more extreme version of the Cannon ute unveiled at Beijing last year, and that's something we would look at; it's not something that's available yet for our market, but if we could get it, we'll absolutely have a look at it.”

Though unlikely to be quite as over-the-top as the Black Bullet show truck with its carbon-fibre-look bonnet bulge, two-tier tray and suede-esque cabin upholstery, the production version might include the upgraded suspension, integrated bull bar with winch, knobbly off-road tyres, light bar, snorkel and contrasting trim accents.

Whether the final product will continue with the Cannon’s current 120kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, or develop a more powerful combination to take on the competition offering twin-turbo and V6 turbo-diesel powertrains isn’t known.

One concern that might be addressed with this flagship development is the boosting of the Cannon's braked towing capacity, from the current 3000kg to 3500kg, to match opponents such as the Ranger Wildtrak and Nissan Navara PRO-4X.

Mr Maciver added that the initial response to the Cannon has been extremely encouraging, particularly for the top-end ‘X’ grade, which has outstripped forecasts to be the best-selling variant.

"We've been very pleasantly surprised with the model mix we've (achieved with Cannon),” he revealed. “We expected the mid-grade Cannon-L (from $37,990 drive-away) to be closer to where the action is, but it's actually at the top end, which is great.

“The Cannon-X’s value equation really starts to stack up. People are coming in, they've got money to spend… and they see what they can get with us at $41K drive away and they say: ‘You know what, just give us that!’”.

Launched in January, the GWM Ute Cannon has already managed nearly 600 registrations despite limited production and subsequent supply constraints. The easing of the latter would almost certainly translate to even higher volume for the in-demand trucks.

“We could have moved more (Cannons),” Mr Maciver believes. “We had a couple of boats delayed in quarantine, and customer demand is higher than we had anticipated, so we've sold pretty much all of our supplies of Cannons we have coming in this month.

“The real demand is probably around 400 a month at the moment… and that’s a pretty good start.”

While the Ute and Cannon names are used in Australia, elsewhere it carries either the Great Wall Pao or GWM Poer branding – which is meant to evoke the sound of a firing canon.