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This Chinese Electric SUV Has Guns For Door Handles

Issuing time:2023-11-29 02:13Author:Ethan Robertson


What is it?

The car you drive doesn’t have to define you, but it can be used to make a statement. A car could project wealth, maturity, or a sense of adventure. So, what statement are you making when you drive something the M-Hero 917, a super-sized, super-powered, electric exercise in excess?

M-Hero is a sub-brand of China’s Dongfeng Motor, and this quasi-troop transport is currently their most expensive model, with prices range from 88,000-96,000 USD, before options.


Military Cosplay

The M-Hero 917 is military cosplay at its finest, a vehicle that looks like its purpose is invading other nations, when the closest it will get to a real conflict is intimidating someone out of a parking space at the mall. Even the color schemes, which are limited to matte grey, matte black, and matte green are clearly supposed to accentuate this menacing vibe.

A major key to this impression is the complete and utter lack of curves on the 917. The many, many body lines and creases look like they were carved with a kitchen knife. I don’t know for a fact that the 917 was designed by an all-male team, but I’ve ever seen a vehicle whose design seemed more devoid of feminine influence.

The 917 might not be as bulletproof as the styling would lead you to believe, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t capable. This is a serious off-road machine. But before we talk about diffs and breakover angles, let’s talk about powertrains. The 917 comes in both extended range and pure EV. Our test car was the former, and packed a turbocharged 1.5L four-cylinder to generate power for a 66-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and three electric motors, one on the front axle and two on the rear. Those motors then pump out 600 kW and 1050 Nm of torque and can thrust it to 100 km/h in 6 seconds flat.


I know, those numbers are ridiculous, and yet they pale in comparison to the pure EV model. It’s battery measures 143-KWh, and it has, not three, but four electric motors making 800 kW and 1,400 Nm of torque. Despite weighing 3,300 kg, or 7,300 lbs, it can get to 100 km/h in just 4.2 seconds. I swear to God, somewhere in the M-Hero offices is a huge banner that reads, “Overkill is Underrated.”

Now, back to off-road capability. The 917 comes standard with all-season tires, but you can option all-terrains and bead lock wheels. It’s body-on-frame, and has three locking diffs, kind of. This is an EV, so they aren’t mechanical lockers, they’re electronic, but the electric motors do allow for more precise application of torque to each wheel.

Approach, departure, and breakover angles are as high as 36.8, 37.5, and 27.9 degrees, respectively. Thanks to adjustable air suspension, maximum ground clearance is up to 32.6 cm, or about 13 inches, and both models can wade through up to 90cm, or about 36 inches of water.


Desert Eagles for door handles

How does one begin to describe the interior of the M-Hero 917? Well, the door handles are shaped like a Desert Eagle handgun. Said weapon is emblazoned with the phrase “never back down.” It gets even better, when you close them (sound of door closing) it makes a sound like a bullet being loaded into the chamber of a gun. Are you getting the idea yet?

That’s not the only part of this interior that seems to come from the fever dreams of a 13-year-old boy. These two handles on the center console are clearly inspired by aircraft throttles. The one on the right is used to change between five different off-road modes that alter the settings of the traction control and air suspension.


The one on the left is your transmission lever. The action of switching gears does feel quite satisfying in this configuration, but the real star is the gear indicator. Instead of a digital display, it’s actually a physical, rolling wheel that spins as you change gears. This is both the dumbest and greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

The 917 has about as many screens as we’ve come to expect from a Chinese EV, i.e., lots and lots. The 15.6-inch central screen is flanked by two 12.3-inch displays, an instrument cluster on the left, and a passenger screen on the right. There’s also a heads-up display and a digital rear-view mirror. If you watch our channel, you’ll know that’s pretty standard fare.   

So, instead let’s focus on something that isn’t. Below the center screen is a row of physical buttons that control everything from the 360 camera and automatic parking, to your off-road functions like front and rear electronic locking diffs, hill descent control, and so on. Somewhere around the middle of those buttons is the crab walk function. Yes, the 917 is equipped with rear steer, and can crab walk just like a Hummer EV. I’m not done. The 917 also has a quote “military grade” infrared night vision system as standard. The term “military grade” is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m sure that won’t keep 917 owners from using it incessantly.


Did I mention the drone package?

The 917 is an expensive vehicle before you start ticking option boxes. I’m not going to go through the whole options list, which includes things like the aforementioned bead lock wheels for 3,000 USD and a fake an exhaust simulator, complete with exterior speakers for 1,000 USD. What I would like to drill down is the most expensive option; the 14,000 USD drone package

That package includes a GDU S400 drone which you can command to take-off, land, and return to base using voice commands from inside the 917. For more complex maneuvers, you can control it via your phone, the remote control, or even the center screen of the 917. It can also carry up 3 kilograms, which I assume will be used to deliver a steady stream of creatine and energy drinks to M-Hero owners.


The 917 is ostensibly a luxury vehicle, so it needs luxury appointments. Leather seats with heating, cooling, and massaging are standard for both rows, as is a 16-speaker Dynaudio sound system from their Confidence series. Does this interior feel premium or upscale? It’s certainly very plush and comfortable. Let me put it this way, it’s at least as premium as a Hummer EV. Though, that might be damning with faint praise…

Fear not, for there are Desert Eagle door handles in the back as well. It’s shame you don’t open the door with the trigger, instead, you have to use a button on the door panel. Feels like a missed opportunity. Your heated, cooled, and massaging rear seats are all controlled via an 8-inch screen embedded in the center armrest. That screen also gives you command of the air conditioning, media, and rear sunroof. Speaking of commanding, the seating position feels tower-like, but thankfully you still have plenty of headroom. That height makes for great sight lines, but it also means loading things into the rear feels like some sort of CrossFit exercise. That rear cargo area isn’t very deep, but its sheer squareness means you can still fit a decent amount of stuff.


Pretty fast for a lifeguard tower

I’ll give this SUV one thing; getting behind the wheel of the M-Hero 917 feels like riding into battle, even if you’re just cruising down on the expressway. I said above that the seating position in the rear is commanding, but truth be told, every seat in the 917 is commanding. It’s so tall you feel like you’re in a lifeguard tower, nearly eye-to-eye with semi-truck drivers.

Unfortunately, lifeguard towers don’t make for efficient transport. The 66-kWh battery in the 917 only nets you a pure EV range of 200 km on China’s optimistic CLTC cycle. 200 km from a 66-kWh battery is cartoonishly inefficient, so it’s a good thing you have the range extender up front. If you factor that in, this thing can go a claimed 1026 km.

The EV, with its 143-kWh battery pack, is hardly any better, because its range is just 505 km. At least power isn’t an issue, even if the EREV only has 600 kW. Please believe me when I say that getting to 100 km/h in a car this huge in just 6 seconds is plenty stimulating.  

The 917 comes standard with a camera- and radar-based driver assistance system with adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assist. I’d expect lidar at this price point, but advanced driver assistance doesn’t really fit with the M-Hero branding, so I’ll let it slide.


Despite air ride and a double wishbone suspension front and rear this is not an especially comfortable vehicle. The ride feels harsh and floaty at the same time, and it has the type of vague, overboosted steering you would expect from a big 4x4. If you consider it in the context of road-biased premium SUVs, like the Mercedes GLE, there isn’t much to recommend about it. But if you take it in its proper context, which is highly capable 4x4s, it’s not that bad. It’s no Mercedes G-Wagen, but it’s at least comfortable as a Toyota Land Cruiser, while being far more luxurious inside and underneath. With the added advantage of rear steer, it’s also much more maneuverable than you would expect for a vehicle measuring almost 5m in length.

I know M-Hero’s parent company, Dongfeng Motor, knows how to make a decent air suspension, as evidenced by their other premium brand, Voyah. My guess is they decided off-road prowess was the priority in this case, not cushy comfort. It’s a shame I won’t be able to put that theory to the test by taking it off-road, but honestly, it really doesn’t matter. I sincerely doubt that very many people who buy a 917 will be doing so for its off-road prowess, instead, they’re going to buy it for the



The M-Hero 917 is an oddity, a car that manages to uses the latest and most efficient technology to be as inefficient as possible. Using it as a daily commuter feels about as necessary as wearing a bulletproof vest to play Call of Duty. It’s anti-social, and frankly bewildering. I suspect they’re going to sell as many as they can make.  

Article classification: Hybrids
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