The Hummer’s chief engineer, Al Oppenheiser, sees a lot of trucks on his commute from the northern suburbs of Detroit. To get pickup buyers out of their trucks and into an EV, Oppenheiser knew that the new GMC Hummer EV needed to knock the socks off its would-be buyers. It would take a standout design and lights-out performance to convince folks who commute in V-8–powered pickups that an electric can be fun and something exciting. Fortunately, Oppenheiser knows about lights-out performance. He’s the engineer behind the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE.
We briefly drove his latest creation: a 9000-plus-pound, 1000-hp, three-motor, removable-roof pickup. Even without strapping our test gear to it, we’re pretty sure he nailed the performance part. We weren’t allowed to sample the Watts to Freedom (WTF) launch-control mode—a name that deserves the eye roll you just gave it—from the driver’s seat. But we were able to experience it from the passenger seat. Just before feeling said WTF moment, we watched as another Hummer EV roasted its tires. GMC says it’ll take this Edition 1 pickup three seconds to reach 60 mph. Activating WTF vibrates the driver’s seat, a sort of warning of what’s to come. The Hummer can take its time preparing itself—upward of 18 seconds. The air springs slam the body to the ground, and the battery and electronics find their optimum temperatures. The Goodyear Wrangler tires are R-rated, which means they are good for up to 106 mph, a speed the Hummer should hit long before it crosses the line in a quarter-mile pass.
Launch control is just one of many parlor tricks the Hummer has to wow its buyers. Lesser models not optioned to 3M-24 spec—for three motor, 24-module Ultium battery—will have the highest tow rating, though Oppenheiser confirms that all models will be able to tow most weekend-warrior needs. Think wakeboard boat, or race-car trailer.
The second trick, which is bordering on YouTube infamy, is Crabwalk. Made possible by a system capable of turning the rear wheels 10 degrees, the crustacean dance is a side benefit to something even better. Provided you keep speeds below 15 mph, Crabwalk will turn the rear wheels in phase with the front wheels. Go faster than 15 mph and it’ll gently return the rear wheels to straight ahead. Normally when you see a GMC crabbing down the road, it’s been crashed, and Crabwalk is definitely more of a trick than actually useful.
GMC had to cook up a situation to show off the usefulness, so they parked a Hummer into a space blocked by the cars next to it and then placed an angled Jersey barrier behind it. Crabwalk to the rescue in that situation, but considering there are 18 views from numerous cameras including two on the underbelly, we think most competent drivers will be able to put a Hummer anywhere it’ll fit. If not, going over the obstacle is certainly an option. Extract mode increases ground clearance to 15.9 inches, giving the 35-inch-tired Hummer the ability to climb over vertical obstacles greater than 18 inches.
As you’d expect of something weighing 9000 pounds, these pickups are big. They aren’t longer than a one-ton truck, but wider. And the flat A-pillar-to-A-pillar instrument panel makes it feel massive. Rear steer, however, helps it seem much smaller. Without the system, the SUT’s 37-foot turning circle would grow by more than seven feet (about the width of the pickup). And rear steer behaves differently in different modes. In Terrain mode, for example, the rear wheels will get to their steering limit quicker, making the Hummer maneuver more like a forklift. This flexibility is critical for the pickup because GMC intends to have people go off-road in these, and when you’re facing a two-track that was bushwhacked by a 12.9-inch-narrower Jeep Wrangler, every bit of maneuverability counts. Also, parking lots.
Five skidplates protect the underbody from trail damage. The giant, 200.0-kWh battery is a stressed member of the chassis, which is a sort of hybrid between body-on-frame and unibody; there is a frame and a body, but they aren’t isolated in the usual body-on-frame manner. Half-shafts are massive ball-spline units, necessary when an independent suspension with more than nine inches of travel is paired with three motors with the combined twist of 1200 pound-feet of torque. With two motors acting on the rear axle, no differential is necessary, but programming can virtually lock the axle so the motors turn each side at the same speed. Up front there is a locking diff for the third motor.
Inside there are only a few touches—window switchgear, seat adjusters—that are shared with other GM products. The center stack has buttons unique to the Hummer. GMC would love it if we said the truck drove smaller, but much like the original and very wide H1, it’s impossible to completely mask the size. Our on-road drive was limited, but we found a truck that went down the road with the purpose and confidence born of its mass and power. Not many corrections are required to keep it in a highway lane, and not a lot of feedback comes through the steering wheel when you have to turn. But we weren’t expecting much in terms of communication from the 305/70R-18 mud-terrain Goodyears. The ride, however, is downright sublime. Adaptive dampers and air springs bridle the mass with authoritative control.
Oppenheiser fitted his creation with standard Super Cruise, GM’s hands-free highway tech. The Hummer gets the latest version, which works on more than 200,000 miles of roads and will make automatic lane changes to allow you to passively pass traffic.
GMC’s Edition 1 trucks are set to be delivered by the end of the year and will carry a price tag of $112,595 and a 350-mile range. If you haven’t already reserved one, you’re too late for the first year of production. The good news is that next year, an 830-hp lower-spec version will be available. Wait a little longer, until 2023, and there will be even lower-spec pickups and an SUV. Initial impressions are on the “wow” side of the spectrum, and we think the buyers this machine is seeking will be deeply wowed.
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