The GMC Hummer EV pickup is an elephant in tennis shoes
MILFORD, Michigan – The GMC Hummer EV truck is big, bad, and surprisingly ballet.
The Detroit News had a rare opportunity behind the wheel of the mega-ute on General Motors’ 4,000-acre Milford Proving Grounds, where it showed off its bag of tricks. Reborn as an electric vehicle 30 years after taking to American roads as a military Humvee turned SUV, the next GMC Hummer aims to be the halo of the general for a new generation of electron cars.
A halo performance sensor? It’s true. The Hummer EV truck, expected to hit dealerships by the end of the year, is being produced at the automaker’s Zero plant at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly center. Overall, GM is investing $ 35 billion by 2025 in electric and autonomous technologies, and plans to have 30 electric vehicles globally during that time.
Brands have used super cars to showcase their best engineering, but the size of the battery (the Hummer reportedly weighs over 9,000 pounds) can inhibit sports cars compared to their lighter gasoline counterparts. Step into the electric super truck, which doesn’t take the extra weight – and even benefits from the battery placement between the frame side members to lower the center of gravity for better handling. Armed with three electric motors, 1,000 horsepower and advanced electronics, the 2022 First Edition model should come with a cape.
I smashed the throttle and the jaw of the Hummer EV shot up. Then it devoured a gravel and dirt road, distributing torque evenly between its four 35-inch off-road tires. Then this elephant in sneakers showed some circus tricks.
I spun the beast in a 37-foot circle – the equivalent of a much smaller Chevy Equinox – and then threw it through a tight slalom like a sedan.
Credit the all-wheel steering which can tilt the rear wheels up to 10 degrees. It’s reminiscent of Ford Bronco’s Trial Turn Assist, which brakes the inner front wheel to achieve similar results. Turn off the traction control and Hummer will make dirt donuts. Handling is aided by the Hummer’s independent rear suspension – new (the Ford F-150 Lightning EV has it too) among full-size trucks that prefer solid rear axles to maximize towing but sacrifice handling. Hummer’s priorities lie elsewhere.
If the original military Humvee was armored for battle, the Hummer EV is designed for the Outback.
Its extreme suspension travel allows the Elephant to raise its skirt to 16 inches off the ground (from a normal 10.5), as well as provide a ridiculous 50 inch approach angle to handle difficult terrain. . In Terrain mode, I used 18 camera views – two of them under the belly of the truck – to drill through a pile of rocks. From the 13.4-inch console screen, I monitored the views from the cameras above, below and beside the Hummer.
The inevitable slips on the rocks were cushioned by the sturdy frame rails and full armor of the truck’s underbody. Such a capability is familiar to other off-road trucks – Hummer sweetens the experience with instant electric torque at my right foot.
The pickups’ signature “CrabWalk” mode can be activated via the console’s rotary dial. The system steers the front and rear wheels at parallel angles, allowing me to escape sideways – like a crab – out of tight spots.
Some of Hummer’s EV compatriots – think the Rivian R1T pickup – put an engine on each wheel to spin like tanks. Hummer’s engineering team chose the more conventional route of mid-ship mounted electric motors.
“We did it for efficiency,” said chief engineer Al Oppenheiser, a power-savvy developer of the Chevy Camaro. “It’s easier to move torque between motors and it’s more affordable.”
Maximize torque to the three engines of the First Edition and you get GM’s “Watts to Freedom” acceleration to 60 mph in just three seconds. It’s on par with my Tesla Model 3 Electric Performance, which weighs half the weight of Hummer.
The Tesla also has, ahem, less than half the GMC’s 1,200 pound-feet of torque and 1,000 horsepower.
Prepare Watts for freedom by double-pressing the traction control button. The beast crouched down on all fours. The driver’s seat begins to vibrate (“Like a roller coaster ride,” smiles Oppenheiser). The vibration becomes stronger. Flatten the accelerator pedal on GM’s oval asphalt test track and the truck explodes forward – 60 mph passes in a blur.
Hummer’s development speed was almost as fast.
Clean leaf vehicles typically take four years to develop. Hummer EV took just over two, being developed in 117 weeks. Credit modern simulators and computer-aided design systems including a state-of-the-art Driver in the Loop simulator in Milford Building 144.
“We couldn’t have done it without these tools,” said Aaron Pfau, chief development engineer. “That gets us 95% where we need to be before a model hits the road.”
That speed to market – the first edition at $ 112,595 is expected to ship before the end of the year (standard models at $ 80,000 in the first quarter of 2022) – is guaranteed even with the semiconductor crisis that rampant in the production of industry.
“Our volume is protected,” Oppenheiser said. “For chips, seat foam, steel … whatever is affected by the pandemic.”
Not much seems to affect the Hummer on the road – the air suspension smoothes the ladder frame even at highway speeds. Like his predecessor, he’s intimidating – his broad shoulders and great height are reflected in famous spokesperson LeBron James. Get out of the way when Hummer wants to dunk.
Unlike its Spartan predecessor, the interior of the Hummer EV is a chic playroom. The materials are first-rate, the seats comfortable, the ergonomics well thought out. It is complemented by two giant screens: instrument (12.3 inches) and infotainment (13.4 inches). Both are handled by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3D rendering software – the same Epic Games behind PlayStation graphics and PC games like “Fortnite”.
My time in the pickup was brief and focused on performance. I could have stayed longer, exploring its interior options, large back seat, six-way Multi-Pro tailgate. And then I could have removed the roof panels and spent the night staring at the stars.
The panels can be stored in the trunk (front trunk), where the gasoline engine was located. It’s not your father’s Hummer.
Henry Payne is an auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him on hpaynedetroitnews.com or Twitter HenryEPayne.
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