2022 GMC Hummer EV First Drive Review: That’s What I’m Talking About
I am an outspoken person. Have been my whole life. And I’ve been (sometimes too) vocal in my criticisms of automakers, particularly General Motors after it mishandled the Volt and Bolt, two forward-thinking cars that suffered from bewildering packaging, odd styling, and little marketing. But after a day in the 2022 GMC Hummer EV, I’m willing to say I was too hard on Detroit’s biggest automaker.
The Hummer EV is a watershed moment for GM, and one I hope previews the success of all its future BEVs. That’s not to say this is a perfect vehicle, but its issues are mostly endemic to modern pickup trucks rather than unique to the Hummer EV. Where it counts – performance, charging, capability, technology, and safety – the Hummer is a tour de force that should, like the Porsche Taycan and Ford Mustang Mach-E, initiate an entirely new host of consumers to the electric movement.
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Gallery: 2022 GMC Hummer EV: First Drive
Straight To The Moon
Throughout my day with the Hummer EV, I heard about how it was “a moonshot” effort that saw GM cast aside the usual auto-industry bureaucracy to shorten the time from conception to production. It’s easy to dismiss this as standard-issue storytelling that PR folks spout on any launch, but consider this: we only heard about an electric Hummer in June 2019, it debuted in October 2020, and GM’s internal “day one” goal was September 2021.
A two-year gestation for a mid-cycle update or even a cautious redesign of an existing product is tight. But to craft a clean-sheet design, riding atop a bespoke platform, carrying cutting-edge batteries and a three-motor layout, laden with an entirely new infotainment suite, and packing the best active safety system in GM’s arsenal during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic/supply chain disruption? “Moonshot” feels pretty damn appropriate.
Let me repeat that: 1,000 hp and 1,200 lb-ft. But you need numbers that stupid to adequately motivate a vehicle that weighs 9,000 pounds.
Now sure, you can apply an asterisk to that feat, considering the only Hummer EV GMC is currently delivering costs $112,000 and volume-oriented trims are still years away. But even if you view the sold-out Hummer EV Edition 1 I drove as a mere proof of concept ahead of more affordable, accessible trucks (and SUVs), it’s epic.
Three electric motors – one on the front axle and two aft – produce a combined 1,000 horsepower and 1,200 pound-feet of torque. Let me repeat that: 1,000 hp and 1,200 lb-ft. But you need numbers that stupid to adequately motivate a vehicle that weighs 9,000 pounds.
Despite that immense heft, the Hummer EV is properly quick. Punch the accelerator and weight transfers rearward with all the subtlety of, well, a Hummer EV. The nose rises and G forces push your body into the plush leather seat as speeds climb with little letup until you’re well past the limit of any American highway. This thing leaves every other pickup, save the Rivian R1T and maybe the Ram TRX, in its dust – but to get the full-fat experience, you need a Watts To Freedom, GMC’s name for the Hummer’s launch control system.
Now look, giving a drive mode the acronym “WTF” is pretty damn cheesy; the effect is anything but, helping this mammoth EV to 60 miles per hour in around 3.0 seconds. Simply tap the traction control button twice and confirm WTF mode with the push of a button on the steering wheel. Aside from the fun sound effects and graphics, it’s standard launch control stuff as the air suspension lowers for a more aerodynamic (ha!) stance and the powertrains internals brace for the coming storm.
Left foot hard down on the brake, then right foot hard down on the accelerator, wait for the okay on the digital instrument cluster, then lift off and zoom away with neck-snapping acceleration and a screech of pain from the 35-inch MT rubber. Check out our Instagram reel to see exactly what that looks and sounds like:
Admittedly, WTF is a gimmick like any other launch control system. It’s too cumbersome to engage for stoplight duals (not that I condone such things), but my bigger concern is managing the momentum of a 9,000-pound brick that’s this powerful. The suspension is squishy soft, the mud-terrain tires dislike pavement, and the brakes rely on modest 14.0-inch discs. The laws of physics are unforgiving and, at times, the Hummer EV feels perilously close to breaking them.
Making this performance possible is Ultium. Yeah, it sounds like the name of a Marvel villain, but the battery technology underpinning all of GM’s future EV efforts is a blockbuster worthy of the MCU. But it also highlights a different approach from GM’s chief domestic rival, Ford. While the Blue Oval is sticking with 400-volt electrical architectures on things like the F-150 Lightning and Mach-E, Ultium-powered vehicles will carry a more advanced 800-volt-capable architecture. This allows shocking (sorry) DC charging speeds, with the Hummer EV filling its battery pack in a flash (I promise, I’ll stop).
At a 350-kilowatt DC charger, the Hummer EV’s 200-plus-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack can recoup 100 miles of range in about 12 minutes, while charging from 20 to 80 percent takes 42 minutes at an average of 175 kilowatts. A 150-kilowatt charger doubles those times: 24 minutes for 100 miles and 84 to get to 80 percent.
Things are less rosy at home, mainly due to the Hummer EV’s huge battery pack. If you’re fortunate enough to have a 240-volt charger and a 60-amp circuit, the Hummer EV can go from 20 to 100 percent charge in 16.5 hours. But if you’re like me and your EV charger lives on a 40-amp circuit, account for a full day to go from 20 to 100 percent.
That said, I doubt most consumers will regularly eat through their Hummer’s 329-mile range before plugging in at home. Critics will rightly decry a sub-400-mile range figure from a vehicle with such a huge battery, as the Rivian R1T covers 314 miles on a 135-kWh pack, while the F-150 Lightning will do up to 320 miles on a mere 131-kWh unit. Bottom line? A 2,900-pound battery pack in a 9,000-pound vehicle is not a recipe for efficiency.
While my time with the Hummer EV shouldn’t be indicative of its everyday performance, I must note that my co-driver and I almost depleted my battery in far less than 329 miles. At one point, I shut off the AC hoping to eke out extra miles so the folks that handled charging after my test could make it to the station. I was screaming for an Eco driving mode at that point.
Big Is Back (For Better Or Worse)
The Hummer EV’s weight might explain why GMC limited my on-road time to a roughly hour-long, highway-heavy commute from a hotel in Paradise Valley, Arizona to Boulders Trail, a desert ORV course. Yep, no twisty roads on this one. Still, the trip to Boulders revealed a few things about how the Hummer EV behaves in the real world.
The ride quality is sublime. Plush and able to cope with pretty much any surface imperfection you could reasonably expect on a public road. The Hummer also exhibits impressive high-speed stability. The steering is weighty on center, requiring few course corrections when going down the road.
Throughout the highway drive, the Hummer EV’s width was a constant concern.
The brake pedal is soft and there’s a fair amount of travel, but the predictable initial bite gives way to easy modulation. Notably, the grabby behavior that characterizes regenerative brakes is absent. If you’d rather avoid the brake pedal entirely, there are three different avenues available: a one-pedal drive mode in the infotainment, the L setting on the gear lever, or on-demand regen via a wheel-mounted paddle.
Throughout the highway drive, the Hummer EV’s width was a constant concern. At 86.7 inches from wheel arch to wheel arch and cursed with a long, flat hood, it’s harder to place on the road than a Ford F-150 Raptor or Ram TRX, which are similarly broad but boast better forward sightlines. Something like the Ford Bronco’s trail sights would be a welcome addition. Moreover, the Hummer’s side mirrors are both too close to the body and too small, so I never got comfortable with my lane position.
The latest version of GM’s SuperCruise driver assist technology helps on long commutes, managing the hefty Hummer and even changing lanes automatically as needed, but I’d hesitate to take the Hummer EV on lengthy road trips. The mud-terrain tires produce huge amounts of road noise (and there’s no gas engine to cover it up, like on a Raptor or TRX), and the removable roof panels, while good for open-air fun, create a lot of wind noise at highway speeds. They’re also barely tinted, which turns the Hummer’s cabin into a microwave if you live somewhere like Arizona.
The sun was particularly rough on the trail, although the rest of the Hummer EV package felt right at home thanks in large part to its secret weapon. By turning the rear wheels up to 10 degrees, this 18-foot-long, 9,000-pound supertruck has a turning circle of just 38 feet, or two feet more than the petite Chevy Sonic. This freakish low-speed agility doesn’t make picking out the Hummer EV’s corners any easier, but it does provide some peace of mind in tight situations.
Four-wheel steering is as effective off-road and I’m not just talking about the nifty Crabwalk function that allows the Hummer EV to skitter semi-perpendicular to the road like a, well, crab. That’s neat, but it has limited applications aside from showing off or extricating yourself from situations you never should have gotten into in the first place. No, four-wheel steer comes into its own when you just leave well enough alone and let it work.
This 18-foot-long, 9,000-pound supertruck has a turning circle of just 38 feet, or two feet more than the petite Chevy Sonic.
How it works depends on the drive mode. The Hummer EV has five, including a configurable My Mode, but only three impact the rear-to-front steering angle: Normal, Off-Road, and Terrain. If you’re looking at those drive mode names and wondering what the hell the difference between Off-Road and Terrain is, congrats, you’re not alone.
It took multiple attempts to climb up a boulder-strewn hill – one my colleagues managed in a single go – using the wrong drive mode to get a clarification from the GMC engineers. Off-Road is equivalent to the high-speed, soft-surface modes you’ll find in a Raptor, TRX, Ford Bronco, or Jeep Wrangler, like Mud/Ruts or Sand. Terrain, meanwhile, is equivalent to a rock crawl setting. What was wrong with just calling them Mud/Ruts and Rock Crawl? I don’t know, ask the marketing wizards. But if an over-the-air update changes the names in the near future, it’s probably because I’m easily confused.
In the Hummer EV’s default Normal mode, the rear axle turns 0.3 degrees for every 1.0 degree of front input, while Off-Road moves to 0.6 to 1.0 and Terrain goes wild with a 1.2:1-degree ratio. Grab Off-Road and the Hummer is noticeably nimbler. Terrain, though, is a revelation, with the rear-axle steering unlocking on-demand and ultra-controllable low-speed oversteer that makes this 9,000-pound truck feel like a coked-up billy goat in the rough stuff.
It takes just a turn of the wheel and light throttle to swing the tail out, allowing a quicker pace on the kind of rock-covered paths I was traversing. The rear-steer system also opens up the Hummer EV and its 135.6-inch wheelbase to the kind of switchbacks that a Raptor or TRX driver would need a guide and a four-point turn to navigate. And while GMC distinguishes Off-Road and Terrain as high and low-speed respectively, the lack of a conventional low-range gearbox means there’s nothing stopping you from conquering any surface with the more aggressive steering setup – the Hummer EV is just as quick in either setting.
Four-wheel steering is a key tool in the Hummer’s off-road toolbox, but it’s far from the only one. Equally valuable is the Edition 1’s standard suite of 18 cameras, all there to keep that precious boxy bod straight. There are the usual views – front, rear, bed, tow hitch, and under-mirror – for navigating both on- and off-road environments, but the Hummer EV goes further.
Two underbody cameras, called “UltraVision,” let drivers peek beneath the truck while on the move, aiding guidance over taller obstacles that might be too much for the 25.4-degree breakover angle. But even when I wasn’t under threat from those kinds of rocky outcroppings, I left this camera mode engaged to monitor the inside shoulders of the tires and adjust my line.
The four-corner air suspension can adjust the ride height over a span of 13 inches, with an off-road height and an Extraction setting (coming soon via OTA) for maximum clearance. And because the ride height adjusts automatically when parked, even short-of-stature drivers should be able to haul themselves up into the driver’s seat. Weirdly, though, the higher ride height only activates automatically in Terrain mode.
For tricky bits, there’s an electronic locking differential up front and a “virtual” locker on the back axle. The former allows up to 100 percent of the Hummer’s 1,200 lb-ft of torque to either of the front wheels, while the latter uses the two rear-mounted motors to simulate a traditional locking diff. I struggled to feel either system working, though. That’s not a condemnation – the Hummer EV is just so damn capable that only an extreme obstacle requires all its tricks (provided you’re in the right drive mode).
Software And Hard Wear
Over a decade separates the last Hummer sold, an H3 destined for rental duty, and the new GMC Hummer EV, and while the powertrain revolution captures the most headlines, there’s something just as exciting happening in the cabin. With no prior basis for a brand-specific infotainment system, GMC started from scratch for the Hummer EV and crafted the finest tech suite in the GM stable, save maybe the Cadillac Escalade.
Powered by the same Unreal Engine that underpins blockbuster video games like Final Fantasy VII Remake, Life Is Strange, and Fortnite, and based on an Android-operating system, the Hummer EV’s infotainment lives on a 13.4-inch centrally mounted touchscreen and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.
The touchscreen takes quite a bit of inspiration from Porsche and Lexus, with reconfigurable tiles on the left edge of the screen allowing quick access to different sections of the infotainment. The digital cluster, meanwhile, borrows mostly from Mercedes, with a few possible layouts and the ability to swap data sets on the left and right sides of the display via the steering-wheel-mounted buttons. Functionally, it’s all par for the course – super responsive, easy to figure out, and packed to the gills with available data and features.
Graphics set the Hummer apart, though. I’d go as far as saying I haven’t encountered a car on the market with such a beautiful presentation. Open the door and climb behind the wheel – the center display greets you with a downward shot of a Hummer streaking across a dark moonscape in a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie. That moon theme continues throughout, with lunar-specific styles for the center display. The screens when changing drive modes or activating WTF are beautiful, too. But the rest of the cabin is more of a mixed bag, hamstrung by GM penny-pinching despite the six-figure price tag.
The Edition 1’s gorgeous gold-hued accents and climate vents, which look so, so lovely in pictures, are nothing but hard plastic. The window switches (auto-down only, by the way) and switchgear, including the buttons on the steering wheel, are from the corporate parts bin. The climate controls are begging for a more inspired material than flimsy, piano-black plastic. Still, I like the Hummer EV’s use of color and texture, with the aforementioned gold contrasting with liberal splashes of white and the business-as-usual black. I just wish the material quality matched the Hummer’s six-figure price tag. And yes, there are easter eggs.
Only The Beginning
There’s a temptation to look at the GMC Hummer EV as little more than an extravagance. I get it. But these kinds of EVs – the excessive, high-performance halos – are what will drive the average consumer away from gas, even if the last thing American roads need is another oversized, 9,000-pound pickup with awful visibility. This truck demonstrates that going electric doesn’t mean giving up what you love about a specific kind of vehicle.
The early signs for the Hummer are positive, both in terms of how it drives and the sizable number of hand-raisers, but the onus is now on GM and its four brands to keep this promising start going with new products that can latch onto this GMC’s rising star. If those future products, be they the Cadillac Lyriq, Chevrolet Silverado EV, or something else entirely are even half as good as the Hummer EV… well, this won’t be the last review I open with an apology.
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