The GMC Hummer EV truck is big, bad and surprisingly balletic.
Auto reporters got a rare opportunity behind the wheel of the mega-ute at General Motors' 4,000-acre proving grounds in Milford, Mich., where it showed off its bag of tricks.
Reborn as an electric vehicle 30 years after it invaded U.S. roads as a military-Humvee-turned-SUV, the upcoming GMC Hummer aims to be the General's halo for a new generation of electron-powered autos.
Weighing more than 9,000 pounds, it is armed with three electric motors, 1,000 horsepower and state-of-the-art electronics. The $112,595 First Edition model, expected to hit dealerships by year's end, should also come with a cape. (Standard $80,000 models are expected to be available in the first quarter of 2022.)
I mashed the accelerator, and the Hummer EV's jaw jutted upward. Then it devoured a gravel and dirt road, evenly distributing torque between its four 35-inch off-road tires. Then it showed off some tricks. I rotated this elephant in tennis shoes in a 37-foot circle — equivalent to a much smaller Chevy Equinox — then pitched it through a tight slalom like a sedan.
Credit all-wheel-steering that can angle rear wheels up to 10 degrees. Turn off Traction Control, and the Hummer will do dirt doughnuts. The maneuverability is assisted by the Hummer's independent rear suspension — a novelty among full-size trucks that prefer solid rear axles to maximize towing but sacrifice handling. The Hummer's priorities lie elsewhere.
If the original military Humvee was armored for battle, Hummer EV is built for the Outback.
Its extreme suspension travel allows it to hike itself 16 inches off the ground (from a normal 10.5), as well as providing a 50-inch approach angle to manage tough terrain. In Terrain mode, I utilized 18 camera views — two of them under the truck's belly — to pick through a rock pile. From the 13.4-inch console screen, I monitored camera views above, below and beside the Hummer.
Inevitable slips off rocks were cushioned by the truck's sturdy frame rails and full underbody armor. Such capability is familiar to other off-road trucks, but Hummer smooths the experience with instant electric torque.
The pickup's signature "CrabWalk" mode can be activated via the console's rotary dial. The system steers front and rear wheels at parallel angles, allowing it to escape sideways — crab-like — from tight spots.
Some of Hummer's EV compatriots put a motor at each wheel to do derring-do like tank turns. Hummer's engineering team chose the more conventional route of e-motors mounted amidships.
"We did it for efficiency," said chief engineer Al Oppenheiser. "It's easier to move torque between the motors, and it's more affordable."
Maximize torque to all three motors and the First Edition will get you to 60 miles per hour in just three seconds. That's on par with the electric Tesla Model 3 Performance, which weighs half as much.
Hummer's development speed was nearly as quick.
Clean-sheet vehicles usually take four years to develop. Hummer EV took just over two, being developed in 117 weeks. Credit modern simulators and computer-assisted design systems.
"We couldn't have done it without these tools," lead development engineer Aaron Pfau said. "It gets us 95% to where we need to be before a model hits the road."
Little would seem to affect the Hummer on the road; the air suspension smooths the ladder frame even at highway speeds. Like its predecessor, its broad shoulders and tall stance is intimidating.
Unlike its spartan predecessor, the Hummer EV's interior is a swank game room. Materials are first-rate, seats comfortable, ergonomics well thought out. It's capped by two huge screens: instrument (12.3 inches) and infotainment (13.4 inches). Both are run by Epic Games' 3-D rendering software — the same Epic Games behind PlayStation graphics and PC game hits like "Fortnite."
My time in the pickup was brief and performance-focused. I could have stayed longer, exploring its interior options, big back seat, six-way Multi-Pro tailgate. And then I could have removed the roof panels and spent the night star-gazing.
The panels can be stored in the frunk (front trunk), where the gas engine used to be. This isn't your father's Hummer.