- Mammoth electric Hummer tested
- Thrashed off-road in the USA
- Is this the world’s wildest EV?
‘I’ll be back.’
Turns out Arnie’s most iconic line even applies to one of his favourite cars. Yes, Hummer has returned for the electric age, meaning it now literally hums.
And the new car that wears the name is still as excessive as ever. Huge? Yes. Powerful? Very. Completely beyond almost everyone’s requirements for an EV? Absolutely.
Still, it would be remiss not to report on what it’s like behind the wheel. We’ve driven it off-road at GM’s enormous Milford Proving Ground near Detroit to see just how capable it is.
Holy moly – look at the size of it!
Large puts it mildly. It’s almost 500mm longer, around 150mm wider and 100mm taller than a full-size Range Rover – one of the biggest cars you can regularly buy in Europe. But that’s just the start of it: the Hummer EV weighs more than four tonnes, making it impossible to legally drive one in the UK with a regular driver’s licence.
And, despite being electric, it still very much looks like Hummers of old. It’s blocky, clean cut and manages to look even heavier than it is. The whole ‘grille’ arrangement glows, with neat H-shaped DRLs at each end that incorporate scrolling indicators in them, there are tow hooks everywhere and you can even lift out the roof panels (much like the hardtop roofs on a Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco). GM also says the Hummer EV can power devices from external outlet sockets, similar to Hyundai Motor Group’s V2L tech. Given the powertrain is under the floor, there’s also a ‘frunk’ for extra storage space to accompany the rear load area.
Inside, it’s bijoux luxury meets utilitarian charm with this First Edition model we’ve had some time in. The black and white two-tone seats and dashboard are accented with bronze metallic detailing, and all the controls feel thick and purposeful to use.
The centre of the dashboard is dominated by a large, bright and crystal clear display that’s so advanced that it shows high-frame-rate animations when you change through the Hummer’s various drive modes; Normal mode shows the Hummer driving on the surface of the Moon, Offroad mode shows it on Mars, while the Tow/Haul mode shows it towing the Saturn V rocket. There’s even a Watts to Freedom (and yes, that spells WTF) mode that allows the Hummer to deploy maximum torque.
Any technical specs you can lay out for me?
That weight and sheer girth largely comes down to the enormous battery pack under the blocky bodywork. The Hummer EV was the first car to deploy GM’s new Ultium battery-electric platform, and it’s the most extreme use case of the new toolkit that we’ll likely ever see. The battery pack is 24 modules large (essentially two layers of 12 stacked on top of each other, which partly explains why the Hummer EV is so tall), with one e-motor driving the front axle and an electric motor for each rear wheel. Given the Hummer is designed to go offroad, GM has also strengthened the underbody, givng the battery pack more protection.
General Motors’ electric plans: Ultium platform explained
GM says the Hummer’s good for 746kW of total power output (or 1000.4bhp in old school numbers) and a tectonic plate-shifting 11,500lb ft, meaning this four-tonne mammoth can keep up with the McLaren Artura and Porsche 911 GT3, with a 0-60mph sprint time of around three seconds. Yes, three.
On top of that, the Hummer has rear-wheel steering included, with 10º of lock being applied during turning to aid manoeuvrability. You can turn it off if you like, or even utilise one of the Hummer’s most unique features: Crab Walk. That bit of tech allows the Hummer to strafe from side to side, steering the rear wheels in the same direction. GM says it means this gigantic EV can practically side-step obstacles in off-road situations.
So how does the Hummer EV drive?
Before we get into it, we drove the Hummer purely offroad on one of the Milford Proving Ground’s off-road torture chambers, so our experience is relatively limited. But even so, our condensed drive showed us just how capable a machine it is.
First thing I do? Floor it. Even on a loose gravel surface, the Hummer EV catapults itself towards the horizon with startling vigour, complete with an entirely digital V8-like rumble as the speedo climbs. Nothing this large and heavy should be able to deploy such acceleration – it’s almost as if the Hummer has read the laws of physics and then chucked the book in the bin.
Then a corner comes up. Uh oh. Lift off the throttle and turn in, and a swooping bout of lift-off oversteer on the gravel kicks in progressively. I’m somehow completely fine with more than four tonnes of electric truck shaking its hips around the sweeping bend.
But, as we slow down into a muddy rutted track through the trees, that’s where I might need that physics book back. The brakes are there, working their hardest but, even with energy regeneration at play for the battery pack, the stoppers feel rather weak. We are on gravel, though – perhaps there’d be more bite on tarmac.
Through the technical, tight rutted tracks, I get a chance to view the almost FBI-spec suite of cameras. The Hummer gives you a view of every possible angle, even underneath each axle to make sure you’re not about to ground out on a big rock. It helps when you’re climbing steep terrain, especially since it looks as if you have four miles of bonnet in front of you.
At one particularly steep climb, the Hummer’s off-road credentials were tested with its ‘B’ mode on the shifter, which effectively makes the car come to a stop without even without using the brake pedal. There are also switches for activating software within the electric motors to act like axle lock for better traction.
Even with fierce lumps and bumps, though, the Hummer’s adaptive air suspension gives you the sense that most of them aren’t even that big of a deal; there is very little in the way of intrusion into the cabin or via the wheel.
It’s remarkable the job that has been done to make piloting such a large, heavy vehicle feel relatively easy to drive. Though we didn’t have to park it in a bay, so that might be a bit more of a challenge at a later date.
What’s Crab Walk like?
You engage it coming to a stop, centring the steering wheel and holding the four-wheel steer switch on the centre console, with a fancy animated graphic displaying on the centre screen telling you it’s activated. If you were to hold your hands at nine at three on the wheel, you can only turn the steering wheel halfway in either direction to get it to work.
As a sensation, it’s utterly bizarre. Seeing the road ahead drift from side to side is unlike any sensation I’ve had behind the wheel of a car. It only works at low speeds as it’s designed for off-roading, so if you accelerate onwards at speed, the system deactivates, and the rear-steer goes back into automatic mode.
GMC Hummer EV: verdict
Only the USA would take something with such good intentions as a battery-electric car and turn it into a mutated off-roading monster. It’s far too big to ever be palatable anywhere else than North America and the power on tap with this First Edition is enough to jump-start an aircraft carrier.
But, even with our limited time behind the wheel, it’s hard to ignore just how much of a technical achievement the Hummer EV is. It’s an EV showcase for GM and a Big Bang-like first strike for the group’s new Ultium platform. And it manages to be remarkably easy to drive off road despite its obscene size and weight.
The Hummer EV is clearly a ‘why not?’ car for GM. And while there are many reasons why it shouldn’t have bothered at all, you have to commend its unhinged conviction to the EV cause.