Just north of Scottsdale, Ariz., the woman in the Mercedes G-Wagen honks and waves her arms. She lowers her tinted window and shouts, “Is that the new Hummer?” Yes, it is. After being absent for more than a decade, the Hummer has been resurrected as a future-forward, all-electric behemoth forthcoming in both pickup truck and SUV forms.
The tough-guy vehicle of the 1990s and early 2000s, the old Hummer was the ultimate symbol of gas-guzzling, conspicuous consumption. In 2009, General Motors pulled the plug on the Hummer brand as aftermath of the prior year’s economic downturn. Now, filed under the GMC nameplate, the new Hummer is poised to make a spectacular comeback thanks to its soul-stirring design, more environmentally friendly power train and legit off-road capability.
“We want to get people excited about what an EV could be,” says a GMC spokesperson during our test drive in Arizona. The Hummer EV is the first vehicle to be built on General Motors’ Ultium platform, powered by a giant, 24-module battery pack that offers 329 miles of range. In the platform’s most powerful configuration, one front and two rear motors make a combined 1,000 hp. In launch-control mode, which GMC calls “Watts to Freedom” (WTF), the Hummer EV can dash from zero to 60 mph in about 3 seconds.
Designers and engineers only had approximately 18 months to come up with a prototype after General Motors president Mark Reuss directed his team to build a rugged utility vehicle that would propel the company into the future with its all-new electric power train. A passionate group was assembled to create the model, including hardcore off-roading and overlanding enthusiasts as well as members of GM’s performance team. The result is nothing short of impressive.
Although it weighs more than 9,000 pounds (nearly 3,000 pounds of which is from the battery pack), the Hummer EV is anything but sluggish. Thanks to the instant torque from the electric motors, the vehicle is quick off the line. Adaptive ride control uses myriad sensors to read the road every 2 milliseconds, and adjusts the suspension accordingly for the smoothest ride. And with the optional four-wheel steering, the turning circle is reduced from 44.3 feet to only 37.1 feet, making the Hummer surprisingly nimble while navigating narrow outback terrain or supermarket parking lots.
On the way to an off-roading location north of Scottsdale, we switch on GM’s latest version of Super Cruise, a driving-assist system that is one of the best in the industry. It combines adaptive cruise control, steering assist and lane-centering functionality to give a nearly autonomous driving experience, as long as the driver’s eyes stay on the road. If you’re traveling any stretch of the 200,000 miles of enabled roads, a new lane-change feature will detect if a car in front is going slower and check the left side for traffic. If all is clear, Super Cruise will make the lane change, pass the slower car, and get back over automatically. And the lady in the G-Wagen is far from the only fan. From the freeway to suburban stoplights, drivers of nearly every giant pickup truck give us a big thumbs-up—or cut us off aggressively in an obvious show of insecurity.
As with the G-Wagens, Range Rovers, and other rugged vehicles-turned-fashion-statements, most of these Hummer EVs will never taste backcountry dirt. But the model is one of the most capable and versatile for the outdoors—as long as you have enough charge. Two main modes handle more adventurous driving: Off-Road mode is for relatively faster speeds, over dirt and gravel, while Terrain mode is for slower, more technical routes, with the electric power train’s one-pedal drive serving as a hill-descent control of sorts. In this mode, the Hummer offers nearly 12 inches of ground clearance for climbing rocks and fording streams. And in case the driver gets into trouble, the optional “Extract” mode will raise the vehicle to a maximum of 15.9 inches.
Skid plates, rock sliders and side running boards fully protect the battery pack and bottom of the car. And if you get stuck in tight conditions, the “Crab Walk” feature turns the rear wheels up to 10 degrees at the same angle as the front wheels, allowing you to diagonally creep out of a sticky situation. Multiple camera angles and a 360-degree overhead view make sure you can see exactly where you’re going and where to put tires on the trail.
With the Hummer’s unique four-wheel-drive system, it can climb 60 percent grades—both forward and in reverse—scale 18-inch verticals and traverse water that’s two-feet deep. And although we didn’t need it on our test drive, a virtual locking rear differential varies the amount of torque sent to each wheel to optimize traction and improve on-road driving manners.
When it came time to design the new Hummer, the United States was celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the rocket that sent the first man to the moon. That milestone inspired designers to employ many space-related themes in the first version, dubbed Edition 1. These range from the Interstellar White exterior paint to tiny moon-boot prints hidden around the cabin. The 13.4-inch center touchscreen is easy to read and intuitive. Graphics are powered by Epic Games’ Unreal Engine (a 3-D-creation tool originally developed for video games). The instrument cluster in front of the driver offers five layouts to choose from: Lunar, Sport, Clean, Off Road and Digital, with different colors and topography for each. A combination of textured analog buttons and digital controls keep the Hummer looking modern while remaining practical, especially when bounding around over rocks and ruts.
Reservations are full for the Hummer EV Edition 1, which starts at $110,295 and is outfitted with the most capable off-roading features, a removable transparent roof and a towing capacity of up to 7,500 pounds. However, reservations are now open for the 830 hp Hummer EV 3X, estimated to be available this fall. Two less powerful, dual-motor variants are expected in the spring of 2023 and 2024, respectively. And if you do decide to join the crush of anxious, soon-to-be Hummer owners, get ready for a truckload of attention.