2022 GMC Hummer EV First Drive Review: Rolling Decadence in a Five-Ton Rocket Ship

From the Interstate to the trail, the electric Hummer is truly spectacular. But there are flaws.

  • 176
2022 GMC Hummer EV First Drive Review: Rolling Decadence in a Five-Ton Rocket Ship © 2022 GMC Hummer EV First Drive Review: Rolling Decadence in a Five-Ton Rocket Ship

Hummer might just top the list of things that shouldn't have outlasted the 2000s. Its emphasis on huge, military-themed SUVs was as wasteful as it was tastelessly jingoistic. Neither connotation has been forgotten since old Hummer's closure, making General Motors' decision to revive the brand a baffling one, and its rehabilitation a challenge. But historical implications of the Hummer name aside, it is back, and with GM calling the 2022 GMC Hummer EV the world's first "supertruck," this is easily the most decadent Hummer yet.

But GM did read the room before bringing back Hummer, which is why this chapter of the brand's history is electric. That makes it green, dontchaknow. It's also why GMC has rethemed the Hummer EV around a more widely admired American milestone, one with relevance to EV enthusiast's futurist zeitgeist: the Apollo missions. This is a Hummer for the age of electric cars, automated driving, and achievable human space travel. It's a high-tech toy for people who expect, one day, to follow their crypto wallets to the moon, and be able to bring their electric cars with them.

And with 1,000 wheel-spinning horsepower, the best commercially available hands-free driving system, and immense off-road capability out of the box, it's easy to see the Hummer EV as a triumph of technology. But look past the party tricks, and you'll also find a far-from-perfect truck with inexcusable problems for a vehicle so expensive, so powerful, and so supposedly important a milestone of sustainability. Like old the Hummer, it's still blatantly over-consumptive and inefficient, but now heavier and more powerful than ever. 

All that said, though, the GMC Hummer EV is singularly spectacular in enough ways that I can sympathize with wanting to own one. 

The Hummer EV marks many momentous firsts, both for GM and for the auto industry at large. GM's first production model with a T-top roof in 20 years also happens to be GMC's first performance truck in 29 years, since the Typhoon. It's also the first truck built on the Ultium platform, GM's modular architecture for EVs, atop which the Hummer sits as a halo: A showcase of GM at its best. (Also, it's our preview of the electric Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra.)

To the industry at large, the Hummer is altogether more symbolic, representing the first purpose-built electric pickup from a legacy manufacturer (the upstart Rivian R1T arrived slightly earlier) The two are so outwardly similar that it's impossible to resist comparing them: They're both crew-cab electric pickups that blur the line between car and truck with unibody-on-frame construction, housing their huge batteries in their floors. Both ride on height-adjustable air suspension and propel themselves with multi-motor electric four-wheel drive.

It's there the two diverge; the Rivian uses four motors while the Hummer uses three. There's one 250-kW unit up front with an electronically locking differential, and two more out back, able to synchronize to simulate a locking axle. Together, they generate 1,000 horsepower and 1,200 pound-feet of torque, which blast the more than 9,000-pound Hummer from standstill to 60 mph in three seconds flat. It'll top out at 106 mph, and can tow 7,500 pounds.

Brakes with huge, 14-inch rotors at each corner (1.6 inches thick up front) bring this behemoth to a halt, spinning behind standard 22-inch wheels wrapped in 35-inch all-terrain tires (muds and 18s are standard on the Edition 1). Combined with height-adjustable air suspension with 13 inches of travel, they give the Hummer up to 15.9 inches of ground clearance at speeds up to 18 mph—theoretically upgradable to 16.9 inches, as the fenders will fit 37s. Up to 32 inches of water can be forded, and four-wheel steering can turn the rears up to 10 degrees, shrinking the Hummer's turning circle to that of a Chevy Sonic, according to GM.

  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 running lights, <i>James Gilboy</i>
  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 side profile, <i>James Gilboy</i>
  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 rear three-quarter from above, <i>James Gilboy</i>
  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV gets a wheel off the ground, <i>James Gilboy</i>

Appropriately for a truck that pays homage to the Apollo missions, the Hummer EV may as well be the size of the moon itself—it's bigger than the H1. I'm talking over two and a half feet longer, a fraction of an inch wider, and more than two inches taller. Its bed wall comes up to my shoulders and I'm six feet tall, at least on Hinge. This, ladies and gentlemen, is beyond a chonker of a trunk; it's a full-on oh lawd he comin'.

And you'll see it coming, with its unibrow of headlights and running lights, segmented to resemble the old-school Hummer grilles. I think it looks kinda like Robocop. Its side profile with high fenders and short overhangs resembles that of a trophy truck, albeit one that has gained weight in retirement, obscuring its belly with black cladding. Its wheels, though, are handsomer and more original than the Rivian's, blending traditional truck designs with modern EV styling.

  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 with its wheels turns, <i>James Gilboy</i>
  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV 22-inch wheel, <i>James Gilboy</i>
  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 tow hook, <i>James Gilboy</i>

The rear, too, isn't half-bad looking if you don't look below the bed, in which case it's still obvious this truck has a gut. It's also clear from the height that the Hummer's high, five-foot bed won't be easy to load, even with GMC's nifty MultiPro tailgate. Combined with its poor payload of 1,300 pounds, this makes it a less capable pickup than even a Ford Maverick. No more convenient is its 11.3 cubic-foot frunk, where it can store its T-top "Infinity Roof" panels in dedicated cases. (Or, with those removed, a fuck ton of pizza.) The panels themselves are polycarbonate, so they're light, but they're only tinted and lack shades, so the cabin can get a bit too sunny. I appreciate the vitamin D, but I don't want my Pioneer satellite tattoos bleaching like the Stars & Bars we left waving on the Sea of Tranquility.

Speaking of which, the moon's surface is a central theme of the Hummer, appearing in the background of its 13.4-inch central touchscreen and in topographical maps on the floor mats and speaker covers. There, GM also hides the impression of a moon boot's print—also to be found on the dash if you know where to look. Said dash is chunky and quadrangular, and is flanked by large H-motif vents that are adjustable by hand (none of Rivian's screen-only nonsense).

  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 dashboard, <i>James Gilboy</i>
  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 front row, <i>James Gilboy</i>
  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 back seat, <i>James Gilboy</i>
  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 Bose speaker cover, <i>James Gilboy</i>
  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 seat, <i>James Gilboy</i>

Their shiny finish, though, is not aluminum but plastic. Not shitty plastic, but plastic nonetheless, and the stuff is everywhere, contributing to what might be the cheapest-feeling interior ever installed in a $110,000 vehicle. Its faux leather isn't anything impressive, and its seats aren't anything special to look at, though they are comfy, especially in combination with an air ride that flattens out bumps like a locomotive over a penny. There's a ton of storage between a huge center console bin, a cubby down between the front seats, a second glovebox in the upper half of the dash, and a compartment under the rear seats that holds a 12-volt tire inflator. There's nowhere to secure an assembled AR-15, though; I asked. A truck for LARPing, this isn't.

A truck for dirtying your boots and drawers, though, it absolutely is, as I learned from a couple of hours behind the wheel of an early production Hummer EV Edition 1. I got to try it on the trails and highways surrounding Phoenix, Arizona, after fiddling with novelties like Watts to Freedom (or WTF) launch mode and Crab Walk, both of which we've previously reviewed in depth. Anything I have to say can be better expressed by my face during launch:

As for its off-road capability, I tested that over a variety of terrain, from winding dry riverbeds to broken, rocky steps I doubt some factory off-road trucks could handle. For most of the way, I drove not in Off-Road mode, but in crawling-focused Terrain mode, which calibrates the accelerator for low-speed precision and makes the rear steering turn 20 percent quicker than the front. That made the monstrous Hummer amazingly maneuverable, bringing its rear around with a swing that felt a lot like drifting, but with no loss of control.

Over ankle-rolling surfaces, the Hummer's well-distributed electric torque gave it stable footing, allowing it to gracefully summit anything I dared to point it at. After cresting, I'd lift off, letting one-pedal regenerative braking stand in for hill descent mode. Navigating the most broken ground was simplified by an extensive suite of cameras—18 in total—some of them giving views of the underbody through lenses with replaceable protectors, and washers to keep them clear.

If I'm honest, though, the selection of camera angles was a bit overwhelming; it was hard to know which was best for each obstacle. Sadly, they're very necessary to learn, as I kept losing track of rocks that were right in front of me over the Hummer's high hood. On top of that, I'm not sure the Hummer's torque vectoring worked as well for others; I saw other trucks struggle up a couple of climbs, and I could smell brakes. And though I looked, I never found a situation where Crab Mode—which lets the truck drive diagonally at up to 18 mph—was useful.

But we didn't have to air down for the trail, which eased the transition back to asphalt. Unfortunately, highway time revealed how loud the Hummer EV is, its tires and wind noise making a considerable din. It doesn't have noise cancellation, either, so there was no drowning it out. The infotainment was dressed in a pretty interface, but I found it tricky to navigate (it's also a technology I do not believe belongs in cars). And while its mass may be concentrated down low, the Hummer showed reluctance to corner quickly, its front tires audibly complaining and its steering not giving much warning. 

Maybe it’s for the best that it can’t change directions easily, as the visibility is poor. I don’t mean just forward, but to the sides and in the blind spot, too. That’s in part due to its non-convex mirrors, which are legally required on vehicles with a gross weight rating over 10,000 pounds. With an approximate 10,400-pound GVWR, the Hummer EV qualifies as a Class 3 medium-duty truck, which means an independent EPA range estimate is not legally required to be listed on the window sticker. It’s also possible that if a Hummer EV is registered commercially for tax reasons, you may have to stop at weigh stations.

It can't all be negative in a $110,000 truck, though, and it isn't. Acceleration and braking performance blow expectations for a 9,000-pound off-road truck out of the water, its air ride doesn't grow tiring, and its 14-speaker Bose audio system is so clear my passenger could be 100 percent sure he hated my taste in music. Thanks to the marvelous Super Cruise, the Hummer EV could perform passes on its own and also tow hands-free, which I can't say about the Rivian I drove—its ADAS doesn't have the same coverage as GM's system. Because of how super-sized trucks have become, and how big suburban roads have always been, the Hummer EV didn't feel particularly cumbersome navigating them, mostly because of its four-wheel steering.

  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 climbs up a gulley, <i>James Gilboy</i>
  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 shows off suspension articulation, <i>James Gilboy</i>

Four Hummer EV trims are on the way—2, 2X, 3X, and Edition 1—priced starting at $81,590, and all of them with many of the same gadgets that take main stage as on the top-tier Edition 1. Twin-motor, four-wheel drive is standard, along with Super Cruise, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a removable roof, power rear glass, and GMC's MultiPro tailgate. Available as options or standard on higher trims are four-wheel steer with Crab Walk, adaptive air suspension with extract mode, a long-range battery with faster charging, that "Infinity Roof" T-top setup, an Extreme Off-Road Package, and tri-motor 4WD with WTF Mode. Edition 1s like the one I drove are all sold-out, but all they are are just the top 3X trim with all the options, a different interior color and badge, and 18-inch wheels with mud tires.

Competition is thin on the ground, consisting mainly of the electric Rivian R1T, and to a lesser degree the plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler 4xe. I don't count the Ford F-150 Lightning because it's bigger and starts at half the Hummer's price, nor the Tesla Cybertruck, which I consider a hoax. While only a plug-in hybrid, the Jeep can go electric four-wheeling like both the above at a significantly lower price, and with more modifiability. Of course, a Wrangler isn't exactly the gold standard for refinement, and won't have a respectable back seat until the four-door Unlimited launches.

  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 frunk, <i>James Gilboy</i>
  • 2022 GMC Hummer EV Edition 1 off-roading, <i>James Gilboy</i>

Having off-roaded both the Hummer and Rivian, I don't think they're as straightforward a comparison as they appear on paper. I believe them to be two different interpretations of what a high-performance electric truck can be, the Rivian fitting into an outdoor lifestyle, the Hummer sort of being your lifestyle. It's a comparison I'll make in greater depth another time, but broadly speaking I consider the Hummer the superior off-roader, and the Rivian a more well-rounded truck. After Rivian's controversial recent price increase, they're even similar in price, making picking one more a matter of preference.

GM's Factory Zero, where the Hummer EV is made, will apparently be powered entirely by renewables at some point in 2023. But that doesn't mean it is now, and GM couldn't tell me how much CO2 is generated for each Hummer it builds. A deep-dive into the Hummer's credentials as a sustainable form of transport is a talk for another time, but if you want a simple demonstration of just how colossally inefficient the Hummer is, compare its rating of 47 mpge to that of the Wrangler 4xe. Despite having a combustion engine, the 49-mpge hybrid Jeep is more efficient.

The GMC Hummer EV is a truck like none before it. The contrast between its strengths and weaknesses is almost too vast to comprehend, never mind judge. Its range, ride quality, T-tops, excellent stereo, and ADAS make it as suitable for long highway cruises as its suspension, ground clearance, and traction do some of the roughest trails out there. At the same time, it's nowhere near as luxurious as basically anything else at its price. It's also the most egregious act of greenwashing the automotive industry has committed yet: having the biggest battery of any modern passenger EV that leaves it with a CO2 debt to pay off‚ all while falling short of many hybrids' energy efficiency.

I might sound like I hate the Hummer EV, but to even my surprise, I don't. There's something undeniably breathtaking about a four-and-a-half-ton truck that spins all four wheels on a hard launch, yet isn't flummoxed by U-turns, and handles highways better than some chauffeurs. Its existence just worries me; I don't think the average American driver is competent enough to handle a 1,000-horsepower, 9,000-pound truck, much less one with sad excuses for mirrors and a hood so high you could run down an adult without noticing. At least GM did its best to make that hard to do on purpose—there are software lockouts that prevent WTF Mode from activating with obstacles in the way.

Just like the old Hummer, though, there's nothing stopping you from going out and plunking down two or three hundred grand on one of the grandest symbols of opulence ever allowed a license plate. And while I may give Hummer EV drivers the side-eye, I can at least understand why they bought their trucks and the ways that they bring them happiness. It's a purchase that can't be rationalized by objective measures of performance, only by the desire to have the biggest toy truck on the playground. In that sense, Hummer is the same it has always been. For better or for worse.

Commnets 0
Leave A Comment