2022 GMC Hummer EV First Drive: The Supertruck Hero We Need
The 2022 GMC Hummer EV is a modern-day comic book superhero in the shape of a pickup truck. It boasts super strength, epic proportions, and has several very cool superpowers. Like many superheroes of our day, it has a fun-but-flawed character and a complicated backstory.
Despite the introductory Edition 1 weighing in at a jaw-dropping 9,063 pounds, it skedaddles to sixty in a scant three seconds. It has a wheelbase that stretches past eleven feet, yet can turn a tighter circle than a Chevy Equinox. It basically bends the laws of physics to their breaking point and slaps a super smile on your face while doing it. Calling it a “Supertruck,” as GMC does, almost undersells it.
Originally making its way to this planet by way of the US military (as superheroes are wont to do), the Hummer became available to civilians in 1992. Manufactured by AM General, its outsized dimensions and utilitarian mil-spec styling sprayed in shiny paint grabbed the imaginations of millions and the pocketbooks of many.
General Motors then bought the brand in 1998 and developed several more models to accompany the original H1 in Hummer showrooms. Those generously borrowed distinctive design cues from H1 and added performance, comfort, and chrome.
As the years wore on, however, the shine of the brand dulled. Its thirstiness for fossil fuels and extroverted image made it a target of cultural criticism. In a world of increasing environmental awareness, exploding gas prices and finally, imploding fortunes, the brand became déclassé. Essentially abandoned in the 2009 GM bankruptcy, few attended Hummer’s funeral.
Gallery: 2022 GMC Hummer EV First Drive
Now, the brand is back, better and badder than ever. Reemerging more than a decade later as an electric vehicle bearing a GMC badge, the vehicle is instantly recognizable as a Hummer. Unapologetically massive and blocky, the new truck’s windshield is short and its squarish, protruding fenders are uncannily similar to those of the old H3. Where once grinned a seven-slot grill, six lighted blocks underlined in chrome now defiantly spell out the Hummer name.
In its most notable (only?) nod to subtlety, stylistic variations of the letter “H” make surprise appearances around the exterior. It’s in the headlights horizontally, the tail lights vertically, with derivations of the design element hiding in its chunky tow hooks, massive wheels, and side-view mirrors. They’re one of the few quiet notes in a vehicle that’s more brazenly brassy than its Hummer predecessors.
Climb up into the cabin and you’ll find a thoroughly modern, thoughtfully designed interior, but one that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s spacious and airy thanks, in part, to the glass “infinity roof.”
If you’d like an even more open feel, those glass panels can be popped off and stored in the frunk. The back window also rolls down. Sans roof, you become more connected to the environment, be it the boulevard or the backwoods. Still, in traffic, with the truck sitting on 35-inch tires and the cabin built on top of an extra thick battery pack, the elevated position makes you still feel somewhat above hoi polloi.
The interior feels premium – the two main screens, a 12.3-inch driver display and a 13.4-inch center infotainment touchscreen are accented in bronze trim that tastefully finds its way onto a few other surfaces. A small strip of screen beneath the main one on the center stack offers climate readings with a row of toggle switches below to warm or cool the cabin or seats. Another row of toggles below those are assigned duties such as locking front or rear differentials, turning off electronic stability control, and turning on hazard lights.
Despite the classy touches, it has a rugged feel – the vinyl floors have rubber inserts covering them so it should be easy to clean up if it gets messy. The heated and ventilated seats in our Edition 1 were finished in a sturdy, very cleanable, white material, which also covered the center and door armrest.
That “H’ design element found on the outside is echoed throughout the passenger compartment. It’s in the air vents, the grab handles, the steering wheel – even the center armrest. There’s also a lunar theme on the interior, in case you had to be reminded the truck is ready to conquer any terrain, earthly or otherwise.
It’s expressed in a topographical map of the Sea of Tranquility (Mare Tranquillitatis) on the door speakers and also makes its way onto the center infotainment display as a backdrop for some of the drive mode screens. The dead pedal has a large lunar boot print molded into it, and there are several small boot print Easter eggs sprinkled through the cabin. It’s an interesting, if a somewhat indulgent, quirk.
About That Battery
The source of Hummer EV’s superpowers sounds like it originated in a comic book metaverse. Called Ultium, this was originally the branding for a new family of battery cells and modules for all the new electric vehicles produced by GM over the coming years, but has been expanded to include the motors, drive units, and power electronics that make up the propulsion systems to be used in these vehicles.
The heart of the Hummer EV is its massive battery pack. It holds over 200 kilowatt hours (kWh) usable and consists of 24 separate modules. It’s basically a 400-volt system, until you plug it into a DC charger capable of sending power at 800 volts. Then, its true nature is revealed.
It’s actually wired up as two separate 400-volt battery packs of equal size, which meet at a battery disconnect unit. To reach its full 350 kW charging potential, 400-volt relays within the unit are opened and 800-volt relays are closed. This changes the packs from a serial configuration to a parallel arrangement, which doubles the voltage, allowing the pack to accept a higher amount of amperage and reduce charging time.
It all translates, GMC says, to being able to add 100 miles of range in about 12 minutes if plugged into a 350-kW DC fast charger that’s capable of serving power at 500 amps. In 42 minutes, it can go from 20 to 80 percent averaging about 175 kW.
Charging at home will take more time, of course. If you have an EVSE connected to a 60-amp circuit and can take full advantage of the 11.5 kW onboard AC charger, you can add about 16 miles per plugged-in hour. Going from 20 to 100 percent would take 16.5 hours. Typically, though, it would take just a couple hours to replace the 30 miles or so worth of energy most might use on a daily basis.
Drive Me Wild
Historically, Hummers were huge and slow. This new Hummer EV may be large, but it has no problem getting out of its own way. With 1,000 heavy-duty horses and 1,200 pound-feet of torque ready to rock at the drop of a sock. Whether just crawling along or cruising at highway speeds, pushing the pedal toward the floor results in the nose being lofted skyward as hilarity and speed ensues.
The headline acceleration figure for Hummer EV is three seconds from 0 to 60 miles per hour, but that’s only possible using the cheekily named Watts To Freedom (WTF) launch control system. This involves toggling a double-push of the ESC switch and tapping the screen to confirm the command. At this point, the vehicle lowers its adaptive air suspension two inches from the normal setting and begins to condition the battery while also preparing the cooling system and inverters for the coming rush of power. A graphic of the truck at a secret moon base appears on the center screen.
After approximately eighteen seconds, it’s ready and a “stand by” message appears on the driver’s display while a rumbling pulse is sent to the driver through the seat bottom. Shifting to “drive” switches “standby” to “armed.” Coaching controls then appear on the screen to let you know how much pressure you’re applying to the brake and whether you need to push it harder. Once you’ve applied your left foot hard enough, the screen invites you to floor the accelerator. A synthetic motor-like hum fills the cabin and when they release the brake, all the power is unleashed.
I was given the opportunity to try it out for myself at the recent first-drive event that General Motors provided transportation and accommodations for. The initial launch isn’t violent, but the acceleration is unrelenting and exhilarating, pinning you firmly to your seat.
A number of other attendees used the braking zone of the WTF test strip to try out the ABS system. While the big mud tires were plenty noisy under harder braking, the truck stayed nicely straight even under duress.
The Hummer EV has decent street manners. It fills the lane, of course, but its driving dynamics are relatively civilized for a large truck. The weight of the battery pack, which is a considerable 2,900-plus pounds due to it holding 25 large battery modules as well as being a structural element in this body-frame integral platform, is low in the chassis, which keeps the center of gravity close to the ground. It understeers as one might expect, but its rear-steering abilities help remove any drama from moderate lane changes.
At speed, the chunky tires can’t be silenced, but they intrude on the ears less than one might expect. The Hummer EV Edition 1 also comes equipped with a lovely 14-speaker Bose stereo that’s very capable of drowning out much of the tire noise. And, if you’re jamming to tunes with the roof off, the sound system also has an “Audio Pilot” setting which adjusts the EQ so wind and other external noises don’t interfere with the music.
When coming to a stop, the GMC Hummer EV slows confidently and predictably. In D (drive), regenerative braking is strong, but if you like that true one-pedal driving experience, then an extra tug on the shifter puts it in “L,” which will bring you to a complete stop without touching the brake pedal. Alternatively, in D, one can use a paddle on the left side of the wheel. Hold it in, and the truck will come to a halt.
The Hummer EV also comes equipped with the Super Cruise advanced driver assistance system (ADAS). So, on an enabled stretch of a divided highway, you can leave steering and speed control to the truck as long as it detects you’re keeping your eyes on the road. It’s also capable of making lane changes. Push on the steering stalk and if traffic is clear, it will move over a lane on its own. For now, at least, the onus is on the driver to turn off the turn signal after the maneuver.
I spent an hour behind the wheel of the Hummer EV on the highway and some city streets, and had a great time doing it – there’s something to be said for cruising along at speed with the wind whipping through your hair and the stereo pumping. The seats are comfortable, with lots of adjustability. Forward sightlines are good, though lane changes to the right require the thoughtful use of mirrors.
But, where the truck really shone was off-road. The folks from GMC had us ply a few miles of trail through the saguaro cacti-dotted Arizona desert. Though some of these stretches might have been easily traversable in lesser vehicles, there were technical bits that really opened my eyes to the truck’s capability.
For these off-road situations, the Hummer EV has two main modes: “off road” and “terrain.” My co-driver and I mostly left our truck in off road, which raises the body two inches above “normal” mode, allows for a bit of wheel slip, softens the accelerator pedal mapping, and doubles the steering ratio of the rear wheel from normal mode. It also allows you to bring up displays on the center screen which show real-time suspension articulation, pitch and yaw, the amount of torque each wheel is being sent, as well as GPS coordinates and other information.
A spotter helped guide drivers through a couple of the trickier sections, but having cameras mounted on the underside fore and aft, allowed us to see exactly where we were putting our wheels with glances at the center screen when our view out the windshield was nothing but sky.
Switching to “terrain mode” to tackle a steep ascent over uneven rock surfaces, a number of changes happen to the truck to make it practically unstoppable. The suspension is softened, the rear-steer ratio doubles yet again from off road mode, the electric power steering gets more assist, and the mechanical braking system takes over from the usual regenerative setup. In terrain mode, switching from “D’ to “L” engages one-pedal driving as before, but now it’s a mechanical operation. So, when the truck is on a steep incline it will not roll forward or back, the mechanical brakes holding it in place.
If you’re still not sure you have enough climbing capability, you can also lock the back axle with the push of a toggle. This is a virtual lock, as there are no physical connections between the two rear motors that reside in the same housing on the back axle. If you want to go that extra final mile, you can lock the front axles. That is a mechanical operation achieved by holding its toggle down for five seconds. It’s not recommended to leave it engaged when it’s not specifically needed.
Do We Need Another Hero?
There are some who might question the wisdom of resurrecting the Hummer name. It has, after all, some amount of baggage attached to it and a reputation antithetical to energy efficiency, a quality practically synonymous with electric vehicles. It’s certainly a bold move to model the first vehicle to use the Ultium platform, upon which the entire future of General Motors is riding, on a brand that seemed to meet its evolutionary end over a decade earlier.
But, maybe that’s exactly what’s needed to change the minds of the mainstream. Maybe throwing the biggest battery ever in a consumer vehicle so you can offer over 300 miles of range, along with an insane amount of power, is the type of argument needed to persuade Ram TRX or Ford Bronco buyers that a battery-powered vehicle might be a good fit for their garages.
It’s a bet that appears to be paying off for GMC. Response to the Hummer EV has been surprisingly strong, with the automaker reporting over 66,000 reservations split between the pickup version and the SUV that will arrive next year.
Even as more vehicles become electric, it may be a while before we see something comparable to Hummer EV. It’s big and brash with a touch of class and offers an experience nothing else can quite match. It may not be the Supertruck anyone expected, but it may be the one we need.
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