2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV First Drive Review: Still impressive, even out of its element
SAN FRANCISCO – Our first experience with the GMC Hummer EV in any form was spent in an environment clearly ideal for such a vehicle. That first drive of the production-ready truck was in Arizona, a place with large, open freeways and rocky, desert terrain. Notably, they were areas that could showcase the Hummer's strengths: enormous power and acceleration, a lack of trees or narrow lanes to hinder its size, and sufficiently rocky terrain to demonstrate its remarkable off-road abilities.
So it was particularly strange that the media's first experience with the Hummer EV SUV would involve the tight streets and twisty mountain passes of San Francisco and Napa Valley, locations that certainly would seem to put the Hummer on the back tire. In some ways they certainly did, but at the same time, they revealed the Hummer is surprisingly capable out of its element, and maybe even a good fit for the area.
The start of our driving time involved leaving downtown San Francisco and heading up Highway 29 to Napa where GM had set up a number of demonstrations like those at the truck first drive, and where our winery hotel was. In the birthplace of Tesla, where Models of all letters and number are ubiquitous, the monster black Hummer definitely stood out. And not just for its sheer size: it is the technological flagship of General Motors, perhaps the most traditional of American car manufacturers. On the other hand, the locale also felt appropriate given that flagship status, from its flashy instrument and infotainment displays, to its acrobatic suspension and steering systems.
This is as good a time as any to go over what makes the Hummer EV SUV different from the truck. Obviously it has a solid roof over a cargo area instead of an open bed. It's also the smaller of the two giants: total length is 20 inches shorter (excluding the spare tire) and the wheelbase is 8 inches shorter. That pays a few dividends in maneuverability both on and off road. The turning circle of the SUV is 1.7 feet smaller, at 35.4 feet, which is almost 3 feet tighter than that of the Chevy Bolt EUV. The breakover angle is also improved by 10.6 degrees (49 at max ride height) and the departure angled by 2.2 degrees (34.4 at max ride height).
Though the bed is gone, the interior cargo space is certainly spacious, with maximum capacity of 81.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded perfectly flat into the admittedly high load floor. That's a little more than 10 cubic feet better than a Mercedes G-Class with all the seats down, and almost 1 cube better than the three-row Land Rover Defender 130. So, not bad for image-heavy luxury off-roaders, but in the grand scheme of things, you get less room and fewer seats than you might expect from something with its exterior dimensions. A GMC Yukon, for instance, manages 120 cubic-feet with its two rows of rear seats lowered. A Rivian R1S, meanwhile, is smaller outside but also has two rear rows, plus a bit more space at 88 cubic-feet. Like the Rivian, though, the Hummer has an 11-cubic-foot frunk, which in its case, happily swallows all the removable roof panels. Towing capacity comes in at 7,500 pounds.
Despite the shorter wheelbase, the reclining rear seats are still enormously accommodating, if a bit flat and firm. The fronts are also a little flat, but wide and cushy with acres of space in every direction. Flat and wide sums up a lot of the Hummer’s design, too. The dash and screen and windows are all squat. The view out is like one of those ultra-wide computer monitors, with thick bezels all around. The removable roof panels help keep the interior from feeling too much like a cave, though the odd blue tint does not make up for the lack of sun shades. Materials are more rugged than luxurious with tough-feeling vinyls and plastics, but thanks to unique textures and detailing, it all comes across as a goal to make the Hummer special rather than penny pinching. The flashy on-screen graphics help with that, too, and while some of the animations take a smidgen longer than we'd like, everything's pretty easy to grasp and use.
But back to the driving experience, which on San Francisco’s city streets and Northern California’s narrow highways, was unsurprisingly a bit tight. It is more than 7 feet wide afterall. Maneuvering requires frequent and feverish checking of every corner and mirrors to make sure the truck isn't drifting over the centerline on the left or grazing Teslas parallel parked on the right. It's the same problem on those narrow highways, and with lane-splitting motorcycles that barely crest the Hummer’s belt line, constant vigilance is necessary for safe passage. And the slightly vague-on-center steering and squishy off-road tires didn't help. At least four-wheel steering is on hand when trying to escape tight spots or, as we managed, making your way down the ultimate San Francisco challenge: Lombard Street.
In terms of visibility, the front corners are easy to spot, and the Hummer has a wide array of cameras to help in tight spots. Those cameras can be placed as a shortcut in the infotainment system and brought up anytime. At some particularly steep hill intersections in town, the forward camera could be a real boon. Super Cruise is also offered, and we’ve found it always works well, provided you're in an area that has been mapped (mainly interstates and other highways).
Another perk is the impressive ride quality. The air suspension keeps the SUV stable and wobble-free, and the tires’ tall sidewall certainly doesn’t hurt. As mentioned in our truck first drive, there is pronounced wind and tire noise, which is unfortunate, particularly at faster freeway speeds. But considering that traffic California tends to run slower than say, in the middle of Texas, it's less of an issue.
Unsurprisingly, the three-motor Hummer's 830 horsepower and 1,200 pound-feet of torque. endlessly entertaining. While it can pin you to the seat in Watts to Freedom mode (WtF, get it?), delivering an estimated 3.5-second run to 60 mph, what's really remarkable is how the whole truck reacts to the power. Floor it, and the front rises like a horse rearing up. And keep the throttle down, it just stays up. Much of what's in front disappears behind the hood, and the rearview mirror just shows ground. The drama is hilarious, and arguably a bit dangerous. But you really have to commit for the full silliness, and with a long throttle pedal, it's actually quite easy to reign in the ponies and stay smooth.
The power, weight and lack of aerodynamic efficiency means the Hummer does suck down electrons at an alarming rate even if its giant battery (around 170-kWh compared to more than 200 in the truck, final specs weren't given) allows a 300-plus mile range. There still aren't official efficiency numbers (and perhaps there never will be if the EV’s prodigious weight gets it classified as a heavy-duty truck), so we can only rely on the on-board computer that reported 2 miles per kilowatt-hour at best, with numbers dropping to 1.5 miles per kWh. That is not efficient, but that 2 miles per kWh figure would theoretically be comparable to less powerful and substantially lighter EVs like the Ford F-150 Lightning and Porsche Taycan Turbo S. So it’s not efficient, but it seems like it could be a lot worse. Either way, at least they're electrons being used and not gasoline this time around. And the Hummer can utilize 350-kW fast chargers to resupply its giant battery pack.
Pulling into Napa, and it becomes clear that this actually is one of the Hummer’s target markets. I've never seen so many Mercedes EQ models, particularly the EQS flagship luxury car. At the same time, there are also loads of Range Rovers, Defenders and other premium SUVs with off-road credentials, even similarly wide Raptors and Rams. Well-healed Californians cleared love giant SUVs just as much as they love EVs. The Hummer puts the two together, and considering how many heads were turning, people are noticing. If you're looking for a car that makes a statement, love it or hate it, the Hummer nails it.
The following day, we were supposed to have had some time off-roading, but heavy rain canceled it. Having driven the Hummer truck, though, there’s not much in the way of changes made to SUV, besides its length, to make it any less capable and comfortable off-road. If anything, this is logically the version you want if you're serious about off roading, since it has all that capability (the adjustable air suspension, locking front and rear ends, excellent torque and drive modes) with better breakover and departure angles.
With the off-road portion ruled out, our soggy day was instead spent winding around wine country on mountain roads that would've been better suited to a Corvette than a Hummer. As if avoiding cars in town was bad enough, now we'd be facing down gnarly cliffs and praying that cars in oncoming lanes wouldn’t set a tire a millimeter over the center line or get a face full of Hummer.
And yet, the Hummer was actually, almost fun? It sounds bizarre, but it actually handles pretty well. Y'know, for a 9,000-pound SUV on mud-terrain tires. But even that's short-changing it a bit. There's actually not much body roll, and the steering, while slow and vague on center, builds some pretty natural weight and becomes reasonably accurate as you turn more. Aggressive regen settings are also very handy when quickly adjusting acceleration and deceleration to manage the mass. Grip isn't limited because of the tires, but keep that in mind and stay smooth with your inputs, and you can hustle the Hummer handily. It's a far superior handler to say, a G-Class. Just watch your mirrors.
What this trip proved about the Hummer is that, flawed as it inherently is with its massive size and poor efficiency, it's quite a bit better out of its element than we ever would have thought. It's an elephant that can dance, and can look good doing it. For the person looking for a do-it-all, fashionable, high-tech SUV, the Hummer is in a class of its own.
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