PHOENIX — Walk into the Chandler Fashion Mall southeast of Phoenix and a large, vertical advertisement stops you in your tracks with three white letters emblazoned against a black background: WTF.
Get close and faint gray letters spell out the acronym: WATTS TO FREEDOM.
The GMC Hummer EV super truck has landed. Imagine 205 kilowatt-hour battery, 1,000 horsepower, 9,000 pounds, 35-inch all-terrain tires. Three electric motors. Four-wheel steering. Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, can leap tall buildings in a single step. WTF, really.
Strapped into my Hummer tester outside of Phoenix, I pull the TRACTION CONTROL button on the dash twice and the supertruck goes into WATTS TO FREEDOM mode. My chair rumbles, the chassis crouches, the digital screen flashes ARMED. The start check is complete.
Flat to the brake pedal.
Flatten the gas pedal.
Release the brake.
The truck explodes forward like a rocket, smashing my body into the backrest. The horizon blurs. Three electric motors scream. Four Goodyear Wrangler tires squeal in pain as they instantly transfer 1,200 pound-feet of torque to the pavement. I blow past 60 mph in just over 3 seconds on my way to the moon.
GM calls the Hummer its moonshot — an 18-month, warp-speed development program to explore the electric performance limit. Here on Earth, Arizona is a perfect market for the Hummer, because like Superman, the electric supertruck needs plenty of room to show off its otherworldly qualities. Straight highways, off-road trails, beautiful views. Michigan also fits.
As I tell my friends with Corvette C8/Porsche 911/Ferrari 456 supercars, you can’t understand their incredible capabilities until you take them on the track. The same goes for the growing class of super trucks: Hummer, Rivian R1T, Ford F-150 Raptor, Ford Bronco Raptor, Ram TRX.
You can’t really appreciate the Hummer EV until you take it off the pavement.
An hour north of Phoenix is Boulder’s ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) Park, similar to Holly Oaks ORV Park an hour up I-75 from Detroit. If you’re one of the 65,000 Hummer reservation holders, head straight to an ORV park after picking it up from the dealership. And bring three friends. The lobster experience begs to be shared.
As a rule of thumb, off-road trails are not friendly places for full-size pickups. Their tight borders, narrow paths, steep slopes and sharp crowns make large trucks uncomfortable with their poor breaking angles and solid rear axles. Other super trucks like the Ram TRX and F-150 Ratpor are built for high-speed, wide-open spaces where their throaty engines and sensational sport shocks can really stretch their legs.
Befitting its limited 200-mile range (I burned 110 miles of battery range on a 70-mile trip), the Hummer is a hoot at nearby off-road parks.
Sure, its 80-plus-inch width requires three amber lights by law (as do the Raptors and TRX), but that width provides balance that complements its inherent EV athleticism. That 205 kWh battery is a lot (is the Hummer the only full-size pickup that weighs more than it tows?), but it’s under the deck for a low center of gravity. Its electric powertrain means no sensitive gas tanks, mufflers or pigs (rear differential) sticking out of its belly.
SMACK! I misjudge a ridge and bottom. No worries, the panther shrugged. Starting with 10 inches of ground clearance, the Hummer has 9.5 inches of suspension travel in top rails, thanks to air suspension. Like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, GMC’s EXTRACT MODE can lift 16 inches off the ground to remove obstacles. Or squat to 6.5 inches for WTF sprints. Like a supercar, there are multiple performance modes to explore – and 18 camera angles for what you can’t see.
But my favorite tool is four-wheel steering – a feature previously found on supercars like the Porsche 911 for faster track entry. Available starting at $89,995 2x trim, 4WS enables the Hummer’s CRAB WALK mode. It’s a cool party trick, but the 4WS’s more practical application is navigating, say, tight turns through Boulders. I can’t wait to use it in the twisted canyons of Holly Oaks.
On the road, the 4WS enables a 37-degree, Chevy Spark-like turning circle for easy maneuverability around parking lots—another nemesis of full-size trucks.
Toys like these make coming to an ORV park almost as much fun for Hummer as playing there.
Where supercars have to be mindful of weight so they aren’t slow on the track, supertrucks suffer from no such modesty. The GMC is loaded with gadgets that would make a supercar blush.
I drove myself to Boulders with Super Cruise. Look mom, no hands! GMC has hung huge screens over the dash like boards in a boardroom. They are gorgeous and Hummer contracted with the Unreal game engine for state-of-the-art graphics and Google for navigation as easy as your smartphone.
Interior space is palatial, and you can go topless — just like a Wrangler or Bronco — by unlocking the roof panels and stowing them in the hood. Oh, your three friends will love it. There are moonshot tributes everywhere from Sea of Tranquility maps on the floor mats to astronaut footprints on the dashboard.
The rear pickup bed is five feet long and features GMC’s signature six-way Multi-Pro tailgate so you can easily take out motorcycles – or just hang out with a cooler and drinks.
There are hiccups, to be sure.
The upright windshield means no head-up view option and lots of wind noise from the A-pillar when you’re driving 70 mph on the interstate. Long-distance trips can be daunting due to GM’s oversight of not incorporating Tesla-like navigation between third-party superchargers. I asked my Hummer to navigate to Seattle and it exactly plotted the route without detailed charging stops – something that has eliminated range anxiety for Teslarati.
Yes, yes, the Hummer EV smacks of GM scrambling to atone for its sins. Lobster was culled at the turn of the century for his cigar chewing, Arnold Schwarzenegger celebrity and Gulf War gas guzzling. “What would Jesus drive?” cried the prude. It’s no less decadent now with DC pols pleading with us regular folks to be more like Hollywood slobs and buy an electric car to avoid $5 a gallon gas. Let them eat Hummers!
But like Tesla’s Made-in-America Model S, the Hummer EV is much more than another meme in the culture wars. It’s a big step in showcasing EV performance. Take it to a terrain park and enjoy it for what it is: an ambitious feat achieved in an impossibly short time to explore the technological frontier.
A feat that only an American truck brand could achieve. The moonshot landed.
2022 GMC Hummer EV
Vehicle type: Battery-powered, four-wheel drive, four-door pickup truck
Price: $79,995, including $1,595 destination charge ($112,595 first edition as tested)
Power plant: 205 kWh lithium-ion battery powering two or three electric motors
Power: 1,000 horsepower, 1,200 pound-feet of torque (first edition)
Gearbox: Single-speed automatic
Performance: 0-60 mph, 3.0 seconds (mfr.); towing capacity, 7,500 pounds
Weight: 9,000 lbs
Fuel economy: EPA estimated range, 329 miles
Tops: Four-wheel steering; unique design inside/outside
Lowest: A-pillar wind noise; no head-up display
Overall: 4 stars