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2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV rules as king of off-road hill

May 9, 2024

If not for its width and weight, the 2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV would be the most off-road-capable passenger vehicle direct from the factory on sale today. It climbs more assuredly than a stock Wrangler Rubicon or Bronco Raptor, it negotiates obstacles more easily and more safely than a Rivian R1S, and don’t even come at me with a Cyberfridge. But if not for the width and weight of the proverbial elephant in the room, you’d have something else entirely. 

Girth and weight are not off-road advantages. At 86.5 inches wide, the Hummer EV SUV classifies as wide enough to legally require three amber lights at the top of the vehicle in front, and three in red in the rear, same as what’s federally mandated for semis, dump trucks, and other heavy haulers. At about 9,000 pounds, give or take a few hundred, the GMC Hummer EV SUV shares an EPA classification with heavy duty pickup trucks. 

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

I didn’t see one pickup truck, heavy duty or otherwise, navigating the slickrock outside Moab, Utah, on the rocky shelves and sandy washes of Jax Trax, under the auspices of the snow-capped La Sal Mountains. A small convoy of large Hummer EV SUV 3Xs negotiated an earthly plane where rock formations frozen in time form natural bridges and dystopian mesas loom over desert valleys, like something out of Tatooine or Arrakis. 

Somewhere out there, somewhere in here, in the geological frieze of southeastern Utah between Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, where the Road Runner and Coyote were born, I didn’t hear any meep-meep zip-tang. The silence of off-roading an EV envelops you in the natural world instead of estranging you from it as in a combustion vehicle, a conqueror vanquishing its natural foe. 

The gasp of the air suspension, the caw of a hawk, the hum of the HVAC, the whisper of a breeze, the squish of rocks under the Goodyear Wrangler 305/70R18 35-inch mud-terrain tires, the sun-baked earth pushing back—that’s all there was, until the end.

Late in the day, in this place that knows no human time, the buzzsaw of combustion engines broke the otherworldly serenity. Two side-by-sides—open cages, tube chassis, made for off-roading, illegal near civilization—killed their engines and waited for the EV mastodons to pass. In the back of the first side-by-side were two child safety seats, toddlers in goggles, googling at the future. 

We were in shock of each other. So it goes for interplanetary passersby. 

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV 3X on-road handling 

Unlike the movies and cartoons, we didn’t just get dropped into our desolate beauty. I drove the 2024 Hummer SUV EV 3X from Grand Junction, Colo., into Moab, Utah, winding alongside the Colorado River, that great imperiled gateway to southwestern living.  

This wasn’t the first time I tested or GMC hosted an event for the 2024 GMC Hummer SUV EV. In March 2023, GMC hosted a program in Napa Valley, where record rainfall soaked a parched Earth that only a year before had been scorched by wildfire. With enough rainfall in weeks to fill reservoirs that had been barren for years during the drought, it was impossible to off-road. 

The reborn Hummer EV SUV looks more the part of the old Hummer than the Hummer EV pickup truck. The wheelbase is 8.9 inches shorter, and it’s 20 inches shorter in length, prompting GM to nip and tuck the 24-module battery setup of the 205-kwh pack in the truck down to a 170-kwh battery pack using 20 modules stacked 10 and 10 in the ladder frame. From the C-pillar forward it’s the same as the pickup, and with the rear wheels near the swinging tailgate, it has better departure and breakover angles than the truck. Hummer doorbell logos speckle this bulldog on wheels 

The big bulldog on 22-inch wheels let in plenty of road and tire noise, even if the sound beyond the firewall was absence. The range beats original estimates to 314 miles, but like its namesake, it is the least efficient EV available. I was happy to get 1.2 miles per kwh in mostly highway and rural driving.

The Watts-To-Freedom mode still rips, rocketing the bulldog to 60 mph in an absurdly improbable 3.5 seconds. I was gleefully if not stupidly reminded that no passenger vehicle this large moves that quickly. A 3-motor system generating 830 hp and 1,200 lb-ft of torque can do that. WTF lowered the air suspension from 10.1 inches to about 6.5 inches of ground clearance, firmed up the damping, and pinned me in my seat. 

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

Another pleasant reminder on the road was how all five modes, including a My Mode setting, flashed a different style of lunar graphics as sharp as PC gaming graphics into the 13.4-inch touchscreen and adjacent 12.3-inch instrument cluster. Any automaker intent on developing an intuitive interface that doesn’t sacrifice functionality for flashiness, check it out; that’s you, Mercedes. 

I also appreciated how GMC balances the interface with futuristic graphics and classic toggles and dials for the climate, drive modes, and other vehicle functions. 

An unpleasant reminder was how poor the outward vision was, despite the commanding ride height. The squat greenhouse includes a windshield so wide and short that it required three small windshield wipers to clear away rain. Despite all the technological innovation, a head-up display wasn’t offered because there’s nowhere safe to project it. Removing the t-tops and stowing them in the frunk would be the way to open up the outward vision and soak up all of the natural beauty along the Colorado. 

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV navigates Moab off-road

Somehow, all the engineering wizardry that thrums under the surface on the highway becomes foremost when off-roading, essentially shrinking and lightening the Hummer SUV’s massive presence. 

For the excursion, I stepped up into the Extreme Off-Road package, which is $9,995 extra on the 3X ($4,995 on Edition 1) and more than half of Hummer EV SUV buyers opt for it. They should. 

In addition to the 18-inch wheels and mud-terrain tires, it deletes the rear stabilizer bar; adds four more skid plates to cover the front motor, the rear motor, and two skid plates covering the battery pack; has two additional underbody cameras with washers to check out what’s under the front axle and rear axle; and it has rock rails with built in assist steps, the better to step up into the Hummer, especially when it’s in full extract mode at 15.9 inches of ground clearance. 

Fortunately, I and no one else on my wave had to use extract mode or Crab Walk to regain the trail. The closest it came was descending down a steep, maybe 25-degree shelf into a turn around an outcropping. With the front central locker on and virtual rear locker engaged through the two rear motors, wheel slip was controlled, even with the front driver wheel hanging in the air. But as all four wheels stair-stepped down the shelf into the turn, the driver cranked the wheel and held the brake; that front driver-side wheel plowed into the loose sand and looser rock that had come dislodged from the previous driver. A small rock slide ensued; the heavy Hummer slid with it, initially. 

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

GMC’s off-road instructors never wavered or worried. That included GMC Hummer EV lead development engineer Aaron Pfau, who later admitted to me that it was nowhere close to perilous, and the Hummer had so many tricks left up its raised sleeves, before even considering Crab Walk or Extract mode. When the slide and vehicle stopped, the Hummer’s rear-wheel steering bumped the rear around as the front wheels scrabbled out of the slide. The drive mode handled the correction more than the driver. 

Off-Road mode acts more like a high-speed baja mode with less traction control and the equivalent of open lockers. I mostly kept it in Terrain mode that raises the suspension from 10.1 to 11.9 inches, among many other things. Selecting either of those two modes on the dial in the console triggers a kind of 2-factor authentication from the touchscreen; no one likes 2-factor authentication and initially it was easy to forget to push the confirmation screen until realizing Normal’s mode limitation on the trail.

The excellent graphics on the touchscreen show pitch and roll meters, as well as the mode setting and other info like altitude. But most of the time off-roading, I had it set to display the excellent camera angles–up to 17 of them—that gave me eyes in front, back, under, around, and from above. Those extra eyes helped size the vehicle in my mind’s eye, but it was the rear-wheel steering at up to 10 degrees counterphase, or opposite of the front wheels, that truly opened my eyes to how GMC shrinks the Hummer SUV. 

It essentially brings the rear-end around hairpins and other turns quicker and cleaner. It also aids with grip, with more wag from the rear to get unstuck before getting stuck is an option. Originally, GMC calibrated the rear wheels to turn at a ratio of 1.5:1 of the front wheels, but the wag was so wide it could’ve surprised drivers in too great a way and lead to overcorrection. Instead, GMC settled for a ratio of 1.2:1, so not only does it shrink the turning circle but it makes that bulldog able to deftly sidewind in and out of obstacles and, if needed, use all four wheels to steer out of a sand pit. 

Many luxury and performance cars have adopted rear-wheel steering, but GMC’s off-road application in tandem with the constant and instant torque vectoring from the three motors made it next level. The front locker can be manually engaged with a long press of the locker button on the panel below the touchscreen (and it will automatically disengage over 25 mph), but the drive modes mostly take care of all the settings.

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

I preferred moving the gear shifter from D to L for the max regenerative braking. This enabled me to brake with my left foot and throttle with my right both up and down slopes to keep the wheels moving but not allow the SUV to move too much. Just leaving it in L, where under 5 mph the mode uses all friction braking, resulted in the kind of jerkiness that might have made me go off the throttle entirely and lose momentum. 

There’s so much going on at all four corners, but all I had to do was point and go, really. It made me a better off-roader, and it all felt seamless, almost natural. 

That’s intentional. Since the drive a year ago in 2023, GMC made about two dozen enhancements to the control modules and calibration to the off-road systems. 

“When you have the infinite variability of an off-road electric vehicle, there are a lot more adjustments to make,” Pfau told me. “Figuring out the physics problem of where the torque needs to go when you have slip with three motors is a challenge, instead of say a transfer case with a central front and rear locker, where mechanically it’s gonna find the slip. It takes time to deeply analyze how we’re sending torque when it comes to ones and zeroes.” 

Here’s some not-zeroes: The 3X costs $106,995, including an industry-leading $2,295 destination fee. Add the Extreme Off-Road package (you should) and it’s $116,990. There are far more expensive and far less capable toys. 

Off-roading for seven hours over a 16-mile trail with an elevation change of more than 2,500 feet, and driving about 85 miles there and back, never once amounted to range anxiety. I had 124 miles of range remaining from the 295-mile start. 

Out here, in the middle of nowhere, the Hummer EV SUV flexed all the revolutionary EV technology that not only shrinks its width and offsets its weight, but demonstrates what the next era of off-road vehicles can aspire to.  

Bundle all these features together with all the other capabilities of the Hummer EV SUV and there’s truly no other vehicle from the factory like it. Its silence under extraterrestrial strain is just another bonus. 

GMC paid for airfare and lodging for us to dispatch these impressions from afar.

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