2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV Second Drive Review: Moab made easy

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MOAB, Utah — The title of our First Drive of the 2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV included the phrase, "It's big, but this elephant can dance." The truck earned that compliment after a day of squeezing through San Francisco lanes and the slightly-more-commodious back roads in Napa Valley. But an SUV can't be called a supertruck without equivalent mastery on dirt, so GMC led a posse of media to Moab, Utah to run the Hummer's favorite stomping grounds.

What happens when you subtract 20 inches of overall length and nine inches of wheelbase from a megafauna pickup? You find the dancing doesn't stop where the pavement ends. Allowed to roam Moab's challenging terrain — and ample room — the SUV is more than ready to do the Hokey Pokey and turn itself around.

Admittedly, we knew this from our First Drive of the Hummer SUT two years ago, also performed among Moab's red rocks and red dust. The two variants share the same tricks, and GMC engineers chose Moab for prototype development, so there was no question of successfully navigating the trails. The SUV's simply nimbler about than the SUT.

Clearance angles are better all over. Compared to the SUT, the SUV's 49.6-degree approach angle is just 0.1 better, but the 49-degree departure angle is 10.6 degrees better, and the breakover angle is 2.2 degrees better. Having four-wheel steer to rotate the SUV's shorter wheelbase shrinks the already tiny turning circle by 1.7 feet, to 35.4 feet. That's only four feet wider than a BMW i3, but 14 feet more compact than a GMC Sierra Crew Cab with the Short Box.

And there are 'only' 15 standard cameras on the SUV, one shy of the 16 cameras in the SUT; the pickup adds an angle on the cargo bed the SUV doesn't have.

Our 3X trim packed three motors producing a combined 830 horsepower and 1,200 pound-feet of torque. The $9,995 Extreme Off-Road Package threw on rock sliders with integrated steps that can support 1.5 times the Hummer's weight, full underbody skid plating, two additional underbody cameras front and rear, an electronically locking mechanical front differential for the single motor on the front, a virtual rear differential (programming that makes the two rear motors behave like a locked diff), heavy-duty ball spline half shafts, tow hooks and 18-inch black wheels on 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Mud-Terrain tires.

Add that package to the base price of $104,650, plus the $1,495 Infinity Roof, $450 Void Black paint, $150 all-weather rubber mat for the 11-cubic-foot frunk, and $2,295 destination charge, the asking price totaled $119,080 before taxes and fees.

Yes, the Hummer, like so many on- and off-road vehicles today, is stuffed with capability that buyers making six-figure rain won't ever experience because they don't want to risk their investments. Oh well. Engineers live to push boundaries, automakers want to justify the pricing, markets need to keep up with the Joneses, and buyers love the bragging rights. Everyone wins.

Also, like several spendy off-road vehicles today, the Hummer is not only terrific off-road, it does its work with remarkably little fuss considering the weight class.

At the trailhead to the Cameo Cliffs/Hook and OHV Ladder Trail System, we dialed up Terrain Mode and entered the convoy headed into the beyond. The adaptive air suspension and its Sachs ZF dampers have a mighty job, restraining four tons while several hundred pounds of wheel and tire jiggle across the dirt. We found the setup a touch too firm for our liking through easy and moderate geography, stiffness conveyed right up through the seat on the open trail, bumpy landings when doing mid-single-digit speeds over minor rocky stretches. Part of that might have been due to tire pressures. The door jamb sticker advises 45 psi, we spent the day between 38 and 41 psi. Airing down to around 31 or 32 would have provided a lot more cushion. Nevertheless, with four inches of available lift between Raised and Extract Modes, we wish Hummer allotted a couple more inches of give. The Hummer SUV felt appropriately damped everywhere else, especially in technical sections like descending rock staircases where one expects various thumps.

Apparently, the suspension was once firmer. GMC told us that during prototype testing, engineers brought the SUV to Moab with front and rear anti-roll bars. It was quickly clear that the rear was too stiff, so engineers kept the front anti-roll bar and jettisoned the rear, working with Sachs ZF to reprogram the suspension. The change came late enough in prototype testing that our production unit still featured tabs on the rear lower control arms the bar would have bolted to.

The Hummer's four-wheel steering is one of those modern blessings that makes old folks go, "You don't know how good you have it! Back in my day …" Overshoot the entry into a tight turn? Crank the wheel, let the back end come around, carry on. Nothing more to it. "Three-point turn" is a foul, foreign language to the Hummer EV. The only potential drawback is when a Hummer EV owner has to ride with someone in a regular rig, and constantly reminds the driver, "My Hummer could have done that in one go." Rear steering is too much of a good thing at times, though, such as at low speeds off the trail. Sometimes you want the back following the front instead of wagging with minor tugs of the steering wheel.

Because an EV lacks the feedback of an ICE struggling up an incline, GMC engineers programmed louder throttle noise in Off-Road Mode to give the driver some sense of what the Hummer is doing. We wouldn't mind that noise being a tad louder. The traction control system and the grip from the Goodyear Wranglers are good enough that one gets tempted to a light, steady throttle and lets the Hummer work its way up some steep rock face. Twice, as the Hummer worked its way up an obstacle, we didn't realize how much effort the SUV was putting in until we smelled burning rubber. After that, in the interests of mechanical sympathy and compassion for the landscape, we hit the rear locker button early.

Our only real gripe was with the braking action in Terrain Mode in Low. In Drive, the brakes clamp quickly yet progressively, yielding a firm, natural-feeling stop. At speeds under 20 miles per hour, Low stabs the brakes like an emergency stop, and holds the truck in place until the driver presses the accelerator. We tried it twice, then stuck to Drive for our entire time on the trail. We would only ever use Low in the kind of dicey situation where going an inch too far could mean taking the Hummer home in pieces. Crab Walk also seems most suited to extreme scenarios, say when a wheel's gone over the edge of a trail or a dune ridge and you don't want the back in tow, you want the rear to pull itself up.

Otherwise, the Hummer made this a relaxed Saturday drive in the park, albeit an exceptionally wide drive. The 86.5-inch beam takes getting used to, you sit way high up, and that giant square hood stretches out before you like The Great Plains. Yes, you can lean your head out the window and watch the front and rear wheels on the driver's side, but it's a long 7-plus feet to the opposite side. And yes, all those camera angles reveal what's around and underneath, but video images distort perspective, so they don't provide one's eye the same read on angles and depth as looking at a thing. No deal-breakers here, just aspects of driving a Hummer that one has to get used to. Rather, aspects one has to get used to again; the Hummer H2 was 81.3 inches wide.

As with our other First Drives, the Hummer EV again proves itself a solid piece of kit. If we're making a megafauna comparison, we're going with a fictional beast: A dragon. It's large and imposing, cool and outrageous, it's unlike anything else out there. And the owner's manual wouldn't be titled How to Train Your Dragon, it would be What to Know About Dragons. You don't domesticate the Hummer, you learn what it needs and how to wield it. This isn't an ownership experience for everyone, but for those with the purchase price, a Targaryen sense of adventure and an appropriately sized stable, the chance to make a dragon dance is worth the minimal effort.

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