If you’ve ever had a shopping trolley that enjoys travelling at 45 degrees instead of in a straight line, you’ll know how it feels to drive the new Hummer EV in Crab Mode.
This mode is one of many new ways an electric powertrain frees up thinking and allows driving without playing to the rules of combustion engines and their mechanical packages.
The National was in Detroit at GM’s top secret proving ground to try several new electric vehicles coming our way, and the priority was to jump behind the wheel of the all-new Hummer EV, which is sure to lock out the order books when it goes on sale early next year. There are no price indications for the UAE market yet, but it starts at $111,000 in the US.
Crab Mode uses its four-wheel steering to let the car move sideways and drive diagonally at low speed. It’s ideal for clearing large rocks or obstacles in tight ravines where the front wheels may clear, but you risk a rear wheel puncture.
It takes a while for the brain to accept what’s going on, but is a brilliant use of all-wheel steering that lets you steer the rear wheels by up to 10 degrees and 1.6 degrees for every 1 degree of front steer angle. This cuts its turning circle by two metres, making it easier to manoeuvre than most front-wheel-drive hatchbacks.
The Hummer is the first vehicle to use GM’s all-new 24-module Ultium battery architecture, which also underpins the upcoming Cadillac Lyriq and powers one motor in the front and two in the rear. It consists of two layers of vertical cell modules to offer a 24-pack unit giving 530 kilometres of range and weighing a not-inconsiderable 600 kilograms. To offset the weight, it delivers 1,000bhp and a ridiculous 15,600Nm of torque.
GM says it will reach 100 kilometres per hour in 3.1 seconds, which we don’t doubt after our own tests with three people on board and on loose gravel cut the timing beacon in 4.9 seconds.
The Hummer uses 800-volt electrical architecture with 350-kilowatt fast-charging capability, which will add 160km of range in 10 minutes. For buyers who don't have DC fast-charging stations, the car can also charge on regular public terminals or at home via a provided adapter, although charging times are significantly slower.
The interior is deliberately utilitarian in look and feel to play off the Hummer’s tough heritage.
Although it’s a full-sized four-door, the Hummer EV features a removable T-roof that brings back memories of some of GM’s muscle-car coupes such as the Pontiac TransAm of the 1970s. When in place, the transparent panels look like a normal panoramic glass sunroof, but removing them gives the truck a convertible vibe that’s also similar to the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator.
The dash layout is a mix of rugged off-road Jeep style and new-age Tesla with a large 13.4-inch centre display on the mostly white-on-black fascia that features amusing moon-themed graphics throughout. Given GM’s history as a vehicle partner to Nasa, supplying Corvettes to the Apollo 11 Moon-landing crew and the Apollo 15’s electric Moon rover, it’s hardly surprising.
The driver also has a 12.3-inch display that houses Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hot spot and GM's OnStar telematics system.
For a vehicle this size, it felt like a nimble midsized off-roader and even ― dare I say it ― sporty, where the rear steering allows you to hang the tail out on loose surfaces, but comes back into line with ease. The instant torque and its WTF (Watts-To-Freedom) performance mode quite simply redefine the parameters of off-road vehicle acceleration.
We didn’t get the chance to take it on a sealed road, so motorway-speed road and wind noise remain a question mark given its T-top, giant 35-inch all-terrain Goodyear tyres and large side mirrors, but off-road, it was an eye-opener.
The Hummer is the first vehicle from GM’s ambitious $35 billion investment to sell a million EVs annually by 2025 by releasing more than 30 new EVs in that time. The big SUV opened GM’s Factory ZERO, Hamtramck-Detroit Assembly Centre, after a $2.2bn makeover to build all-electric trucks that will include the Silverado and Sierra Denali EVs