Here’s How the GMC Hummer EV and Rivian R1T Compare Off-Road

On paper, the Hummer EV and Rivian seem like bitter rivals that’ll fight over every last customer. Having driven both, that’s not the case.

byJames Gilboy| UPDATED Apr 8, 2022 1:56 PM
Here’s How the GMC Hummer EV and Rivian R1T Compare Off-Road
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Easily my favorite new vehicle last year was the 2022 Rivian R1T, an electric truck that's essentially excellent. Going straight for its throat, though, is the new 2022 GMC Hummer EV, which has a lot more in common with the Rivian than just being another electric pickup. They're mechanically similar, do zero-to-60 in about the same time, and have around the same ground clearance. It's a comparison that's tempting to draw from specs alone, with no hands-on experience of either truck. But as one of a tiny handful of people who have driven both, not just on the road but off it, I think I'm one of the lucky few qualified to truly compare the two. And trust me, that fact does not impress baristas.

Let's start by establishing why this is an appropriate comparison in the first place. Sure, they're both crew-cab electric pickup trucks, but it goes way deeper than that, all the way down to the two trucks' bones. Both consist of unibodies affixed to truck-style frames with batteries mounted inside them, giving each over 300 miles of range. That battery powers high-performance four-wheel drive, which despite all-terrain tires can launch both from zero to 60 in a claimed three seconds.

2022 GMC Hummer EV Specs

  • Base price (Edition 1 as tested): $81,590 ($110,295)
  • Powertrain: 205-kWh lithium-ion battery | single-speed transmission | tri-motor four-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 1,000
  • Torque: 1,200 lb-ft
  • Curb weight: 9,063 pounds
  • Max towing capacity: 7,500 pounds
  • Max payload capacity: 1,300 pounds
  • Max off-road angles: 49.7º approach | 32.2º breakover | 38.4º departure
  • Max ground clearance: 15.9 inches
  • Max water fording: 32 inches
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • 0-60: 3.0 seconds (approximately)
  • GM estimated range: 329 miles (no EPA figure available)
  • EPA fuel economy: 47 mpge combined
  • DC charge rate: "Nearly" 100 miles in 10 minutes at 350 kW
  • Quick take: The Hummer EV is as spectacular as it is underwhelming.
  • Score: 7/10

2022 Rivian R1T Specs

  • Base price (as tested): $68,645 ($81,245)
  • Powertrain: 135-kWh lithium-ion battery | quad-motor all-wheel-drive | single-speed transmission
  • Horsepower: 835
  • Torque: 908 lb-ft
  • Curb weight: Approx. 6,800 pounds (no exact figure released)
  • Max towing capacity: 11,000 pounds
  • Max payload capacity: 1,764 pounds
  • Off-road angles: 34º approach | 25.7º breakover | 29.3º departure
  • Ground clearance: 14.9 inches
  • Water fording: 42.7 inches
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • 0-60: 3.0 seconds
  • EPA estimated range: 314 miles
  • DC charge rate: 140 miles in 20 minutes at 200 kW
  • Quick take: Detroit had better bring the heat, because the R1T is one hell of an opening move.
  • Score: NA

Each has adaptively damped, height-adjustable air suspension that hunkers down on the road to lower drag and their centers of gravity, and raises up off-road to boost ground clearance and angles of approach, breakover, and departure. Should these come up short, both have well-armored batteries, with the Rivian's enclosed in a carbon-composite shell and the Hummer's so bundled in steel that a GM engineer told me it'd require some spectacular violence to penetrate it.

They do have crucial differences, though, that make clear which should be better on rough terrain. The Rivian's stock all-terrain tires measure 34 inches, while the Hummer's are 35s, which contributes to the Hummer's ground clearance advantage of 15.9 inches to the Rivian's 14.9. (The Hummer's fenders are also designed to fit 37s, so upgrading to around 16.9 inches of clearance is practically bolt-on.) Near-identical wheelbases thus give the Hummer better approach, breakover, and departure angles, by 15.7, 6.5, and 9.1 degrees respectively in their highest suspension settings.

However, nothing in the real world is as simple as numbers can lead us to believe, and the Rivian isn't exactly outclassed. Because of its four-motor 4WD as opposed to the Hummer's three with an electronically locking front differential, I think the Rivian has the edge in power distribution and traction—I recall the R1T having less trouble crawling than I did the Hummer, which occasionally got confused with a wheel in the air. What's more, the Rivian is better equipped to handle one of the major causes of traction problems—water—with 42.9 inches of water fording to the Hummer's 32.

In one-pedal off-road modes, I preferred the pedal calibration of the Rivian, which gave finer control of power application than the more aggressive Hummer. It's a bit friendlier to inexperienced off-roaders. On the other hand, while both trucks lacked dedicated hill descent modes, I found the Hummer descended steep inclines more gracefully with the pedal lifted, while the Rivian required I modulate its brakes to avoid over-accelerating.

The Hummer also had a clear advantage when it came to camera setup boasting 18 in total, some on its underbody, with replaceable lens covers and built-in washers. By contrast, the Rivian had cameras I considered substandard even then, with views at each corner, and only the possibility of a 360-degree surround-view coming via OTA update according to an engineer I talked to. The Rivian needed cameras less, though, as it has respectable visibility, whereas in the Hummer I regularly lost track of obstacles as they drew close to me because of its high hood.

Differences between the trails where I drove each may have been the defining factor in whether airing down the tires was necessary, but we did so in the Rivian before setting out, while the Hummer had no need to. It wouldn't have been inconvenient, as the Hummer has a smart air-down mode that honks the horn when the tire pressure sensor determines you've reached your preselected setting, and a 12-volt compressor is included for airing back up. The Rivian's, though, is smarter still, with a 150-psi compressor in its bed wall, equipped with quick disconnects and able to inflate to preset pressures. You can pick your tire pressure and let it do its thing.

One major aspect of the Hummer that I suspect will go under-appreciated, however, is its four-wheel steering, which not only makes it as maneuverable at low speeds as much smaller vehicles but can actually be felt bringing the rear around in a fashion that feels like drifting. It also enables Crab Walk, which I maintain to be a gimmick with little real-world applicability, though at least it's usable. Rivian's Tank Turn, a focal point of its early promo campaigns, has been delayed and remains without any apparent ETA.

While both are tremendously capable off-roaders out of the box, they share some major drawbacks. Both are bulky beasts, the Rivian weighing close to 7,000 pounds and the Hummer over 9,000. The Hummer is closer in weight to an M35 Deuce-and-a-Half 6x6 than it is a YJ Jeep Wrangler. They're so heavy-footed that I think they're likely to damage themselves if driven carelessly, or incompetently—I'll admit I managed to clonk both trucks on rocks while crawling, doing inconsequential but noticeable damage. And if they take a hit that immobilizes them, their weight will probably make recovery quite the ordeal.

Their weight also presents a host of challenges when it comes to service and modification that only compounds with their extreme mechanical and electronic complexity. Technicians that work on either will need special high-voltage training and costly insulated tools, as well as specialty shop machinery like heavy-duty alignment racks. That means servicing these trucks is inherently expensive, and will be even more so years down the line as they age and things begin to break more frequently. It also means that the off-road aftermarket for each is likely to be modest compared to the likes of any Jeep, and thus their ultimate potential could be limited. They're for people who want to be able to go off-roading, but for whom it's not their main recreational activity.

Even so, both are plenty capable straight from the factory, and have their own clear, if relatively small advantages. The Hummer, despite traction problems I'm willing to chalk up to other inexperienced operators, I would deem the superior crawler on account of its ground clearance, off-road angles, camera setup, and four-wheel steering. The Rivian, with better water fording and a possible traction advantage, I'd consider suitable for a wider variety of terrain, and definitely for backing down boat launches.

So, which truck do I prefer? If you've read both my reviews, it's not hard to work out for yourself. The Hummer, while surprisingly likable, is narrower in its scope of uses than the Rivian; it's more of a superlative toy than the R1T, which is a truck meant to complement whatever else you have going on in your life. It is my earnest opinion that the two are different concepts of trucks taken to their logical conclusions, and that which is for you is more a lifestyle decision. Given the choice, I'd have the Rivian, but I could admit any day to coveting my neighbor's Super Cruise, four-wheel steering, and WTF mode—if not so much his crabs.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com