The GMC Hummer EV Could Pop Wheelies Before Engineers Intervened

Chief engineer Al Oppenheiser told us the wheelies didn’t make the final production cut because of “functional safety reasons.”

byPeter HolderithJan 6, 2022 10:07 AM
The GMC Hummer EV Could Pop Wheelies Before Engineers Intervened
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Driving a 2022 GMC Hummer EV prototype back in Oct. 2021 was an eye-opening experience. Never before had I driven something so big, so heavy, and so quick. The Hummer is a truly gargantuan off-roader that can spin all four of its 35-inch Goodyear tires off the line when Watts to Freedom (WTF) mode is engaged. More impressively, it can still turn as sharply as a Chevy Bolt hatchback.

I did a fair amount of driving and some riding along with the vehicle's chief engineer, Al Oppenheiser. During one of our chats, Oppenheiser shared with me some of the trials and tribulations his engineering team went through while developing the vehicle. This included one unexpected capability that had to be tuned out before the massive truck was delivered to customers: wheelies.

After a launch in WTF mode on the steeply banked test track at GM's Milford Proving Grounds, I told Oppenheiser that I was impressed how the truck could spin all four of its tires as it fired off the line like a shot. He went on to explain that was actually a preferred scenario as far as launches go. They used to be even more interesting when the tires came off the ground.

"In the early days when we were just trying to balance the front and rear torque, I got the front end to lift," he told me. As it turns out, so much of the car was developed digitally that, when it came time to do real-world testing, there were a few unexpected quirks. "We had to back off the torque on the front end," he added, just as he prepared the Hummer for another launch.

That's me on the right., GMC

After our final sprint to highway speeds in WTF mode, I clarified with him that the Hummer would indeed do a wheelstand if it was tuned correctly. He reiterated his point, saying "originally" that was the case, and you could theoretically still make it do so "to prove that you can."

However, when it comes to the production versions of the hefty 4x4, he made it clear that for "functional safety reasons," that wouldn't be in the Hummer's big bag of tricks. Talking about feeling cheated.

So yes, the Hummer EV can do wheelies, just not in stock form. To be fair, I think just getting the truck on the road in the shortest development cycle in GM's history is a serious achievement, even if it won't put itself on two wheels. With that said, Al, if I'm ever back at the proving grounds in a Hummer prototype, I'm jonesing for a demonstration. If I got to drive it before the President, that must mean I'm qualified to lift a tire or two in anger.

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