Whenever new people find out that I have a Hummer, they always ask roughly the same question. First they’re surprised, and then they compose themselves a little, and then they say: What kind of gas mileage do you get? Of course, what they’re really thinking is: What kind of an asshole are you?
The truth is, I don’t really know what kind of gas mileage I get, because I haven’t really measured it. That’s because I don’t really drive the Hummer all that much. You wouldn’t drive your Hummer very much, either, if you had one. Imagine climbing behind the wheel of an airplane hangar and cruising down your local neighborhood streets. Oh, and it’s bright yellow. That’s what it’s like to drive the Hummer.
But I have been a little curious about the Hummer’s gas mileage, and this weekend I finally decided it was time to measure it. So I grabbed a friend and my trusty five function calculator (add, subtract, multiply, divide, and write “BOOBS” upside down) and I set off on a fuel economy challenge.
Here’s what happened. For the first leg of the journey, I drove like a normal human being to Princeton, New Jersey, which is this nice liberal college town about an hour north of Philadelphia where they’re still holding out for print journalism to make a comeback. Of course, I say “normal human being,” but what I really mean here is that I drove the Hummer Speed Limit, which is defined as: slower than full-size sedans with landau tops.
I always forget how awful it is to drive on the highway in the Hummer until I’m driving on the highway in the Hummer. Then it hits me like a bright yellow airplane hangar. And I think to myself: Why did I do this? So I punch a couple numbers into my trusty calculator, and I’m given the answer: BOOBS.
No, the real answer is that I wanted to determine the gas mileage for you, my dear reader, who is undoubtedly on the edge of your five-function office chair looking for the result. So I put up with the 65 mph maximum speed (track tested), and the lack of cruise control, and the no air conditioning, and the awful aerodynamics, and the fact that the cabin noise level ranks somewhere between “screaming toddler” and “nuclear holocaust,” and I endured the 46-mile drive to Princeton.
Forty-six miles is all it took to reach Princeton. And forty-six miles is also all it took to burn through one full quarter of a tank of gas. When we reached the gas station, we pulled out the ol’ calculator and discovered that the Hummer’s fuel economy stood strong at eleven point one miles per gallon. Mind you, this is highway miles per gallon. At 60 miles per hour. With no air conditioning. To reach this fuel economy figure in a normal car, you’d have to cruise down the road and pour gasoline out the window.
We had to do better on the return trip.
So for the drive back to Philadelphia, I decided to make a few aerodynamic modifications to the Hummer. What I mean by this is, I taped some cardboard boxes over the wheel wells and I stuck a bunch of blue painter’s tape on the panel gaps in an effort to reduce drag and make the truck more slippery. These were highly useful revisions, and I think just about any wind tunnel engineer would agree that these simple changes were able to dramatically enhance the car’s overall aerodynamic profile, bringing it from refrigerator on its side to refrigerator on its side with cardboard boxes taped to it.
The other modification I made on our return trip was to my driving style. No longer did I cruise along at 66 miles per hour, carelessly flouting the 65 mph speed limit like an action movie villain. No, no. Now I was going to go the speed the Hummer wanted to go, in order to maximize fuel economy. So I asked the Hummer how fast it wanted to go, and it told me the answer: BOOBS. We settled on 40.
Now, not many of us have ever cruised at 40 mph on an interstate highway, so today I’m going to tell you what it’s like. Here’s what it’s like: hell. You get passed by everyone. I was getting passed by guys towing trailers. Cars from the 1930s. Box trucks. U-Hauls. At one point, I got passed by an old couple who clearly hadn’t passed someone in a very long time, probably since the Cold War, and they looked over at me as if they were wondering: Is this thing foot-powered?
So low speed is no fun. It sucks. It’s torture. Also – and this is a completely true fact – it makes you get to your destination slower.
But eventually we did reach our destination, and we climbed out of the truck, and we pumped the gas, and we did the calculations, and our final number was … well, you’ll have to watch the video. But suffice it to say we did not reach my goal of respectable fuel economy, and I don’t think the cardboard and the painter’s tape really had any major effect, aside from littering a substantial portion of Interstate 95 in Mercer County, New Jersey.
Fortunately, we came to several important conclusions during the filming of this video. Namely: the Hummer is an awful transportation device if you’re interested in driving on roads, or streets, or highways, or in liberal college towns, or cities, or neighborhoods. However, it does have its uses. For example, I am told that it can crush a Chrysler PT Cruiser.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.