Alcan 5000

5,000 miles into the Arctic, a full tank of diesel, it's -40F, and we're driving a GMC Sierra

A team of three piled into this 2020 GMC Sierra AT4 and headed up to the Arctic Circle during the Alcan 5000.

Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

There are many events that could lay claim to the title of most extreme driving challenge in the world, but only one takes competitors to the shore of the Arctic Ocean in the dead of winter.

"It's the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder,
It's the forests where silence has lease;
It's the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
I
t's the stillness that fills me with peace."
- From "The Spell of the Yukon" by Robert W. Service

The Alcan 5000 Winter Rally runs once every four years, and has developed a devoted following among adventure-seekers from all over the world. This year, 40 teams made the long drive north from Seattle, Washington to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories.

GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 Alcan 5000 rally Alaska Canada Arctic The GMC Sierra AT4 came equipped with all the latest features, including a valuable camera system that helped with views where traditional mirrors could not, helping to get the team out of more than one tricky situation.Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

The Alcan rally first dares teams to make it to the far north. Tuktoyaktuk lies about 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle. In the short summers, residents fish the Arctic Ocean. The rest of the time they survive winter temperatures that hover around 40 degrees below zero.

The second part of the competition is a daily Time-Speed-Distance test that challenges teams to drive a challenging road at a precise average speed. It's not a race, but rather a demonstration of the ability to arrive exactly on time.

Teams may enter virtually any kind of vehicle they choose. This year's entrants ranged from a 1973 Ford Capri to a Japanese-market right-hand-drive Mitsubishi Pajero and a brand new 2020 GMC Sierra AT4. (The GMC was this writer's ride on the rally.) Subaru cars and SUVs are a popular choice, as are 4WD pickup trucks. Entries are divided into classes based on the type of vehicle - 2WD and Historic vehicles get their own classes.

The rally sets off from Seattle and crosses the Canadian border on the first day. Most people don't realize that British Columbia is about the same size as California. B.C. is known for wildlife, and this is where travelers will usually see American Bison, Bighorn Sheep, Moose, and Caribou. In winter, it takes nearly three days to climb through B.C. and reach the Yukon Territory, where the adventure really begins.

GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 Alcan 5000 rally Alaska Canada Arctic bison There were numerous bison spotting throughout the trip.Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

Adventuring in the Arctic

As we arrived in Whitehorse, temperatures fell below zero. The fat snowflakes of a picturesque winter give way to hard ice and the trees get smaller as teams drive north through Canada's gold country. The last night before the hard push to the Arctic is spent in Dawson. This town dates from the Yukon gold rush, and the frontier spirit lingers there in saloons and rustic hotels.

From Dawson, the rally turns off on the Dempster Highway. This is the only road to Inuvik and the Northwest Territories. The next settlement is Eagle Plains, about 250 miles from Dawson and just 20 miles from the Arctic Circle. Teams stop at the circle monument for photos and bit of clowning around.

Driving becomes serious business on the Dempster. It's a gravel road in summertime, but in the winter it's packed snow and ice, with snow drifts along the shoulders that are easily capable of swallowing a car. About 50 miles in, several teams opted to turn back and wait in Whitehorse for the rally to return.

GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 Alcan 5000 rally Alaska Canada Arctic The Arctic is cold and desolate, especially early in the morning in the heart of winter.Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

The teams that elected to go on traveled in groups and kept in touch by radio to ensure that no one was left stranded, and several vehicles had to be pulled out of trouble. Temperatures on this year's rally plunged to -20F as we crossed the Richardson mountain range and entered the Northwest Territories. At this point teams are not competitors. They're partners in getting everyone over the top safely.

Modern Tech to the Rescue

As we went along, our GMC showed the value of modern technology. The AT4 package includes a raised suspension, skid plates to protect the underside of the truck, and an Automatic mode in the four-wheel-drive system. Many 4X4 vehicles turn off the traction and stability control systems when 4WD is engaged. The GMC's automatic mode allows the truck to function like an all-wheel-drive SUV, sending power to any wheel that has grip while maintaining traction and stability. The effect was exactly what we needed to stay on the road.

We chose Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT3 studded winter tires for the journey. The triangular studs in the Nokian tires bite into the ice, while the advanced tread design molds around snow and frost to grab traction. As wise Arctic travelers recommend, we carried two spares. However, the Nokians survived everything we threw their way and we never used the emergency tires.

GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 Alcan 5000 rally Alaska Canada Arctic While much of the route is traditional roadway, there's thousands of miles of off-road driving in treacherous conditions.Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

It's worth mentioning GMC's extensive camera system. The Sierra has forward and rear-facing cameras, and can deliver a birds-eye view around the truck for tight maneuvering. Best of all, the rear-view mirror is also camera based, with an eye mounted on the back of the cab. In the Arctic, the rear window of any vehicle tends to collect a thick coat of frost and ice. The GMC camera offers clear wide-angle view to the rear that also includes most of the blind spots.

FInally, our GMC was equipped with the new 3.0-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine. With 477 pound-feet of torque, this smaller six-cylinder pulls like a V8. It's paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission to maximize fuel economy. We saw up to 30 MPG in warmer climates to the south. In the Arctic, the extreme cold hits everyone's fuel economy, but where gas engines were averaging under 15 MPG, the Duramax returned about 18 MPG.

The Spell of the Arctic

After a long day of hard driving the rally reaches Inuvik, NWT. At about 3,250 people, Inuvik is the largest town north of the Arctic Circle in North America. Here temperatures plunged to 40 below zero, but at this point no one is going to give up on the great goal. In the morning, teams rise before dawn and continue about 100 miles farther north to Tuktoyaktuk, celebrating the sunrise on the beach of the Arctic Ocean. Or rather, we take the locals' word for it, because there's nothing but ice as far as can be seen.

GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 Alcan 5000 rally Alaska Canada Arctic The team made it to the Arctic Ocean, just 1,500 miles from the North Pole.Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

Tuk is the end of all roads. From here it's just 1,500 miles to the North Pole, all ice. Only Barrow, Alaska is a bit farther north and still reachable by car. After some photos and a little celebration, the Alcan teams turn away from the rising sun and start heading home. The adventure's not over yet, however. There are still five more days of competition before the rally ends in Anchorage, Alaska.

On the way back down, there's more time to pause and appreciate the scenery. The Arctic is wild and very much untamed. Teams observed foxes, wolves, and even a very quick Arctic hare. We were forced to make an unplanned overnight stop in the tiny village of Fort McPherson when the pass over the Richardson mountains was closed due to a blizzard. Teams pooled their food and made a potluck dinner as the local church opened its doors and broke out the supply of cots they keep on hand for these occasions.

GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 Alcan 5000 rally Alaska Canada Arctic Wildlife, like these mountain goats, was spotted throughout the journey.Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

At the end of the event in Anchorage, the team of Garth Ankeny and Russ Kraushaar in the vintage Capri won the competitive portion of the rally. By that point, everyone's ready to cheer because after driving 5,000 miles to the top of the world, just being there feels like a victory. That's why people return to the Alcan Rally again and again.

"There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There's a land— oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back— and I will."

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The 2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV is set to arrive on U.S. lots in the spring of 2023.

Photo courtesy of GMC

When it debuted over the weekend, GMC promised that the 2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV would be packed with "tactical technology". Today, the company is giving a more in-depth look at what technologies you can expect to see in the SUV when it finally makes its way to U.S. dealerships in early 2023.

"GMC's Hummer EV SUV offers an exceptional balance of on-road performance and off-road capability, enhanced by a unique structure that allows for our signature open-air experience," said Al Oppenheiser, Hummer EV chief engineer. "New features debuting on the SUV reinforce its role as a tactical tool in almost any situation."

Among the new technologies are trail mapping, an available Power Station generator, Extract Mode, and CrabWalk. They combine with the Hummer EV SUV's dimensions, which make off-roading hospitable, to create a compelling vehicle, at least on paper.

Satellite-rendered trail mapping

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

Photo courtesy of GMC

Think of this tech as trail navigation plus energy monitoring all in one. The redesigned myGMC app allows users to plan and navigate off-roading adventures while keeping an eye on charging locations and their distances fro off-road locations. This all results in a community-based energy forecast. Routes and plans can be downloaded from the app on the driver's phone and projected on the vehicle's infotainment screen to be used while driving.

"It's technology that adds to the Hummer EV's immersive driving experience," said Mike Colville, senior manager for EV complex feature integration and execution. "More than simply locating a destination, we help you find an epic one, create an EV-unique navigation experience when you get there and allow you to share your trip with others."

Once pushed to the in-vehicle system, the Hummer EV SUV's 13.4-inch infotainment screen and 12.3-inch driver information display share the appropriate information in the correct places for easy use.

Cameras everywhere 

From the same company that brought you 15 different camera views in the 2020 Chevrolet Silverado comes the available technology known as UltraVision. UltraVision offers 360-degree high-definition views with 14 camera views standard and up to 17 camera views the available underbody cameras that come on the Extreme Off-Road Package.

Selective power allocation

The Hummer EV SUV is nine inches shorter than the Hummer EV pickup. That allows it to be more maneuverable, with a turning circle of just 35.4 feet and four-wheel steer. That turning circle is tighter than what the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Toyota RAV4 offer.

The SUV's platform allows for 13 inches of suspension travel while climbing up to 60 percent grades, scaling 18-inch verticals, and fording water more than two feet deep. To do this, the Ultium drive system is able to allocate all the SUV's power to one wheel or split it between several.

This power allocation ability also enables the SUV's CrabWalk mode. Standard on 2X, 3X, and Edition 1 models. CrabWalk enables diagonal drive functionality.

Extract Mode

GMC is touting the Hummer EV SUV's adaptive air suspension with Extract Mode. Though details are scant on what Extract Mode may entail, the general thought around the industry is that it will be something similar to Mercedes-Benz's Free Driving Assist. That Merc tech is an off-road mode that helps drivers get free when they've managed to get their SUV stuck in sand or mud via a bouncing effect.

An onboard power generator

GMC will offer the Hummer EV SUV with generator technology that is similar to what Ford already offers in the F-150. The available Power Station generator enables 19.2 kilowatts of AC charging, generator functionality (120v/25A/3kW), and ability to charge other EVs (240v/25A/6kW). The Ford model's Pro Power Onboard system offers 7.2 kilowatts of charging capability. Earlier this year, theHyundai Ioniq 5 was teased with similar technology.

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The Hummer EV SUV and Hummer EV share a platform.

Photo courtesy of GMC

GMC's electric vehicle lineup is expanding. The 2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV will join the GMC Hummer EV truck in the coming years. Today's unveiling is not an unexpected move. The automaker, a division of General Motors, has been teasing the two side-by-side for the last year.

"The GMC Hummer EVs were envisioned to be the most capable and compelling electric supertrucks ever," said Duncan Aldred, global vice president of Buick and GMC. "The new Hummer EV SUV is the next chapter, which will offer many options for customers to tailor the truck to their lifestyles, while continuing to encourage them to forge new paths with zero emissions."

GMC will sell the Hummer EV SUV in four trim levels: Hummer EV2 SUV, Hummer EV2X SUV, Hummer EV3X SUV, Hummer EV SUV Edition 1.

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV The Hummer EV is proportioned similar to the Chevrolet Tahoe.Photo courtesy of GMC

2024 GMC Hummer EV SUV

The new SUV will be underpinned with much of the same equipment as the Hummer EV truck. It rides on GM's Ultium Platform and will have CrabWalk and Extract Mode capabilities. The SUV's 20-module battery will offer a range of 300 miles on the Edition 1 model while the base EV2 SUV has just 250 miles of range.

The SUV's all-electric drive system offers up to 830 horsepower and 11,500 pound-feet of torque in the Edition 1 model. Propulsion is quick via the three-motor system, delivering the SUV from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds courtesy of Watts to Freedom (WTF) mode.

Hummer 2X and 3X models offer 625 and 800 horsepower, respectively. The 2X has 7,400 pound-feet for torque compared to the 3X's 11,500. The base model's figures are the same as the 2X's; both models have two motors compared to other trim levels' three.

The base model is only able to charge at up to 400 volts while the other models can charge at a rate of up to 800 volts/300 kilowatts.

The interior of the GMC Hummer EV SUV is similar to the interior of the Hummer EV truck.Photo courtesy of GMC

GMC has kept much of the look of the Hummer EV truck with a rugged yet modern aesthetic that calls back to the Hummers of the past. There is a full-size spare tire mounted to the rear. It has a 126.7-inch wheelbase. GMC Is promising a 35.4-foot turning circle. Four-wheel steering is standard on Hummer 2X, 3X, and Edition 1 models.

The automaker is promising that the SUV won't just be a parking lot princess. It is set to be capable off-road with "impressive" brakeover and departure angles. The myGMC app will be redesigned an will offer Hummer EV SUV drivers new "tactical technology" including Energy Assist.

The targa-like Infinity Roof with removal Sky Panels, I-Bar, and rear drop glass is standard.

Edition 1 models come with 22-inch premium wheels, assist steps, and floor liners.

The available Extreme Off-Road package adds 18-inch wheels and 35-inch-OD MT tires, underbody armor and rock sliders, front eLocker and virtual rear lockers, heavy-duty ball-spline half shafts, UltraVision with underbody camera views, and more. Range on the Edition 1 model with this package is just 280 miles.

The five-passenger configuration of the Hummer EV truck carries over to the SUV. The SUV also gets Super Cruise, which GM is working to make more widely available in its products. Super Cruise is driver-assistance technology offering hands-free driving on more than 200,000 miles of enabled roads.

Buyers will be able to customize their Hummer EV SUV using My Mode, auxiliary buttons, and nearly 200 accessories that will be available at launch.

Production of the model is set to begin in early 2023. Edition 1 models and Edition 1 models with the Extreme Off-Road package will be the first out of the gate, coming to market around that time.

Pricing for the Edition 1 model starts at $105,595. Adding the Extreme Off-Road package pushes the MSRP to $110,595. In Spring 2023 Hummer EV2X and EV3X models will begin arriving at dealership priced at $89,995 and $99,995, respectively. The base Hummer EV2 SUV is the last vehicle to arrive to market (Spring 2024) and will have a starting price of $79,995.

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