- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2001

NEW YORK At a recent automotive press day, General Motors flaunted a more impressive display of rippled physiques than Muscle Beach does on a good day.

Pumping up the hype was movie action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger, appropriately paired on stage with the Hummer H2 SUT concept. "Look at those deltoids; look at those calves," Mr. Schwarzenegger said of the H2 SUT.

General Motors, which acquired Hummer in late 1999, is eyeing the H2 SUT concept like it did the set-for-production H2 SUV it follows as a future addition to the lineup. It's a powerful message the Hummer brand is expanding far beyond the military-bred H1. These totally restyled and re-engineered 4x4 Hummers blend the expected beast with civility and style never before associated with the Hummer nameplate.

The partnership of Mr. Schwarzenegger with the Hummer brand is like no other celebrity/ manufacturer relationship. The muscle man is a legitimate player in a game that paid off with the actualization of the Hummer product line. While filming "Kindergarten Cop" about a decade ago, Mr. Schwarzenegger saw a fleet of military Humvee vehicles rolling down the street. He had to have one. Since the Humvee was a military-only vehicle, Mr. Schwarzenegger initiated talks with the manufacturer, AM General Corp., and the U.S. Army. Those discussions resulted in the civilian Hummer.

The H2 SUV will go on sale the second quarter of 2002, and the H2 SUT pending approval will land in dealerships about a year later, said Michael DiGiovanni, Hummer marketing manager. Both will be priced in the high $40,000s.

The H2 SUV and H2 SUT are platform twins but have very different personalities, Mr. DiGiovanni said. The SUV is better suited for a family because it seats up to six passengers. The five-seater SUT was created to appeal to people who want a specialty image vehicle that's different from anything else. Differences are numerous, but basically the SUV is a square-back sport utility vehicle, and the SUT is a sport utility truck with an open cargo box.

In normal form, the SUT's bed is a mere 3-footer, but the load floor can expand to 7 feet. The method used to lengthen the cargo floor is similar to that found in Chevy's 2002 Avalanche. It has an adjustable bulkhead (or midgate) at the cab's rear. The rear seat folds and the midgate folds forward. Drop the tailgate, and a durable, ribbed, flat surface is created that can handle heavy-duty needs.

The body shares a character with the H1 that inspired it, but sheet metal has evolved from a garage-door look to one more like a quality major appliance. Far removed from military camouflage, the SUT's slicker body will flash like a neon sign with bright colors such as burnt orange and yellow. H2 isn't gargantuan like the H1, but mimics it with short front and rear overhangs, and a width that exceeds its height. Its 188.3-inch length is 10.6 inches less than that of a Chevy Tahoe, making it an easy garage fit.

Maintaining the military design flavor, H2 SUT's clamshell hood is forward-hinged and secured at the fender sides with large, utilitarian-look latches. In lieu of hooks, placed on Humvees for helicopter hoisting, a large pair of grab handles protrudes from the hood. These brushed-metal grips provide the means to pull open the large hood.

Under the cowling sits a 6-liter Vortec V-8 engine. It moves the 5,725-pound SUT with 325 horsepower and 370 foot-pounds of torque. The transmission mate is a heavy-duty five-speed automatic. Full-time all-wheel-drive traction is sent to 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels with enormous 315/70R-17 tires. These are 35-inch-tall tires, a shade smaller than the H1's 37-inchers. Big tires contribute to the SUT's tall ground clearance of about 10 inches. The suspension isn't freight-train heavy duty like the H1's, but it is formidable enough for serious off-road conditions.

Hummer's focus on overbuilding and extreme design also is evident on the inside. The dashboard has an industrial-grade, chiseled look with brushed metal accents and oversized air vents. The shifter is imposing a design Mr. DiGiovanni likens to a 747 jet control. SUT's interior is much roomier than the H1's four-passenger cabin. Its leather-covered front seats offer greater travel to provide more leg-stretching room for taller passengers.

An open-air experience is provided by powering open six windows the four sides, rear and "largest skyroof in GM's history." A straight-on night-vision camera mounted within its brushed-metal grille is likely.


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