- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

Bold, brawny and extremely capable that is how the military describes the HMMWV, also known as the Humvee, or Hummer. It is also how I would explain the new H2. Since General Motors has purchased the Hummer brand and is introducing the all-new H2, the name of the original Hummer has now officially been changed to Hummer H1.

The deal between GM and American General is far too complicated to detail here. But the companies agree it is a relationship that will benefit both immensely.

Essentially how it works is that American General retains all the military construction and all but the marketing and distribution of the H1 civilian model.

American General is acting as a contract manufacturer for the new H2. General Motors is responsible for all other aspects of the business concerning the H2.

It may be complicated and hard for us to understand, but of one thing I am certain, the deal culminates in the availability of two very capable vehicles.

The H2 is a more civilized vehicle that has nearly the same rugged features and capabilities of its big brother, but it is a lot more comfortable.

Based on a modified GM 800 truck frame, the H2 is built to be as tough as anything out there. It is like taking a military vehicle and refining it so it will also fit right at home in your neighborhood.

It's like a mountain goat equipped like a luxury suite.

During my initial drive I noticed that a great many people mistook the H2 for the original larger Hummer. This is quite a compliment to the designers, because it proves they brought the same attitude to the new H2.

This is no namby-pamby street truck. If you want to shake your confidence to its very soul, you do that out on some of the roughest trails you can find.

At the same time you will rest comfortably in the H2's cabin. Get the two vehicles side by side and you will be amazed at how different they truly are. You also realize how refined the H2 truly is.

Though it would not truly qualify as a hand-built vehicle, there are a number of manual operations that go into building each H2. In the words that circulate through the brand-new factory American General built exclusively for the H2, they will not accept anything less than the best.

"We will not accept, build or ship mistakes" is the motto of all who build the H2. These folks are committed to building a quality vehicle. It may be well built but how it performs both on and off the road will impress you as much as its quality.

While being dropped by parachute from a transport plane, as would happen with an H1, may not be part of your everyday activity, you can rest assured the new H2 will go nearly everywhere and do everything you might ask of it.

The H2 will climb over a 16-inch-high wall or ford a 20-inch-deep river or ascend a 60-degree embankment. It will do all this and more while wrapping you in the comfort of a luxury SUV. I did all this and more during my test drive.

To really experience all the capabilities of the H2, I went to the testing facility used by the military for testing the H1. It is here, once the exclusive hunting grounds for the Studebaker family, that customers from all over the world come to put Hummers to the test. If I could put a roadblock in front of the H2, it would certainly be here.

Granted, I was not able to push the H2 over the 22-inch wall or ford the deep river the way a H1 could, but the H2 and I could stay right alongside the H1 by finding a shallower river crossing and a smaller fallen log. The engineering that makes this possible comes from a combination of Hummer experience and General Motors know-how. Using the knowledge Hummer has gained through its H1 program, and using the truck hardware GM has at its disposal, has culminated in an extremely capable vehicle, both on and off the road.

Modified hydro-formed frame rails; a big beefy, 6-liter, V-8 engine; and a heavy-duty automatic transmission, coupled with an easy-to-use four-wheel-drive system, help make the H2 a wonderful chameleonlike vehicle.

If your life is filled with military-style challenges, and yet you demand the comfort offered by the modern SUV, the H2 may just be the vehicle you have been waiting for.

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