- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

It's outrageous, provocative and these days, possibly the most patriotic vehicle out there.

It's Hummer H1, the on- and off-road vehicle designed for the military, owned by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and now marking its 10th year of civilian use.

Well-to-do buyers of this $100,000 vehicle can't be shy, sedentary types. Even after 10 years on the market, the big, burly H1 continues to command attention as Americans remain unaccustomed to sharing their roads with a military-style vehicle.

Everyone seemed to stare as I drove the H1 4-Door Wagon test vehicle painted a bright firehouse red. A lot of those folks also quickly got out of my way as I came up behind them in parking lots and on freeways.

How many other cars or trucks can you say that about?

H1 drivers get another benefit: A great view of the road and the traffic ahead as the H1's minimum 75-inch height puts the driver up high.

H1's height is comparable to the overall height of a Chevrolet Suburban and a bit under the 76.4-inch height of a Land Rover Discovery Series II.

Be prepared, though, for the support pillar in the middle of the windshield. That's not the only thing H1 Just climbing inside the H1 takes thought. I couldn't slide my feet across the door sill, because it has a sizable lip. Feet must be lifted up and over. Ground clearance is a hefty 16 inches.

I sat closer than normal to the windshield. The dashboard, abrupt and utilitarian-styled, doesn't jut out much into the passenger compartment. The H1 windshield is vertical, with none of the rakish positioning of car windshields.

I noticed that at night, the vertical windshield, along with large, vertical outside mirrors, picked up a lot of reflections from headlights of cars around me and even the illuminated H1 instrument panel. It was distracting.

Then there was the view directly in front of me. An easily visible, wide hood had black hooks protruding from underneath. They're used by the military to hook Hummers to helicopters so they can be lifted and ferried to remote locations.

As big as the H1 Wagon is in external dimensions it has the same, 130-inch wheelbase as a Suburban but is about 10 inches wider it doesn't hold many passengers.

Only four seats are inside, and they're separated, arranged on either side of a prominent transaxle hump in the middle of the vehicle and a raised carpeted area.

The military is able to take the Hummer into really rugged terrain because this packaging puts important mechanicals up and out of the way of obstacles below.

The downside is reduced passenger space. But I found the design added to the novelty.

The open expanse in the center of the vehicle, with the four seats pushed to the sides, also is a great way to separate youngsters who are fighting.

Seats aren't plush but provide decent cushion.

However, the driver's seat in the test vehicle squeaked each time I adjusted my weight.

Smokers are well-provided for. Both front seats have their own ashtrays and cigarette lighters something not typical of today's vehicles.

The 2002 also offers the addition of an express-down feature for the driver-side window and revised seat belts and retractors throughout for improved operation.

Headroom of at least 40 inches for all four seats is commendable. But because of the smallish door windows and how the roof line curves down onto the side windows from above, I felt a bit constrained inside.

Rear-seat riders don't get volumes of legroom, either. It's just shy of 30 inches, which is more on a par with riders in the third row of a Suburban than those in the second row, who get 38.6 inches.

But everyone has a head restraint, and stereo speakers are positioned just so, aimed directly at riders' heads.

The reason is clear the minute you start the H1.

The raucous racket of the diesel V-8 comes through to the passenger compartment, even at idle, and could overtake the Monsoon stereo unless volume is cranked up.

Pressing the H1 accelerator just increased the ruckus. I began to relish the times I could let the H1 coast since that made the vehicle quieter.

The 6.5-liter, fuel-injected turbodiesel V-8 is noteworthy for its low-end torque, which allows the H1 to tackle really rugged, off-road terrain with ease.

This year's models an open-top version is the other H1 offering have a higher torque-biasing ratio differential for improved off-road performance. Maximum torque is an impressive 430 foot-pounds at a low 1,800 rpm.

But don't expect this 7,100-pound vehicle to jet ahead on the freeway.

Mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, the engine has maximum 195 horsepower; I found I would slam down the accelerator, hear a lot of engine noise, then gradually accelerate.

It requires planning when merging on the highway.

The H1 requires No. 2 diesel fuel, and there are two tanks to fill: a primary, 25-gallon tank and a secondary one that carries 17 gallons.

This is enough to go 400 miles at an average of 30 to 40 mph over a hard surface and rolling terrain, according to Hummer officials. Drivers switch fuel tanks through a switch inside the vehicle.

Drivers also can adjust tire pressure on the move great for off-roading on sand and over rocks and the tire-inflation system can reinflate a tire for returning to pavement.

The H1 has a four-wheel, independent suspension with variable-rate, heavy-duty springs.

The tester was fitted with uplevel aluminum wheels and tires and transmitted a good deal of vibration to riders. But the H1's wide stance and low center of gravity provided amazing composure in curves, on hillsides and in a variety of driving conditions.

The steering wheel seems smallish for a vehicle like this, and the blower fan for the heater was quite noisy.

The H1 is a low-volume model, with just 768 sold last year, down from 875 in calendar 2000. A lower-priced, new H2 is scheduled to debut this summer and be sold alongside the H1.

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