- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

Unless you're a soldier or someone willing to shell out more than $100,000 for a gargantuan machine that has no peer in the boondocks, the Hummer is a joke.
It's the civilian version of the Humvee military vehicle, crude and rude, and it attracts fewer than 1,000 buyers every year. But the Hummer name, in popular culture, is approaching the threshold of veneration heretofore reserved for Jeep, now a DaimlerChrysler product.
In an era in which sport utility vehicles continue their implacable assault on the marketplace, General Motors recognized the value of the Hummer name, and simply went out and bought it from AM General, the Indiana company that builds it and the military version. Then, to broaden the appeal, the giant manufacturer decided to build a more user-friendly version, cobbled up from existing GM components. The result is the Hummer H2, which has much of the refinement of GM's other SUVs Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon with a great deal of the original Hummer's off-road capability. The military-based Hummer now is called the H1.
Though its guts come from the GM parts bins, the H2 is built by AM General in its new plant in Mishawaka, Ind. From the outset, the AM General folks insisted that, whatever happened, the H2 had to be an authentic Hummer, with all the competence that implied.
It is. The H2 is among a select group of vehicles with state-of-the-art capabilities in all types of trackless terrain. With its wheels way out at the corners, it can climb, descend and traverse steep hills and rocky trails with ease.There's a standard rear suspension, with a solid axle that can be locked for rough going, and an optional setup with self-leveling air springs. The H2 weighs 6,400 pounds and can carry 2,200 pounds. Trailers weighing up to 7,000 pounds can be towed.
The H2 sits on giant all-terrain tires mounted on 17-inch wheels, which contribute to its 10 inches of ground clearance. There's a full-time spare wheel, which weighs a whopping 98 pounds and is carried inside, gobbling up a good deal of the available cargo area. A third-row seat for one person takes up the rest.
The surprising thing about the H2, however, is not its off-road capabilities, which could be expected given its lineage, but its performance on paved roads. With a 6-liter, 316-horsepower V-8 engine and a smooth-shifting four-speed automatic transmission, the Hummer is a serene highway performer. It can accelerate to 60 mph in about 11 seconds, which means it can be bested by whole bunches of other cars and trucks. But it's acceptable.
The cabin is quiet and the steering and brakes require only a gentle touch. With a lot of rubber on the road and its heft of more than 2.5 tons, the H2 handles confidently as long as you don't push it too hard. But the overall feel of ease in a brawny package should make the H2 appeal to people of smaller stature, including women, as well as to the macho set.
Though it looks gigantic and is more than 6.5 feet tall, the H2 actually is not all that long. Its overall length is 15 feet, 10 inches, which is the same as that of the Ford Explorer, a midsize SUV. It's two inches shorter than Chevrolet's midsize sport ute, the TrailBlazer, and it's 1 foot, 2 inches shorter than Toyota's full-size Sequoia SUV.
Inside, the H2 offers all the comfort and serenity you'd find in a modern full-size SUV such as the GMC Yukon or Lincoln Navigator. There are two big bucket seats up front, divided by a wide console that incorporates the automatic transmission shifter. The back seat can accommodate three large people, and the single third-row seat can handle a sixth person.
Standard upholstery is a comfortable cloth, but options such as leather seating surfaces and a motorized sunroof are available. There's a full set of truck-style instruments and, as on other GM SUVs, the daytime running lights can be deactivated for hunters who want to venture stealthily into the woods before daylight.
The one thing the H2 lacks is cargo space. With that big spare wheel and the third-row seat, there's almost no stash space. But the seat can be folded or removed, and the designers are at work on an outside mounted spare.
Base price of the H2 is $48,800, which is less than that of some luxury SUVs. But there are plenty of options that can easily bump it beyond that. The test vehicle, with such extras as the air springs, a sunroof, leather and a bit of extra chrome, topped out at $53,895.


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