- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

“Like nothing else,” is Hummer’s marketing tagline. Where the H2 SUT is concerned, it hits the nail on the head.

You Tahoe and Expedition owners weary of seeing carbon copies of your ride at every intersection could easily appreciate the uniqueness of the SUT. You might go all day without encountering another one. Of course there are some obvious reasons for that.

If “practical,” “economical to operate,” or “understated” occupy any space on your new-vehicle shopping criteria list, you will probably pass on the SUT. Hummers in general are anything but low profile and the simple utterance of the “Hummer” name makes Greenies see red.

There are certainly a gaggle of big SUVs out there that are more refined — particularly at the SUT’s $56,455 base price point. Not that ride quality and passenger comfort are after thoughts.

Hummers in general have come a long way since the stage coach-like ride and accommodations of the original consumer H1.

Even the H2 has improved dramatically throughout its five year lifecycle.

The 2008 edition exhibits a redesigned, upscale instrument panel, better seats and substantially improved fit and finish all around. Although a few other big SUVs out there have successfully blurred the line separating sedan interiors from truck interiors, the H2 wants neither driver nor passengers to completely forget it is a truck.

Sure, well-heeled poseurs are attracted to the H2. It’s one of the premier showoff vehicles on the market today. However, the H2 is fully capable of making good on the off-road prowess promised by its brawny exterior.

It can successfully tackle just about any terrain. Its brutish 6.2-liter V8 pumps out 393 horsepower, while its 415 pounds-feet of peak torque is sufficient grunt to tug 8,000 pounds behind it.

A very sophisticated six-speed driver-shiftable automatic transmission smoothly hustles engine production to all four wheels on a full-time basis. Unlike many full-time all-wheel-drive SUVs, though, the H2 also provides low-range gearing available for severe terrain. Underbody skid plates are standard for when the 9.7 inches of ground clearance aren’t quite enough.

The H2’s suspension architecture is basically a truck’s. It features an independent suspension up front and a coil spring layout in the rear. Seventeen-inch aluminum wheels and all-terrain rubber are standard. Opting for the $1,275 air suspension package not only provides a self-leveling system for the rear suspension, which is particularly helpful when off road, but also includes an air compressor and bed-mounted valve for inflating tires, air mattresses and so forth.

For another $280 you can add the entire Adventure Package, which includes the air suspension as well as a front brush guard, tool kit with portable lamp and a first aid kit. Monitored by an anti-lock system, four-wheel disc brakes are standard. Also included are automatic stability control and traction control.

At first blush, the SUT’s smallish pickup cargo box that replaces the third-seat area of the conventional H2 appears more an affectation than a useful feature. Indeed, it’s less than three feet long. However, its perceived practicality increases when the foldable midgate is included in the equation. Folding the second-row seats down and opening the midgate increases the cargo capacity from 22 cubic feet to nearly 53 cubic feet, and, in essence, stretches the cargo box to six feet.

Characterizing the SUT’s interior as luxurious may be an exaggeration, but it’s definitely upscale. A Bose-enhanced audio system features seven speakers, a six-disc CD changer and auxiliary input jack for personal audio devices. There are redundant audio controls mounted on the steering wheel. All the seats are leather covered and can be heated. Cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats with an eight-way power lumbar adjustment, OnStar, power sunroof, XM satellite radio and the usual power accessories are all standard.

For another $890, the rear vision system can be added that uses a rear-pointed camera to show the driver what’s behind when backing up. Adding $1,720 to the bottom line upgrades the radio and includes a DVD-based navigation system.

Vehicles in the H2’s weight class escape the Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel economy testing, but if you are managing to coax 11 mpg out of your H2 in the city and 14 mpg on the highway, consider yourself lucky.

Beyond that, it’s a competent off-road warrior versatile enough to take the family out Friday night then accomplish home maintenance chores on Saturday.

If you can afford the purchase price and the $100 or so it takes these days to fill up an empty tank, and you won’t be offended by drivers in Toyota Priuses shaking their fists or something worse at you, the H2 SUT is to be considered.

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