The Hummer lovers might not want to read this, but I didn’t tackle a mountain, cross a stream or even take a corner a little too quick in the new H2.
But I did parallel park it. And invade a mall. And load a car seat.
Shame on my machismo.
How dare I waste the might of a vehicle that can ford a 30-inch deep stream, blast through the wilderness and move 7,000 pounds without a sneeze.
How dare I cage the Hummer.
How dare they change the Hummer.
Hold onto your bravado, but the Mishawaka-built H2 is nothing like the H1 you thought you knew – and were offended by.
It can’t cross streams as much as dip its toe in one. It can’t climb mountains as much as drive past them.
If the military has gone mainstream, the H2 is the company car. Er, truck.
Actually, what exactly is the H2?
First off, it’s nothing like the original. It’s macho for the masses. Civility in a Humvee. It’s – get this? – tame.
When GM bought the “Hummer” name four years ago, it decided to tone it down a little: less might, less bite, more middle of the road. And unlike the H1, it can stay on its own side of the road, be parked in a mall parking space (barely), be driven without worry (oops, did I just trample that Cavalier?) and suck gas without taking two fuel tanks (sorry, Exxon).
With a concept-to-showroom effort that took just 16 months, the H2 is based on the large pickup platform that GM uses for vehicles such as the Fort Wayne-built Silverado and other GMC products. The H2’s wheelbase is just a shade wider (3 inches) than the Silverado. But it’s also 16 inches shorter than a Ford Expedition and more than three feet shorter than an Excursion. It rides well. It feels good. And with underbody armor shielding, it can still off-road. The better thing is that even if you don’t, the H2 won’t leave you looking for the Pepto-Bismol.
If the H1 was a wooden roller coaster, the H2 is all steel, a mix of heavy- and light-duty truck components tucked in above the frame and 10 inches off the ground. But not an H1.
That’s what AM General and General Motors really want you to know. The new H2 is as close to the H1 as a Cadillac is to a Corolla.
So what is it?
At the very least (can you say least with this ride?), it’s still an attention-grabber.
Curious to discover what Julia Roberts’ life is like? See the H2.
Even in its downsized, one body style, one trim level form, this chunky brick got enough stares, gawks, thumbs-up and smiles that you would have thought we were pulling Miss America.
From the outside, there’s a lot to like. The original H1 wasn’t meant to drive city streets. It looked awkward and out of place. The new all-wheel-drive Humvee looks awkward, but in a likeable kinda way. It still has a tall stance and a boxy back end and a chopp ed nose, but Hummer has made it less imposing by squishing it in at the sides – kind of like a shortened school bus on fat wheels.
There’s a healthy use of chrome up front, running boards to allow easy entry and exit, and tinted windows in the back to offset the color of the skin.
Inside, the boxy theme continues with one noticeable improvement: Passengers are not separated by the length of a football field.
In this way, the H1 used to provide instant giggles.
“You need a telephone to talk to the person next to you,” one H1 rider told me, from the other side of the transmission hump.
Passengers would sit in awkward seats that were more like foxholes in the far corners of the truck. This is more SUV-ish.
In the center there are now cupholders, a storage bin and less room. Except for the enormous, chrome-colored gearshift and four large air ducts, the controls are dials borrowed right off any GM vehicle you’ve ever driven. There is dual-climate control, a Bose sound system, an in-dash CD player with nine speakers, power leather heated seats, a trip computer and the OnStar navigation system.
Heated seats and OnStar? Definitely no H1 here.
Under the hood, it’s also a tamer version.
A 6.0-liter V-8 provides a healthy kick, its 316 horsepower enough to get you going in a hurry, especially considering all that weight.
What’s more, all that weight is surprisingly easy to handle.
The H1 was a load to take around a corner. The H2 is leaner. Handling is Suburban-like and easy to manage, whether it’s on the city or the highway. It’s also quieter and less clunky. The H1 would shift gears like, well, a military vehicle.
The H2 is tougher to characterize.
It seats six, like an SUV, but thanks to the full-size spare in the cargo area, it doesn’t have nearly the storage space.
It is comfortable, but anyone over 6-foot is going to have a hard time squeezing under the roof line.
It is not six figures, like the H1, but it is still at least $48,000. And that’s not counting the bank loan you’ll need at the pump. Even with heavy highway miles, the H2 averaged no better than 12 miles per gallon. With a 32-gallon tank, that’s close to $60 per fill up.
Nice touches: The H2 comes with its own compressor and a valve in the rear cargo area so that a hose can be attached and tires reinflated. Also, there’s the option of an Adventure package that adds a self-leveling rear air suspension and a Lux package that adds chrome everywhere.
OK, so why would you buy it?
In its simplest form, the H2 stands for fun. It’s a conversation piece that is also comfortable. It’s a kick to drive, without all the clunks.
What is it?
If you need to figure it out, you probably don’t need one.
2003 Hummer H2
High gear: The tamer, gentler version of the H1 is more manageable inside and out. It still has a brawny engine, big tires and an odd shape, but it handles all of the above with more manners.
Low gear: The big spare tire eats up serious cargo space and the H2 itself eats up serious gasoline. Headroom is also limiting.
Vehicle type: All-wheel-drive, front-engine, four-door, six-passenger truck.
Key standard equipment: Four-speed automatic transmission; on-demand 4WD; high-low gear selection; automatic locking hubs; trailer hitch; all-terrain tires; full-size spare tire; four-wheel ABS; traction control; dual air bags; anti-theft system; daytime running lights; leather seats; eight-way power driver and passenger seat; power windows, locks and mirror s; OnStar service; AM/FM in-dash six-CD Bose stereo with nine speakers; separate rear audio; dual-zone climate control; cruise control
Key competition: Cadillac Escalade, Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon
Base engine: 316 horsepower, 6-liter V-8
Torque: 360 foot-lbs. @ 4,000 rpm
Wheelbase: 122.8 inches
Length: 189.8 inches