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SUT adds cargo utility to the Hummer brand

October 03, 2004|by TIM SPELL/Motor Matters

Stomping toward you, the Hummer H2 SUT looks identical to its monster H2 SUV sibling, which is becoming a familiar sight on city streets.

The big difference is on the other end, with the 2005 four-door Sport Utility Truck wagging a bed behind its five-passenger cabin. Base priced at $51,995, this newest vehicle to strut Hummer macho offers key advantages over its SUV counterpart.

The spotlight is on the cargo box, which may look a bit stubby from the outside, but offers impressive cargo hauling. While in normal form, the bed's load floor measures slightly less than 4-by-3 feet. A GM Midgate system about doubles cargo floor length. A roughly 4-by-6-foot cargo floor - with about 4 feet between wheelhouses - can be created for serious hauling demands.

In up position, the Midgate acts as a bulkhead between the bed and passenger compartment. It seals the cab's rear with a solid lower portion and a window. When additional cargo hauling capacity is needed, the Midgate window is powered down with a touch of a dash-mounted switch, and then the rear seat and Midgate are folded forward. A durable, ribbed floor surface allows the bed to endure the rough cargo-loading punishment.

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Hummer offers a rubber mat that helps protect the interior from grit and grime. Valuable cargo can be hidden and protected from rain beneath an optional $950 locking, folding hard tonneau cover. A major utility enhancer is a swing-away spare-tire carrier. Unlocked and moved aside it allows the tailgate to drop for cargo loading. The giant spare riding at the rear is a major improvement over the original H2 SUV that loses cargo room to an inside-mounted spare.

Without sheet metal shrouding the cargo hold, rear visibility is much improved. Ultimate clarity comes with the Midgate or power window dropped. The lowered window also complements the H2 SUT's outdoor character by letting air into the cabin. It teams with the opened large, standard sunroof and side windows to provide the feel of a convertible.

Inside, the design is a blending of traditional Hummer ruggedness with the sophisticated luxury expected of a premium 4x4. The cabin is spacious, seats are comfortable and supportive, and the highway ride is surprisingly

good - comparable to a new Chevy Tahoe or GMC Yukon.

Standard upholstery is Medium Wheat leather, but an uplevel interior package is available that features an all-black theme that includes Ebony leather.

Cabin design is such that the driver feels in control of an edgy "machine" rather than a common SUV. The chiseled-look dashboard and center console are design highlights, providing heavy doses of industrial-precision charisma. Satin-metal accents and enormous, round, ball-and-socket air-control vents accentuate this machined effect.

These styling effects contribute to H2 SUT's image of a hard-core driving machine. More than any Hummer ever built, H2 models have the ability to confidently transport their owners through the worlds of both severe off-road and pampered on-pavement driving.

Like the H1, the H2 SUT can go over, and even up, formidable obstacles. Key contributors to this tank-like performance are massive tires and forged-aluminum wheels. The H2 SUT rolls through the rough stuff on LT315/70R-17 BFGoodrich tires with a whopping 35-inch diameter.

The high-torque muscle needed to get the 6,400-pounder's Goliath tires rolling is GM's Vortec 6000 V-8 engine, beefed up over the original H2's version. This 6.0-liter delivers 325 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 365 lbs.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Its mates are a heavy-duty, four-speed automatic transmission and two-speed, electric-shift 4WD system.

The Eaton "ELocker" locking differential is a driver-selectable, electronic unit that provides 100 percent axle lock. It operates in "4 LO," engaging in an instant at speeds of 0-3 mph and automatically unlocking at 20 mph.

When H2 SUTs emerge from the world of grit to roll onto smooth pavement, they "clean up" well - showing off high style and behaving surprisingly well on the open road. While there's no doubt the body possesses H1 DNA, its design stands well apart from the utility look. Instead of H1-style body panels that look as if they were cut from a garage door, H2 SUT sheet metal is sleek and polished.

For Hummer fans, the extra effort required to climb aboard the tall, macho H2 SUT is worth it. Sitting up high in a Hummer means occupants are soaking up more prestige and macho than most of the vehicles they're - literally - looking down upon.

(Tim Spell is the auto writer for the Houston Chronicle Cars & Trucks section.)

© Motor Matters, 2004

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