Hummer H2 is a capable off-road beast

July 22, 2005|by DAN LYONS/Motor Matters

It's enormously capable, and just plain enormous. That's the short story on the none-too-short H1, the original Hummer.

The military-based, maxi-priced H1 is one of the ultimate, SUV exotics. And while it's fit for just about any off-road situation, it's a tight fit in city streets and many garages.

Price and practicality dictated the development of a smaller version. It was dubbed the H2, and it's only by comparison to the original Hummer that it could be considered "small." Designed by GM and built by Indiana-based AM General, the H2 is officially (and understandably) rated as a large, premium SUV. It stretches 203.5 inches long, 78.5 inches high and tips the scales at a svelte, 6,400 pounds. The H2 shares much of its chassis componentry with GM's largest sport-utilities.

However, Hummer the 2nd leaves its GM siblings and all but a select few SUVs in the dirt when it comes to off-road prowess. The H2 will ford streams up to 20 inches deep, climb 16-inch rocks, tackle a 60-degree grade and in general step over almost anything that Mother Nature can dish.


The ladder frame is stiff and girded with underbody skid plates to protect the powertrain, fuel tank and rocker panels from stumps and rock damage. H2's form - tall, with short overhangs, front and rear - favors the off-road driver. There's 10 inches of ground clearance below, with angles of approach/breakover/departure of 40.4/25.8/39.6 degrees, respectively (more, with optional air suspension).

The H2 has a full-time 4x4 system. It's a two speed, electronically controlled unit, and it operates at a 40 percent front, 60 percent rear, power split in normal conditions. Drivers may also select from a 4-Hi Locked mode that apportions the power 50/50 front/back and locks front and rear axles together to maximize traction. It's suitable for normal driving speeds in slippery conditions, such as gravel, mud or snow. Two low-range settings are also offered. 4-Low Locked links both axles and employs a reduction gear for a controlled approach to extreme off-road travel. One additional mode locks the rear differential as well, sending equal power to both rear wheels, optimizing steep grade climbs. Traction control and anti-lock brakes work in concert with the four-wheel-drive system to maximize grip and minimize spin.

Powering the H2 is a 6.0-liter V-8 linked to a four-speed automatic transmission. Good for 325 horsepower and 365 lbs.-ft. of torque, the Vortec 6000 has plenty of power on tap, whether it's scrambling up a muddy trail or tooling along the interstate. Trucks this size are exempt from reporting gas mileage estimates, but an H2 will just break double digits. While the miles per gallon are small, the gas tank is large - 32 gallons - allowing 300-plus miles between wallet-sapping refills. Handling on-road is on par with other large SUVs and the H2's ride quality is very easy to live with.

If towing is on your to-do list, the H2 is rated to pull a trailer up to 6,700 pounds. Interior cargo volume ranges from 40-86.6 cubic feet. That capacity comes with some caveats. The beefy spare tire is mounted on a carrier, attached to the rear bumper. To gain access to the cargo hold, the tire carrier must be swung over, the top hinged tailgate opened and a high lift negotiated over height to reach the cargo floor.

No matter how harsh the terrain outside, inside the H2, it's cushy and well appointed. There's a turret-like feel to the cabin because of narrow windows with upright angles. Despite the smallish greenhouse, visibility is good in all directions, save straight back, where the driver must look over the crescent top of the bumper-mounted spare. The eight-way power front seats accommodate most any size passengers. The second row offers adult size room, too, and these seats can be individually folded to increase cargo carrying options. A single, child-size third-row seat is available optionally.

People sometimes categorize cars and trucks as masculine or feminine. If there was any doubt that H2 is male, a new option removes that doubt. Available for 2005 models is a DVD-based navigation system with 5.8-inch color touch screen. So equipped, we have a vehicle that will go almost anywhere, wears the same thing every day, doesn't mind getting its feet muddy, and never, ever stops for directions.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2005

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