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2003 Hummer H2 Road Test Review
Turning You Into One Fine Socko Mutha
by Denise McCluggage

Are you tired of having the vehicle you drive betray you as a Soccer Mom? Here's one that will transform you into a Socko Mutha.

Maybe unable to leap tall buildings, the Hummer2 can scale rugged rocks and wade water not to mention haul your groceries and your kids' teammates. And it most certainly can wow your neighbors. What's more it is carefully appointed, comfortable, spacious and drives quite nicely on the highway, thank you.

The Humvee, a wide and capable military vehicle of Gulf War fame, was slightly demobbed to become the first Hummer, a mammoth loud, uncomfortable sand box toy for large, rich boys. (Prototype: Arnold Schwarzenegger.) General Motors made an arrangement with AM General (the manufacturer) with an idea of exploring a path similar to that taken by a previous military vehicle that made it big in civvies - the Jeep. The Hummer2 (aka H2) is the second civilian branch off that Humvee trunk. There will be others even smaller coming along. The Hummer1 (about 1000 units a year) will continue as well.

The H2, projected as a 30,000 per year seller, is related via platform to GM's other large trucks and SUVs - Suburban, Escalade, Tahoe, Yukon, Sierra, Silverado etc. However the H2 is much more than a slab-sided body and squared off nose designed for effect. For economy the H2 draws heavily on parts already in the bin but it is considerably modified to make a serious on-road off-road and off-off-road performer. In use it is as capable as a genii; in appearance it is orderly and eye pleasing. The H2 is no wannabe; it is an "is." In short this Hummer is a humdinger.

Mechanical details: the engine is a Vortec 6-liter V8 gasoline engine producing 316 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 360 lb-ft of torque at 4000. The transmission is a four-speed automatic.
The Hummerization of the package begins with shortening the basic platform to reduce overhang to a minimum and get the wheels (ruddy big ones) as close to the four corners as possible. If a vehicle is to be more than just a foul weather friend or a fishing-cabin pack mule it must score well in the statistics for things called approach and descent angles and breakover.

These numbers determine how steep an incline can be attacked heading upward or left behind heading down without serious insults to the bodywork. And how sharp a crest can be crossed without getting hung up teetering there in need of a skyhook. In short these are the measure of off-roadability.

Imagine a sharp curb of normal street height. Probably your car can climb it if approached just right. Now make that curb 18" high, a comfortable seating height. The H2 can roll up over that with even greater ease.

For the record, the H2's approach and descent angles are 41.7 and 41.8 degrees and the breakover 27.5 degrees. The numbers may mean little to a driver whose off-road experience has been an unintentional detour through the neighbor's petunias, but trust me - these are impressive. Furthermore, the underside of the H2 where vulnerable parts live is plated and caged and otherwise armored against the intrusion of rocks and stumps with malicious intent.

For a while there in the evolution of the SUV "car-like" became the goal with off-road capability belittled. The four-wheel drive was to enhance sure-footedness in bad weather and perhaps the road clearance was high enough to clear snowdrifts left by a plow at the driveway entrance. But no low range gears, no creeper, no skid plates. After all, ran the argument; only some 5-10% of SUV owners ever venture into the boonies anyway, why build for that?

The percentage of SUVs pressed into off-road use has not noticeably increased but nonetheless we now have some SUV makers vying for bragging rights in off-road credentials.
Land Rover makes certain all of its offerings are serious backcountry contenders and has even added locking differentials to the new Range Rover, something the older Rovers scorned.

Mercedes-Benz reclaimed its G-Wagen from an independent importer, dubbed it the G series and brought the price down to the mere high country (In the $70,000s) out of the stratosphere. The G-Wagen sports three locking differentials and a suspension that allows it to crawl over appallingly rough terrain. The Hummer1 could best the G-Wagen only on inclines of loose shale because the H1 could deflate its tires to some ten pounds for traction and then re-inflate them from an on-board compressor.

The Jeep Cherokees still perform quite well off road but their angles of approach and departure are limiting. Jeep Wranglers need after-market tweaking to protect the underbelly and to limit the slip of the differentials or lock them.

Now comes the Hummer2.

The H2 manages to one-up its competition in one or more of these areas: price; styling; on or off-road performance; space, comfort and quiet. It's an amazingly appealing package even for those of us who found the H1 as a civilian simply silly.

One feature of the H2 certain to find favor among off-roaders is what they call the creeper or granny gear. This low-low gear allows a vehicle to crawl steadily along, mountain-eating, up steeps and down at the same grinding pace without more than an occasional touch on the brakes for the longest downward plunges. Brakes are unsettling to a vehicle in extreme duress so the creeper gear is lovely.

And another welcome feature - at the slow pace of rough off-road the throttle input is automatically adjusted so that a delicate touch on the pedal is possible. None of that rough-trail inadvertent bouncy-bounce on the gas that leads to un-cool lurching. This feature is equally helpful in maneuvering on icy pavement.

The H2 hit the dealers (some 150 of the top GM dealers in the country) in July and has been rolling out the door just as fast. Of course in California, capital of the gotta-have-it-now car buyer, rumor has it that $2000 and upwards in premiums is common.

The sticker prices, by the by, are $48,800 for the H2 with stock suspension. Add some niceties (like leather seating and a huge sunroof) along with what GM calls airspring suspension - good for leveling the ride almost magically and also elevating the ride height by two inches if one chooses.

So you say you're not into 4-wheeling. The H2 might induce you to try it. It's no chore with its roomy comfort and excellent on-road manners to get you to the site. And it can excel once there as well. Hummer clubs are dotted here and there. Join up.
But even if you treat this SUV the way you treat your soccer mom vehicle - gathering and fetching - the H2 will do you proud and earn your kids points from those hypercritical scorekeepers at middle school. True, it will cost you at the gas pump (green it is not, whatever color you choose.)

Will you be the only woman in an H2? Not at all. As one dealer put it: "Of my buyers 30 percent are women who don't have to ask anyone else's permission and 70 percent are men who do."
So try this H2. You can go for it on your own or give him the thumbs up.

Click here for more information on the Hummer H2.