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Review: 2005 HUMMER H2

June 22, 2005 10:46 AM EST | Hummer , SUV's | Email to Friend

View large imageDespite its more civilized design, this Hummer still maintains the head-turning looks and unstoppable off-road prowess that made the original famous.

Pros
Distinctive styling, unmatched off-road capability, stout drivetrain.

Cons
Feels massive, poor visibility, some cheap interior materials, limited cargo room, horrible fuel economy.

Introduction:
The H2 marks the beginning of a whole new era for both AM General and General Motors. For those who aren't familiar with the former, it's a company that was awarded the original contract to build the Humvee military vehicle. When the Humvee became a household name thanks to its prominent role in Desert Storm, AM General decided to capitalize on its popularity and build a civilian version known as the Hummer. With a sticker price of well over $100,000, it isn't exactly your average sport-utility, but its unstoppable off-road ability and rugged military styling make it a hit with wannabes and movie stars alike. Unfortunately, the Hummer's transition from all-purpose military vehicle to daily driver wasn't perfect. Despite its imposing size, there is barely enough room for four, and the interior ergonomics are poor. Although the suspension allows it to climb over just about anything, negotiating traffic in the nearly three-ton beast isn't much fun. So how does General Motors figure into the equation? Realizing that AM General had a household name for a product that few could afford, GM stepped in and bought the rights to "Hummer" in 1999. It doesn't own AM General, nor does it build any of the vehicles. What the General did do, however, was design a new vehicle called the H2 using its extensive inventory of existing truck and SUV parts. The result was a concept-to-showroom development time of just 16 months, almost unheard of in an industry where new designs typically take three to four years to hit the marketplace. The idea for the H2 is fairly simple. Take the unmistakable look and feel of the original Hummer and infuse it with the comfort and drivability of more traditional sport-utility vehicles. More importantly, do it without sacrificing any of the capability that made the H1 (now the official name of the original) unique. In other words, the H2 couldn't be just a rebadged Chevy Tahoe. To accomplish this, the H2 uses a frame made from both heavy- and light-duty truck components fortified for severe-duty use. The rear suspension is a live axle, five-link design similar to the Suburban and Tahoe, while the front end is a fully independent design with torsion bars. Nearly all of the H2's underbody components have been tucked in above the frame to keep them out of harm's way but with 10 inches of ground clearance and a vast array of underbody armor shielding vital components, the H2 is well equipped for hard-core off-road adventures. Almost all of the convenience features found in GM's SUV and truck lineup can be found in the H2. From dual-zone automatic climate control to a Bose audio system to the OnStar communication system, the H2 is loaded to the hilt with standard features. Of course, its most important feature is still its unmistakable sheet metal, and with colors like desert sand and bright yellow, those who just want to be seen should have no trouble attracting attention in this creation from Hummer.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The H2 comes in only one body style and one trim level, but two major packages known as the Adventure Series and the Lux Series add numerous options. Features like dual-zone automatic climate control, a driver information center and OnStar are standard equipment, along with power everything and a keyless entry system. The Adventure Series package adds a self-leveling rear air suspension along with an upgraded audio system, carpeted floor mats, tool and first aid kits and a front brush guard. The Lux Series package doesn't include the air suspension, but it does add uplevel leather seating, a chrome appearance package, a brushed-aluminum roof rack, tubular side steps and the Adventure package's audio system and floor mats. Other stand-alone options include heated front and rear seats, a power sunroof, an overhead light bar and a DVD-based navigation system.

Powertrains and Performance:
All H2s are powered by GM's 6.0-liter V8 rated at 316 horsepower and 360 lb-ft of torque. A heavy-duty 4L65-E four-speed automatic transmission handles the shifting chores, while a full-time dual-range transfer case distributes the power to the individual driveshafts. Advanced features include a driver-selectable rear differential locker and a drive-by-wire throttle setup that changes sensitivity when low-range gearing is selected.

Safety:
The H2 comes standard with an ABS/traction control system. The advanced traction system allows the H2 to propel itself even if only a single wheel has grip, while driver-selectable settings fine-tune the system to respond better to varying road conditions. The H2 has yet to be tested by the IIHS or NHTSA.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Unlike the awkwardly configured H1, the H2's interior is arranged like a typical full-size SUV. Power-adjustable captain's chairs reside upfront, while a three-passenger bench seat makes up the second row. A bulky full-size spare cuts the third row down to just one solitary jump seat, but it can be removed to make way for extra cargo. The overall design emphasizes the H2's rugged personality, with exposed attachment bolts and an aircraft-style shift lever, but standard equipment like dual-zone climate control and a nine-speaker Bose sound system remind you that the H2 is a thoroughly modern vehicle.

Driving Impressions:
Despite being slightly downsized compared to the original, the H2 still feels massive on the road. The ride is slightly stiffer than that of a Suburban or Tahoe, but not so much as to be uncomfortable. The H2's off-road prowess is easily the best in its class, with steep approach and departure angles, plenty of ground clearance and ample wheel travel. Power from the big V8 is watered down by the vehicle's substantial mass, and fuel mileage often drops to the single digits during stop-and-go driving.

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