Aiding the H2's very impressive off-road abilities is the suspension system. The independent front suspension uses torsion bars, and the rear suspension comes in two forms: as a coil spring system or as an air suspension. The coil system uses a five-link variable-rate setup, and the air suspension is a five-link self-leveling system. This vehicle has 46mm monotube gas shocks at all four corners and comes with 17x8.5-inch cast-aluminum wheels and LT315/70R17 BFGoodrich tires.
Hummer began as the HMMWV (High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle), a military machine that was built to fight in the desert. It earned a strong reputation at its debut in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, when it caught the eye of the American people. The combination of military-strength components and extreme versatility - full-time four-wheel drive, 16 inches of ground clearance, excellent approach and departure angles, central tire inflation, and the ability to drive on a staggering 60 percent grade - made this vehicle highly desirable for off-road adventures. The high demand led to the introduction of the Hummer for civilians in 1993. However, its high price made it more of an off-road dream machine than many people could actually afford. For those who could afford it, few were willing to take it rockcrawling; unfortunately, it was less than civilized on the streets.
After acquiring the rights to the Hummer name in 2000, GM and AM General formed a partnership to build new Hummer products. The engineers at General Motors had several challenges facing them when they decided to design a new vehicle to add to the Hummer lineup. They wanted to create a vehicle that was more comfortable, less expensive, and had more power, but retained the look and capability of the original Hummer. Hummer was not prepared to have its name associated with a vehicle that didn't merit it, so its side of the partnership needed to make sure that the vehicle would truly live up to the Hummer name. The vehicle the companies came up with was the Hummer H2, a fullsize SUV that met and surpassed both companies' expectations. (The original Hummer is now known at the H1.)
General Motors needed to find a way to reduce costs without compromising the vehicle's off-road capability. The engineers and designers opted to use the most durable combination of GM components for the H2, while giving it an engine that would provide plenty of power to pull the 6,400-pound SUV around. The Hummer H2 is powered by the 6.0L Vortec V-8, an engine that gives the H2 316 hp at 5,200 rpm and 360 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Considering the H1's 190 hp and 7,100-pound curb weight, the power-to-weight ratio is definitely in the H2's favor. The 364ci V-8 is backed by the 4L65-E four-speed electronic automatic transmission, with a 3.06:1 First-gear ratio. The engine uses electronic throttle control, a drive-by-wire system that uses throttle position, shift patterns, and transfer case position to determine the best use of power, both on- and off-road.
The chassis was built to be tough on the trail, with rocker panels along the sides that bolt to the frame and skidplates mounted under the engine, transmission, catalytic converters, and transfer case. The H2's frame is a fully welded ladder-type three-piece frame with hydroformed components for added strength and stiffness. The H2 has 4.10 axles, a two-speed electronically controlled Borg-Warner 44-84 transfer case, and a crawl ratio of 33.1. The Low-range lock gear reduction is 2.64:1. When the transfer case diff is locked, the torque split is 50/50. There are five settings that the H2's transfer can be in, and all can be done with the push of a button: 4-Hi Open, 4-Hi Locked, 4-Lo Locked, 4-Lo Locked and Locking Differential, and, of course, Neutral (for flat-towing). The H2 also has single-wheel traction control, and TC2, when its button is selected, will allow more wheel slip, making it easier to get through sand.
Many of the attributes that help off-road also improve the H2's on-road drive feel. The stiffness provided by the frame improves the highway drive, as does the suspension system. The combination keeps the ride smooth and comfortable and drastically improves the SUV's response and handling. While the air spring rear suspension gives the H2 improved articulation off-road, it provides on-road comfort as well.
This vehicle is taller and longer than the H1, but slightly narrower; in fact, it's barely wider than a Tahoe. The body was designed basically from scratch but made to look similar to the H1. It also has reinforced steel bumpers, durable tow hooks, and a mount that is compatible with a 9,000-pound winch. The H2 comes in a choice of seven colors: Pewter Metallic, Black, Yellow, Medium Sage Green Metallic, White, Sunset Orange, and Redfire Metallic. The boxy exterior and flat glass, while reminiscent of the first Hummer, also serve to make the interior roomy. The interior seats six, with eight-way power adjustable front seats and the option of leather seat surfaces. There is also the option of a third-row seat. The H2's interior took design cues from its military origins, including a flight-deck-type center console, jet-fighter-style shifter, exposed fasteners, and round vents. There are also metal accents throughout the interior. Going to great lengths to reduce noise levels on this vehicle made the interior extremely quiet.
The H2 is not a baby Hummer, and it certainly is not a Suburban with a Hummer shell. This SUV is a vehicle all its own, with impressive capability on the trail and a smooth highway ride. Not only is it better on the highway than the H1 but it is more affordable. General Motors made the H2 rugged and refined and priced it at $48,800, including destination, making it the most affordable Hummer to date. General Motors is planning on introducing an SUT version of this SUV within the next couple of years. While the H2 did extremely well in OFF-ROAD's test, the real test will be when Rod Hall gets behind the wheel and takes it for a spin in the desert.