Constant readers may recall that there's been some whining in this column about the lack of factory trail rigs. By that I mean rigs that you can drive straight from the showroom floor to the Rubicon Trail in California, to the Golden Spike Trail in Moab, or to Tellico, and have some fun with them without shattering them, or without getting so stuck that you'd not be likely to get back home before, say, Thanksgiving.
Well, I've been out on the trail recently in several vehicles that contradict that notion. One of those vehicles is not such a big surprise-it's Jeep's Wrangler Rubicon, to which we introduced you last month. But the other vehicle was a very big surprise indeed. It was the Hummer H2, about which you'll read this month.
Here's why the H2 was a surprise. In the first place, we're not huge fans of the Hummer H1. We find it to be too big, too slow and too heavy. In fact, it finished behind the Toyota Tacoma and a standard Jeep Wrangler in our Ultimate 4x4 Challenge last year. So we wondered, would the H2 even be as effective as the H1?
Guess what? The H2 is very effective indeed, as you will see if you read the story on it contained in this issue. The reality, however, is that the Hummer engineers had little choice in this. Build a Hummer that's not capable? If they had done that, they'd have been laughed at. And the laughter would have started right here in these pages. But no laughter is warranted. Rather, these men and women are to be congratulated for building a vehicle that you could drive straight from the showroom floor to nearly any trail at Moab-which is basically what we did during the H2's press introduction.
Which brings me to something I'm really curious about. Hummer's marketing folks allow that no more than 10 to 15 percent of H2 buyers will actually use their rigs for four-wheeling. Those figures seem high to me, but on the other hand, H1 enthusiasts-as opposed to the poseurs that 'wheel their H1s on citified pavement only-seem an enthusiastic bunch who do actually subject their megabuck mounts to the rigors of tough trails, at least those with enough room for them. So why should 'wheelers who buy into the Hummer legend at the H2 level be any different from those who do so at the H1 level?
For me, of course, the notion of bashing about on a class 4, or 4-plus, trail in a brand-new $50,000 vehicle suggests a course of action sure to result in rapidly diminishing rate of return.
But that's neither here nor there, and is based on the preconception-developed over too many years of bashed sheetmetal and broken parts-that one 'wheels in a trail rig that one is not afraid to damage. Well, on this introduction to the H2 we did Poison Spider Mesa, Golden Spike and Gold Bar Canyon-all of which carry difficulty ratings, on a scale of 5, of from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2-traversing all the obstacles except the treacherous Double Whammy. No sheetmetal damage, no broken parts. Even worse, very little drama.
All of which brings us back to our original thought-that we'd been whining about the lack of factory-built trail rigs. For sure, you can't make that complaint anymore-and maybe you never really could. After all, Jeep has always built its vehicles to tackle tough trails-yep, I've seen stock Grand Cherokees and Libertys make the Rubicon, and for sure a stock Wrangler can do it. We know that Toyota's Tacoma TRD 4x4 is a very capable piece, so is the Range Rover Discovery, and now we know that the Hummer H2, of all things, can run with this crowd. We're really surprised by that. But we're also hugely pleased. Maybe the vehicle manufacturers haven't forgotten we 4x4 enthusiasts after all.