The first time we took a look at the new Hummer H2 it was when we tagged along for a ride over California's infamous Rubicon Trail back in our November 2001 issue. While getting a very early look at the new H2 working its way over the granite was a treat, the H2s involved were very rough prototypes and test mules. This meant that we had only a foggy idea how the H2 would actually appear in production. However, all that changed when we got invited to Detroit to take a look at the finished product: a production 2003 Hummer H2.
What first catches your eye about the H2 is its exterior. While some folks have been calling the H2 a baby Hummer, this is by no means accurate. The H2 is still a rather large vehicle. It is actually a bit taller and longer than the original Hummer (which will remain in production as the H1) but with a reduction in width that, when compared to the original, makes it a bit more manageable. While GM designers claimed to have taken a clean-sheet approach to the exterior body design, the H1's heritage can be seen in the new Hummer. It appears as a more modern, cleaned-up version of the original but retains the H1's barn-door-like aerodynamics.
Sliding inside the production H2, one immediately notices a major departure from the original Hummer. Gone is the giant center hump that was in place to clear the driveline. That has been replaced by a flat floor. This makes for a dramatic change in the interior and means that the driver and passengers no longer reside in different counties, and can communicate without resorting to their cell phones. With the giant hump gone, the interior now has a more roomy feel to it and leg, head, and shoulder room are dramatically improved over the original. The H2 also can be had with all the amenities found in today's crop of luxury SUVs, including heated leather seats and a premium sound system.
Just as important as what is found inside the H2 is what is found underneath. Lurking under the massive hood is the same Vortec 6000 from the GM lineup of trucks. The 6.0L V-8 produces 325 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 385 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. Behind the 6.0 is a 4L65E four-speed automatic transmission that is a strengthened version of the familiar 4L60E. It was utilized to take advantage of its 3.06:1 First-gear ratio. That ratio, when combined with the standard 4.10 ring-and-pinion, helps make a decent crawl ratio.
Rounding out the drivetrain is a brand new transfer case, the BorgWarner 44-84. It is an electronically controlled, full-time, two-speed transfer case that features a low-range of 2.64:1. For normal operation the 44-84 provides a 40/60 percent front-to-rear torque split. Once the T-case is locked in high-range, it provides a 50/50 split. Shifting into low-range not only activates the 2.64:1 ratio but also enables a new, more measured throttle progression curve for better driver control at slow speed. One of the more exciting features is that once in low-range, an Eaton electronic rear locker can be engaged for traction.
Further helping the H2 seek traction is its Single Wheel traction control system. The system detects slipping wheels and applies brake pressure to slow them down and at the same time transfer power to the wheels with traction. An interesting feature of the system is that anytime the transfer case is in a locked mode, a second driver-selectable feature called TC2 is available. In this mode, the traction control will allow for more wheelspin in situations such as sand or mud.
To keep the wheels on the ground, the H2 uses an independent front suspension with torsion bars based on that seen in GM's 2500 HD trucks. In the rear, a five-link coil-spring suspension, based on that from the 1500 Tahoe, is used. An optional, self-leveling airbag rear suspension also is available. It uses the same five-link setup as the standard rear suspension, but the coils are replaced by airbags. This system also utilizes longer shocks for more articulation and the driver can raise the rear by two inches to provide extra clearance for the trail. Also included in the package is an air compressor and tire inflation accessory kit to reinflate the tires back to street pressures after trail runs.
So how do all these new systems work? How does the H2 actually drive on and off the highway? Well, unfortunately we only got to look at the production Hummer H2. We didn't get a chance to drive it. However, we are as curious as you are, and will let you know once we get an opportunity to put one through its paces.