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The New Hummer H2

Everything the Hummer Is—and Everything the Hummer Isn’t

It’s new, it’s different, and it works. That’s the lowdown we found out on a secret engineering drive with the new Hummer—the H2. Although it’s still in the engineering phases, we lucked out and tagged along with four prototype H2s and all its engineers for real-world testing on the Rubicon. Unlike most manufacturers, who stick to a contrived test track for data acquisition, the Hummer crew wanted to know how the new rig would perform on a real trail, what to change to make the new H2 even better, and what we thought of it. We can’t tell you everything we learned, as the design and engineering is still ongoing, but here are the basics of what you have to look forward to. But first, some important background info.

When someone says “Hummer,” images of a big, wide, strong 4x4 with a steep price tag come to mind. And for some, a lack of acceleration and a disdaining diesel clatter are envisioned. But that’s the old Hummer, now known as the H1. The new H2 promises much more, while still building on the basics of its older sibling.

Anyone who doesn’t know what an original Hummer is like is probably brain dead or living under a rock. The Hummer first burst on the scene as the military Humvee, designed and produced by AM General, originally a part of AMC, as in Jeep. Unlike most of the military vehicles it replaced, the Humvee’s full independent suspension gave great ground clearance and tremendous load-carrying ability. Geared hubs, a GM diesel engine, and an automatic tranny were just a few of the features packed into the Humvee. When the civilian model was introduced, creature comforts and safety items bloomed, mainly due to federal safety rules, but the public snapped the Hummers up.

The problems associated with civilian Hummers are well known. Although it’s big, beefy, and wide, its diesel engine makes noise that most Americans aren’t willing to accept. And although the new turbocharged versions are much quicker, the raw acceleration is simply not there. Barely able to seat four, the interior seating arrangement around the engine and transmission tunnel is slightly intrusive. Finally, the high price tag on the original Hummer is out of reach for most of the buying public.

These are some of the issues the new Hummer crew addressed in designing the H2. In fact, in a unique arrangement, General Motors and AM General designed the H2, which will be built in the AM General plant in Mishawaka, Indiana. Contrary to popular belief, GM didn’t buy AMG. The deal was a great way to get the best of both companies to design and produce the H2. What has evolved from the fertile minds of these guys is a new Hummer worth taking a look at.

Our first impression was that it was smaller than the H1 (isn’t everything?) but it is about the same size as a Chevy Tahoe. Actually, it is 8 inches shorter than the Tahoe, but has a longer wheelbase and is a few inches taller. The resulting package resembles a Hummer, but is more refined and usable.

The drivetrain is oh-so-GM nice, with the 6.0L V-8 and the stout 4L65E automatic. The transfer case is a first, though—a Borg-Warner full timer with a 2.64 low range. The IFS front holds a beefy 9 ¼-inch diff from a 2500 series GM, and the 14-bolt 9 ½ rear is specially made for this application. Full disc brakes with ABS and traction control, and an electric locker in the five-link suspended coil or airbag option axle round out the package.

And performance? Heck, these rigs were fun, nimble, and a joy to drive on both the street and the trail. The engineers were proud of their accomplishments, and they should be. Since these were prototypes, lots of improvements can still be made, and other refinements can be dialed in before it’s too late. We said it first—This H2 is everything the current Hummer is: big enough, plenty beefy, powerful, and unique. However, the H2 is also everything the old Hummer isn’t: it’s less expensive, smaller, quieter, more comfortable, and highly stylish and it performs great. We can’t wait to get one for our own testing, and we’ll give you all the details as they come out. Stay tuned!