2008 Hummer H2 & H2 SUT - First Drive

    Improvements Made Where They Matter

    Sean P. HolmanWriterJim FetzPhotographer

    With the demise of the Hummer H1 last year, there was speculation in the industry that the Hummer brand was on its way out. But after a secret meeting with Hummer executives last January, we got the skinny on the future plans for GM's four-wheeling brand, of which we can only begin to talk about now. While we can tell you there are some exciting products in the Hummer pipeline, the first one we can officially show you is the 2008 Hummer H2-now the brand's flagship vehicle.

    It is no secret that we are huge fans of the H2, but the first generation generally fell short on quality, especially interior materials, while some of the other complaints focused around power, fuel economy, and rear visibility. While the H2 was improved each year to answer complaints, it isn't until the 2008 model that you really benefit from the biggest change, a gorgeous, all-new cabin. Still based on its own unique and upgraded version of the GMT-800 platform (like the '08 Silverado/Sierra HDs), the H2 retains its heavy-duty coil-sprung, multilink rear axle.

    The cabin is anchored by a new luxurious dash that no longer says, "Hey look! I must be macho!" The new design features soft-touch materials everywhere, even on the door panels with hard cheap plastic scarcer than a Michigan highway without orange cones. There is even a splash of metallic trim, as well as copious amounts of soft leather. The switchgear finally feels expensive, with tactile feedback, and the four-wheel-drive engagement switches have been exchanged for a single dominant knob. A fantastic audio system, along with an audio jack, rounds out the cabin experience. As a major bonus, SUV models now have a full third row (spares are mounted on the outside as on the SUT) for true seven-passenger capacity, and we were thrilled that our early production testers exhibited no squeaks or rattles.

    As with the previous models, the H2 is a road-trip machine, chewing up miles of pavement effortlessly with a smooth ride and even more comfortable seats. As with earlier versions of the H2, there is some wind noise around the windshield, but it is not objectionable by any means. For fans of entomology, the upright windshield still attracts bug splatter like Vegas attracts weddings.

    While we probably would have been satisfied with just an interior upgrade, Hummer also wanted to answer our concerns of power and economy for the H2, so they replaced the previous 325hp 6.0L OHV V-8 with the 6.2L OHV V-8 from the Escalade, backing it up with the same excellent 6L80E six-speed automatic transmission, which nets the Hummer 393 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque, with the bonus of an approximately 10 percent boost in fuel economy. This drivetrain really gets the 6,600-pound H2 moving, as GM estimates 0-60 mph to be about 7.8 seconds, while the tow rating has also been improved considerably, by 1,500 pounds, to 8,000. All of this without the Boeing-like whooshing that accompanied the previous 6.0L's mechanical fan, which has been replaced by electric units on the 2008 models, leaving nothing to spoil the engine note or relatively quiet cabin. Talk about a win-win situation.

    Out on the trails near Aztec, New Mexico, we were reintroduced to the big Hummer's four-wheeling skills. Sure, visibility on technical trails is limited at best, requiring heavy reliance on spotters, but that doesn't change the capability of the H2 in the dirt. It has the ability to walk over obstacles you wouldn't think of taking it on, helped by the six-speed's lower First gear (and manual gear selection mode), which nets a crawl ratio of 39:1, a 20 percent improvement. The rearview camera also became handy on trails where the Hummer's Q-ship requires a multipoint turn. While we would appreciate a front locker, we can't fault the way the H2's traction control limits wheelspin and gets the big H2 over obstacles, even when one wheel is hopelessly hanging in the air. It may not be a perfect machine, but it is hands-down the best fullsize out there, especially when it comes to wheeling.

    We can't wait to get our hands on an '08 H2 to wheel in our own backyard. Look for a more in-depth review in our upcoming 2008 FWOTY issue.

    What's Hot:
    Improved drivetrain, improved economy, improved comfort, improved towing.

    What's Not:
    Pointless offset steering wheel, some driveline harshness in 4-Lo, armored car visibility.

    Our Take:
    The best fullsize-improved in every way we suggested.

    Vehicle model: 2008 Hummer H2
    Base Price: $55,510
    Engine: 6.2L OHV cast-aluminum V-8
    Mfg.'s hp @ rpm: 393
    Mfg.'s torque (lb-ft) @ rpm: 415
    Transmission: 6L80, six-speed automatic
    Axle ratio: 3.73
    Suspension (f/r): Independent with torsion bars, monotube shocks, stabilizer ar/Five-link variable-rate coil-sprung solid axle (or air), monotube shocks, stabilizer bar
    Steering: Variable-rate recirculating ball
    Brakes (f/r): 12.8x1.5-inch disc/13.0x1.1-inch disc
    Wheels/Tires: LT315/70R17 BFGoodrich All-Terrains on 17x8 cast-aluminum wheels
    Wheelbase (in): 122.8
    Length (in): 203.5
    Width (in): 81.2
    Height (in): 78.5
    Track (in): 69.4
    Curb weight (lb): 6,614
    Ground clearance f/r (in): 10.1 (air)
    Approach (deg): 39.8
    Departure (deg): 37.1
    Max Towing capacity (lb): 8,000
    Fuel capacity (gal): 32
    Seating capacity: 7

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