“You could start your own war in this thing. Strap a Howitzer to the roof rack, poke your head out the sunroof and those neighbourhood conflicts over yapping dogs, slacker kids playing obnoxious rap, and ’er-across-the-street blocking your driveway could be a thing of the past. Ker-boom.”
That’s how, back on 25 June 2002, Autocar’s Howard Walker introduced the Hummer H2, the motoring embodiment of a culture that brought us the right to bear arms, oil wars and, of course, the election of you-know-who to the most world’s powerful political position.
The Hummer story began back in 1991, when the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, first set eyes upon the Humvee military vehicle, famed for its presence in Operation Desert Storm, and convinced AM General to make a civilian version: the H1.
The H2 came about after AM General signed a deal with General Motors (GM).
“I was involved with the development of the H2 every step of the way,” Arnie told Autocar. “I made sure GM made it as ballsy and rugged as the original, but with just a little bit more luxury.
“You bet GM has delivered. Just look at those deltoids. Look at the quads. This vehicle will take you anywhere you want to go.”
So, continued Autocar, “stand to atten-shun, straighten up that flak jacket, sonny, and salute the arrival of the quite remarkable H2.
“It goes on sale in the US next month for the princely sum of $48,800 (£33,000). There’s even talk of limited UK availability, although in left-hand-drive form only.
“While the H2 shares its platform and mechanical bits and pieces with the mainstream Chevrolet Tahoe 4x4, it has a body that looks to be part armoured truck, part brick outhouse. But full marks to the GM design crew for managing to incorporate the elements of a military fighting machine into what is, in fact, a very civilised family hold-all.
“Those girder-like step-in bars running across the sills are crucial to effecting any sort of entry into the H2. Without them, it’d be one giant leap for mankind and a near-impossible leap for pre-teens.
“Once inside, you’re surrounded by all the light and airiness of the London Dungeon. The roofline feels claustrophobically low and the windows seem little more than enlarged slits. Amazingly, the full-length glass moonroof is on the options list, despite being the only thing that prevents those inside from turning into moles.
“Despite the H2’s over-sized dimensions, it’s not particularly spacious inside. Leg room in the front and rear is poor, and the luggage area is filled right up with a spare wheel that’s roughly the size of a small Caribbean island. Alongside it goes the optional single third-row seat, leaving zippo space for baggage.
“Twist the key and six litres of Detroit’s finest grumbles into life. The big V8 packs a hefty 360lb ft and a useful 316bhp. As you’d expect, it slurps unleaded faster than Chelsea Clinton knocks back rum and Cokes.
“Easing out into Chicago morning rush-hour traffic is like easing the QE2 into Southampton Water during Cowes Week. Yikes, this thing feels vast. It’s actually 71mm wider than a new Range Rover.
“The situation isn’t helped by the fact that traffic isn’t moving around the H2; it’s keeping pace. All you see around you are faces, with jaws dropped, pressed close to the glass. Some people give the thumbs-up, others shake heads in disbelief. Most simply mouth the words “What the…?”
“When changing lanes, you work on the theory that the H2 is so intimidating that everyone lets you in, because the spare wheel obscures most of the rear window and thick roof pillars blank over-the-shoulder vision. Thankfully, the door mirrors are as big as barn doors.
“Even with 360lb ft of torque, the Hummer’s sheer bulk dulls performance. Pedal to the metal and 0-60mph takes roughly 10.0sec. And as you’d expect of something with the aerodynamics of a breezeblock, the H2 calls it quits at 92mph. That’s when the restrictor kicks in to save the tyres from meltdown.
“But mid-range acceleration is decent, and the standard four-speed automatic gearbox kicks down smoothly and with bags of enthusiasm. It’s best not to go in search of the redline, however; over 4000rpm, the V8 starts to sound boomy and breathless.
“Cruising at a steady 80mph, we thought the giant off-road gumballs at each of the H2’s corners would have it whining like Madonna at opening night. Not so, thanks to the triple door seals, acres of sound insulation and a 20% thicker-than-normal windscreen.
“On twisty back roads, the H2 handles itself remarkably well. Yes, it still feels like a big truck and leans in corners like a freighter in a force five gale. But the steering has excellent on-centre feel and is nicely weighted, and the H2 turns in with surprising precision. Even when you start to push the envelope, it doesn’t fall to pieces. Gentle understeer builds, letting you know about the limits well in advance.
“And thanks to big, fat coils at the rear – air suspension is an option – and long-travel torsion bars at the front, the H2 rides extremely well, soaking up ruts and potholes without transferring the shock inside.
“Now for the fun bit. We’re now at the Hummer Academy, 320 acres of mud, mush and moguls, with a few raging streams, bomb holes and wall-of-death rock faces. It’s here where the Humvee was developed in the 1980s, and also where the H2 won its stripes.
“The H2 is remarkably well equipped to tackle this mud ‘n’ bullets track. Its electronically controlled, full-time four-wheel drive system is essentially all-new and custom-designed, featuring no fewer than five settings. In its most extreme, it’ll clamber up 400mm-high steps, or rocks, wade through a 500mm-deep stream and pick its way up a near-vertical rock face.
“The H2 boasts impressive 40deg approach and 39deg departure angles, around 10in of ground clearance and an array of skidplates to protect its underbody. The suspension also offers remarkable articulation and is backed up by BF Goodrich All-Terrain rubber with amazing traction.
“The H2 sailed through, or over, every obstacle we threw at it with consummate ease. Could it be better than the Range Rover? That’s a hard one. While the H2 would win on ground clearance and sheer muscle, the Range Rover’s more sophisticated suspension, which offers exceptional articulation, plus Hill Descent Control, would probably win the day.
“So, who’ll buy an H2? Simple. Every gold chain-wearing rap star in the US; every professional athlete desperate to spend his mega-bucks bonus; anyone who wears a chest wig; and all those Chrysler Viper owners who are starting to think their cars are looking way too subtle. Which means they’ll flog every one they make.
“Only in America.”