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2003 Hummer H2 Full-Size Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle

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Base MSRP Range: $48,500

Base Invoice Range: $44,000

MSRP As Tested: $48,455

Versions: None

Vehicle Category: Full-Size Luxury Sport Utility Vehicle

Engine Location: Front Engine

Drive Wheels: All Wheel Drive

Engine As Tested: 6-liter, Single Overhead Cam, V-8 cylinder, 316 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 360 lb-ft torque at 4,000 rpm

Transmission As Tested: 4-Speed Automatic

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 11/12

Standard Safety Features: Driver and front passenger, front and side airbags, power 4-wheel disc brakes, Antilock Braking System, Traction Control, Remote Keyless Entry.

Competition: Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon/Denali, Lexus GX 470, Lexus LX 470, Land Rover Range Rover, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, Porsche Cayenne, Toyota Land Cruiser

SOUTH BEND, Indiana -- Flashback one year: Blinking strobes on NYPD patrol cars etch a path through Times Square in Manhattan as the prototype of a new junior-size version of the rugged Hummer sport-utility wagon winds down Broadway.

With its bold face and broad prow, a flat roofline and squared-off cabin, the four-door wagon looks strong and powerful, and unlike any other vehicle in the world, save the original H1 Hummer, a civilized version of the military High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV, called the Hum-Vee.

This prototype Hummer is being driven by the film actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, first civilian to own the H1 Hummer, with the then-mayor of New York, Rudolph Gulliani, riding the shotgun seat.

Schwarzenegger steers the prototype into a Times Square studio of the ABC television network and announces to an audience of automotive journalists that General Motors has acquired the name and marketing rights for the Hummer label from Hummer's parent company, AM General.

General Motors will create a Hummer Division linked to a network of Hummer retail stores, says Schwarzenegger, and will produce a smaller and more friendly version of the H1 under the badge of H2.

The new H2, uses the chassis of GM's Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon wagons for a foundation, with multiple mechanical components including a humongous 6.0-liter V8 engine borrowed from full-size Chevrolet-GMC trucks.

Now flash forward a year: There are no police patrol cars to mark our path, but traffic on the Miracle Mile in Chicago parts magically to make way for the first production versions of H2 -- tinged in each of the seven available shades of body paint, from a somber black and vivid yellow to sage green metallic, pewter metallic, pure white, sunset orange metallic, and bright red metallic -- as auto writers guide the brutal machines in convoy down Michigan Avenue.

One particular H2, dressed in a yellow body and projecting that unmistakable Hummer prow with a seven-slot grille in chrome behind a black tubular metal brush guard, hikes much higher than a conventional wagon and actually stands taller and stretches longer than the H1, although its width is not nearly so extreme.

Compared against Chevy's Tahoe, the H2 wheelbase of 122.8 inches is seven inches longer, although the chassis has been cropped fore and aft to forge brief overhangs -- only 32.6 inches up front and 34.6 inches in back.

This sets up some acute angles (about 40 degrees each) between front and rear body metal and the tires so H2 can scale boulders and bump up stair-step obstacles encountered in the wilds far away from pavement.

A broad track and the extended wheelbase with those brief overhangs and super-sized tires planted at corners of the platform work to make H2 exceptionally stable, and a high ten-inch ground clearance with underbody skid-plate shielding ensures it can navigate rough off-road terrain.

On the body, exposed appliances such as lift handles mounted up front on the hood and various latches and fasteners replicate similar devices attached to the H1, denoting practical functions for work. The flat roof floating over a round of narrow windows conveys the image of a military bunker, while thick and massive components like front bumpers and side rearview mirrors make H2 appear nearly indestructible.

And there are armaments aboard.

For brute muscle, the H2 totes GM's heavy-duty truck engine. The 6.0-liter V8 produces 316-hp at 5,200 rpm, plus as much as 360 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.

It's strong enough to push the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) to 8,600 pounds and peg the trailer tow limit at 7,000 pounds.

H2 also employs GM's heavy-duty 4L65-E automatic transmission to handle all of the torque produced by that big V8. A push-button switch is designed to expand the time between gear shifts and quicken the sequence to assist in pulling a loaded trailer.

Every H2 stocks a Borg-Warner two-speed electronically controlled full-time 4WD system. The system divides torque from the engine either 40/60 percent front-to-rear for running at speed with differentials unlocked or 50/50 percent with differentials locked.

And H2 also packs a Bosch anti-lock braking and traction control system that works on pavement as well as off-road surfaces such as gravel. This sophisticated mechanism is capable of metering traction to a single wheel and it has a driver-operated switch to permit more slip of the wheels when moving over desert sands.

There are three different transfer case settings, two for the rear axle differential and two modes for the traction controller for a total of seven choices so a driver may custom-tune H2 performance to match virtually any type of surface either on pavement or dirt.

We challenge all of the systems on H2 while bumping and grinding across severe obstacles at the off-road proving grounds of AM General in South Bend, Ind.

The course, weaving through 300 wooded and hilly acres, contains a series of narrow two-track trails with steep assents and descents, a field of boulders to creep across, sticky pits of foot-deep mud and ponds to ford with water rising to the top of H2's 17-inch tires.

Hummer responds to each obstacle by plunging ahead, always moving forward with seemingly little effort: It's so strong and set up ideally for off-road work that all tasks seem easy.

Meanwhile, riders in a spacious cabin for five or six rest on firm bolstered seats and encounter luxurious accommodations that extend to optional leather upholstery and high-tech audio and navigation gear.

Cushions and backs of front buckets move eight ways though power controls, with four-way lumbar adjustments provided along with two memory settings. The second-row bench holds up to three adults and an optional third-row jump seat, which can be folded or removed to expand rear cargo space, fits a teenager.

Bose sound systems for H2 range from an AM/FM stereo with CD and cassette decks to a premium package with front-loading CD player for six discs.

The MSRP for H2 whittles the price of the original H1 approximately in half. It begins at $48,800, including the delivery fee.

Packaged options split into the $2,575 Lux Series (six-disc CD changer, heated leather seats, tubular assist steps, custom carpet floor mats) and a $2,215 Adventure Series (air suspension, brush guard, first aid and tool kits, roof rack crossbars). Further, add-on gear like off-road roof spotlamps is available separately.

Pros: No one will miss you. You will feel powerful, sexy and invincible.

Cons: You will not actually be powerful, sexy and invincible. This is a vehicle no one needs to own. What the vehicle actually says about its owner is that they are inconsiderate, irresponsible and very likely obnoxious. Unlike a GM Suburban or a Ford Explorer, there is nothing at all practical or useful about this vehicle. It's pure ego. Think carefully about buying one.

Ratings (1-10)

  • Style: 6
  • Performance: 3
  • Price: 1
  • Handling: 4
  • Ride: 2
  • Comfort: 7
  • Quality: 3
  • Overall: 3.7


Where Built: USA

Major Options: heated seats, leather upholstery, power sunroof, removable 3rd row seat, roof-mounted cargo box, roof rack, self-leveling rear air suspension, side steps (which you absolutely have to have if you plan to get into the vehicle), upgraded stereo

Seating: 6

Number of Rows: 2.5

Length in Inches: 189.8

Warranties: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 6 years/100,000 miles corrosion, 3 years/36,000 miles free Roadside Assistance.

Weight in Pounds: 6,400

Maximum Payload: : 2,200

Towing Capacity in Pounds: 7,000

Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: 32.0

Destination Charge: $815