Blast from the past: Driving the Hummer H2

Blast from the past: Driving the Hummer H2
Blast from the past: Driving the Hummer H2

We look back to 2002 and our first drive

Back in 2002, the year the Euro entered circulation in Europe, we encountered the H2. It’s daddy was of course the H1. And the H1’s daddy was the Humvee military vehicle, and that’s the daddy of them all in every sense. When your daily drive is a civilian vehicle based on a no-compromise vehicle built for war, then you’re going to be having to accept some compromises yourself, and for that we can blame a Hollywood actor turned governor.

When you look at a Humvee or the H2, it’s fitting that the name associated with them is that of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He it was who convinced AM General to make a civilian version of their Humvee, a vehicle originally designed to cross deserts at some pace, while removing any enemy with extreme prejudice.

The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle – the Humvee – was transformed into the Hummer H1. And then AM General signed a deal with General Motors and the H2 was born, with proud daddy looking on.

“I was involved with the development of the H2 every step of the way,” says Arnie. “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.”

A lot of the vehicle was similar to the Chevrolet Tahoe 4×4 although the body was described at the time as “part armoured truck, part brick outhouse”. Once you’d stepped up by using the girder-like step-in bars, you entered the cabin. What did we think of that at the time?

“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.”

It wasn’t that spacious either, despite those vast external dimensions. But at least the driver sat high, which was handy when you tried to actually drive the thing, as we recounted: “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.

“Even with 360lb ft of torque, the Hummer’s sheer bulk dulls performance. Pedal to the metal and 0-60mph takes roughly 10 seconds. 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 per cent thicker-than-normal windscreen.”

Handling and ride were actually surprisingly good, and of course it was comfy thanks to the long-range suspension, a set up that showed its worth when we took it to the Hummer Academy. This is where they the original Humvee was tested back in the 1980s, so it was a challenging landscape of bomb holes, wall-of-death rock faces and huge rocks. How did it cope with the real thing?

“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 40-degree approach and 39-degree departure angles, around 10 inches 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.”

But of course we’d expect nothing else since the H2 had Arnie’s own seal of approval. But apart from Arnie, who would buy such a beast? After due consideration we reckoned “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.”

How times haven’t changed.

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