More power, an improved interior and better transmission are among highlights of the upscale all-wheel-drive Hummer H2
, which is the largest civilian version of the Hummer.
My test Hummer H2
had optional bright red "Solar Flare Metallic" paint that made its assault-team styling stand out more than if it had carried a more subdued color.
The 2008 H2
gets its first major changes since the H2
's arrival for the 2003 model year. It's still not for introverts, although I didn't find it drew undue attention. That's probably because the public has become accustomed to seeing a good number of Hummers -- sold through franchised General Motors dealers -- on roads by now.
There's also a smaller, lower-cost, less aggressively styled Hummer H3 and a paramilitary Hummer H1, which has become a special-order-only vehicle best left to fighting wars.
Owners of small hybrid vehicles who are tempted to sneer at the H2
should keep in mind that it's usually the second or third family vehicle and is needed to, say, tow a heavy boat in summer. You can't do that with a Toyota Prius.
My test H2
looks much like the H1. It comes as a $55,510 four-door SUV, although it's also sold as the $55,555 pickup-truck-style SUT with a folding midgate between the cargo bed and cabin.
A 6.2-liter pushrod V-8 with 393 horsepower replaces last year's 6-liter, 325-horsepower pushrod V-8. And a responsive six-speed automatic transmission takes the place of a dated four-speed automatic.
The new transmission helps increase fuel economy an estimated 10 percent, although mpg figures aren't a strong point with this 6,614-pound vehicle.
While large, the 190-inch-long standard H2
(but not the 203.5-inch-long SUT) is shorter than most premium big SUVs rivals, including the Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX 470, Range Rover, Lincoln Navigator and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class.
However, the H2
is wider than the above vehicles, except the Range Rover, at 81.2 inches. A driver must keep that width in mind when maneuvering in traffic. However, the H2
's 79.2-inch height (78.5 with air suspension) allows superb visibility and makes the H2
higher than rivals.
Despite its size and ferocious appearance, the H2
is easily driven, with fast (although rather heavy) power steering, decent handling and a supple ride helped by an extra-long 122.8-inch wheelbase, or distance between axles. The brake pedal has a firm feel, and huge tires put lots of rubber on the road to help shorten stopping distances.
There's no estimated fuel economy rating because the H2
exceeds an EPA gross vehicle weight category. My test H2
delivered about 12 mpg in the city and a few more mpg on the highway. Only regular-grade gasoline is needed.
With its prodigious power and torque, the H2
does 0-60 mph in about eight seconds, which is really moving for such a big fella. Off-the-line acceleration is brisk, and merging into fast traffic and 65-75 mph passing are easily done. Towing capacity increases from 6,000 pounds to 8,000 pounds.
is a mountain goat off road, with its all-wheel-drive system, low-range gearing, electronic locking rear differential and underbody protection.
Also new for 2008 is a considerably upgraded, quiet interior with leather upholstery and heated front and rear seats, with dual-zone front automatic climate controls and rear-seat climate control.
A folding third-row two-person seat that's difficult to reach and best left to two or three pre-teens is in a $6,410 Luxury option package.
There's little cargo room with the third seat in place, but it folds flat and can be removed. Cargo space is excellent with the second- and third-row seats folded forward. However, although the load floor opening is wide, it's also high. And one must contend with a heavy side-opening tailgate with a large spare tire on the outside of it.
While costly, the Luxury package also contains a power sunroof, premium nine-speaker Bose sound system with an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, DVD entertainment system, rearview camera, additional chrome exterior trim and polished aluminum wheels.
Don't want that package? Then individual options include the $1,550 power sunroof, $860 third-row seat, $890 rearview camera that's handy when backing up, $495 upgraded Bose sound system and $1,295 DVD entertainment system.
New safety features include an electronic stability control system with rollover mitigation, traction control and curtain side air bags with a rollover sensing system.
A new instrument panel has easily read backlit gauges. It's hard to get in or out without using the narrow running boards, despite oversized door handles. Once inside, power front bucket seats provide excellent support. There's decent interior room for four to five tall adults, who have a king-of-the-road view of surroundings.
Audio controls are large, but sound system controls are small, although fairly easy to use. The large aircraft-throttle-like shift lever looks as if it's from an auto show concept truck.
The interior is full of hand grips, including a hefty grab bar in front of the glove compartment. The grips assist entering or leaving the H2
-- or when riding as a passenger during off-road forays. Front doors have moderate-sized storage pockets, but tiny pockets in the rear doors are nearly useless.
The front console has an extra-large covered bin, and front cupholders are deep and nicely placed. Dual rear cupholders are in the second-row center armrest and in the driver-side inner body panel in the third row.
Sales of the H2
slipped to 12,431 last year (a poor one for trucks) from 17,107 in 2006, but the 2008 H2
has enough significant changes to boost sales. 2008 HUMMER H2
LIKES: Roomy. More power. Improved interior. Better transmission. Easily driven. Off-road prowess.
DISLIKES: No fuel miser. High entry. Not for introverted.