First Drive: 2003 Hummer H2 hummer first drives
Canadian Press Introduction, Ontario, Canada. Photos: GM Canada. Click image to enlarge.

by Jim Kerr

Hummer. It’s one of the most instantly recognisable vehicles in the world. The military version of this ultimate SUV, called the HUMVEE, has proven its toughness in the most inhospitable terrain, and the retail version of that Hummer, called the H1, has carried everything from firefighting equipment to movie stars. Now these tough, go anywhere vehicles are joined by another Hummer model, the H2.

The H2 is not a “baby” Hummer. The H2 wheelbase is just over 7 inches shorter than the Hummer H1, but the body is actually 5.3 inches longer. The H2 is nearly 3 inches taller, but 5 inches narrower than the H1. Ground clearance is 9.9 inches at the differential.

Click images to enlarge
First Drive: 2003 Hummer H2 hummer first drives
Rice lake, Ontario

First Drive: 2003 Hummer H2 hummer first drives
Roller ramp demonstrating 43.6 degree approach angle

First Drive: 2003 Hummer H2 hummer first drives
Hummer H2s at GM Canada, Oshawa, ON

First Drive: 2003 Hummer H2 hummer first drives
Mogul run

First Drive: 2003 Hummer H2 hummer first drives
Frame twister

Although the ground clearance is less than the H1, the capabilities of the H2 are outstanding. The H2 can climb 60% slopes from a stop and traverse a 40% side slope. It can handle a 41.7 degree approach angle and 40 degree departure angle without dragging body parts. If the numbers are hard to comprehend, think of the steepest slopes on mountain highways. They are typically a maximum of 7 or 8 degrees. The Hummer H2 can drive up a 31 degree (60%) slope!

The H2′s off road capabilities are impressive. Driving up steep grades, on slippery side slopes, up 12 inch vertical walls, and over moguls that would twist the frame on normal vehicles, I found the H2 was composed, civilized, and comfortable. We never even came close to finding the limits of this SUV. Power is provided by a 6.0 litre gasoline V8 engine with electronic drive-by-wire throttle. When the electronic shift transfer case is shifted into low range, the throttle programming also changes to allow better off-road control.

A four speed automatic transmission is coupled to a full time four wheel drive transfer case. In the normal 4 Hi open mode, the transfer case differential allows a 60% rear/40% front torque split. Press the button for 4 Hi Locked, and the transfer case differential locks, splitting the torque 50/50 front to rear. When the traction control button is pressed while in Locked mode, the traction control programming changes to allow more wheel spin to dig through loose terrain.

With a 2.64:1 reduction in 4 Low, the Hummer H2 crawls up steep slopes with ease, and uses the excellent engine braking to descend them just as easily. The H2 uses the first application of an Eaton electric differential lock, and it locks both rear wheels together at the touch of a button. The H2 feels like it could climb a brick wall in 4Low with the rear axle locked.

The H2′s on-road capabilities are every bit as good as it is off-road. I expected rough, tight, and noisy like the H1. Instead, I found an interior as comfortable as a luxury car and with as many features. Dual zone automatic climate control, power folding mirrors, leather upholstery, 8-way power seats, heated seats front and rear, Bose audio system, and driver information centre are all integrated nicely into the bold interior design.

The H2 moved quickly from concept to production and to accomplish that, many off-the-shelf GM parts were used. Although a few components are recognisable, they still complement that powerful, unique Hummer image.

On the highway, the H2 cruises effortlessly. Large tires often make a vehicle wander, but the LT315/70R-17 BFGoodrich tires on the H2 were quiet, smooth, and stable. Even under hard braking, the H2 remained composed. The long wheelbase and optional air suspension provided a smooth, comfortable ride. I thought the squared-off body shape would cause lots of wind noise, but the H2 ride was quiet.

With 316 horsepower, the Vortec 6.0 litre engine made it easy to cruise at speeds well above the limit, and passing slower vehicles a breeze. However, at high speeds the fuel gauge did drop rapidly. If you are looking for fuel economy figures, you won't find them. Instead, economy is measured in terms of range: 499 kilometres at 50 kph on rolling hard packed terrain.

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First Drive: 2003 Hummer H2 hummer first drives
Climbing gravel hill

First Drive: 2003 Hummer H2 hummer first drives
Climbing over 12 in. step

First Drive: 2003 Hummer H2 hummer first drives
Playing in the water

First Drive: 2003 Hummer H2 hummer first drives
Mogul run

I was impressed with the H2. I expected excellent off-road performance and found it. I was surprised by the power, the quality of ride both on and off road, and the quiet comfortable interior. The Hummer H2 is tough, but it isn't tough to drive one.


At a glance:

Base price $70,745
Price as tested $81,005
Type 4x4 four-door SUV
Engine Vortec 6.0 litre V8 producing 316 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 360 lb.ft. torque at 4000 rpm
Transmission Four speed automatic; electric shift transfer case
Cruising range: 499 kilometres at 50 kph over rolling terrain
Suspension: Front: independent double "A" arms, torsion bars.
  Rear: five-link solid rear axle, optional air spring
Brakes: four wheel disc brakes; ABS, traction control
towing capacity: 3039 kg (6,700 lbs.)
Special Features/Options: Automatic climate control, rear air
suspension, full size spare tire, ABS, 9000 lb. capacity built-in front
winch receiver.

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