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AM General Hummer

Review

REVIEW

Road Test: AM General Hummer

The "Terminator" of SUVs

Perry King
Dec 15, 2003
I'm an actor, so I'm a sucker for things like this: The Hummer has to be one of the most impressive and unique-looking vehicles in the world. Unfortunately, what you see is not what you get.

I'll happily concede that, militarily, the vehicle is probably perfectly suited to its various search-and-destroy tasks. But in the real (read civilian) world, it's a pain in the butt and doesn't do anything special enough to make up for it. It's noisy and awkward on the highway, pretty much tops out at 75 mph, and requires real care when lane-changing. City driving is stressful because of its enormous width (just barely contained within a lane), parking in close quarters (that's everywhere) is such a challenge you'll soon just start heading for the outer reaches of every parking lot, using the circus-tent-size canvas soft-top is such a complicated exercise it should never be attempted, and for all the Hummer's gargantuan outside dimensions, it holds very little inside-in fact, rear seat passengers (sitting atop single buckets separated by 40 acres of wasteland) are downright cramped. Compared to the other vehicles in this test, the Hummer's on-road performance puts it firmly in last place.
2000 Am General Hummer front Interior View
In an off-road environment the Hummer is more effective, as would be expected considering its origins. However, the width is still a liability unless you're traversing slopes, and its huge mass makes soft earth or sand potentially more treacherous. Rock-crawling seems to be this SUV's forte, thanks to its super-wide tires, excellent clearance, and neat assortment of underside tubular skidcages. In fact, unless your idea of off-road fun is swamp buggy racing, a Jeep Grand Cherokee with tall, aggressive, off-road tires is capable of going most every place the Hummer could (or should) go, while cushioning its human cargo in luxurious, almost Cadillac-like comfort.
The Hummer does have some trick features I'd like to see on all serious off-road vehicles, however luxurious. The best of these is the Central Tire Inflation System that allows you to raise or lower pressure in all four tires (in pairs, or all at once) from the cockpit, even while driving, with just the push of a button. This is a superb feature on-road as well as off, and makes it a breeze to air-down to 20 psi for sand-dune running, then air-up again for highway use. In addition, the earth-mover-size tires (37x12.50R16.5LT, load range D, Goodyear Wranglers) feature a run-flat inner liner that provides the get-out-alive safety of traveling up to 20 miles at 30 mph on a flat tire with zero pressure.
Another excellent off-road feature is the Hummer's geared hub design, which increases torque to the wheels and also raises the ground clearance to an impressive 16 inches. The Star of Desert Storm also has superb approach and departure angles, a fording depth of 30 inches, and a new "Torq Trac 4" ABS/traction control system that uses brake intervention to slow a spinning wheel. Also important when you're far from civilization, the Hummer features two fuel tanks (37 gallons total) to give you the capacity to tour off-road from Kuwait City to Baghdad without refueling.
Sure, the Hummer is a wholly unique and amusingly quirky utility vehicle (there frankly isn't much "sport") guaranteed to get you gawked at and/or saluted most everywhere you go. But before you rush out and plunk down your $83,000 (ouch!) for this paramilitary leviathan, you need to conduct a bit of serious soul searching. All of this machine's specialty equipment could come in handy during World War III or a major natural disaster, but would go unappreciated during a trip to Kmart. What is noticeable is the Hummer's horrible interior space utilization, atrocious ergonomics, and wind-tunnel noise levels. Performance from the 6.5-liter/195 horsepower GM turbodiesel is pretty good 0-30 mph thanks to its ultra-flat torque curve (430 pound-feet at only 1800 rpm!), but from there on up to highway speeds, you have to drive flat-out most of the time. We discovered that, after one or two stints behind the Hummer's weird Atari-driving-game-style wheel, the novelty wore off. And during three days in the scorching hot desert, what everyone really wanted was a comfy interior and great air-conditioning.
However, having said all that, when we very nearly got trapped by a raging flash flood in Death Valley's Warm Springs Canyon, and the muddy waters were traveling down-and up-hills with us at over 20 mph, it was very comforting to be firmly ensconced in AM General's off-road sledgehammer.
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2002 AM General Hummer

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Road Test: AM General Hummer
I'm an actor, so I'm a sucker for things like this: The Hummer has to be one of the most impressive and unique-looking vehicles in the world. Unfortunately, what you see is not what you get.
Perry KingDec 15, 2003
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