Sometimes, being at the right place at the right time is all that matters. GM is hoping it's captured that magic sense of place and time in the all-new Hummer H2. And it's going to great lengths to prove it. Less than two years ago, AM General (the maker of original military Hummer vehicles) and General Motors entered into a partnership that allows GM to use the "Hummer" name for an upcoming product. That product is here, and it represents the next step in the nameplate's evolution.

"We knew this [vehicle] would have to be the real deal. No pretending here," says Assistant Vehicle Line Executive Ken Lindensmith. "Staying true to the heritage, giving it ultimate capabilities, and still making it look like nothing else on the road-that's what we have to do." "It" is the Hummer H2. We caught up with the H2 development team on the Rubicon Trail, just outside Lake Tahoe in California, where we got our first taste of what could be the strongest SUV around.

It's safe to say the creation of this rough and tumble off-roader is without precedent. In fact, the way the H2 team was organized and allowed to operate is something of an experiment that could determine how future GM products are designed and created for years to come. The group was given considerable independence from traditional engineer/ design-by-committee methods.

Stemming from the GMT 800 Tahoe/Yukon platform, the new H2 had to incorporate some amount of the original military Hummer's DNA: squared-off hood and side-door body panels, squatted windows and flat glass surfaces, impressive approach and departure angles, and flip-forward hood to name a few. Other H1 design cues include heavy-duty front and rear tow loops, round headlights, and a seven-slotted front grille.

For power, the design team selected GM's powerful Vortec 6000 V-8, rated at 325 hp in this installation. It's mated to a beefed-up version of the 4L60-E (now called the 4L65-E) four-speed automatic transmission, then backed by a sophisticated full-time Borg-Warner transfer case with a stout low-range gear.