The H2 features a long, wide wheelbase that delivers sure-footedness. Interestingly, at 122.8 inches, the H2's wheelbase is almost seven inches longer than its rugged brother, the Chevrolet Tahoe, while its overall 189.8-inch body length is nine inches shorter. For serious off-roading the H2 features extremely short overhangs, including a 32.6-inch front overhang and 34.6-inch rear overhang. The standard LT315/70R17 BFGoodrich All-terrain T/A tires team with the short overhangs to generate an impressive 40.4-degree approach angle and 39.6-degree departure angle (that's without the extended ride height feature engaged). With the optional air-leveling suspension (which our H2 had), the result is a radical 41.7/38.1-degree approach/departure angle. All this results in the ability to drive right through potholes large enough to swallow a Mini Cooper without so much as jiggling your morning cup of coffee.
A rock-defying underbody shield system not only provides outstanding undercarriage protection, but it looks downright cool. The package includes large skidplates (including a neat-looking engine shield stamped with big "H2" lettering), an undershield for the fuel tank, chassis-bolted steel rocker panel protectors, a protective shield for the optional onboard air compressor, and mud flares that attach to the wheelwells. All this safety gear teams up to deliver serious puncture protection when scraping over jagged rocks, such as those we experienced in Death Valley.
The H2 uses independent front torsion bars and five-link coil-spring rear suspension for surprisingly good on-road performance along with serious rear-axle articulation off road. The optional self-leveling rear air-spring suspension system fitted to our H2 delivered a surprisingly cushy ride, but did regularly emit a flatuation sound when we rolled to a stop. As Mexican food lovers, the farting didn't bother us, but it does give audible indication to the H2s serious nature.
Out on AM General's extreme test track we tried our best to get our copper-colored H2 stuck, but it just wasn't in the cards. A few times we did get our mighty rig wedged into a predicament (which made us quite happy), but our joy was quickly squashed when the Hummer driving school instructors sprang into action telling us to lock up the whose-a-which-it and to activate the transfer case thing-a-ma-jiggy. Within moments of button pushing, the H2 effortlessly clawed its way out of its once-stuck situation. "Hey, guys, where's the fun in that?" young Stick-Boy asked. After successfully conquering the "Grassy Knoll" we moved on to some high-speed dirt roads laced with surprises that can only be likened to the result of a C-130's worth of Claymore mines being tested on the dirt access road -- which, knowing AM General's close ties with the military, probably isn't too far from the truth. Once again, this was no real challenge for the H2. Next up was a bit of water testing. Although Hummer P.R. folks stated that the H2 had a maximum depth rate of 20 inches, we conquered one particularly stinky swamp that was clearly more than the "approved" limit.
Just as we were ready to get into some seriously non-corporate-approved fun, the driving instructor's radios crackled to life with the announcement that Arnold was moments away from arriving. Thus, our H2 testing/damaging antics were stymied as we made a spirited drive down narrow tree-lined roads in a hasty attempt to arrive before the madness began.
Arnold arrived looking debonair in his silk shirt, perfectly pressed trousers, and lizard-skinned shoes. Within nano-seconds of stepping out of his H2 taxi, he was accosted by scads of media and autograph seekers. A 45-minute "git yer photo with Arnold" session finished up with a presentation of a specially decorated birthday cake (Schwarzenegger didn't divulge his age, however) followed by the generous gift of a brand-spankin'-new H2 courtesy of General Motors. Hey, Hummer, Kiwi's birthday is just around the corner (hint, hint). Afterwards, Arnold was off to the woods to thrash his new H2 on the test course before meeting up with us for the filming of a campy skit that essentially entailed him roughing up the Motor Trend crew (see the "Arnold vs. MT" video clip listed in the Multimedia section). Before we knew it, Arnold was whisked away for some more four-wheeling before being wedged into a private jet to fly off to the set of his next movie (where he would likely be busting skulls on bad-tempered aliens).
We got back to our room stinking of swamp water and dirt, but didn't have time to shower as we were behind schedule (Again, do you see a theme here?) with our online update stories/photos. Kiwi fired up our trusty Apple Powerbook G4 Titanium laptop and got to work while Stick Boy scored a couple of pizzas to fuel us through the night. The plan was to finish the story, uplink the info to the Web site, and then knock off for three hours of sleep before getting an early 2 a.m. start on the next day's driving. That was the plan at least.