The breeding is unmistakable, identifiable at any distance. The new H2 is a Hummer for the non-military world. Equally at home at the opera or Baja, it gives up little to the original Hummer in off-road ability, but gains enormously in comfort, ease of operation, and build quality. The partnership between AM General and General Motors has created one of the most capable 4x4 vehicles on the planet.

Behind the wheel of the H2 in Moab, Utah, we drove on a diverse mixture of surfaces, from paved to cratered. At 75 mph on the Interstate, the interior remained a plush cocoon, bereft of any significant wind or tire noise. We expected the aggressively 34-in. treaded tires to unleash a storm of noise, but it never came. The curved upright windshield aided in a panoramic view, but the vast amount of air it pushed out of the way left the exterior mirrors in a quiet lee. Speaking of air, crosswinds were also a non-issue. It takes a lot of wind to disturb a 6400-lb truck that casts a low-slung but gargantuan shadow.

Taking the toughest trails is less daunting in the H2 than in all but a handful of other serious off-road vehicles. Significant effort was expended on dialing in the shock/spring behavior, as the rigid chassis doesn't flex and absorb surface imperfections. Where the H1 was the rolling embodiment of harsh, that term isn't applicable to the H2. Driven in sane fashion, the long-legged suspension envelopes obstacles and flows over them like a rolling cloud.

Pushing the massive 17-in. tires out to the far corners of the platform has many advantages, including opening up the interior, lowering the center of gravity, and creating impressive approach and departure angles. On both the road and the trail, the H2 exudes stability, a feeling of holding the earth firmly with the BFGoodrich tires. The recirculating-ball power steering lets enough road feel through to tell the driver what's happening at the bow, but it doesn't punish when the ground resembles the flank of a volcano.

Slip the transmission into neutral, push the low-range button on the dash, and the H2 will go anywhere common sense directs you. With the 6.0L Vortec 6000 churning out 316 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque, there's plenty of grunt for merging onto a freeway as well as clambering over the Rubicon. With the installation of the drive-by-wire system, Hummer engineers have nailed throttle tip-in on the head. It sounds like a small thing, but it makes a huge impact in any vehicle's ease of driving. On paved roads, in high gear, the engine gathers revs quickly. But in the serious off-road modes, more accelerator-pedal travel is required, giving the driver additional control in marginal traction situations.