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2003 Hummer H2

Little brother is no slouch

David Newhardt
Oct 22, 2002
Photographers: David Newhardt
Photo 2/10   |   2003 Hummer H2 Front Drivers Side View
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.
Photo 3/10   |   2003 Hummer H2 Front Drivers Side View Rock Descending
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.
Photo 4/10   |   2003 Hummer H2 Front Drivers Side View Rock Descending
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.
Photo 5/10   |   2003 Hummer H2 Front Drivers Side View Rock Descending
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.
Photo 6/10   |   2003 Hummer H2 Front Drivers Side View Rock Descending
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.
Photo 7/10   |   2003 Hummer H2 Interior View Dashboard
Unlike the H1's enormous exterior dimensions and claustrophobic interior, the cabin of the H2 is more suited to non-military occupation. A half third-row seat is foldable and removable, which is a good thing, as the full-size spare devours a considerable amount of storage space. Switchgear, vents, and other interior fittings are GM parts-bin stuff, but the pieces fit together well enough and are straightforward in operation.
Photo 8/10   |   2003 Hummer H2 Rear View Rock Climbing
While the H1 dwarfs the newest Hummer, the H2's Rubinesque body will never be mistaken for anything but an AM General product. Broad shoulders, flat, square windows, and a bluff silhouette are visual cues buyers want, and the H2 delivers the goods. While this Hummer model can only gaze wistfully at compact parking spaces, at least it doesn't fill the entire south forty.
Photo 9/10   |   2003 Hummer H2 Front Passenger Side View On A Rocky Trail
Verdict? Hummer's H2 is a departure from the original H1 in that it's comfortable, quiet, and will fit in most garages. Similarities to the big guy include mountain-goat-like tenacity and imposing looks. This truck strikes a near perfect balance between a take-no-prisoners attitude and comfortable livability.
Photo 10/10   |   112 0210 Z 2003 Hummer H2 Being Produced At The Plant
The Plant
A mere 25 yards from the AM General plant that makes the military HUMVEE (now called the H1), another "General" has also built a plant in Mishawaka, Indiana, and will be making the H2.

In a short (actually, unprecedented) 23 months from its debut at the Detroit Auto Show in 2000 to the first vehicle off the assembly line (driven by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger), General Motors will have a new full-size SUV in its lineup. Slated to produce about 30,000 units a year, yet able to ramp up to 43,000 units if needed, the new plant, like the last six plants built by GM, employs Global Manufacturing Systems, meaning the plant's build systems are designed around the assembly-line operator. Logically broken into three parts, the 630,000-sq-ft plant assembles the body of the H2 in the first third, paints all parts and pieces in the middle third, then brings together the powertrain, suspension, and interior in the final third, before it's driven out of the plant for torture testing. -- Mark Williams
The Future
The question is not what, but when. Long before the first H2 rolled off the assembly line in Mishawaka, Indiana, design and strategy teams were planning the next vehicle to wear the Hummer badge. Although those around the GM campfire are being tight-lipped, our guess is the H2 SUT (July/Aug. '01 Truck Trend cover) will make its debut in late 2004, with a smaller Hummer version (not sure you can call it entry-level), the H3, most likely due in late 2006. Strong candidates for a platform are the ever-popular GMT 360 (Chevy TrailBlazer) or a two-door variant. Going small would allow them to create brand width and bring its capability-first Hummer-authentic personality to a market segment that seems to pop out minivan-like clones several times a year. With traditionally highly focused companies like Land Rover, Jeep, and Porsche searching (floundering?) for products to broaden their reach, while at the same time walking away from what made them great in the past, it will be interesting to see if General Motors can keep Hummer vehicles true to its mission statements. -- Mark Williams



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