Hummer H2

Although the 6.0-liter OHV V-8 musters 360 pound-feet of churn and 316 horsepower, the H2 isn't quite greased lightning. The sprint from 0 to 60 mph takes about ten seconds, and the top speed is restricted to 92 mph to protect the tires. Midrange acceleration is adequate, but the engine, which is paired only with a four-speed automatic, is disappointingly boomy and harsh above 4000 rpm.

To add insult to injury, the Hummer uses almost as much fuel as a Greyhound bus. Under mixed driving conditions, our test vehicle averaged less than ten miles per gallon.

To explore the Hummer H2's true domain, we took it over trails with difficulty ratings as high as 4.5 out of 5. It sailed through with flying colors, occasionally frightening our passenger (who was grateful for the H2's four passenger-seat grab handles) but without ever inflicting a single dent or scratch. The keys to successful rock crawling, rift straddling, and sand wrestling are steep approach and departure angles, a sturdy frame, and plenty of underbody protection. The H2 has all that plus plenty of ground clearance (9.4 inches), amazing wheel articulation, and terrific tires. Our test vehicle's optional, LT315/70R-17 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires (LT285s are standard) combine an extremely effective tread pattern with stiff sidewalls and special rim protectors that work wonders when the air pressure is reduced for sand running. When the going gets tough, engaging the four-wheel-drive system's low range is your first line of defense. Still not enough grip? Then lock the H2's rear differential by pressing a button on the dash. Want a bit of controlled wheelspin to pull you through deep sand? Activate the low-speed traction control. Need a bit more ground clearance? Pump up the (optional) rear air suspension to put an extra 0.8 inch between the chassis and the obstacle. Once you have the hang of it, no climb will seem too steep, no descent too radical, no incline too extreme.

Despite its considerable weight, width, and length, a standard-issue H2 can keep up with Rubicon-ready Jeep Wranglers and Land Rover Defenders, which is no small accomplishment. Says Gary White, GM's vehicle line executive in charge of full-size trucks: "It was our declared goal to make this vehicle look like a Hummer and perform like a Hummer." Mission accomplished, Gary. Now hurry up and bring on a smaller, more affordable H3. A three-model lineup would go a long way toward establishing the General's novelty brand as the third major force in the world of four-wheeling, right alongside Land Rover and Jeep.

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