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The H2 Report
by Bob Bish
It was very interesting and enjoyable. Fred Chin (president of The Hummer Club) and I spent the entire morning (8am til noon) at the H2 Development Center yesterday (Oct. 30). We had the opportunity to see, very close-up and personal, the development work which has been done, and is still being done, on the H2 along with commentary from the H2 Development Team. The GM personnel, a couple of managers along with engineers and designers, are top-notch and very likeable guys. It was great spending the time with them.
The H2 Development Team was given unprecedented freedom and independence to design and engineer the vehicle. Assuming everything stays on schedule, they will have gone from concept to production in an unprecedented amount of time, a mere 15 months.
They had two main criteria in developing the H2:
We got to see the original cardboard mock-up, the clay model, and the "alpha", "beta" and "gamma" prototypes. We also got to see a complete chassis without a body (VERY interesting), one up on a lift so we could walk underneath to see the underside, and a complete gamma prototype with interior so we could sit in the driver's seat (there were none available to test-drive at the time, the few driveable prototypes they have are very much in demand for testing). It does have an appearance that says "Hummer". It is wider than it is tall (excluding the roof rack), like a Hummer. The edges are squared off, the hood lifts from the back (hinged at the front, which was something the design team had never attempted before) and there are many other visual cues that say "Hummer".
My only criticisms are certain components which are purely cosmetic and/or plastic. For example, there are "humps" on either side above the hood and in front of the windshield. They imitate the air intake on an H1, but are non-functional. The hood latches are plastic. The hood grill (like the H1s have for the cooling stack) is plastic and non-functional, but the airlift hooks do have a function. Not for airlifting by helicopter, but for opening the hood. Just unlatch the hood, grab the hooks and lift. Much easier than the way an H1 hood opens.
They have taken frame and suspension components from the Tahoe and Suburban (using existing parts and components keeps the price down), but they've put them together in a unique manner to produce an entire new frame and suspension system. The frame is welded together to give it strength and stiffness (the H1 frame is bolted together). It's also been chopped off to achieve better approach and departure angles.
There will be an air spring option with a "belly-up" (until they come up with a better term) feature. If you get the rear end hung up on a rock or something, you can push a button and a pair of airbags will inflate in the rear suspension and lift the body up. You can then drive off the obstacle. This system requires an air compressor. They figured that the compressor must have the ability to air up the tires at a reasonable rate, so it will be equipped with a compressor with a much higher output capability than needed for the air springs alone. There is no CTIS, but you can still air down the tires when needed and re-fill them via the compressor. You'll just have to get out of the truck and use an air hose.
The H2 will have electronic rear differential lockers. They will be "smart" lockers. If you turn it on and forget to turn it off, it will automatically turn itself off when you reach a certain speed. It would not be a good idea to be cruising along at much more than a crawl with the rear differential locked.
They provided me with a spec sheet with a revision date of 10/1/01, so it's the latest info:
Final Drive (axle) ratio: 4.10
Low Range Lock gear reduction: 2.64
Crawl Ratio: 33.1
Base curb weight (lbs / kg)(est.): 6,400 / 2909
Trailer towing maximum (lbs / kg)(est.): 7000 / 3182
Winch capacity (lbs / kg)(est.): 9000 / 4091
Fuel tank capacity (gals / liters)(est.): 33 / 124.9
*We saw an aerial view of the factory which will produce the H2. It is literally right next door to the one which produces H1s and Humvees.
Hummer H2s will only be sold at Hummer dealers. No dealer will sell ONLY H2s without also selling H1s. The dealer network is still being expanded. The number of Hummer dealers is expected to double, to about 125, by the time the H2 is ready to be sold. GM knows fully that this will result in new Hummer dealerships who know nothing about Hummers, but this will be only a very temporary problem. They will be educated and their technicians trained.
H2s will be stockpiled until 1,000 are produced and ready for delivery. Then those will be shipped to dealers. This is expected to be mid-summer, 2002. Only the SUV model will be produced at first. The SUT version will follow at a later date.
The H2 designers and engineers took a different approach to rocker panel protection. Instead of the flat, wrap-under type we have on our Hummers, they've designed a tubular steel frame which can support half of the gross vehicle weight without bending. Then, they've incorporated it into the body design so that it looks really cool! They've equipped them with strategically placed bolt holes so that anyone who may have trouble getting into the vehicle (which sits much higher than existing SUVs because it has more ground clearance and larger tires) can simply bolt on a step.
There will be one (actually two) part(s) which the H1 and H2 will have in common: the rear-bumper D-rings. The H2 will have the exact same ones which are on our Hummers. On the front bumper they originally intended to go with a pair of tow hooks. The hooks proved to be inadequate, however, as they tended to pull out or break if much force was applied to them. They have gone with a closed loop or "doughnut" type instead. The earlier prototypes have the hooks, but the later ones have the doughnuts. There will be receivers mounted both front and rear. These can be used for towing (or pushing) or for mounting a winch or winches.
They have even gone so far as to shape the shackles, where the rear suspension mounts to the frame, in a very gradual slope instead of a sharp angle to eliminate the possibility of it hanging up on rocks or other obstacles. The attention to detail is simply amazing!
There will be a large, strong skidplate going from the front bumper back underneath the vehicle. There will be other skidplates to protect components and a drivetrain protection cage much like the ones on our Hummers. The cage is not as thick or heavy-duty, but it doesn't need to be. It's not as heavy a vehicle. There will be some heat shielding in the exhaust system, but they're not expected to have the rattling problems as with the earlier Hummers. The exhaust setup is completely different.
One problem they had was the placement of the spare tire. They were not used to dealing with tires that large on passenger vehicles. If they placed it underneath, it would compromise ground clearance and departure angle. If they placed it on the roof, there would be "garageability" issues. Using one of those small pseudo-spares (or whatever you call them) was not an option for obvious reasons. Who would want to have to use one of those when off-roading in a remote area? Mounting it in the rear on a swing-gate would cause visibility problems (as many of us know). They settled on mounting the spare inside, even though it takes us a lot of cargo space. IMHO, H2 owners who value interior cargo space above garageability or visibility issues can re-mount the spare elsewhere.
The interior is much like one would expect to find in an upper-scale SUV. It's plush and very comfortable. It will seat 5, 6 with the optional rear jumpseat which will fold down or can be easily removed. There will be a center console on the roof which is reminiscent of the later H1s. That console will be shortened on units with the optional sunroof. Yes, a sunroof will be available!
Someone wanted me to ask about the warranty and if the H2 would be protected under extreme off-roading conditions. This is an issue on which they are still working. Exactly what might be defined as "abuse" is yet to be determined. The basic warranty will probably be a 36-month, 36,000 mile one. Beyond that, the best advice to a customer would be to establish a good, friendly relationship with the dealer.
Overall, I was very impressed with the H2 and its design and engineering. It is very well thought-out. I'm convinced that it would be the ultimate "out of the box" 4x4 if it weren't for Hummers (H1s). It is my opinion that the Hummer H2 will significantly raise the bar for SUVs across the board. It will do to SUVs what Tiger Woods has done to golf.
The use of plastic for some parts (mostly cosmetic ones) is forgivable considering that it's in common use on all kinds of vehicles these days. I guess I'm just used to the overbuilt nature of the H1 which does not make any compromises in order to keep costs down. That's one reason the price of an H1 is so high. Cost is a definite issue with the H2. The only thing I think should be re-considered is idea of the plastic hood latches. I'm not sure that they will stand up to rough off-roading, but perhaps they will. I would think the engineers and designers considered that, since they've considered just about every possible circumstance. It did not occur to me to ask that question at the time. It could also be a good opportunity for someone to design an aftermarket replacement.
So, would I buy one? If I were in the market for a 4x4 and could afford one, yes - absolutely. I would definitely want one over any SUV on the market or planned for the future. A Hummer H2 or a Ford Explorer or Expedition, an Isuzu Trooper, any kind of Jeep or Toyota or Nissan, any Land Rover, etc., etc.? There's simply no contest. The Hummer H2 will clearly be a much more capable offroad vehicle than anything else out there. Would we consider trading our Hummer (H1) for one? No way. We like our Hummer too much to consider that. Would we want one in addition to our Hummer? It doesn't really seem practical for a 2-person family to own two very capable off-road vehicles, but it might be an ideal combination for some families.
At the Detroit Metro airport, beginning my trip back home, I picked up the November issue of Motor Trend magazine to read on the airplane. It wasn't mentioned on the cover, but after I purchased it and started to page through it, I discovered that it contains an article on the H2. Although they only had two "Alpha" prototypes to evaluate (at Rubicon), the article gave a glowing review. The last three sentences of the article read, "From what we've seen, the H2 looks good and appears to have the right off-road stuff, too. Now we'll have to wait and see if buyers want another Hummer. Our guess: If GM can keep the price reasonable, this could be bigger than anyone ever imagined." I completely agree.