Home » The Hummer H2 Might Finally Be Cool Again: GM Hit Or Miss

The Hummer H2 Might Finally Be Cool Again: GM Hit Or Miss

Hummer H2 Topshot
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Is it just me, or does automotive controversy seem a bit tame these days? From moan-generating capacitive touch controls to the barriers to EV adoption, no modern automotive topic seems to truly polarize. Even BMW’s so-called styling department is met with a barrage of hate rather than a loud split audience. However, cast your mind back two decades or so, and you’ll find a vehicle that drew awe and contempt in surprisingly equal measure. Love it or loathe it, it’s time to talk about the Hummer H2. Welcome back to GM Hit or Miss, where we comb the desert of GM’s pre-bankruptcy product planning in search of forgotten treasures. This metaphor thing’s getting a bit forced, isn’t it?

Hummer H1 Green

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The 1990s were a different time, and riding high off the coattails of Desert Storm, the American public went gaga for the civilian-spec Humvee. This ritzed-up troop hauler found its way into A-list driveways with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Clancy, Mike Tyson, Montel Williams, Coolio, Karl Malone, and Andre Agassi all owning Hummers. In fact, Arnold Schwarzenegger is partly-responsible for the civilian Hummer in the first place, lobbying AM General to sell him one back in the early ’90s. The repurposed military vehicle was such an icon that General Motors swept in to buy the Hummer brand in 1999, with AM General still responsible for manufacturing. GM had the dealership network and marketing money to take the brand higher, possibly even to a place where blind men see, as was the fashion of the time. However, the original Hummer had a bit of a problem – it kinda sucked to live with.

Hummer H1

The best poster cars are always compromised in the real world. The Lamborghini Countach had nearly zero rearward visibility and ridiculously heavy controls. The Ferrari Testarossa was 77.8 inches wide so it was a bear to park. The original Dodge Viper was so spartan that it didn’t even have exterior door handles. As for the Hummer H1, it brought its own set of challenges.

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Hummer H1 Interior

For the sake of off-road clearance, all the important powertrain bits were tucked up above the bottom of the floorpan in a massive central tunnel. The engine, the gearbox, the transfer case, the driveshaft, everything. While great for weight distribution and off-roading, this means that interior space is basically naught. Rear legroom stands at just 29.9 inches and rear hip room an even more comical 22 inches. Honestly, you’d be more comfortable in the back of a Geo Metro than you would be in the back of a Hummer H1.

Hummer H1 Sand

Then there was the matter of going, stopping, and turning. Car And Driver tested a 1995 Hummer H1 and managed a zero-to-60 dash in 18.1 seconds, peak roadholding of 0.62 g, and most disconcertingly, a 70 mph-to-zero braking distance of 253 feet. That’s, uh, not great. Rather than tame the war-focused H1 for suburbia, General Motors decided to build a smaller SUV that carried the Hummer’s design motifs but was significantly easier to live with. What we ended up with was the Hummer H2.

Hummer H2 Underbody

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People on the internet deride the H2 for being a tacticool Tahoe, but that’s not entirely right. While it shared its GMT820 platform designation and the front section of its frame with Chevrolet’s family workhorse, the H2’s frame gained a new fully-boxed midsection and a reinforced rear section to cope with a higher GVWR. In effect, the H2 is its own special beefy SUV that customers could test out on off-road tracks at select dealerships. Quite a unique draw for a retail environment.

Hummer H2 Yellow 1

Speaking of unique, nothing on the road looked like the H2 when it launched, except perhaps the H1. Longer, narrower, and nearly as tall as the H1, the H2 still featured all the hallmarks of the brand from the round headlamps in square bezels to the slab-sided styling and massive mirrors. It was a Tonka toy for the road, especially in yellow. A-listers quickly latched onto the H2, personalizing them with everything from 26-inch wheels to massive stereo systems. David Beckham had one, as did Lebron James and 50 Cent. Paris Hilton even had a pink one, and the Governator himself obviously had a few.

Hummer H2 Rock Crawling

Despite its McMansion image, the H2 was an objectively capable rig. When ordered with the optional rear air suspension, as many were, it sported 10.7 inches of ground clearance, a 40.8-degree approach angle, a 27.5-degree breakover angle, and a 41.6-degree departure angle. This fixture of MTV Cribs could ford 20 inches of water, climb a 16-inch vertical wall, tackle a 60 percent slope, and keep its cool on a 40 percent side slope. It even came with decent underbody armor. With such credentials and a high GVWR, it makes you wonder why there aren’t more H2 overlanding rigs out and about.

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Hummer H2 Water Fording

As for powertrain bits, they’ll be largely familiar to anyone who’s owned a GMT800 GMC Yukon Denali. The Hummer H2 launched with a six-liter LQ4 V8 pumping out 316 horsepower, although a mild update in 2004 took that number up to 325. Regardless, power on 2003 to 2007 models went through a four-speed 4L65E automatic gearbox to a two-speed transfer case with permanent four-wheel-drive. Expect zero-to-sixty to wander by in roughly ten seconds, with the quarter mile coming eventually. Look, this is a massive SUV meant for getting off the beaten path, not a vehicle for speed merchants and boy racers. The slow-breathing smoothness of the six-liter V8 fit the H2’s character perfectly.

2003 Hummer H2 Interior

However, not everything about the H2 was wonderful. For instance, the interior was rubbish. Sure, the shifter looked like something out of Thunderbirds but it felt like something from Dollar General. That feeling of cheapness extended to the air vents, the dashboard, and most plastics in the H2. While this rig carried an MSRP of $48,455 in 2003, it sure didn’t feel like a near-$50k SUV on the inside.

Hummer H2 Rock Crawling

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Mind you, the interior wasn’t the only part of the Hummer H2 that drew ire. Because it was so big and so heavy, it wasn’t exactly easy on fuel. Car And Driver saw 10 mpg from its 2003 test car, and figures like that were enough to make the H2 public enemy number one for greenies. Militant environmentalists in California torched 20 new Hummers back in 2003, and copycat vandals soon started popping up all over the country.

Hummer H2 Green

Still, that couldn’t keep enthusiasm down, partly because the H2 made a statement and partly because it wasn’t horrible to drive. Sure, it was still a huge rig with recirculating ball steering, but ride quality was pleasant, the powertrain was smooth, and the permanent four-wheel-drive system was reassuring in slippery conditions.

Hummer H2 Sut

Two model years after the launch of the H2 SUV, Hummer followed it up with the H2 SUT, a crew cab pickup truck with an extendable bed. On the face of things, it seems like a heavy-duty Chevrolet Avalanche, but that wasn’t exactly the case. The Avalanche at the time already had a heavy-duty version, so the H2 SUT was more like Hummer’s analogue to the Cadillac Escalade EXT. Put simply, the H2 SUT is a lifestyle truck, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

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2008 Hummer H2 Interior

While it might not be obvious from the outside, the Hummer H2 did receive one facelift in its life. In 2008, GM rectified the chintzy interior with a much-improved dashboard and the steering wheel from a GMT900 Tahoe. LARPing was out, an analog clock was in, and the interior finally felt as nice as what you’d get in a Yukon Denali. In addition, GM heaped on some new standard features like a 3.5 mm audio jack, an easy-access express down button for all the windows, and leather seats. However, those pale in comparison to the new powertrain. Because GM had come out with the fourth-generation small-block V8, 2008 H2s got a 393-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 and a six-speed 6L80E automatic gearbox, dropping the zero-to-60 time into the low seven-second range. These 2008 and 2009 H2s are the best of the breed, although they can be hard to find on the second-hand market. Want a spotter’s guide? Look for partial-chrome mirror caps that say H2, along with subtly revised alloy wheels without channeled spokes.

2008 Hummer H2 Profile

In the end, the Hummer H2 couldn’t live forever, and neither could Hummer as a standalone brand. GM’s bankruptcy forced it to sell off and shutter several brands, and Hummer was part of the cull. After an unsuccessful bid to find new Chinese owners, GM called it quits on Hummer, axing the brand and leaving ghost showrooms dotting the continent.

2008 Hummer H2 Front

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Obviously, the Hummer H2 was a smash-hit, but it was frowned upon for years. After the economy collapsed, GM went bankrupt, and climate consciousness permeated the mainstream, there was a period when H2s were deeply uncool, like socks and sandals or fur coats. However, now that just about every car is an SUV, you can’t help but sense that public sentiment is softening. Hummer is now an EV sub-brand of GMC, cranking out supertrucks that draw the ire of lycra-clad pedalists rather than college students. The 20-year cyclical trends of fashion mean that Von Dutch hats and Juicy sweatsuits are back in fashion, while the youth of today are jamming out to Deftones through wired headphones.

2008 Hummer H2 Rear

It’s been a long time since the Hummer H2 was a four-wheeled icon, but I’m starting to get the sense that it’s cool again. Yes, the interior’s rubbish and the fuel economy is horrid, but it’s a cultural artifact that just makes you smile when you see one. Does that make it an enthusiast car? I reckon it might.

(Photo credits: Hummer)

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Kyle
Kyle
2 months ago

Why hate on this? So unique. I think they are sick, a future classic for sure. I would totally rock it. ???? 

W124
W124
1 year ago

About vehicles which have Hum*er in their name, I’d prefer Humber over Hummer.

Gubbin
Gubbin
1 year ago

N  N   OOO   PPPP   EEEEE
NN  N  O   O  P   P  E
N N N  O   O  PPPP   EEEE
N  NN  O  O  P      E
N  N   OOO   P      EEEEE

Last edited 1 year ago by Gubbin
Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
1 year ago

The H2 could make it today with a mild hybrid for improved MPGs and to power unnecessary accessories for Faux-verlanders.

I had co-worker raft guide in the early aughts who had an older H1 as a family farm truck. I rode in it once, and was in disbelief over how cramped the interior was. I don’t get how troops in battle gear were supposed to get inside quickly.

My biggest issue with the brand is how the size of vehicles outpaces our infrastructure. As someone who likes to drive sedans and bike, the loss of space and visibility is quite alarming.

Healpop
Healpop
1 year ago

“GM had the dealership network and marketing money to take the brand higher, possibly even to a place where blind men see”

Just had to say – that’s a perfect reference for this article. Kudos

Jalop Gold
Jalop Gold
1 year ago
Reply to  Healpop

My own prison was amazing. come at me.

rctothefuture
rctothefuture
1 year ago

Man I always loved the H2. I used to race them all the time in Midnight Club 3 with a USPS type livery. They were just the shit to me as a kid.

Having worked on a few, they are not great vehicles. Even the air filter on these is overbuilt and stupid. That being said, the later editions with the 6 speed were at least livable compared to their 4 speed counterpart. If I could, I’d buy an H3 truck with the manual, and if I couldn’t find that, I’d settle for the facelift H2.

Millermatic
Millermatic
1 year ago

No. They remain a reliable indicator of the character of the owner. And… I doubt most people need to be told what said character is likely to be.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago
Reply to  Millermatic

SHUTUP LIBTARD! F JO AND THE HO! CHINA VIRUS FREEDOM HUNTERS LAPTOP BOYCOTT BUDLIGHT BOOTSTRAPS !!!!

AKA Rukh
AKA Rukh
1 year ago
Reply to  Millermatic

They were the Ford F150 Raptor of their day.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
1 year ago
Reply to  AKA Rukh

No way, raptors are just F150s with monster engines, and are still usable trucks. This thing was a joke; it was just a yukon with a bodykit, and so heavy it broke it’s own tie rods when offroading.

Wil Randolph
Wil Randolph
1 year ago

Came here just to say: HELL NO.

I was waiting for these to come back around as “ironic cool” but the Fossil Fuel huffing honkies over 40 never let them get that low in price. Every time I see one now, it’s the same bald meathead it always was, they’ve just got a beer gut and a higher degree of agro because of their “low T” problems.

I know that all reads like stereotypes, but seriously, it’s like Altimas. It just is.

If you try to drive an H2 to be “cool”, all I’m ever going to see is someone who has more money for gas than sense.

Toecutter
Toecutter
1 year ago
Reply to  Wil Randolph

“I’m totally an Alpha, bro!”

TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
1 year ago
Reply to  Toecutter

see, even my car has an Alpha badge!

Outofstep
Outofstep
1 year ago
Reply to  Wil Randolph

Absolutely this! I remember last summer seeing a lifted one with hilariously oversized wheels and slits of rubber on top of it (gaudy chrome of course). I saw it 4 times in a week. 2 of those times it was getting gas. The guy driving it was a stout bald headed man. I’m honestly surprised he could get in and out of the thing.

My Goat Ate My Homework
My Goat Ate My Homework
1 year ago

Before I wade into the comments I’m sure will be full of “this car is for posers” I will say make sure and take a good hard look at what you and the people around you drive. That’s pretty much exactly what everything today is. Nothing today is honest. It’s all hood scoops, fake beadlok rims, lift kits that would cause someone to shear their axle off on the easiest rubicon trail. Hell, there’s an entire car subculture for posers – overlanding.

I think the H2 looked badass. It was boxy, monolithic, and stood out. It had presence and some actual capability to back it up. It was also (in most cases) gaudy and overdone. But, I’d still drive one today as an alternative to all the F150s people pretend to need. Unfortunately, most of the ones I see are rusted out from a lifetime of road salt.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 year ago

These were popular while I owned first a Jeep, then a Land Rover Discovery 1. I never could figure out the H2’s popularity, other than marketing impact and a desire by the people who bought them to fit into a particular image and peer group.

The H2 was wide and heavy, with a suspension based on a serviceable but not overly remarkable utilitarian 4-wheel-drive chassis. Meanwhile, I was driving lighter, more maneuverable vehicles with more advanced coil-spring/live axle suspensions. Their fuel economy wasn’t spectacular, but certainly better than the H2’s and in line with most others in their class. The Disco, in particular, had capability and class. The H2 came across as more bling than anything else, and still tends to.

BunkyTheMelon
BunkyTheMelon
1 year ago

Counterpoint: The H2 or H3 will never be cool. The H1 is fairly iconic though, so it’s coolness factor will probably stick around.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
1 year ago

When is a rolling testament to excess and anti-social behavior too much? The H2 was finally it. I personally enjoy that it exists, but only because it comes off as silly and damn near quaint to put so much ire towards a vehicle that never really sold all that well. Still, it rightfully became a symbol of the McMansion 00’s, a decade of increasingly bad decisions that led us off a fiscal cliff. Fun times.

The irony here is that while most of the general public beat up on the H2 which sold in niche numbers, now every other vehicle on the road is a lifted truck that weighs nearly as much and certainly takes up just as much if not more space, with all the sightlines and massive fuel consumption to go with it, enhanced by stickers that implore me to “go fuck myself”. The H2 may have be known for being ostentatious, yet somehow seems subtle and friendly by comparison today, despite being designed to look like an impending invasion.

Edit: To be clear, I hate the H2, I just think it’s low hanging fruit at this point.

Last edited 1 year ago by Taargus Taargus
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago

I seem to remember a picture of the aftermath of a soccer mom who had tried to jump a fountain (?) in her H2 just like she ‘saw in a commercial’. Anyone remember that? My Google-fu is weak this morning: I can’t find it now

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

To be clear, she was fine. The H2 notsomuch.
‘aftermath’ was the wrong word there. I’m thinking she even had kids in with her & social services got involved

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