Hummer H2 adds truck version

Friday, September 10, 2004

Editor's note: Steve Robertson is on vacation. His column will return Sept. 24.

By Ann M. Job ~ The Associated Press

As brutish-looking as the Hummer H2 is, there has been something lacking in the cargo area.

Since its introduction in 2002, the H2 sport utility has had storage space at the rear that has been compromised because the spare tire is back there. Additionally, the H2 SUV's cargo area is so nicely carpeted, some people might understandably hesitate to put muddy, wet items inside.

These issues are eliminated in the 2005 H2 SUT, which keeps the distinctive, boxy looks and standard five-passenger interior of the H2 SUV and adds a pickup bed that can be washed out with a garden hose.

The SUT -- for Sport Utility Truck -- carries a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $52,845, which is $1,045 more than a 2005 H2 SUV. It also compares with the $53,895 price for a 2005 Cadillac Escalade EXT and the $34,170 price for a 2005 Chevrolet Avalanche.

To be sure, the H2 SUT's pickup bed is small, by regular truck standards. It measures 4 feet wide by just 2.9 feet long and sits up quite high on this off-road-capable vehicle.

But the SUT's midgate, a movable wall at the back of the passenger compartment, can be unlatched and folded down on top of the fold-down rear seats to expand the bed area into the SUT for a more usable bed length of 6 feet.

The H2 SUT offers almost the sensation of riding in a convertible, because all four door windows as well as the power window atop the midgate and the standard sunroof can be opened for an open-air driving experience.

Its a big climb up into the H2 SUT, just as it is in the H2 SUV. The two have the same 10-inch minimum ground clearance and both ride on standard, 17-inch wheels and tires.

The AP's test vehicle didn't have optional side steps to help me clamber aboard, so I positioned a foot onto the floor inside the vehicle and had to pull myself up onto the driver's seat.

When exiting, I just jumped out, none too graciously.

But I sure had a good view forward when I sat in the comfortable H2 SUT driver seat. "Medium Wheat" leather is standard, and a lockable tonneau cover for the bed is optional.

Fuel economy is an estimated 10 miles per gallon in city driving and 13 mpg on the highway.

The H2 SUV and SUT have the same 325-horsepower, 6-liter Vortec 6000, overhead valve V-8 mated to a four-speed heavy-duty transmission.

There are slight increases in horsepower and torque over the 2004 H2 SUV, but most casual drivers aren't likely to notice big acceleration differences.

The test H2 SUT got up to highway speed steadily and merged into traffic without much fuss, though response to the accelerator was not instantaneous in this 6,400-pound vehicle.

The engine made itself heard every time I pushed hard on the accelerator, and I noticed wind noise at highway speeds.

But the real benefit from this engine and the powertrain-integrated Borg-Warner, two-speed, full-time four-wheel-system is the awesome off-road capability. The test vehicle was so unperturbed by steep climbs up and down rock faces, I felt mostly like I was out for a slow Sunday drive.

The H2 SUT's large turning circle of 43.5 feet and its 81.2-inch width made it less nimble to maneuver, however, in tight situations.

Road bumps felt nicely cushioned in the test vehicle. In rugged off-road terrain, the H2 SUT bobbed up and down on occasion in truckish fashion but kept most roughness away from passengers. There is some body lean in this tall, heavy vehicle, however.

The H2 SUT isn't the last expansion of the Hummer line. The company plans to introduce a smaller model, the five-cylinder H3, in about a year.

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