The first Persian Gulf war in 1991 made the world familiar with the U.S. military all-purpose vehicle known as Hummvee. The civilian version, the Hummer, followed soon after, made famous by such celebrity owners as film star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, there is a new version of the Hummer.
In a land where sport utility vehicles have become the choice of many, the Hummer H-2 is a "statement" vehicle, says Kevin Smith, editor-in-chief of Motor Trend Magazine.
"One of the statements is, 'I am bigger than you.' It is clearly an extreme, off-road, all-condition kind of go-anywhere vehicle," he says. "Whether the user actually does that or not, that is the statement it makes as it rolls down the road."
The H-2 is the successor to the original Hummer and clearly not its "baby brother", since it is as big, or bigger, than the H-1. The aggressively-styled vehicle weighs just over 2,900 kilograms. It is nearly two meters (1.97) tall, 4.82 meters long and, at two meters wide, makes for a tight squeeze in many parking spaces.
"Fuel economy" is a phrase not often heard in connection with the Hummer. The Washington Post newspaper reports it travels 15.6 kilometers (9.7 miles) on a U.S. gallon at a steady 56 kilometers per hour (35mph).
Where Hummer shines is in rough terrain, with its burly construction and ground clearance of more than 26 centimeters. But, as Motor Trend's Kevin Smith points out, most of the H-2's owners will never take it off-road.
"The vast majority of the people who are buying it are buying it for the visual impact, their own image enhancement," he says. "Most of the time, they are just tooling around town or going down the interstate."
Who buys such a vehicle? The business manager of the Hummer division of General Motors, John Bagazinski, has the demographic picture. "Our early buyer data tell us the male-female ratio is about 70 [percent male]-30 [percent female]. The average age is about 41," he says. "The income is about $215,000 [per year], which is the highest in General Motors per vehicle line."
Despite Hummer's massive exterior dimensions, we find the passenger compartment unexpectedly snug. Motor Trend's Kevin Smith explains why.
"You have a big driveline," he says. "You have big tires and wheels, a lot of clearance for them to move through a lot of suspension travel, and all of that kind of compresses down that volume that might otherwise be available for passengers."
Hummer H-2's rough-and-ready looks and construction surround a luxurious cabin filled with comfort and convenience items befitting an upscale vehicle. The version we drove is priced at $52,000. That could be considered cheap when compared with the original Hummer's $100,000 price tag. A relative bargain, one might say, if one were wealthy.