Arnold Schwarzenegger has two and the American military has thousands, giving AM General's "HUMVEE" multi-purpose vehicle enormous status as the chosen car of America's favourite action hero and its very public roles in Kuwait and Afghanistan.
Now that General Motors owns the Hummer brand, you can expect to buy one with the rough edges honed as they create a new chapter for the legend. The Hummer H2 vehicle shown in Detroit is a design exercise that provided a look at what the future of the HUMMER sport/utility vehicle could be. Given General Motor's marketing and the tradition of toughness ... who knows?
Few people would argue with Hummer's claim that it produces the world's most serious 4x4. But the acquisition of the HUMMER brand name and the right to retail HUMMER utes and pick-ups by General Motors has seen a new chapter opened and the HUMMER H2 vision vehicle shown at the Detroit Motor Show in January is "an authentic evolution in a truly incomparable species", according to the GM copywriters.
Most certainly, the H2 provides a look at what the future of the HUMMER sport/utility vehicle could be. The H2 draws reverently from the current HUMMER production vehicle and its tradition of strength, toughness and 4x4 leadership. The H2 echoes the roots of the HUMMER'S own heritage, roots that trace back nearly a century to the 1903 Overland Runabout.
The H2 is a design exercise that modernizes and updates the HUMMER while keeping its best traits intact - the aggressiveness, rawness and toughness that first attracted customers to the vehicle and earned it the status of an American icon. The H2 takes those characteristics and refines them, casting a wider net over the sea of consumers searching for a truck like the HUMMER.
"This is not a re-do of the HUMMER," said Clay Dean, Design Manager of GM trucks. "It's an exercise that shows what might grow and sustain the brand. It's a call to more people to experience what HUMMER is: the lifestyle, the philosophy, the confident attitude. It's for people with an adventurous spirit who want to do what others can't, in an SUV that can do what other sport/utility vehicles can't."
The H2's design draws from other sophisticated consumer tools like G3 high-performance laptop computers and the Spartacus Macintosh which have precise, complicated computational functions, yet are presented in clean, simple, flowing surfaces. In these tools, all lines, joints and surfaces serve more than one function. In essence it is a functional device wrapped in art.
The H2's styling takes its cues from the HUMMER production vehicle, but cleans up the surfaces, using fewer exposed rivets and fasteners, for example. The H2's windshield is raked more, to improve aerodynamics, but to the naked eye still retains the upright, aggressive appearance of the production vehicle. The new windshield is a one-piece wraparound, without the metal center divider, greatly improving visibility for the driver and passengers.
The H2's profile view retains HUMMER'S image of strength and brute force. H2 has short front and rear overhangs for aggressive ramp angles.
The doors are offset from the surface, making climbing in and out easy. The rear of the H2 maintains the HUMMER'S characteristic four-window look. The pull-down liftgate and pull-up rear window make loading easy and convenient. The same convenience and thoughtfulness was designed into the entire rear compartment, whose panels will allow multiple configurations.
The H2 is unmistakably HUMMER, from all angles, but particularly from its front "face." The front end includes an integrated winch, and a large brush bar that moves in tandem with the hood for easy, one-step access to the engine. There are multiple hooks on the front and rear, for pulling and hauling, along with high-intensity headlamps, fog lamps and auxiliary driving lights mounted on the brush bar. Planted in the hood are thermostat-controlled articulating louvers for engine ventilation. Two exposed canister air cleaner filters are on the hood, one for providing cool air to the engine and another for clean air to the passenger compartment.
The entire body has more of a clean, rounded shape. "We have crowned the bodyside - it's not flat," said Dean. "It takes the vehicle into the next millennium, providing a sense of strength and newness. The wrapover windscreen and standout doors really make it appear more contemporary, while maintaining the heritage of the HUMMER appearance."
Although not as many exposed rivets and bolts adorn the exterior, certain parts that have specific functions are left exposed. "The HUMMER is a vehicle about performance and capability and we don't want to hide things," Dean said. "For instance, we want the suspension exposed because this vehicle is an off-road vehicle. We want to show the capability of our four-wheel independent suspension by exposing its parts and its strengths."
Another innovative feature of the H2 is its full-across, power-operated canvas sunroof, which lets the sun shine in on both rows of the five-passenger compartment. "You get an open-air driving experience while still feeling the safe, protective security of riding in a reinforced steel cage," Dean said. Skid plates protect the entire underbody of the vehicle. Rock-slider skid plates are on the front and rear sides, along with approach and departure skid plates. "The skid plates all around the vehicle are for function not fashion," said Dean. "They are going to protect all the pieces down below from being ripped apart and allow the driver to experience why a HUMMER truly starts where the road ends."
To enhance that off-road experience, GM has developed an all-new rear suspension that improves the HUMMER'S signature four-wheel, all-independent suspension. The new, independent suspension keeps one wheel from affecting the other on off-road applications. On-road, it provides for a smoother ride, and better handling than a straight-axle application. Overall, it provides stability, capability, and prowess over unexpected terrain. Both front and rear suspensions are independent double wishbones with unequal-length A-arms, torsion bars, stabilizer bars, and long-travel, dual-rate coil over shocks with remote reservoirs.
The 19 x 9.5-inch three-piece aluminum wheels have a rugged high-tech look with an integrated bead locking system and mounted with tough 35-inch off-road prototype Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain tires.
Powering the H2 is GM's 6.0-liter, high-output VORTEC 6000 V-8. It's mounted longitudinally, and mated to a heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission with Autotrac four-wheel drive, which the driver engages via levers rather than the usual push-button.
The interior of the H2 brings the HUMMER to new heights of luxury and comfort. Four leather bucket seats are complemented by a center jump seat in the second row. The instrument panel is simple and straightforward, and illuminated at night to glow oscilloscope green, inspired by radar controls on military fighter jets.
Touches of milled metals work in concert with body-color pieces that match the H2's Signal Yellow outer shell. "Yellow makes a statement, it stands out from the crowd, "said Dean. "The color draws from outdoor sports equipment including watches, mountain bike shoes and mountain climbing apparel."
The exterior is accentuated by bronze glass. Influenced by the gold iridium color of well-known mountain bike glasses and ski goggles, the bronze glass provides a soothing color to the eye allowing for maximum visibility in all conditions.
The rear cargo area features a revolutionary three-tier loading area. The floor lifts to reveal a secure, lighted sub-floor cargo stash to receive packages and equipment to be unloaded upon arrival at the campsite or other destinations. The main floor can also be used for storage, and so can the sides, which feature hammock-like netting that can hold still more items and equipment, to make packing for any excursion as organised as possible.
Technology is definitely not forgotten. The H2's Central Information Center features a GPS navigation system, GM's OnStar system, DVD video, a CD player and next-generation MonsoonR audio with 10 speakers. There is also Night Vision from Raytheon, Internet access to send and receive e-mail, a laptop docking station and a cell-phone docking station, all with hands-free operational capabilities.
"The technology is there not to entertain as much as it is to enhance the H2's role as protector," Dean said.
The protector role is due in part to the inherent mechanical strengths of the H2 and the information capability H2 provides the driver via GPS, altimeter, thermometer and other metering devices. "You could be in the mountains of Colorado or the deserts of Baja, and you'll be secure in knowing that you're going in the direction you need to be going and that you can contact anyone you need to contact, " said Dean.
In conclusion: the H2 vision vehicle is everything its design team set out for it to be. It embraces everything the HUMMER has accomplished, and lends an insight to what a HUMMER can be in the future-for a multitude of people and not just a chosen few.
It's an off-road warrior, certainly, but it's also a civilised tool for business travel and family pleasure. It's as at-home on the freeway as it is on the free range. It's living proof, in the sheetmetal, that there is a bright and strong future for the HUMMER brand, with tradition and heritage not only intact, but enhanced.