Terrain Negotiation: Humvee vs. H2 sut

The military version is tougher and buries its urbane cousin off-road, but which one would you really want to spend time in?
John B. Carnett

As a street-legal SUV, the Hummer H1–the consumer version of the military’s famous Humvee–is overbuilt in the extreme, like Fort Knox or the Giza pyramids or the Broadway production of The Lion King. You probably won’t need to paradrop from a helicopter or drive through a waist-deep stream on the way to dinner at Le Grand Fromage, but it sure is nice to know that you could. AM General, which builds both the military and civilian versions, recently realized, however, that the H1 is too much truck for many buyers. In 2002 the company introduced the toned-down H2 and, this summer, the H2 Sport Utility Truck (SUT), which has a fold-down midgate that allows it to convert into a pickup with a 4-by-6-foot bed. The design challenge was to meet a standard of both Hummer burliness (steel structure and a V8 engine) and upmarket friendliness (eight-way adjustable leather seats, XM satellite radio, keyed ignition and, well, doors). Buyers want military realism, though not military reality, it would seem. The Humvee is undoubtedly the beefier vehicle. It can clear higher rocks (16 inches versus 10) and drive through deeper water (60 inches versus 20). But when it comes to combining off-road performance with on-road driving comfort, the H2 is king of the hill.