I recently had the opportunity to drive a Hummer H2 hundreds of miles around Florida for three days. This would’ve been the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done, except that I was in Florida, so I kind of fit in.
Before I get into the H2 and why I find it so embarrassing, let me discuss exactly how I came to be driving around Florida in a vehicle that easily passed for “cool” a decade ago and has since slipped into the realm of “slightly more endearing than Comcast’s customer service department.”
Here’s what happened: I rented this H2 from Turo, which is this service that lets you rent cool, unusual, weird vehicles from normal people, instead of typical boring rental cars. Turo gives me a budget to rent cars every month, and I was going down to Florida to review some cars, so I decided I would use Turo to rent something interesting. I passed up seemingly endless Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and Maserati options because I wanted to find something truly ridiculous. Something truly absurd. Something truly unfortunate.
And I found it: the Hummer H2.
For those of you who don’t know much about the H2, allow me to explain: It was released for the 2003 model year, right when gas prices were low and the economy was doing well. It was cool. Not just that, it was in-your-face cool. H2 owners knew they were hated by a considerable segment of the population, and they just didn’t care. They had the biggest, baddest truck on the market.
Then, things changed. Over the next few years, gas prices went up, the economy tanked, and people in big SUVs were generally vilified — especially ultra-giant SUVs that were specifically styled to showcase their heft. For a few years in the late 2000s and early 2010s, the H2 was truly considered abominable. It made the Ford Excursion seem subtle and responsible.
And then, something even worse happened: it started to look old. It fell out of fashion. Which means anyone driving around in an H2 right now isn’t just angering environmentalists and operating a mobile monument to pre-recession America — they’re doing those things without the benefit of looking cool. The H2 is big, wasteful and gaudy, but it was all those things back in 2003. Now it’s also 10 years old, aging rapidly and not particularly special. There appears to be no good reason to have one of these things.
Which meant that I had to try it out. Is it really as awful and as embarrassing as I was expecting?
Yes. Yes it is.
I’ll start with the styling, which is laughably over the top. For example, it retains the giant hoops initially grafted onto the frame of the military-style AM General Hummer so it could be dropped from airplane cargo holds. Except in the H2, the hoops aren’t stuck to anything. They’re just some extra style placed on the hood.
I also think the H2 is hilarious for the cap in the middle of its chrome alloy wheel. The cap was originally designed to protect the AM General Hummer’s central tire inflation system from getting dirty or grimy, and it gave the original Hummer’s wheels a certain look. But the H2 doesn’t have a central tire inflation system. Nonetheless, it still has the cap, which isn’t even raised from the wheel. It does nothing. It says “HUMMER” on it.
In fact, a lot of things in the H2 say “HUMMER” on them. Just about everywhere you go, you can find the word “HUMMER” written, often obnoxiously, on a wide range of panels and pieces that don’t usually include a car’s make or model name. In case everyone else forgot what you were driving, the Hummer is there to remind them. Repeatedly. It also reminds you that you’re in an H2 with a distinctive “H2” logo on the center of the steering wheel. This, it should be noted, is the same steering wheel that’s also used in the tiny Chevy Colorado pickup truck.
In fact, the H2 shares a lot of equipment with other General Motors models, including its entire poorly constructed, cheap-feeling central controls. Interestingly, it doesn’t share a chassis: Although a common misconception is that the H2 rides on the same platform as the Chevy Tahoe, the H2’s frame is actually totally different — it shares only the rear section with the Tahoe, while the front comes from GM’s heavy-duty pickups, and the middle is custom-made to improve the H2’s off-road capabilities. Interestingly, despite this, General Motors decided to install a side step on the H2 that sticks down about 6 inches from the body, robbing it of all the ground clearance they worked so hard to create.
So this thing is pretty laughable, and it only gets worse when you take it out on the road. Even though the H2 has a larger engine than the Tahoe and Suburban, it’s dramatically slower: zero to 60 is a 10-second affair. It’s also loud, surprisingly uncomfortable, absolutely enormous, and inexplicably hard to see out of. I was continually perturbed by the sheer number of shakes and rattles that emanate from virtually every plastic surface in the H2. Naturally, handling isn’t nimble, either, and the upright windshield serves as a sort of wide (yet tiny) bug catcher that quickly turns any highway-driven H2 into a roving bug cemetery.
In the end, however, despite all this stuff, I’m tremendously glad I drove the H2. I simply had to know what it was like; I had to know how it felt; I had to know if everything I ever assumed about it was true. And I’m happy to report that it is true — that the H2 is just as bad as you could’ve ever expected. Now you can feel like you’re justified when you see one driving down the road and you start to chuckle. Find a Hummer H2 for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.