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2007 Hummer H2 Road Test
By Bill Roebuck
What's it like to drive the world's biggest SUV through the streets of the city?
In a word, intimidating.
That applies to both you as the driver, and for all those people around you driving much smaller cars.
The first thing that impresses you about the Hummer H2 is its size. When I picked up a bright yellow model from the General Motors plant in Oshawa for a week-long evaluation, I wasn't too concerned, as I'd seen other models of this giant SUV on the road around town since it came out in late 2002 as a an all-new 2003 model.
What I didn't know was that it would take a couple of days to acclimatize to its mass.
The first drive was coming back into the city along Highway 401. Lots of room, plenty of wide lanes, not much traffic. Perfect. Except that I really couldn't just where the sides of the vehicle were in relation to the white lines -- it felt like I was filling up the whole width of the lane.
However, my trepidation grew as I headed downtown for a lunch appointment -- right at Yonge and Gerrard. I was arriving early, because I hadn't been in the area for a while. Driving along, I tried to remember all the secret -- and cheap --parking spots I knew as a journalism student at nearby Ryerson many years ago.
Driving along Yonge Street, I found myself was squeezing my elbows tight against my own body as I eased the beast along the narrow street, as if to make the wide vehicle thinner (it's 2,063-mm wide -- that's 81.2 in. or six-and-three-quarter ft.). It sure felt even wider, as this was my first time manoeuvring the yellow monster through city streets.
The H2 attracted a lot of attention. I saw more people turning to admire -- or scoff -- than in any other vehicle I've tested. Then I started to feel embarrassed about the excessiveness of it.
Near my destination, almost all the parking lots I'd recalled still existed. Time was running out, so I gave up on secrete and cheap. But the mainstream lots were jammed, each with just one or two spots open. With the first lot I tried, it was impossible to get into the one remaining spot, and the attendant had no intention of leaving his cozy booth to help guide me. What did I expect for the $20 parking fee -- valet service?
After getting jammed into a corner, with no hope of fitting into the spot, I eased out to try another lot. Same thing. No luck squeezing in.
Then I spied an underground parking garage with a sign saying spots were available. As I was about to pull in, I noticed an overhead warning about the garage being too low for full-size vans, so I chickened out. Backing out into traffic wasn't as much as a challenge as I expected. Other drivers stopped to let me pass -- wary of a run-in with six-and-a-quarter-tons of metal, I'm sure.
I'm now 15 minutes late for lunch. So much for arriving early.
Then, it's a sense of delight as I notice a very wide spot in a, small lot along Gerrard St. Perfect. Down the narrow laneway I drive, and then realize why the spot is empty --there's a huge yellow lamppost the thickness of an old-growth pine jutting into the space. Undeterred -- actually, now desperate -- I deftly manoeuvred a 16-point turn to fit the H2 into position. I has to use the remote power function that folds the mirrors flat against the sides of the vehicle, and slightly bent a large cardboard advertising sign strapped to the post. But I was in.
Next step was to get a ticket from the machine in the lot. I had lots of change so thought it would be simple. It wasn't until I'd put in all my change -- $7.75 that a message flashed on the display that you needed $8 minimum to get a receipt printed. And then I noticed the "No change given" label. I had no choice but to walk away and leave a gift for the next parker, who'd be able to get an $8 parking receipt for a quarter.
After lunch, I had one of my colleagues guide me out of the spot, so leaving wasn't any trouble.
Next stop, downtown Oakville. I needed to pick up some mail on the main street, but there was no way I had the courage to try parallel parking on my first try with an audience of bystanders gawking at me. I'd practice later on a quiet street. So I drove around until I found a spot on a side street that I could drive straight into. Relief.
Next was my own driveway with its small carport. After a futile attempt at squeezing it in, I parked on the street. It was all or nothing with the H2 -- there'd be no room for other family cars if the Hummer was in my driveway.
It wasn't long before almost every neighbour on the street came by to check it out. That's the litmus test of how distinctive a vehicle is -- simply count the number of neighbours who come to have a look. Parents said their younger kids couldn't stop talking about this real-life Tonka truck. So I spent much of my weekend taking the local kids for rides. The best were on a muddy service road alongside the local railway tracks. Most of the kids said they wanted one when they grew up! Not a Viper. Not a BMW. It was the Hummer all the way.
The first two days of driving the H2 were challenging, but then I got used to it. I was wheeling around corners and driving it like it was a sedan. I somehow adapted to its mass, and it to me, and we became a formidable, manoeuvrable team no matter where we went for the rest of that week.
There was one unexpected thing I had to get used to with the H2. It seemed to inspire aggressive behaviour among other drivers on the highway. People -- mainly drivers of lesser SUVs -- would tailgate. Others would roar past and cut right in front. Their reward seemed to be passing and getting ahead of something bigger, beastlier and more powerful than whatever they were driving.
It wasn't that we were moving slowly -- despite its size, the H2's 6.0-litre V8 powerplant would power it smoothly down the highway at 140 km/h, no problem. It had lots of torque too, with a nice boost of acceleration to get it up to highway speeds. But although overall speed was of no concern, passing acceleration was mediocre.
After a week, I came to a surprising conclusion. The embarrassment factor was gone. Driving the H2 was fun. It also took courage to deal with the scowls of those who think you're wasting gas and polluting the environment with such a big vehicle (sorry, but I didn't even enquire about the fuel economy).
Yes, it's a honking big truck, but don't scoff at its drivers when you see them, because they're probably smiling --as long as they're nowhere near a gas station or a parking lot.
Bill Roebuck is the editor and chief reviewer of CarTest!
Posted Sept. 13, 2007