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Highway driving is very comfortable and perhaps the main attraction for most Hummer buyers. Driving position is commanding and there is sense of power from that seat. But visibility is difficult through the rear window and over the hood. Switching lanes requires attention and caution so that you don’t draw the ire of any SUV-haters. Parallel parking will be treacherous for those with minimal spatial talents.

But the ride is pleasant, and power from the 325-horsepower 6-liter V8 is adequate enough to tow 6500 pounds or haul a 2200-pound payload. The seats are cushy yet supportive enough to sustain an erect spine for long treks. The dash is bold and maybe slightly cluttered visually but all the controls are within easy reach. Originally the H2 took a somewhat lazy approach to luxury that drew complaints from many owners. But the company has taken steps to improve the interior surfaces on 2005 models. A new $3,740 luxury package includes up level Ebony leather seating, more leather on trim panels, 6-CD changer, XM satellite radio and aluminum door sill plates. There’s also an available DVD-based navigation system.

The SUT should broaden the appeal of the Hummer line to include more recreation-minded buyers. Perhaps the hostility toward the vehicle has died down enough now that vandalism won’t be an issue. Our truck never had eggs thrown on it; not that I didn’t think about the potential for vandalism. I often walk along the beach and one morning last year I noticed a homeowner on the Strand had just purchased a bright yellow Hummer H2. But since it wouldn’t fit in the garage (beach houses can be small), he had to park on the side of the house on a makeshift driveway. That week, a number of SUVs in the Los Angeles area were burned or sprayed with graffiti. Within a couple weeks, I noticed the Hummer owner had installed security cameras focused on his vehicle, not the house. The only foreign matter I encountered while testing the Hummer was a seemingly continuous swarm of insects on the windshield. True to its boxy nature, the windshield stands straight up on the H2. There is no chance that any bug will find an aerodynamic slipstream over the hood and roof.

Many of the problems and annoyances owners experienced with the SUV will carry over the SUT. Ingress and egress are difficult for the elderly and youngsters alike. The Hummer is an absolute nightmare to wash. As mentioned earlier, it’s big and will not fit into some garages. The liftover height of the pickup bed rails is manageable for pro basketball players but few others. And for those expecting to see that tax loophole continue, don’t wait until after Jan. 1 to buy your Hummer.

Despite the cult-like loyalty of some owners, the H2 has suffered in JD Power quality rankings. Owners rave about the styling and perhaps the comfort but vehicle has had maintenance and reliability issues. Just try pricing the replacement cost of those massive tires. To its defense, however, many of the complaints have centered on fuel economy. It makes no sense to criticize a vehicle for poor mileage when you know it’s a gas hog before you step into the dealership. But the H2 isn’t required to have an EPA estimate on the window sticker due to its 8600-pound GVRW, and the shock of $60 fillups apparently was too much for some owners. We logged 853 miles in one week with our test vehicle, using 72.8 gallons of premium fuel for an average of 11.7 mpg. Total fuel cost: $168.75.

The H2 SUT is an attractive but expensive fashion statement. It lacks the practicality of a traditional pickup but certainly offers many more intrinsic rewards to those who desire such a vehicle. With the novelty worn down, maybe now we’ll see the prototypical Hummer owner emerge. Perhaps he is a true off-road enthusiast and a family man who feels more secure in an armored-car-like vehicle. Maybe he’s not the type of driver who craves attention. Maybe he just wants to drive a Hummer and be left alone.

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