Trucks: Drive report

Hummer has become the pariah of the gas-guzzling automotive world – the supposed end-all truck for the don’t-give-a-damn-about-the-environment crowd and a favorite target for greenies who decry its size and wasteful nature. But I’ve test-driven five Hummers over the past three years, and the fact is, a Hummer doesn’t get any worse gas mileage than a Chevy 2500 or Ford F-250 pickup truck.

The Hummer’s main problem, I think, is in its perceived usefulness. True, heavy-duty pickups like the Silverado 2500 and F-250 drink lots of gas – but they’re clearly work trucks with the requisite horsepower and torque to tow heavy loads and traverse sloppy terrain in four-wheel drive, and have a bed to haul materials in and the interior space to haul additional passengers or serve as a mobile office.

Critics see the Hummer H2 as a big Soccer-Mom-mobile with very little practical utility value. The H2 SUT is Hummer’s attempt to counter those charges. “SUT” stands for “Sport Utility Truck.” In essence, Hummer has chopped off the rear roof section on a standard H2 SUV and added a small, open bed at the rear of the truck.

Actually the bed isn’t as small as it appears. All told, the SUT has a 4-by-6-foot, half-covered bed with 56.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity. That’s comparable to a standard-bed Silverado 2500, which sports 56.9 cubic feet of capacity (although long-bed versions offer 73.9 cubic feet.). The problem is the half-covered bed makes it difficult to load, situate and haul long or bulky items. The capacity is there – using it can be a challenge. To counter this, the window and rear section of the cab can be lowered, increasing access to the bed. An optional hard bed cover can be ordered to provide payload security. Rubber mats help keep the bed and rear cab clean.

Performance-wise, the H2 SUT is virtually identical to its H2 predecessor. The truck is rated to ford streams up to 20 inches deep, climb a 60-degree grade or16-inch steps or rocks, and travel sideways on a 40-degree grade without tipping over. Similarly, the SUT’s vehicle heights and dimensions are similar, if not identical, to a standard H2’s.

Inside the cab, it’s all pretty much the same décor as you’ll find in an H2. One noticeable difference is the vastly improved rear visibility the pickup bed offers. Drive an H2, and you’ll spend a lot of time double-checking before you back up or change lanes. That’s not necessary in the SUT because rearward sight lines are simply outstanding.

I can never see the point in having a Hummer and not taking it off road. And I have personally disproved the assertion that Hummers can’t be stuck in the mud. Trust me, they can. But the SUT didn’t suffer that fate. It handled admirably on deep-rutted logging roads, easily chugging through knee-deep gumbo mud. I also climbed some fairly slick, steep hills without any trouble and did it all in luxurious comfort. For all the negatives that surround the Hummer name and image, there’s simply no denying the fact that these trucks deliver exactly the performance and capability they promise.