Archive for July, 2011

I’ve always has a revulsion to the Hummer H2; but I can’t put my finger on the exact reason.

When General Motors introduced the Hummer brand and the H2 SUV in 2003, everyone knew its fuel economy sucked. But I like plenty of cars that are at the bottom of that list — think Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley or Rolls Royce.  And I have nothing against big trucks or SUVs, per se, I just don’t like it when someone drives a gigantic barge that is completely unnecessary given the size of their family and cargo needs.  Frankly, a minivan has better people and cargo capacity than a Hummer. So big isn’t necessarily bad. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to personal transportation.

2009 (last year) Hummer H2 Black Chrome Edition

If I had to pinpoint one thing that gave me pause, I think it was the Incredible Hulk size with the matching cartoonish styling cues.  It just wasn’t authentic.  Heavy fake body armor was applied to a heavily-modified Chevy Suburban platform to make it look like the original Desert Storm military vehicle, the AM General Humvee H1. Add a $50,000 + price tag and you have an expensive exercise in faux masculinity.

GM touted the H2’s prestigious off-road credentials; however, the H2s I’ve seen are more likely to drive over a curb or across a center median than they are to actually go off road.  You know, the sand and dirt would decimate those 30″ DUB chrome wheels with low-profile tires and acres of aftermarket chrome bling.

The military H1 used in both Operation Desert Storm (the first Gulf War) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (the post 9/11 invasion of Iraq).

After the H2 hit the roads of LA, in addition to my initial dislike of the size and design, I gained a jaundiced perception of the people who drove these monsters. Lanes were hogged. Turn signals remained unused.  Side mirrors weren’t checked for a lane change – you just got out of their way.  Parking took two spots.  Some didn’t fit into underground parking structures. If you were behind one, all forward visibility was obliterated.   Hell, you couldn’t even see the Ferarris parked in front of Sunset Plaza restaurants when an H2 with a celebrity occupant got front placement.

The H2 was much better suited for large suburban tract homes and extra-urban locations configured for travel trailers or mobile homes. Think Wal-Mart Super Centers.  Six-lane wide open roads with center medians.  Large box stores and shopping malls with acres of outdoor parking.  Paranoid survivalists in Idaho or Texas.

But what most people didn’t realize is just how heavy these things were. In fact, its curb weight (take a deep breath) of 6,614 lbs blasted it out of the requirement to be tested by the EPA for fuel economy!  The GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) was a staggering, Hulk-size 8,600 lbs.  The EPA didn’t think that any “passenger” car or SUV would ever weigh that much. Vehicles that heavy were usually  large commercial trucks, farm or heavy construction equipment or special-purpose vehicles like an electric utility vehicle or a tow truck.  Bottom line: GM never published official fuel economy estimates for the H2.

Over its production life (2003 – 2009), the H2 was tested by most car/truck magazines and consumer websites – all with dismal fuel economy results (although consumers tended to give the vehicles overall high ratings). In 2008, Car & Driver observed fuel economy of 10 mpg while found a 2007 H2 was worse at 9.2 mpg.  Let’s be charitable and call it an even 10 mpg.

In 2008, when the first great gas panic hit, people couldn’t get rid of them fast enough.  People do tend to vote with their pocket books.

Where I live in LA, you rarely see them anymore.  As fast as the H2 gained popularity with certain subcultures (think Rap Artists and aftermarket accessory retailers), they disappeared even faster. It was like a fashion trend changed overnight.  Although most H2 owners could probably afford to fill the 32 gallon gas tank with $4.50 gallon gas, the poison darts of derision and scorn shot by pious Prius owners was probably too much to bear.

I still see them on a regular basis in the Coachella Valley. The roads are wide, traffic is nothing compared to LA and parking is plentiful. Last weekend, I found this Black H2 towing a beautiful boat parked over six empty parking spaces at the Palm Springs Home Depot.  Good thing the whole row was empty, because you aren’t going to parallel park that combination.  I’m willing to bet that with the added extra heft of that boat, that thing sucks gas faster than Dean Martin sloshed down martinis at the Sunset Boulevard Hamburger Hamlet.

The H2 can tow up to 8,000 lbs. That boat isn’t that heavy, but it’s probably at least two tons.   My guess is that with the boat and a family of four, that thing gets no better than 5 mpg.  What do you think the fuel costs are for a fun boating weekend in Laughlin, Nevada? I hope the family credit card isn’t maxed out.

The Hummer H2 looks like a brick compared with that slick speed boat. It does look nice against the background of the San Jacinto mountains.

I'm a bit closer here, but with something that long, it's hard to get a close up and still get everything in the picture.

The sunlight conspired to make the front of the H2 look like a Darth Vader helmet.


It’s only been a few days since the Carmageddon non-event in Los Angeles ended.  The 405 is back open, and the real daily nightmare of the 405 commute is back.  As usual, the freeway is clogged and the east/west arteries that go under and feed into the 405 (Santa Monica, Wilshire, Olympic, Pico, etc.) are moving at the usual snail’s pace. It still takes me around 35 minutes to drive the 9 miles from my home in West Hollywood to Santa Monica and 20th (in Santa Monica) for a 5 minute appointment.

I’ve lived in LA all my life (51 years so far) and I was here for Y2k (everyone stayed home) as well as the 1984 Olympics.  I can attest that traffic was never better in LA during the Olympics. People took vacations. Businesses changed their hours of operations and put workers on different schedules, including early/late hours, 4-day work weeks and working at home, going into the office only when needed.  People even carpooled – many for the first time ever (this was 1984).

I think the LA Times editorial page summed things up best on July 19, 2011:

Killer bees never did swarm the Southwest, the Y2K bug was squashed, the world didn’t end on May 21 and “Carmageddon” wasn’t. Now that we’ve finished freaking out about the weekend closure of 10 miles of the 405 Freeway, can we do something about the fact that it’s Carmageddon every single day in West Los Angeles?

Last weekend demonstrated that Angelenos really can change their driving behavior if they’re motivated to do so. It’s not the first time they’ve done it. During the 1984 Olympics, when the pre-event hype about traffic nightmares was at least as intense as the media warnings about Carmageddon, commuter traffic across the city was a breeze. It’s not hard to get people out of their cars during extraordinary events; the tough thing is doing it on a daily basis.

I’ve been poking around YouTube for a good time-lapse video that isn’t copyrighted by a news channel, and I found this one. It’s well shot and has some great camera positions.  It’s worth the 4 minutes and 5 seconds: