H2 could drive basketball star to distraction

Leather seats, TVs? What more does a high-schooler need?

January 15, 2003|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,SUN COLUMNIST

"Like nothing else."

- Hummer slogan

LeBron James' celebrated schoolboy basketball career may go down the tubes. But, man, he sure has nice wheels.

Maybe you heard that Ohio high school officials are investigating whether James, an 18-year-old who could be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft this year, broke any eligibility rules by tooling around in his new Hummer H2.

James reportedly got the H2 as a birthday gift from his mother. But the Hummer has a base price of $49,190. And when a high school player rides around in something that goes for that number of Benjamins, it's not just eyebrows that get raised, it's entire facial and skeletal structures.

Anyway, we're not here to judge.

No, we're here to shamelessly ride the coattails of the James controversy and get ourselves behind the wheel of an H2 for a test spin to see what all the fuss is about. Which is why we appeared yesterday at Anderson Hummer in Cockeysville, the Baltimore area's only Hummer dealer.

We came fully prepared to whine and grovel, if that's what it took. But none of that was necessary. The Anderson people quickly agreed to let us drive a jet-black H2 with lots of chrome, tires the circumference of a California redwood and a plush tan-wheat interior with heated leather seats that retails for $58,450.

Of course, LeBron's Hummer also has three TVs and a hook-up for computer games.

For an instant, we thought about turning to sales associate Jim Gilpatrick and saying: "Lemme get this straight. You expect me to drive around without a TV or a screen to play Madden 2003? What do I look like, some rube who just hopped out of a Taurus?"

But you don't want to queer the deal before it actually happens. So we kept our trap shut and gratefully accepted the keys when they were offered.

In the event that your mother didn't give you a Hummer for your birthday, and your knowledge of the vehicle is sketchy, here's a quick primer:

There are actually two types of Hummers.

The H1 is a direct knock-off of the famous military Humvee, designed primarily for off-road use, with a stark interior that appears to be missing only a 50-caliber machine gun to be ready for full-scale warfare.

"It's basically a military Humvee with a tuxedo," Gilpatrick said.

The H2, said product manager Jeff Miller, "is more like an SUV. It has more of the creature comforts ... more luxury to it."

While its squatter, homelier cousin can climb a 22-inch vertical wall and ford 30 inches of water, the H2 can climb only - boy, you talk about wimpy cars - a 16-inch wall and ford 20 inches of water.

Armed with this information, we fired up the Vortec 6000 V-8 engine with 316 horsepower and nosed the H2 out onto York Road, where, instead of a raging stream to cross or a snow-covered mountain to scale, we found a High's convenience store and a backup at the intersection of York and Warren roads.

On a 25-minute test drive, we discovered that the H2 has a remarkably smooth ride, not "trucky" at all. And it's much quieter to ride in than the military version, which basically sounds like you're riding inside a working steel mill.

The interior was plush and roomy, although whether a 6-foot-8 guy like LeBron James would find it as roomy is open for debate. And when the digital temperature readout on the rear-view mirror reads 23 degrees, it's nice to have leather-trimmed heated seats with three different temperature settings.

The H2 is about the size of a cruise ship, with a length of more than 15 feet and a curb weight of 6,400 pounds. So there's not a whole lot of pick-up to it, although you could probably chase down a tank if one happened to wander into your neighborhood.

Here's another thing we discovered cruising the byways of northern Baltimore County in a Hummer H2: Other cars tend to get out of your way.

At an intersection in Hunt Valley, a woman in a Plymouth Voyager minivan appeared ready to make a left-hand turn. Then she saw us barreling toward her and quickly stopped, gazing in wide-eyed horror as we passed.

Don't make us use the rocket launchers! is what we should have shouted.

(Actually, said Gilpatrick, other motorists do sometimes get testy with Hummer drivers at night. The overall vehicle height of the H2 is 80 inches, so when it pulls up behind you with its headlights shining, it's kind of like having a Boeing 757 in your rear-view mirror.)

How's the H2 on gas?

Look, if you're the type who worries about gas consumption, this ain't the car for you.

It only gets 9 to 10 miles per gallon in city driving, 12 to 13 on the highway. You want something that'll get you to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, this baby's for you. You want something that's going to get you from here to the Carolinas on a tank of gas, buy a Ford Escort.

As Gilpatrick pointed out, the H2 is a fun vehicle to drive, although it's not for everybody.

It does tend to get you noticed, though.

Which 18-year-old future NBA superstars don't seem to mind.

The Hummer H2

A look at some of the features of Ohio high school basketball star LeBron James' new SUV.

Make/model: 2003 Hummer H2

Base price: $49,190

Engine: Vortec 6000 V8 6.0 liter with cast iron block and cast aluminum cylinder heads

Color: Pewter metallic

Standard: CD player, power windows, power brakes, power locks, cruise control

Added features: Three televisions, special tire rims, DVD player, video game system, leather seats -- Sun Staff

Source: www.hummer.com

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