I found it very amusing how young boys playing outside would run towards the street waving and yelling "Hummer" as I passed by. One thing's for certain: You'll never go anywhere inconspicuously in this vehicle thanks to its imposing girth and head-turning design. Our sunset orange metallic test vehicle was a big hit at my daughter's school and I'm still being called the "Hummer mom."

Despite its large size, the H2 drives and handles like a regular full-size SUV. A three-piece, fully welded ladder-type frame incorporates hydroformed components that give the vehicle its strength, stiffness, and dimensional accuracy. The H2's independent front torsion bar and five-link coil-spring rear suspension ensure ride comfort and control, and its solid rear axle provides sure-footedness, particularly in off-road conditions. For those who are heavy into offroading, a self-leveling rear air-spring suspension system is available.

The underbody is protected with three large skid plates; a fuel-tank shield; chassis-bolted rocker-panel protectors; and mud flares that run up, over, and around the wheels. A protective shield is also available for the optional on-board air compressor.

The Hummer's highly developed Bosch four-channel antilock braking/ tractioncontrol system (ABS/TCS) not only provides optimal control on slippery roads, it is specially calibrated to prevent unwanted activations while off-roading. The TCS can gain traction through a single wheel. A button on the center stack lets drivers activate a secondary TCS mode to provide more wheel slip on surfaces such as sand, mud, and snow.

Whether you're entering the freeway or passing slower drivers, the H2 is up to the task with its 6.0-liter Vortec V8 that generates 316 hp at 5,200 rpm and 360 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The engine links to a heavy-duty Hydra-Matic 4L65-E four-speed automatic overdrive transmission. For highly controlled obstacle climbing, a standard Borg-Warner two-speed electrically controlled full-time 4WD system is capable of reducing gear ratios by 2.64:1. The only drawback is the Hummer's poor gas mileage — it averages between 11 and 12 mpg, which can hit your wallet pretty hard these days with our high gas prices.

Unlike its rugged exterior, the H2's interior is quite luxurious. The truck's cloth seats with eight-way power adjustment are very comfortable. All controls are within easy reach and the instrument panel is easy to read.

Our test vehicle also featured the new-for-2004 Delphi integrated navigation radio ($1,570) that features full map navigation and a CD-ROM/audio player. The navigation system uses 2D and 3D full-color map views on a 5.8-in. screen to get you where you're going. The system gives drivers verbal commands as to which way to turn, something I was unaware of. When I turned out of our parking garage, I was startled when a woman's voice blurted out a command. The system turned out to be interesting to use and quite a source of entertainment for my two children.

While I didn't have a chance to do any off-roading, I thoroughly enjoyed driving the H2. Unfortunately, its hefty price tag of $58,049 ($49,180 + $8,054 in options + $815 for destination charges) coupled with the potential $50+ to fill its 33-gallon gas tank will keep the Hummer out of my driveway.