I think it’s safe to say that we, as car enthusiasts, often pass judgment on people we see in other cars. See a Honda Odyssey, for example, and your first thought is: “That person is transporting several children!” Or, if it’s a Dodge Grand Caravan, you think: “That person is transporting several children in a rental car!”
Of course, these judgments go beyond minivans. Every time I see a lowered E46 BMW M3 at Cars and Coffee, for instance, I’m always thinking the same thing: Now there’s a guy who uses text messaging to break up with women.
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: For God’s sake, E46 M3 people, it was a joke. Please don’t send any e-mails about how you’d never break up over text and blah blah blah that’s for AMG owners and blah blah blah you would definitely use Skype and blah blah blah you’d bring your girlfriend over to my house right now to prove it except she isn’t allowed to ride in your car anymore because she changed the climate control that one time.)
I often wonder what people think of me when I’m driving my Nissan Cube. Sure, there’s the obvious thought, namely: “That guy is driving so erratically it’s like he wants to get in an accident and destroy his car.” But what else are they thinking? Bait and switch victim? Mental problems? Head injury?
I was pondering all of this the other day when I was out driving my 556-horsepower station wagon, which I am obnoxiously mentioning so you don’t associate me with Nissan Cube ownership. And that’s when it happened: I saw a Hummer H2.
Remember the H2? Ten years ago, they were being snapped up by anyone who had a five grand down payment and an unkempt goatee, largely because it was the king of the road and we all had to respect it. I know I did. I pulled over to let an H2 pass every time I saw one in the mirror, mostly because I was intimidated, but also because when the sun hit the enormous chrome grille just right, it was capable of setting fire to schoolchildren.
But that was ten years ago. These days, things have changed, which begs the question: do Hummer H2 owners know how stupid they look?
Here’s what I mean. Back in 2004, when the H2 came out, it was pretty cool. Yes, I know that we, being car enthusiasts, believe it was the actual automotive devil; right up there with that Lincoln that looks like a fish. (You’re thinking: All of them?) But it was revered among the kind of people who like big, obnoxious vehicles. Rappers. Professional athletes. Actors. Middle-aged men who put too much pressure on their sons at youth football games.
But then the status changed. Gas prices increased. The H2 became the poster child for wretched excess. Hummer went under. You may remember this time, because it wasn’t possible to pick up a newspaper without seeing a story about Hummer’s decline with some sort of Hummer-related pun in the title. You know what I mean: things like “Bah Hum-Bug” or “A Hummer of a Failure” or, my personal favorite, from the San Francisco Chronicle, “Dude, You Smell Like a Hummer.”
Interestingly, other SUVs didn’t bear the brunt of this hatred. Isn’t that weird? I briefly owned a Mercedes G-Wagen, and no one said anything to me about gas mileage, though that may be because peasants have learned not to speak to people driving G-Wagens.
No, the Hummer H2 took all of the large SUV scorn. Environmentalists started vandalizing dealerships, unaware that such an act was probably the best thing that ever happened to a Hummer franchise. Someone started that passive-aggressive website where people flip off H2s on the road. And people began openly mocking H2 drivers, which is sort of the opposite reaction you want when you’ve plunked down fifty large on a vehicle that resembles an Eastern bloc apartment complex in both shape and overall size.
But the strange thing is that, ten years later, people still drive them. There are still people, cruising down the street behind the wheel of one of these behemoths, listening to Garth Brooks and thinking: I’m way too under water on this thing to ever sell it.
No, that isn’t true. What they’re really thinking is: Man, I look so cool in my Hummer! And you know they’re thinking this because they have rims, and lift kits, and exterior accessories finished in some sort of cheap plastic chrome that peels very easily, and they even have a wide variety of brush bars and grille guards whose primary duty is to push shopping carts out of the way in supermarket parking lots.
Which returns me to my question: Do Hummer H2 owners know how stupid they look?
For a vehicle that traded almost exclusively on its macho reputation, the H2 certainly doesn’t look macho anymore. Instead, it just looks stupid. And who wants to be seen in a car that makes them look stupid? Believe me when I tell you that it isn't a pleasant experience. Believe me when I tell you that it's absolutely no fun. Believe me when I tell you this, because I drive a Nissan Cube.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He operates PlaysWithCars.com. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.