DURANGO, Colo. — I can now say that I’ve been to the mountaintop, and the new HUMMER H2 got me there.

Unless I had been behind the wheel myself, I never would have thought any vehicle capable of going up and over many of the obstacles we traveled during the recent media sneak peak preview of the 2008 HUMMER H2 held in Colorado and New Mexico.

While my colleagues and I did get to drive the more powerful H2 and H2SUT on the paved road, most of our two-day test drive was what you would definitely call “off road.”

And yes, there were a few white-knuckle moments when it felt like I was “going vertical” while climbing a steep grade. I was absolutely amazed at how capable the H2 and H2SUT really is.

To put it in perspective, there were several places where we had one, two and even three wheels off the ground. While spotters helped direct us over boulders, there were a couple of grades so steep that I had to look out of the sunroof to see them.

If you’re not accustomed to doing a lot of rock crawling, it can be a little unnerving.

But at every obstacle, I was absolutely blown away by the H2’s smooth, steady and sure-footed ability to take on all challenges. Even while crawling over boulders and cliffs, inside the cab the ride was smooth and comfortable.

In the hour-ride to the trailhead, I noticed how comfortable the ride was on the paved highway. It was like riding in a big luxury sedan. I was very impressed with how the suspension team engineered the H2 to produce a smooth ride with responsive handling on the road.

When it comes to suspensions, normally there’s a trade-off between on-road smoothness and off-road capability. I really thought once we got on the trail I was going to bounce all over the place, but that wasn’t the case.

Not only did the HUMMER H2 and H2 SUT (Sport Utility Truck) make easy work of tough terrain, it really made the ride feel like a stroll through the park.

The engineering of this vehicle is absolutely phenomenal.

The big news for the ’08 model can be seen under the hood and inside the cabin.

The new four-door, four-wheel drive models are powered by an all-new 6.2-liter all-aluminum small-block V-8 (393 horsepower/415 lb.-ft. torque) and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that produces a sub-8-second 0-60 mph time. In addition to producing more power (towing capacity has been increased to 8,000 pounds), it’s also more fuel-efficient than its H2 predecessor. Equipped with a 32-gallon fuel tank, the new H2 has a cruising range of 367 miles on a tank of gas.

Jeff Luke, chief engineer on the H2, announced that upgrades have also been made to the cooling system and transfer case, which now yields a 39-1 crawl ratio.

Several new safety features have been added as standard equipment, including a new electronic stability control system with rollover mitigation technology, panic brake assist, a new traction control system, and a roof rail head curtain side airbags with rollover sensing system. That’s in addition to the standard anti-lock brakes and tire pressure monitoring system.

The inside has also been redesigned offering more refined, premium appointments throughout. There’s an all-new instrument panel and, get this, the H2 now has a full third-row seat (with heating/air conditioning vents) that now provides seating for up to seven passengers. The rear seats can fold flat for additional cargo storage when not needed for passengers.

The new interior is “plush,” making the HUMMER H2 a worthy competitor to the Land Rover Range Rover for both capability and luxury in the premium SUV segment, which also includes the Lexus LX470 and Lincoln Navigator.

After two days behind the wheel, I can attest that it is comfortable, refined and extremely capable. Not only does it have the ability to climb like a mountain goat on the trail, it’s even able to ford streams up to 24-inches deep.

Consumers will also have more optional items, including a new rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a navigation system, a rear-view camera system, heated windshield washer fluid, while OnStar and XM Satellite Radio are standard on all models. The rear backup camera system is also nice. The monitor is located in the center console on models equipped with navigation. For others, the optional feature includes a special rear-view mirror that includes a “pop out” display when the vehicle is placed in reverse.

The new H2 and H2SUT will begin production in July with an initial dealer delivery date scheduled for August. Pricing won’t be made available until closer to release.

“The 2008 HUMMER H2 represents a major step in the evolution of this iconic vehicle,” Martin Walsh, HUMMER general manager, pointed out.

I couldn’t agree more. The new H2 is scaling new heights for HUMMER.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 15 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. Comments may be sent to Neal at neal.white@waxahachiedailylight.com.