We report calculations of the electronic ground state potential energy surface (PES) of hydrogen peroxide covering, in an almost global fashion, all six internal degrees of freedom by two different ab initio techniques. Density functional theory (DFT) calculations using the Becke 3 parameter Lee-Yang-Parr (B3LYP) hybrid functional and multiconfigurational second order perturbation theory (CASPT2) calculations, both using large basis sets, are performed for a wide range of geometries (8145 DFT and 5310 CASPT2 single-point energies). We use a combined data set of mostly DFT with additional CASPT2 ab initio points and the complete CASPT2 surface to fit a total of four different 6D analytical representations. The resulting potentials contain 70-76 freely adjusted parameters and represent the ground state PES up to 40000 cm(-1) above the equilibrium energy with a standard deviation of 100-107 cm(-1) without any important artifacts. One of the model surfaces is further empirically refined to match the bond dissociation energy D-0 for HOOH --> 2OH. The potentials are designed for energy regions accessible by vibrational fundamental and overtone spectroscopy including the dissociation channel into hydroxyl radicals. Characteristic properties of the model surfaces are investigated by means of stationary point analyses, torsional barrier heights, harmonic frequencies, low-dimensional cuts and minimum energy paths for dissociation. Overall good agreement with high-level ab initio calculations, especially for the CASPT2 based potentials, is achieved. The drastic change in geometry at intermediate O-O distances, which reflects the transition from covalent to hydrogen bonding, is reproduced quantitatively. We calculate fully 6D anharmonic zero point energies and ground state torsional splittings with the diffusion quantum Monte Carlo method in perfect agreement, within statistical error bars, with experiment for the CASPT2 based potentials. Variational vibrational calculations in the (4+2)D adiabatic approximation yield energy levels and torsional splittings from the ground state up to predissociative states, satisfactorily reproducing the experimental transition wavenumbers. (C) 1999 American Institute of Physics. [S0021-9606(99)30205-1].