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2006 Hummer H3

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San Francisco:  If youíve been craving the macho power of a Hummer but are waiting until Hummers become drivable in normal traffic and more affordable, youíre in luck. The new H3 is here, delivering much of the Hummer go-anywhere talents and brick-house styling in a much more accessible package.

The original Hummer, now called the H1 Alpha, is based on the militaryís HUMVEE, which has seen service in the Gulf War in 1992 and today in Iraq. In 1992 the HUMVEE was converted for civilian use, leaving much of the enormous, impractical, road-hogging qualities intact. The H2 debuted in 2002 as a more civilized and affordable alternative to the $100,000 + H1. The H3 takes the next step, paring nearly 17 inches in length, six inches of height, and 6.5 inches of width from the H2. Oh, and it also dropped 1,700 pounds too.

Unless you simply must be the biggest guy on the block, this new offroader is a fine choice for normal life. It fits in a garage, turns in a tidy 37 feet, and gets typical midsize SUV mileage, 16 mpg City, 19 mpg Highway, with the optional four-speed automatic. If you opt for the standard five-speed manual transmission (the first one ever offered in a Hummer), you gain one mpg in the highway rating. Happily, the H3 uses regular fuel.

The only powerplant is GMís Vortec 3500, a 3.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine. Borrowed from the midsize GM pickups, it puts out 220 horsepower and 225 lb-ft. of torque. Those numbers arenít bad, but this little beast weighs 4,700 pounds, so acceleration uphill is leisurely.

Unlike its big brothers, however, the new Hummer feels athletic and sharp in town, and standing 6-foot, 2-1/2 inches tall, it still puts your view high over most other drivers, who will likely be admiring you in your chunky ride.  Interestingly, the H3ís width is just three millimeters greater than its height.

The slit-like windows from other Hummers prevail, as do the vertical front and rear panels, upright windshield, minimal overhangs, and bold wheel outlines. The spare sits at the rear, and the chrome grille wears the seven slots that annoy the Jeep folks so much. Huge wheels and tires are bigger than those on other midsize SUVs. With wide pillars and narrow windows, visibility is predictably poor, so back up or change lanes with care.

Inside, the new Hummer has neither the stark utility of the H1 nor the exaggerated chunkiness of the H2. The dash is simple and neatly contoured, with satin metal trim. My Boulder Gray Metallic test car featured an

Ebony interior, which means lots of matte black plastic, but the materials and assembly were premium sedan level. The rubber-wrapped dials move with authority and plenty of grip. A fat T-handle shifter and a thick-rimmed steering wheel convey toughness as you grab them.

The H3 comes with an electronic tire pressure monitor. One morning, it indicated that I had a low tire (the display doesnít tell you which one). I examined all four tires, and they all appeared fine. However, at the gas station, the right front one came up ten pounds low. This kind of information helps you keep the pressure correct for safety, less tire wear, and better fuel mileage.

This may be a junior-size Hummer, but the H3 is still a full-featured rock climber. The electronic four-wheel-drive system, combined with 9.1-inches of road clearance and a maximum breakover angle of 25 degrees lets the H3 go almost anywhere. You can ford a 16-inch stream at 20 mph, or if youíre willing to slow down to 5 mph, you can drive through a full two feet of water. The Hummer will climb 16-inch vertical steps and rocks, too. Four underbody shields protect its innards.

But youíre probably just going to drive to work in this thing, or maybe dashing about on the weekends, and the H3 is happy to do so. Despite the huge tires, the ride is smooth and quiet, giving you full enjoyment of the sound system. My tester had the optional seven-speaker Monsoon sound system $845), and also XM Satellite Radio ($325), which offered a wealth of enjoyable listening.

I had just a few little complaints. The power window buttons are located far back on the armrest, so I had to move my arm awkwardly to use them. The optional sunroof ($800), though hugely panoramic, created some wind buffeting at speed. The tuner and volume knobs on the audio system are the same size and are stacked one above the other and I frequently grabbed the wrong one. 

The upscale interior and well-mannered handling are pleasant surprises here, but the most enjoyable news is on the window sticker. My test cars price, before options, was only $28,935. With the optional four-speed automatic transmission ($1,695), chrome appearance package ($850), aforementioned audio upgrades, and a couple of other little items, the bottom line for my tester came to $35,225. As you can imagine, at that price, Hummer 3 sales are brisk.

One wonders at the possibility of a Chevrolet HHR sized H4 someday, but for now the H3 is the easiest-to-live-with Hummer ever made.  By Steve Schaefer  © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: 
 This is the easiest-to-live-with Hummer ever made
 The 2006 Hummer H3
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Photo Caption: 
 The 2006 Hummer H3
Photo Credits:  
Hummer Internet Media
Series #:   2005 - 53

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