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
Hummer Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
is the easiest-to-live-with Hummer ever made
2006 Hummer H3
The 2006 Hummer H3
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