2006 Hummer H3
Although classified as a midsize SUV, the 2006 Hummer H3 cops a full-size attitude all the way. Looking somewhat like a caricature of its elder siblings, it is nonetheless successfully shrunken visually, making a less-jarring impression and at least acknowledging that the macho bearing of the first Hummers is less in demand than it was at the time of their debuts. Likewise, the H3's road manners and comfort levels show a significant improvement upon the original, military-derived models'. City driving is not the nerve-wracking squeeze play of piloting an H1, and GM has done well to improve around-town driveability without compromising the brand's proven off-road capabilities. The H3 is ultimately more about image than practicality, and it will be interesting to see if the market in this cutthroat segment appreciates the value of the Hummer name over the readier usability and better tech offerings of competitors such as the Nissan Murano.
The interior really separates the newest Hummer from the larger models, both in terms of aesthetics and the driving experience. Our test H3 was optioned with the Luxury Package ($3,125), which includes heated and power-adjustable leather front seats; leather rear seats; an MP3-capable, in-dash six-CD changer with a seven-speaker Monsoon system; and special floor mats with piping that matches the seats. Combined with the imitation metallic faces surrounding the gauges and center-console controls, the use of leather on the seats, the meaty steering wheel, and the gear selector imparts a civility to the interior.
Major controls are simple and well laid out; however, part of the simplicity is due to the Hummer's relative lack of available interior gadgetry. HomeLink garage-remote programmability is part of the Luxury Package, and our vehicle was optioned with XM satellite radio ($325 including a three-month subscription), but further tech additions from the factory are limited. A DVD navigation system is available, but it doesn't come with a display screen, which is something most of its competitors offer with their setups. Given the attention required to pilot even a midsize Hummer and its ability to take itself well off the beaten path, we consider a GPS system with a display screen a key accessory. Three extra 12-volt power outlets--two on the dash, one in the cargo area--are usefully placed. Alas, the same can't be said for the seat controls, which require forcing your arm down between the seat cushion and the protruding door armrest.
Low windows all around, as well as the massive spare tire, seriously compromise visibility in the H3.
A display screen could also be used for a rearview camera, as even with outsize side mirrors, seeing what's behind the H3 is largely guesswork. For such a tall vehicle, overall outward visibility is compromised in all directions. The short greenhouse is to blame, not helped by the outside spare wheel's spot in the rearward field of vision. In fairness, there aren't many places to mount a spare tire that's 33 inches tall.
Headroom inside is generous, and five adults fit comfortably, although the rear bench seems low relative to the floor. Finding a comfortable driving position is aided by a tilt wheel, but the lack of a dead pedal makes the left foot hunt for a rest spot (while the parking brake pedal acquaints itself with your shin). Once underway, the H3 drives reasonably nimbly--its turning circle is in line with other midsize SUV offerings, at 37 feet--but you never forget you're driving a 4,700-pound truck with all of 220 horsepower to drag it around.
Some carlike niceties have been incorporated into the 2006 Hummer H3 to make it a volume seller, but predictably, unibody construction is not one of them. As with the Chevy and GMC pickups that share its assembly line, the H3's body is attached to a ladder frame, and the three trucks also share GM's 3.5-liter, in-line five-cylinder engine. This power plant is overtaxed in this application, which is a shortcoming that Hummer should address in future iterations. Forced air induction via turbocharging seems the likely route for a power boost, since the chassis would evidently require substantial modification to accommodate a larger motor. Acceleration from rest is leisurely, helped only by all 225 pound-feet of the engine's torque being available at 2,800rpm.
Highway cruising is surprisingly quiet, at a measured 68 decibels, given our test car's all-terrain tires and their aforementioned tall sidewalls. Passing is another matter, because the H3's heft, shape, and lack of grunt require advance planning. We found that its third range on the automatic gave it a lot more get-up-and-go than the Drive range. Passing might also get expensive: The H3's EPA mileage ratings are understandably low, at 16mpg in the city and 19mpg on the highway, although a large 23-gallon tank provides good cruising range. With the automatic transmission, the H3 is rated to tow 4,500 pounds.
Lock the rear differential in high and low modes from this row of dashboard buttons.
That's all well and good, but speed and agility aren't this truck's reasons for being. Although the H3 did not venture far off-road in our hands and is certainly like most Hummers in that regard, there's little doubt that it would acquit itself very admirably should owners suddenly decide that pavement bores them. The off-road suspension package for our H3 included LT285/75R16 Bridgestone Dueler A/T tires, an electronic full-locking rear differential, recalibrated shocks, and, noteworthy in this class of vehicle, a four-to-one two-speed transfer case, all of which should make creeping down even the most daunting road of boulders at least feasible. Ground clearance, approach and departure angles, fording ability, and slope-climbing ratings are all at or near the top of the midsize SUV class. Only serious off-roaders will likely outfit their H3s with the optional suspension, while urbanites will save around $1,000 and probably get slightly better on-road behavior from the standard shocks and rubber.
Sheer bulk might be said to represent the 2006 Hummer H3's best safety attribute, but it does offer a little technology in the form of Stabilitrak, GM's electronic stability-control system. This system can brake individual wheels selectively should a deviation from the vehicle's intended path occur. Similarly, a traction-control system applies brakes and cuts engine power if slippage is detected. A tire-pressure monitoring system is especially useful, considering the H3's capabilities, although the H1's onboard air compressor is not offered.
The cargo area has plenty of width and height, but it's short on depth in the H3.
Front driver and passenger air bags are standard, with side-curtain air bags available as a standalone option. GM's OnStar system is standard and includes a year's subscription to the Safe & Sound Plan, which offers services such as roadside assistance, remote unlocking, stolen-vehicle tracking, voice-operated personal calling (requires prepaid minutes), and assistance with what to do following an accident. An air-bag deployment triggers a call to OnStar emergency personnel with vehicle-location information. Hummer offers a four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, with corrosion protection for equal periods. Rust-through protection is for six years with unlimited mileage.