2006 Hummer H3 review
Hummer, has long been a name that was synonymous with excessive everything. Excessive size, price, options and consumption. The H1 was originally designed for military uses and was of course, years latter lightly altered for public purchase. The H1 is the definition of wheeling through brute force. Which is exactly what the military needs to do its job anywhere in the world. The fact is, the military just plain needs a different tool for their work than anything the public needs or even knows how to use. With the release of the H2, you saw the first signs that Hummer, by that point owned by GM, was looking to get into the hearts and minds of the public as opposed to huge military contracts with the Marines, Army and international military forces or peace keepers.
However, the H2 still retained much of the gasoline grazing, too-big-for-this-parking-spot lifestyle for most people's needs. While you'd still see the rare H1 or H2 on the trails, both rigs were often too big, and heavy for the tight twisty, rocky and well, fun trails out there. The H3 changes up the look of Hummer almost 180 degrees while still retaining the popular militaristic look of the previous models.
The H3 is loaded with "odd" features to find on truck this size. Lets start with getting up to 20 miles per gallon! While this isn't "Prius" great mileage, this is impressive for a 4x4 of virtually any kind, and is particularly anti-hummer in nature. How did Hummer manage to pull numbers like that? Well, they tuned a 3.5L Vortec I-5 cylinder motor from the Chevy Colorado chassis and squeezed out 220 HP, and 225 foot lbs of torque while still getting decent mileage. Ok, you've got my attention right there. This is more power than the I-6 4.0L power plant in my Jeep Rubicon and the H3s are getting better mileage to boot! Well, now Earth Liberation Front has nothing to complain about right? I mean if the eco-terrorists are going to start burning and spray painting radical slogans on H3s for not being environmentally friendly then they're going have to do it to virtually every other truck type out there too.
Hummer has long been one of a few companies that makes a rig that's meant to be used for off-road. The H3 turns out to be quite the trail worthy rig as well. Looking over the rig you'll find many "hardcore" off-roading options abound. With the "Adventure Package" you get a rig loaded with a rear locker, 33" tires on a 16" wheel, full skid plate package and a 4.03:1 transfer case ratio. The 4 wheel system in all H3s is a full time 4 wheel drive. When you're on the pavement you're in a 40/60 split of the power front and back. With the press of a button on the dash the ratio changes to 50/50 split power (think 4 wheel high mode). With the press of yet another button you're in 4 low and making full use of the 4.03:1 ratio in the transfer case and you can now engage that rear locker on demand. The overall ratio potential with the H3 in a manual is 68.9:1 and 56.2:1 with the auto. Numbers like that are getting into the range of rockcrawler competition rigs. When the locker isn't engaged, you still have a hellish limited slip diff helping you out. The skid plates cover the front suspension, transfer case/transmission, and the gas tank. The overall length of these trucks isn't much larger than that of a Jeep Cherokee. The H3s have a 111.9" wheelbase and measure 186.7" bumper to bumper. One thing Hummer has always been aware of is the importance of approach and departure angles. The H3 design retains that useful feature with a 39.4 degree approach and 36.5 degree departure angle (on the adventure models). The H3 weighs in at ~4700 lbs. That's a pretty light weight rig. On the outset, these look to be a plenty capable truck with lots of potential. You've got traditional Hummer features and options on a chassis that makes sense for trail use.
Now here's the kicker. Generally when you're looking around the dealer lot at the various H3s, you'll find some with the "Adventure Series" package with the fun off-road options we've already talked about, all in a rig with a cloth seat and a basic but functional interior. Its well done, and I believe it's the first hummer to be offered to the public with a cloth interior. It comes in 3 colors of interior, all of which are durable and nice looking. However, you can also get a H3 with the "LUX series" which clearly stands for luxury. You get leather heated adjustable seats (in 3 colors), 7 speaker "monsoon" sound system, leather steering wheel, a 6 disk in-dash CD player, and other convenience options (more interior lights and such). This package on its own doesn't come with all the off road "extras" like the 4.03:1 transfer case, rear locker, skids and 33s, but is still clearly a hummer. You do get 32" tires, a 2.64:1 transfer case (still full time 4wheel with 4High and 4low), the limited slip diff and similar approach and departure angles. What a tough choice! Do you get a LUX series truck that's still a capable off-road machine or do you get the Adventure Series packaged ride that's ready to seek nearly any trail in your area? Why not both? Sure, and that's exactly what you can find on the dealer lot in much more limited numbers.
Our tester model comes with both the Adventure and LUX series packages and the automatic transmission. I've been very impressed with the fit and finish of this truck. The doors close solid, nothing leaks, and these have a quiet interior. While I had my reservations on the motor before I bought, I've personally found the 3.5L motor to be of plenty power to motivate the beast. On the first drive, the H3 struck me as a little sluggish off the line compared to my Rubicon, but it actually isn't. The truck just feels like you're going slow because the motor isn't very loud when it revs up. In reality, the H3 pulls past my Rubicon off the line. Flying up steep grade roads is no problem, and passing on the freeway isn't either. I can't imagine towing much more than a small trailer with the H3, but this motor is plenty for daily driving tasks. You can't beat the LUX interior, particularly the heated seats, and throw in the large factory sun roof like on our truck and you'll never want to leave. You can feel a little "push" in corners with the H3 because of the full time 4 wheel drive set up. But its wasn't enough push to bother me by any means, just different from what I usually drive. That full time 4wd will prove itself invaluable in the winter roads and off-road.
The windows are odd feeling at first because they're small. The "Hummer look" is defined by a large door and small window like what's found on the H1. This comes directly from the battlefield where you want to have a large armored door as opposed to large windows which make you ,the passengers, very vulnerable to enemy fire. Its part of the Hummer life & look and you don't really notice the window size after you've been in the truck more than 5 minutes. If it bothers you, just remember how cool it looks on the outside.
However with smaller windows comes to the only real down side I can find of the H3 and that's visibility. The windshield view is fine, but merging in traffic and backing up are forcing you to use your mirrors much more than you would in other trucks. Backing up is the most difficult task because you really can't tell if something (or someone) short is directly behind you. I didn't have a problem adjusting to a more mirror reliant driving style and I see it as a trade off for the cool Hummer look. You will have to be a more aware driver in a H3 there is no doubt, but is that really a bad thing?
Do I have any suggestions for Hummer? Its hard to think of any actually but I'm really going to go on a stretch here. I found it odd that many of the chrome items on the truck are actually plastic. The door handles, and grill particularly. I understand the benefits of doing it this way, (ie saves weight and doesn't rust like metal would) but that was odd. The parts that are plastic are so thick however that I can't see them ever breaking or cracking. You're just expecting metal and, sure, I would have preferred it. This isn't just Hummer/GM though, virtually every company is doing this now. That doesn't mean I have to like though. Aftermarket will probably solve this for H3 owners in no time. Billet grills and door handles are always popular add-ons for trucks.
I also can't help but notice a slip yoke style transfer case output shaft, as a Jeep guy I just don't trust those and was elated to see Jeep ditch it on the Rubicon. Arguably, with a driveshaft as long as it is in the H3 you probably will not have to replace it with a CV shaft even if you lift the truck a fair amount. You'll just end up lengthening the factory shaft, so this probably won't be an issue for the H3 owner like it is for Jeep folk.
With this being an off-road magazine, I've taken a few quick poser shots of the H3 trying on a little dirt on for size. I haven't gotten a chance yet to fully test this truck in a full array of settings. I can only give the initial impression that the truck's full time 4wd loves high speed dirt roads. The suspension is notably quiet on the trail, and the travel isn't bad for a stock rig at all. Its clear that the H3 has off-road potential written all over it.
The H3 already has a quickly growing aftermarket following, and is priced competitively with other popular trail rides available. You should be able to find an Adventure Series H3 for roughly the same price as a Jeep Rubicon Unlimited.
Hummer is redefining itself here with a small, capable and yet eco-friendlier truck while still catching the eye. I expect to see many more of these on the tough trails than previous Hummer models. Hummer may have a hit here. One thing is for sure, Jeep is no longer all alone as the weekend warrior's only affordable choice.