2006 Hummer H3

Finally, a Hummer We Can Sing About

By Steve Siler

One guilty pleasure I readily admit to is getting a little randy watching our courageous US forces charge across the Kuwaiti desert back in the first Gulf War (yeah, the legitimate one). It wasn’t the actual fighting I liked, however (indeed, that I loathed), but rather the car: the AM General Humvee. Hot.

Evidently I wasn’t alone; soon afterwards, the Humvee became the Hummer H1, and my southern California neighborhood became filled with the beastly humongoloids. Sexy as they bounded across the sands on TV, they were considerably less arousing as they hogged lanes and parking spaces in the real world. Then General Motors got smart and bought the rights to the Hummer name and design vocabulary. I didn’t know you could buy design vocabularies.

GM’s first project—developed with Arnie’s help—was the Hummer H2, a significantly smaller and cheaper (but by no means small nor cheap) imitation of the original. It was certainly more comfortable, and was so good off-road that it could practically drive upside down. Better. But still way too huge, even for size queens.

Now we have the H3 ($28,935), which in spite of having been double-scaled down from the original H1, is undoubtedly the most appealing of the lot—a remarkable feat, given how rarely sequels are better than the original, particularly when Arnie’s involved. What’s left after all this downsizing is an SUV that embodies the essence of Hummer, not the excess of Hummer. The H3 wears the same sex-charged looks as its siblings, including a slim chrome grille, round headlamps, oversized tires and Lego-block body contours. And for those who like to dress up, even when camping, the H3 offers a blingy Chrome Appearance Group ($850) that adds huge mirrors, door handles and a roof rack, all dripping in chrome. And of course, the aftermarket will happily take care of any customization leanings you may have. In all, the H3 is handsome to begin with, with a look that’s as versatile as you’d like it to be once you get your hands on it.

Now, if you’ve ever been in an H2, you were probably surprised how comfortable it is. For some reason—the robotic styling, perhaps —you expect it to be as soft and cuddly as the rocks it’s meant to crawl over. But happily, the comfortable full-size GM pickups on which the H2 is based come through for us inside. Same story here, just instead of being based on the plus-sized models, the H3 is based on the mesomorphic Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon architecture. Being smaller and lower, the H3 is not as hard to get into as the other Hummers. The seating position is a bit closer to the planet (but still towering above the BMWs and Miatas that surround you) and the interior materials are worlds ahead of those in the H1 and H2, which admittedly isn’t saying a whole lot. The rear-mounted spare tire clears up a wide, deep space inside for luggage (although the lift-over height still requires a regular regiment of shrugs to deal with). My searing yellow tester (is there any other color?) came with the somewhat pricey but rather necessary Luxury Equipment Group ($3,230), which includes heated leather seats, a thumpin’ 6-disc Monsoon sound system and other goodies. The only other option I’d recommend is the gargantuan $800 moonroof. And XM.

Now, if there was an optional motor, I’d recommend it, too; the H3’s 3.5-liter five-cylinder is none too excited about tugging the H3’s formidable mass over the valley and through the woods to Saks Fifth Avenue. If you are like me, you’d prefer the standard five-speed manual transmission to eke the most out of the modest engine. The automatic sands down the experience quite a bit, but pays dividends that needn’t be mentioned if you’re a city dweller that talks a lot on the cell phone. Unlike many other mid-size SUVs—but like every other Hummer—full-time all-wheel drive is standard.

The ride, however, is pleasantly composed, not as brittle as many off-roaders and delightfully free of the clumsy, tippy qualities that are hallmarks of the H2. Considering its ride height and off-road capability, I expected a lot worse. Of course, my tester did not come with the Adventure Equipment Group (1,125), which would have added a stiff off-road suspension, low-ratio transfer case, locking rear differential and clompy tires.

It was about time that Hummer offered a vehicle so practical, so comfortable and yes, so responsibly sized. And with fuel economy of 16 city, 20 highway, it’s actually relatively economical if you drive nice. Now whether we gays will believe that such a vehicle even exists (let alone will put them on our shopping lists) remains to be seen.

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