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2006 HUMMER H3 reviews

February 28, 2006 11:06 AM EST | Hummer , SUV's | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

View large imageThough it possesses a promising combination of off-road capability and everyday comfort, the distinctive H3 is mainly let down by its lack of power.

Pros
Rugged enough to take on the tough off-road trails, smooth highway ride, stable handling, quality interior with simple controls, comfortable seats.

Cons
Underpowered five-cylinder engine, low tow rating, lousy visibility for shorter drivers, below-average cargo space.

What's New for 2006
The 2006 Hummer H3 is an all-new midsize SUV built on the Chevrolet Colorado pickup platform.

Introduction:
Compared to the bad-boy H1 and H2, the 2006 Hummer H3 is downright approachable. It's a midsize SUV built on the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon pickup platform. Not only can you tackle two-track off-road trails in the H3 without wondering if you'll fit around the next bend, you also don't have to worry so much about flattening mailboxes while backing out of driveways, either.

The H3 shares only 10 to 15 percent of its components with the Colorado, among these its 220-hp, 3.5-liter, inline five-cylinder engine. Although noticeably smoother in this application, the engine is lugging around 700 extra pounds. Acceleration is fine around town, but highway passing maneuvers take planning. Throw in some elevation increases, and the H3 feels underpowered. This puts the new Hummer at an immediate disadvantage alongside faster, mainstream sport-utes like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner that offer optional V8s.

However, the H3 redeems itself in other areas. It comes standard with a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a 2.64 reduction gear in 4 Lo. Pretty typical for a production SUV. However, there's an optional 4.03 transfer case that provides gearing so low you can creep down rocky slopes without using the brakes. As on Jeep's Wrangler Rubicon, the 4-to-1 transfer case is aimed at hard-core off-roaders who would ordinarily have to go to the aftermarket to get one. The H3 further bolsters its go-anywhere image with 9.1 inches of ground clearance, standard skid plates and optional 33-inch off-road tires.

Class-leading off-road capability wouldn't be worth much if the H3 was a sloppy handler on pavement. And while there's no hiding its 4,700-pound curb weight in the corners, it feels surprisingly stable with predictable body roll and a well-controlled back end. It's a welcome change from the skittish behavior of GM's other midsize SUVs, the Chevy TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy.

Inside, the H3 has one of the cleanest layouts we've ever seen in a GM vehicle. There's even some style thrown in: two-tone decors, contrasting piping on tailored leather seats and slick metallic trim. Materials quality is well above the low-rent trim in the Colorado and TrailBlazer; some of the textured plastics are reminiscent of what you'd find in a Land Rover.

We doubt many Grand Cherokee owners will give up Hemi power for an H3 with an inline five. But the otherwise well-rounded H3 is proof that Hummers clean up real good. If you're looking for a tough off-roader that seats five comfortably, the midsize Hummer is worth a test-drive.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The midsize, five-passenger Hummer H3 is offered in a single four-wheel-drive model with a handful of option packages. Standard equipment includes 32-inch Goodyear all-terrain tires, skid plates, dual-zone air conditioning, a six-speaker CD stereo, cruise control and power windows, mirrors and locks. Adding the Off-Road Suspension Package gets you a shorter-geared transfer case for better hill climbing and descending, a locking rear differential, 33-inch off-road tires and firmer suspension tuning. The Luxury Package adds leather upholstery, power-adjustable and heated front seats, and an MP3-compatible Monsoon stereo. Other extras include an in-dash CD changer, satellite radio, a tow hitch and a chrome appearance package.

Powertrains and Performance:
The only engine available on the H3 is a 3.5-liter inline five. It makes 220 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque and routes its power to all four wheels through a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. As the H3 weighs almost 2.5 tons, acceleration can often seem sluggish. According to Hummer, it takes about 10.1 seconds to hit 60 mph in a manual-shift H3 and 10.3 in an automatic. Towing capacity is rated at 4,500 pounds and EPA fuel economy estimates for the automatic are set at 16 city, 19 highway.

Safety:
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, traction control and the OnStar communications system are standard. Full-length side curtain airbags are optional, and stability control is standard on H3s equipped with the automatic transmission. The H3 has not yet been crash tested.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Inside, the H3 has one of the cleanest layouts we've ever seen in a GM vehicle. There's even a little style, thanks to a two-tone decor, contrasting piping on the optional leather seats and slick metallic trim. Materials quality is well above the low-rent trim in the Colorado, and the standard cloth upholstery looks good and feels like it could take a beating. The seats are supportive, but don't expect a commanding view of the road unless you're tall due to the high cowl and short glass area. In back, there's enough leg- and foot room for the average-size adult to get comfortable. Cargo capacity is below average for this class, but a side-hinged cargo door provides easy access to the 29.5-cubic-foot bay (55.7 with the seats folded).

Driving Impressions:
Acceleration is fine around town, but highway passing maneuvers take planning, especially with the automatic. Throw in some elevation increases, and the H3 feels underpowered. The ride is smooth and comfortable, however, and the H3 feels stable when going around turns. The steering is reassuringly firm at highway speeds without being annoying in the parking lot. Off the pavement, the smallest Hummer is basically unstoppable. With 9.1 inches of ground clearance, loads of wheel travel, oversized all-terrain tires and standard skid plates, the H3 can pretty much go wherever you want without taking damage.

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