2006 Hummer H3
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Review and photos by Michael La Fave

I always like to drive a vehicle before the marketing and technical presentations. That way you get to spend some time finding strengths and weaknesses which in turn makes it possible to ask more focused questions at the appointed hour. One such question or comment was rebutted before I even had a chance to open my mouth. The H3, says, Hummer General Manager Susan Docherty, is not about 0-60 mph times. No kidding – but more on that later.

My drive started just north of Toronto and I was set to make the fearfully slow Toronto-Muskoka cottage run in the new H3. Lucky for me, it was Thursday and our route wasn’t a direct one so we wouldn’t have to suffer three or more hours of stop-and-go traffic on Highway 400 North.

At first glance the H3 is obviously a Hummer. As aerodynamic as a steamer trunk and festooned with cubist protrusions, it’s an interesting vehicle to look at, photograph and no doubt watch. Around every corner there’s an interesting detail; the caped hood vents at the base of the windshield, the massive tow hooks (two in front and one in back), the exposed fuel filler cap, chunky fender flares, etc–etc

2006 Hummer H3
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Pop open the driver’s door, however, and be prepared to do a double take. The rough-and-tumble, military-chic exterior reveals a slick, high-quality interior that would look more at home in a Camry than it does in the H3. GM needs to learn that high-quality and interesting are not mutually exclusive – just look at the interiors of the Audi TT, Nissan 350Z or PT Cruiser. The H2’s dash is a wild pastiche of left-over parts and it is poorly made to boot. The H3’s is at complete odds with the vehicle’s exterior design but it is unquestionably high-quality. Something in between might have been best.

2006 Hummer H3
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That being said the H3’s instrument panel shows that GM can compete with the Japanese in terms of interior fit and finish. Tight gaps give it a seamless look. Soft touch dash materials, metal-look appliqués, well-placed controls and the meaty steering wheel would all be at home in a Cadillac. The standard fabric seats and the optional leather ones are two-toned and very comfortable with fully adjustable head restraints. The HVAC controls move with well-oiled precision and even the headliner is a high-quality woven affair.

With plenty of room up front for my 6’5″ frame and even generous space behind me as well, the H3 offers noticeably more interior space than a 4Runner. There are 835 litres of cargo capacity with the second row in place. Fold the 60/40 seatbacks completely and it expands to a massive 1577 litres.

The leather seats are part of a luxury package that GM expects 45% of buyers will go for given the reasonable $4,390 price that includes; 8-way power, heated, leather front seats (with piping no less), 6-disc CD changer, Monsoon sound system, universal home remote, illuminated vanity mirrors and a leather steering wheel. A sunroof is a stand-alone $1,160 option and it’s worthwhile considering its extra-large opening.

2006 Hummer H3
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Now, when I think of a Hummer, I think of a powerful vehicle. Not necessarily fast and certainly not nimble but I certainly expect stump pulling, mud bogging, low-down dirty power. Well you aren’t going to get that here – unless you want to drive it around in low-range all the time and that won’t get you anywhere very quickly. Up to 100 km/h there is acceptable performance from the 220 horsepower, 3.5-litre inline-five cylinder engine. At or approaching highway speeds, however, there is too little power to pass with confidence and prolonged high-speed cruising is hard work as the vehicle easily loses speed on uphill grades. A five-speed automatic would help (a four-speed is a $1,920 option) and we didn’t get to assess the standard 5-speed manual.

2006 Hummer H3 roof rack
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Although the five-cylinder seems to have enough to do just pulling the brick-like H3 through the air the vehicle is rated to tow a hefty 2041 kg when fitted with the $395 trailering equipment package.

The good news is that GM has been showing turbocharged versions of this engine in various show cars for years and though they aren’t admitting to anything, we can always hope. Apparently there isn’t enough space for the inline-six that can be found in the Envoy/TrailBlazer but I can’t help but wonder if the compact small-block V8 wouldn’t squeeze in and make a hot rod Hummer.

2006 Hummer H3
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Europe and some other markets will receive a diesel that won’t be coming to North America, but that’s not to say that a North America diesel isn’t in the works.

The aforementioned low-range transfer case comes with a 2.64:1 reduction gear as standard but if you specify the $1,340 Adventure Series option package you get an insane 4:1 transfer case that actually requires you to accelerate to go downhill. The package also includes specially tuned shocks (read stiff), larger LT285/75R16 33 inch off-road tires (read noisy)

2006 Hummer H3
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and a fully locking rear differential. The stiffer shocks create a jiggly ride over road imperfections and in some cases causes the vehicle to track erratically. The base suspension might be better but, again, I didn’t have the opportunity to sample that version.

At a base price of $39,995 the H3 is obviously good value if you desire iconic Hummer styling, unparalleled off-road capability in a manageable package with truly premium interior execution. Even with the luxury and off-road packages the H3 rings in at a reasonable $46,885 with the sunroof as well. The only caveat is that you better not be concerned with 0-60 times.

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