H3 adds practicality to the Hummer lineup

July 01, 2005|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

You've admired them for years and now there's finally a Hummer that fits your budget.

OK, but for $29,500, just how much Hummer H3 do you really get? More than you might think, even if the new package is smaller and lighter, two factors that actually guarantee to make this handsome off-roader a bolder-hopping success.

The H1, a favorite of the military for the past dozen or so years, and the more recent H2, have been relatively successful as premium-priced sport-utes. However, both of these fuel-thirsty brutes are taking it on the chin in terms of sales due to escalating pump prices. The leaner H3 appeals to our desire to go off-roading without digging in to the kids' college fund to do it.

There's no mistaking the Louisiana-built H3 as anything but a Hummer. The shape and proportions are a close match to the H2 and it has the same toothy grille, flat, upright windshield and general brick-like silhouette.


The biggest external difference is the scale. The H3 is nearly a foot-and-a-half shorter than the H2 with 6 inches less height. The width on this five-passenger mid-size wagon has also been decreased by 6.5 inches, making it much more city-friendly than its larger siblings. The H3's more compact size also means it's able to traverse those smaller, tighter trails and mountain ledges that simply aren't accessible to giant-sized off-roaders.

On the inside, the H3 keeps it tasteful with simple, round gauges and a control panel that can be easily operated with your gloves on. Options such as heated leather seats and a power sliding sunroof can be added for greater comfort.

The basis for the H3 is the chassis and optional powertrain adapted from GM's mid-size pickup duo, the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Motivation is provided by a 3.5-liter five-cylinder engine that makes 220 horsepower and 225 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm. Mated to the motor is a five-speed manual gearbox or available four-speed automatic. You'll have to decide for yourself if that's enough thrust for the 4,700-pound H3, but, unfortunately, you have no other choice at this point. If you want an H3, the 3.5 is what you get.

However, the folks at Hummer claim that the H3's engine can achieve 20 mpg on the highway, which is significantly better than the H2's highway rating of 13 mpg.

In case there are any doubters about its boulder-conquering capabilities, rest assured the H3 means business.

Aside from more than nine inches of ground clearance, you get traction control plus a choice of 32-inch Goodyear all-terrain tires or 33-inch Bridgestone sneakers mounted to six-lug wheels. Either set will help you traverse up to two feet of water without getting your feet wet and scale 16-inch vertical steps or rocks without difficulty.

Of course, standard full-time four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case is part of the H3 program. For serious backwoods travel, H3 buyers can select a more aggressive low-range gear option that, Hummer claims, makes this machine as off-road capable as the H1 and H2.

You also get all the necessary under-body protective hardware on the H3, including skid plates for the front suspension, oil pan, front axle, transfer case and fuel tank. Side protection for the rocker panels can also be bolted to the options sheet.

Among the H3's list of optional safety equipment are stability control, side-curtain air bags with rollover protection and GM's OnStar assistance and emergency help service. GM also expects the H3 to achieve a five-star safety rating for both front- and side-impact collisions.

The best news is that a base Hummer H3 reports for duty with a list price that's around $23,000 less than the larger H2. That should definitely pique the interest of anyone interested in a vehicle built to deliver serious boulder-hopping fun. Add to that its rugged good looks and plentiful content and the Hummer H3 is a military-inspired vehicle that's completely suitable for any civilian's driveway.

Copyright 2005, Wheelbase Communications

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