2007 Hummer H3 | road test

Posted on Oct 27, 2006 by

 

In this day and age of being socially correct where doing everything the correct way is the norm, the tries its best to fall into the realms of society. You know, kind of like warm and cuddly – or think of it like having lite butter instead of full cream, high cholesterol. Get the drift…

It is compact, well by standards at least, and is more friendly doing the school run rather than rampaging through war zones. No wonder then, that women constitute a big chunk of H3 owners (well, at least Stateside) and the company is headed by a woman!

The H3 first made its presence felt to the Middle East media in June last year when GM held its premium brand event in Bahrain and dropped the shocker that the baby Hummer would cost starting from a very attractive price of AED 115,000 going on to AED 140,000. We had said then that to really find out whether the H3 had the legendary Hummer genes was to spend more time with it and subject it to the harsh environ of the UAE’s desert and it was but a few days back that we did manage to pin down an example to bring you this report.

It may not boast the street creed of its elder siblings, the H1 and H2 – but the H3 is no pushover in the celebrity stakes. A shrink wrapped version of the H2 it might be, but there is more than enough of a personality to warrant desirability – in a big way, the attractive pricing being a keen harbinger, for starters. Then there is always the allure of the badge and the one on the H3 says Hummer… not bad, eh!

In a market where SUVs proliferate to inane levels and most are at best clones of each other with a distinct lack of individuality, the Hummer range stands tall (pun intended) and distinct like no other. The H3 continues in the footsteps of its brethren with its imposing profile that mark it out as truly one of the gang. Of Hummers, that is! It is a classic case of being big, yet small. It is an easy costume to wear every day. Its brick like, upright profile screams Hummer, yet it is much in sync with comparable competition from other makes. With all its pedigree much in place, the H3 is smaller, than say; the Land Rover LR3 is all respects except height.

At first glance, it looks like a giant model made out of a Mechano set with mainly right angles to every visual aspect. It definitely brings back memories of childhood of bashing toy cars together with appropriate acoustics (brum, brum, vrooomm!) flooding back. It looks and is tall – although it does seem dwarfish when compared to the H2 – and this fact is further exacerbated by the high, shallow glassware.

Let’s be honest. Hummers are all about image: who wouldn’t like to be in the league of celebrity owners like a certain Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a package that is affordable yet giving all the intrinsic values of the brand. Values that include trademark crawling and climbing capabilities …among others. The H3 looks as though it has been chiseled out of a single block of iron with the designers going crazy over a pair of set squares when carving out the final form. But then, when one has an icon to fall back on, then it does make sense to let form follow function or is it the other way round? Opinion is divided on this one.

Nonetheless, the H3 is a very welcome addition to the Hummer family and the company is at pains to point out the quantum improvements in interior quality over its earlier models. ‘Like nothing else’ and ‘world-class craftsmanship’ resounded frequently from GM personnel and yes, in many ways this was true – but up to a point. The dashboard is heavily grained looks nice and functional but is hard and brittle to the touch. Given its off-road capabilities, maybe the ‘hard as nails’ theory holds good for the inside too. Given its lack of greenhouse area, the black interior on our test car did little to uplift the mood, though thankfully flashes of chrome abound. Many a time, I felt as though I was in a jail cell implicated in a false felony. Hummer says that the black interior was due to simplicity of demand in the US market and for those who want to alleviate the sombre hue pervading the inside of the H3 can specify other colours.

Enough of the wisecracks, then. The H3 is different to its competitors. It is no bigger than an average family car, has a reasonable cargo bay, although surprisingly there is not enough space around the seats to store bits and ends. The whole persona of a Hummer is to be seen in one, so let’s get that straight. Anybody buying a H3 is not the sissy, manicured, well groomed kind of individuals or even if they are, then they have a very clear perspective as to why they have bought one. With all its shortcomings notwithstanding, these people are buying into a brand and who love the great outdoors (if that means traversing the urban jungle that most cities are nowadays); they can very well forgo plush, slickly styled interiors with all the bells and whistles. Their idea of luxury is poles apart from the norm. They want to buy a Hummer because it enhances its lifestyle. It’s not the journey, but how you get there. And if the path veers off into the rough, then so much the better…if you are in a H3 – all obstacles be damned. Try that in your coiffured SUV and you would be regretting getting off the blacktop.

 

 

Mechanically, it is not a very sophisticated piece of machinery. Lurking underneath the bulging bodywork sits a ladder-type chassis suspended by torsion bars up front with rear leaf springs. The inline five cylinder Vortec engine pumps out 220 horsepower at 5600 rpm along with 305 Nm of torque at 2800 rpm. Primarily designed as a truck engine powering the Chevrolet Colorado, this 3.5-litre unit is hard working and while it does seem a bit small for this 2.1-tonne SUV, it manages to eke out performance which takes one by surprise – especially off-road.

Again, one has to throw out any preconceived notions out of the window and look at the H3 with clear eyes. This is no technological tour de force with sprinting prowess, rather, with all its machismo, is more akin to a cruiser. After all, by going much slower than the opposition gives it more looks from wide-gapping passer-bys. After all, it is a SUV to be seen in, especially when one sees other brands dime to a dozen wherein their character gets a whole lot diluted. With an asking price starting from AED 115,000, Hummer hope to shift quite a number of H3s off their dealer forecourts and this can be seen by the fact that the dealer in UAE, Liberty Automobiles, has a long waiting list of wannabe ‘Terminators’ lining up to be in a H3.

A heavy kerb weight allied to a relatively small engine, by Hummer standards, would mean that the H3 might be excused in the performance stakes. And it does have its limitations on the road though, but take a turn into the uncharted and the H3 starts showing its fangs. This is thanks to the torque range which is very wide, starting from a lowly 1500 rpm. Add to this the weighty steering, a tight turning circle and the H3 helps banish many inhibitions. The wheel-at-each-corner layout and wide track ensure a feeling of steadfast plantedness on the road. Brakes are a bit on the softer side, requiring a firm push on the pedal. The StabiliTrak stability control system works silently to keep the H3 planted right side up during heavy braking without much fuss. As most SUVs, the H3 has that bit of wallow when pushed hard to discover its cornering abilities. The turn-in on the massive 265-75 profile R16 tyres (bigger wheels are available to further uplift one’s ego!) is a bit on the vague side and because of the suspension employed, there is minimal effort to stop the natural tendency of the body to lean towards the outside of the bends. But then, in cruising mode and subsequent lower speeds, the H3 improves life tremendously. Out on the highway it is best to stick to speed limits as when one starts to push harder, wind noise generated by the H3’s buff front and those massive wing mirrors starts to intrude considerably. But then this is just the ticket to further crank up on the excellent CD stereo to drown the unwanted audio.

Off-road is where the H3 truly excels. This is again thanks to its intrinsic design, with Hummer officials proclaiming that the H3 has the best approach, breakover and departure angles of ‘any mid-size’ SUV. And to prove it, they sent me up some crazy escarpments near Jebal Faya between Dubai and Sharjah during a ride and drive organised for local media. Now, I had already taken the H3 off-roading but to do what I did that day had never crossed my mind. Hiding my nervousness behind a mask of self confidence, I was absolutely gobsmacked at the agility and surefootedness of this baby Hummer.

Hummer, after all, has built its reputation on off-road supremacy and the H3 only follows in the deeply imbedded footprints of its siblings. With the transfer case set in 4Low Lock mode and the rear diff engaged this SUV can do well about everything. Sensational!

The H3 is a true Hummer in all senses of the word. It may be smaller, but then that is only better. It truly made me see things in a new perspective towards it. There are shortcomings, such as the uneven ride, the claustrophobic feeling in the cabin (thanks to the slit-like windows) and its vertical design. Parallel parking takes some doing as, in spite of those huge wing mirrors, rear vision is best accompanied with a prayer.

But on the flip side consider this: would you get a vehicle which can get you more looks; a brand that most aspire for to give the term standing out from the crowd a whole new twist; a dependable vehicle that can take you everywhere, even to the local supermarket; a chance to bling it up infinitely. So, would ya? I think not. And all this at a price that is not wallet busting – now that’s the part which for me is a real clincher.

With the H3, Hummer has a winner on its hands and even the pessimists out there would well do to take a long hard look at it. Luxury has different connotations for different personalities and the H3 has a personality that is in a class of one with its own meaning of luxury. I like it.

* Prices are indicative and may vary at the time of purchase. All prices are ex-Dubai showrooms. Please check with your local dealer for current prices and offers.

 

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