Hummer H3 2007 review
From the liberation of Kuwait to our city streets, the Hummer has been a surprising success in the automotive world.
Hummer replied with the roadworthy H1, then a slightly downscaled H2. These are only built in left-hand drive and the only ones you can buy here have been converted in Gympie.
Soon GM will import the right-hand-drive cute “baby” of the brawny Hummer family, the H3.
We would have had it now, but for minor ADR production problems at the right-hand-drive Hummer plant in South Africa pushing the national launch back to the start of October.
I recently drove a H3 in California for 10 days. The smaller military-style SUV still stands out from the crowd, even on the big SUV-dominated interstates of southern California.
Perhaps it was the burnt orange colour that attracted attention, but it enjoyed favourable stares everywhere it went. Except San Francisco. Here, the tree-hugging hippy liberals in their small hybrid cars gave it disparaging looks.
One unscrubbed homeless gent even mumbled something rude under his breath and spat in the general direction of the H3 as I fed the hungry parking meter. At least he didn't bother asking me for change.
Like its bigger brother, the H3 is a boxy-looking car with a high floor and low and wide interior.
It seems like a big machine, but inside it is quite cosy for four adults.
You could fit five, but the middle rear seat has a pull-out drinks container which makes the seat hard and uncomfortable for long stints.
That hot rod slit-window look also has its drawbacks for rear passengers, making them feel a little claustrophobic.
A big sunroof at least quelled some of those feelings for my two teenage daughters and gave them a bit of a sightseeing advantage on the Golden Gate Bridge and among the giant sequoia trees of Yosemite National Park.
The slitty windscreen doesn't inhibit the forward view, but the rear view is limited by the narrow window with the door-mounted spare tyre cribbing even more of the space.
However, there are some advantages of the steep and small windows.
Firstly, the sun doesn't get into the cabin which means you don't drive with your knuckles and knees in the sun and the interior stays cooler, longer when parked outside and locked up.
That's a big advantage in 40C heat when dad is having a sleep in the carpark at one of the many premium factory outlets that dot the Californian landscape, while the rest of the family is indoors melting the plastic credit card.
The advantage is that the short windows wind up and down quickly for paying tolls. California was in heatwave conditions when I was there, so the shorter time the windows were open, the better.
While the airconditioning coped well with the record temperatures, there are no vents in the rear compartment to circulate cool air.
Despite being a truck-like vehicle, the commanding driving position, ride and handling are very car-like.
The seats are soft yet supportive and multi-adjustable, which is good since the steering wheel is height- but not reach-adjustable.
There are also no audio controls on the steering wheel and there is only one control stalk which services the blinkers, lights, cruise control and wiper/washers.
Build quality is solid throughout; a little too solid since the heavy back door is a real chore to open and close, especially when parked on the steep inclines of a San Francisco street.
The model I drove had chrome bumpers, side steps, petrol cap and roof racks. It is not yet known whether these will be standard or options on the Australian models.
Despite its army exterior styling, the interior is quite comfortable and refined and has won awards for its class.
Out on the road, there is surprisingly little wind or road noise, despite the steep rake of the windows and the chunky off-road tyres.
This SUV is actually built for rugged off-road conditions with its front and rear recovery hooks, electronic transfer case, big clearance, big wheels and sophisticated stability control. It's not really designed for the tarmac.
On the interstate concrete pavements and smooth streets of Frisco, the H3 actually feels a little highly sprung with the leaf spring rear getting quite bouncy over carpark speed bumps. This is not typical of American cars which are usually softly sprung.
We headed for Yosemite, hoping to put the on-paper off-road credentials to the test. Sadly, the national park roads are all smoothly paved and you can't drive on the trails.
The off-road credentials show an intent for rugged work, except for the omission of a hill-descent function.
Still, it coped quite well with the steep inclines of Frisco and the world's wiggliest and steepest street, Lombard St, where the speed limit is 8km/h.
Along Big Sur, which is a windy coast road the breathtaking equivalent of Victoria's Great Ocean Rd, the H3 felt a little sloppy with plenty of pitch and roll.
It is not yet known whether the suspension will be tweaked for Aussie conditions and driving tastes, but it would be expected.
We packed four adults and a mountain of gear into the vehicle with some cramming. The cargo space is not as big as it looks because of the high floor.
With all this extra weight the 3.7-litre engine struggled a little.
It seemed to rev a lot to get going and to accelerate for overtaking. But once on a roll, it rarely baulked at hills with its grunty dose of torque.
However, in the record heat and on some of the longer and steeper inclines of the Sierra Nevada, the engine temperature went uncomfortably high.
The four-speed auto transmission seems rudimentary, but coped well without any indecisiveness, hunting for gears or flaring.
A five-speed manual may also be available here.
The strong disc brakes got a good workout on long and dangerous descents down windy roads into Yosemite Valley without any hint of fade.
Steering is typically American with a vague centre and plenty of play. It goes into corners with some understeer.
If its off-road credentials stack up the way they do on paper, transmission aside, it should sell well here as a rugged alternative to the gentrified SUV competition.
One company that will be monitoring sales is Toyota whose lookalike FJ Cruiser has been a success in the US and could be a goer here.
I parked the two side by side at Yosemite and drew an instant crowd of fans, even though it was just a couple of days after Al Gore's worldwide greenie concert.
Of course, the first thing these admirers wanted to know was the fuel economy.
I drove high-speed interstates, cities, steep canyons, you name it. This was no economy drive, so the average consumption was about 15.2 litres per 100km.
That may seem high, but given the conditions and the fact that 'gas' costs only 80-85 a litre, I wasn't complaining.
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