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Reader: About your Four Wheeler of the Year test (Feb. '06): Since about 1970, 4x4 magazine editors have complained about the decline in off-pavement capabilities of the 4x4s offered by the manufacturers. Now, with the H3, we have an affordable machine with good specs available, and you fault the steering wheel for being too fat? Unreal. Compare the cost of an aftermarket wheel to the cost of installing a lift, 33s, 4.56:1s, an electric locker, and a 4:1 transfer case to your favorite SUV, and I bet that the Hummer H3 wins in both price and capability.
As for highway performance, I personally have no complaints. Mine gets about 17.5 mpg and has no trouble keeping up with traffic. You guys might have benefited from the automatic tranny, which does an excellent job of matching speed, load, and engine rpm to the task at hand. Unless you've used a Suzuki Samurai as a daily driver (I did for a couple years), you probably weren't downshifting soon enough or often enough to keep the engine happy. The automatic does, without giving that "hunting" feeling that some trannies do. All that, and real tow hooks when you need extraction.
Colorado Springs, CO
Editor: Traffic must not move too fast in your neck of the woods. We had to downshift the H3 on the highway any time we needed to maintain a decent cruising speed. Fifth gear (and sometimes Fourth, on uphill grades) was never a viable option, primarily because the stock GM five-cylinder just doesn't produce enough grunt at low revs to keep a 4,700-pound truck moving-at least, in a way we think a $30,000 SUV should be able to move on the Interstate. But you're absolutely right-for the money, the H3 may well be the stoutest OE trail rig ever built. And rumor has it a V-8 version is on the way in a year or two.About the steering wheel ... yeah, we're picky. It's what we get paid to do.
Reader: I was about to buy your mag so I could get a subscription card at the store, until I scanned through it and saw you had picked the Toyota Land Cruiser as your Four Wheeler of the Year. I first looked to see if I had grabbed an issue from 1998. The LC is a very outdated, underperforming, limited-capability vehicle. What gives? If a Tahoe or Yukon was in the test, you would bash it for being outdated, but not Toyota. It takes nearly 11 seconds to 60, can't wheel since Toyota sold out in '98 and took out the rear limited-slip ("because nobody 'wheels our vehicles"), it can't tow, it's ugly ... it has nothing. Was this selection actually a misprint? Come on!
Editor: Have you even driven a Land Cruiser since 1998? If not, we'd suggest you give it another look.
Reader: I have been a subscriber to Four Wheeler for a number of years. What continues to confuse and disturb me is your inconsistent vehicle comparisons. I look forward to them, though they tend to be a bit soft versus hard-nosed reviews, but often the comparisons are just wrong-headed, i.e., the wrong grouping of vehicles. Case in point is your Pickup Truck of the Year (Jan. '06). These pickups do not compare at all. For all practical purposes, this was an exercise in futility. Midsize pickups should be compared with midsize pickups (what about comparing the Nissan Frontier with the Toyota Tacoma?). Fullsize pickups should be compared against one another. (How does the Dodge compare to the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado, Toyota Tundra, and so on?) Your persistence in these dumb comparisons is frustrating to me and makes Four Wheeler look amateurish. Other magazines and the Internet do a better job. In the future, please use similar vehicles in your comparisons.
Editor: Our Pickup Truck and Four Wheeler of the Year tests are not-repeat, not-comparison tests in the conventional sense. They can't be, as by tradition we limit our test trucks to models that are either all new or substantially revised (e.g., new engine, suspension, four-wheel-drive system) from the prior model year. That's why we didn't test a Tundra or a Silverado or a Titan or a Tacoma this time around. However, in our subjective scoring, we score against vehicles in the same class. We do have a couple of comparo tests in the works for later in the year, though, so stay tuned.
Reader: I suspect the whining has already started about your choice of the Land Cruiser as Four Wheeler of the Year. But since anyone who has ever ventured up a trail knows, the chances of something breaking increase exponentially once you leave the pavement behind. And since no magazine writer ever put "legendary quality" in the same sentence with Jeep or Land Rover-or, for that matter, Ford, Chevy, and Dodge-it might be good to remember your own words, "Nobody builds them like Toyota." Your evaluationdidn't include the potential longevity of the vehicles tested; I guess that's left to a certain consumer magazine with a survey of owners to tell us how these vehicles do over time. Most of them apparently don't even fare that well on the pavement.
On the trails here in Southern California, one could a buy new HDTV for what a rescue by a tow truck can cost, especially since fees are sometimes figured by the hour and not by miles. I personally enjoy getting back down the trails as much as getting up them. The Land Cruiser is the one SUV in this group that is the most likely to help one accomplish this. At least more than once.
I, for one, fully intend to buy a Land Cruiser, just as soon as I win the Lottery and can afford one.
Santa Monica, CA