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2006 Hummer H3

Posted in Features on September 20, 2006
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We like Hummers. The H1 has proven itself for decades in the backcountry and on the battlefield. The H2 is popular on Rodeo Drive and at the rodeo. With the H1 becoming so expensive that it's disappeared from civvy streets, and with the H2's thirstiness at the gas pump, something else was needed. The H3, a smaller Hummer, was just what the doctor ordered.

The H3's Vortec 3500 I-5 engine features all-aluminum construction, dual overhead camshafts, and four valves per cylinder. The engine has a high 10:1 compression ratio, electronic throttle control, exhaust cam phasing, coil-on-plug ignition, direct-mount accessories, and easy maintenance features. The cast-aluminum five-cylinder engine block and aluminum cylinder head is produced using the same lost foam casting process as the Vortec 4200 I-6. This process allows more exact dimensional control while reducing machining efforts in oil galleries and coolant and other internal passages. It has 225 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm and 220 hp at 5,600 rpm. What a great engine this would make for an engine swap into a project vehicle! While it doesn't look it here, there's plenty of room to access everything under the hood.

Jeep's XJ Cherokee held the all-around SUV crown for years before it was cruelly axed from the Jeep lineup in favor of the Liberty. The Cherokee's midsize design allowed it to get into the backcountry yet still be useful on the street. Its off-road ability will be remembered forever. The H3 may be the SUV that carries the XJ's crown through the first part of the 21st century. While it looks fairly large, the midsize H3 is really quite compact, especially by Hummer standards, allowing it to fit in surprising places, whether in the parking lot or in a rocky canyon.

Our H3 came from Jerry Seiner Hummer in South Jordan, Utah, with the Luxury package that includes heated leather seating, a six-CD changer, XM satellite radio, and the optional giant moonroof that uncovers both front passengers when open. It also came with the Off-Road package (which is called the Adventure package on non-Lux models) that includes a 4.03:1 Low range in the full-time Borg-Warner transfer case, 46mm gas-charged shocks (the same as on the H2), 285/75R16C (33-inch) Bridgestone Dueler A/T tires, and an E-Locker in back. All H3s come standard with 4.56 gears, independent front and leaf-spring rear suspension, and beefier tie rods than the breakage-prone ones on the H2.

The H3 weighs a tad over 4,000 pounds, which is about the same as a modified Jeep TJ and much less than the H2 or the H1. There's been talk that the H3 has a real lack of power and, frankly, we thought that would be the case. It isn't. While any vehicle is better with more horsepower and torque, the H3's Vortec 3500 I-5 engine moves it around quite well. It feels much more nimble on the pavement than a Jeep TJ Rubicon, which was feeling pretty anemic in its final year. The 4L60E automatic works as it always does - flawlessly. The H3 has a Traction Control System (TCS) that monitors wheelspin and applies brakes to single wheels if needed. It also has Stabiltrak, which helps control skids and prevent rollovers. We've been getting 16 mpg flogging the H3 as hard as we can and have even seen 20 mpg on a freeway run. Not bad for a midsize SUV!

The H3 works very well off-road. The turning radius is tight, making the H3 very maneuverable. The 4.03:1 Low range makes for great crawling, and the E-Locker works great like all locking differentials do. The Stabiltrak is automatically turned off in Low range, but the flashing "STAB OFF" on the dash could be dispensed with. The H3's ride off road is surprisingly supple and comfortable at relatively high speeds. With a 23-gallon fuel capacity and 16-20 mpg fuel economy, the H3 has a huge range for exploring. It truly deserves the name Hummer as its smaller size makes it big in off-road performance.

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