Still a favorite on the trail, the Hummer H3 won over many of the testers with its long list of wheeling credentials. Look no further than the beefy recovery shackles to realize the H3 is serious about wheeling. Helped by a solid chassis with super-flexy suspension and a rear locker, the H3 got through obstacles with ease, although it is not without fault on the trail. We would prefer a front locker to the brake traction control on the front axle. It works fine, it just isn't glamorous when it goes about doing its job. The H3 is also harder to see out of than just about everything but the FJ Cruiser, and some of the testers complained about the whizzing and whines coming from the 4:1 transfer case, but we took it with a grain of salt because these are the same guys who immediately look for the heated-seat switches when they get into a new rig (yes, the H3 has them). At the end of the test most of us agreed that the Hummer H3 is a great vehicle looking for a great engine.
After miles of trails, there was no disputing the champions of the dirt, as the Wrangler twins dominated with their solid axles and class-leading Rubicon package. The Wranglers were unstoppable on every terrain and eagerly attacked everything we threw at them. The only off-road section that felt sketchy in the two-door was at our hillclimb location, where the driver of the Wrangler had to take care with throttle application because of the short wheelbase and steep rocky terrain. Here, the Unlimited surpassed the two-door, showing off the increased stability that comes from a longer wheelbase-although, at 116 inches, we feel the Unlimited is about 6 inches too long and it shows in the lack of maneuverability versus the Wrangler two-door. We also felt that the Unlimited could benefit from better suspension tuning. On high-speed whoops, the two-door was hard to bottom out and felt right at home conforming to the terrain, where the heavier body of the Unlimited caused it to find the bumpstops with regularity. We also had issues with the stubborn transfer-case shift lever in both vehicles, requiring a Wheaties-induced burst of strength to operate, no doubt putting the "Man" in manual.
With a week of testing and many hours of seat time logged in each vehicle, we added up the score sheets, read through the log books, and chose our winner of the prestigious 2007 Four Wheeler of the Year ...
Oops, We Did It AgainIn order to bring you the best photography, we sometimes push the limits of the vehicles to get you the most extreme angles and most exciting shots. Then sometimes we do something like go 2 inches too far and flop a brand-new vehicle on its side (apparently we can't defy physics, either), like we did to the Wrangler Unlimited during this year's test. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and five staffers easily righted the Unlimited with only a bruise from a rock in the top of the door and a crack in the rear of the hardtop. Amazingly enough, the mirrors never even touched terra firma and as one tester put it, "These Jeeps are possibly the only vehicles that can be pushed back over after a roll and continue on as if nothing happened." The Jeep started right up and continued on the rest of the test unfazed.
We also find it suspect that Tech Editor Holman was standing next to the Jeep when this happened, possibly making him the first and only person so far to witness both a two-door (Africa, Dec. 2006) and four-door go over. Someone should keep an eye on that guy.