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2006 Hummer H3 - Secret Weapon H3

Hummer's New Mini-Fighter

Rick PewePhotographer, WriterDayna HartPhotographer

Been looking for a midsize sport/ute that can actually wheel? The new Hummer H3 might be the answer, once it's available. We had a chance to tag along on an engineering test ride on the Rubicon last summer, where engineers were finalizing all sorts of adjustments and specs, and making sure the beastie worked like they designed. We've been on this trail with countless new offerings from various manufacturers, as well as plenty of our own junk, and found the new H3 to be quite the capable vehicle.

Taking some styling cues from its older (and much larger) siblings-H1 and H2-the H3 was designed to be reminiscent of the look, as well as providing equal or superior performance within its class. No, it won't tow as heavy a load as its brethren, but it also is far more nimble and sprightly and gets far better fuel economy due to the Vortec 3.5L five-cylinder engine. While the rig is loosely based off of the Colorado/ Canyon chassis and powertrain, it's nothing like it by the time you get down to nuts and bolts.

We had a selection of five rigs to punish, and one even had a five-speed manual with a 3.75 First gear. This was our favorite one to wheel since it had the optional 4.03 low range and optional 4.56 gears. The 69:1 crawl ratio took the 285/75-16 Bridgestones over everything we pointed it at, and thanks to the great approach and departure angles, we rarely got hung up. And if we did, it was on the optional underbody skidrails, which more than proved their worth on a trail such as this. Our biggest issue was the lack of selectable lockers in either end, while we had to keep pressure on the throttle to allow the tires to spin until the electronic braking finally kicked in to throw the rig over an obstacle. Sure, it's also an IFS vehicle, but anything else is getting more and more difficult to find, and sometimes you just have to drive these vehicles a little differently.

These rigs were '06 model prototypes, and as such had led an extremely rough life on the trail and other various venues, and were still in great shape. While we can't tell you a lot of the secret stuff we found out, this right-sized four-door 4x4 will be a serious player in the market. It is a good off-roader, yet also has style, space, and comfort for the rest of the buying public. We can't wait for next year's 4x4 of the Year competition, so we can really check out the final version Hummer comes up with. We sure hope it includes lockers!