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2006 Hummer H3 Rubicon Trail Review

GM's Newest SUV Looks To Conquer The Midsize Segment

Ned BaconPhotographer, Writer

Hummer fans, dreaming of a smaller, more trail-friendly vehicle, built along the lines of their favorite macho-image SUV, will soon have their dreams fulfilled.

We recently had the opportunity to join Hummer engineers on a trail ride over the famed Rubicon Trail. The trip allowed us to drive five test mules of the vehicle slated to become the Hummer H3, and give feedback to the engineers on our impressions of the vehicle in a hard-core 'wheeling environment. The rigs we drove were very close to production models, and the engineers were mainly gathering final bits of information that would allow for minor changes to the final product.

The changes we found to be necessary were relatively few. It appears that Hummer has another winner on its hands with a vehicle that is quite capable of handling a trail like The Rubicon, and yet will also be a comfortable four-door SUV that can handle all the chores required of a modern mall wagon.

Trail-ready mechanical specs that impressed us were numerous. The rigs will come powered by GM's 220hp, 225 lb-ft inline five-cylinder. A manual five-speed and a 4L60-E automatic will be offered. Big news for 'wheelers will be an optional 4:1 transfer case low-range, offering a crawl ratio of up to 69:1. An axle ratio of 4.56:1 will be offered, along with a fully electric locking rear diff. Front axle traction of the IFS will rely on computer-controlled traction control, which was still in need of some fine-tuning during our drive. Try as we might, we could not convince those engineers that a driver-controlled locking front diff would be a far superior setup (and easier on axle components) for a serious 'wheeling machine.

Further trail-friendly features included well placed and strong (we tested 'em) skidplates, excellent rocker rails/skids (we tested those too), 33-inch all-terrain tires, Hummer-ish approach and departure angles and big usable tow hooks. Not so trail-friendly were the equally Hummer-ish little windows and thick window pillars that hinder good trail visibility.

Overall, we came away impressed with the vehicle and the engineers' commitment to building a capable trail machine. We really enjoyed our camping time with them and came away feeling the future of competent 4x4s coming from Hummer is in good hands. The H3 is targeted to be Hummer's biggest volume-seller, appealing to a wide variety of buyers. We also received hints that a future Hummer (H4?) might very well be a TJ-killer with hose-out interior, removable everything and maybe even two lockers. Meanwhile, check out the photos and spec box on the new H3 and look for it at your Hummer dealer early next summer.

Vehicle model: '06 Hummer H3
Base price: N/A

Type: Aluminum I-5
Displacement (liter/ci): 3.5/211
Bore x stroke (in.): 3.66 x 4.00
Valve actuation: DOHC; two valves/cyl.
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Mfg's power rating @ rpm (hp): 220 @ 5,600
Mfg's torque rating @ rpm (lb-ft): 225 @ 2,800
Mfg's suggested fuel type: 87 octane

Transmission: 4L60-E four-speed auto (base)
First: 3.06:1
Second: 1.63:1
Third: 1.00:1
Fourth: 0.70:1
Reverse: 2.29:1
Axle ratio: 4.56:1 (optional)
Transfer case: Isuzu D-Max part-time two-speed
Low-range ratio: 2.64:1 (base)
Crawl ratio: 31.14:1 (base)

Frame: Welded steel ladder
Body: Steel

Front: IFS, torsion bars, stabilizer bar; monotube shocks
Rear: Solid axle, leaf springs, stabilizer bar, monotube shocks
Steering Type: Power rack-and-pinion
Turns (lock-to-lock): 3.25
Ratio: 17:1

Front: Discs; four-piston calipers
Rear: Discs; four-piston calipers
ABS: Four-wheel

Wheels (in.): 16x7.5 aluminum
Tires: LT285/75R16C Bridgestone radials (optional)

Fuel Economy
EPA city/highway: 15/18

Base curb weight (lb.): N/A
Wheelbase (in.): 111.9
Overall length (in.): 186
Overall width (in.): 85.5
Height (in.): 74.5
Track f/r (in.): 65.0/65.5
Minimum ground clearance (in.): 9.1
Turning diameter, curb-to-curb (ft.): 37.0
GVWR (lb.): N/A
Payload (lb.): 1,150
Maximum towing capacity (lb.): 4,500
Fuel capacity (gal.): 23