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2006 Hummer H3 - Longterm Test

A Four Wheeler For The Real World

Sean P. HolmanPhotographer, Writer

After an excellent showing in our 2006 FWOTY competition, with several editors' picks, and a recent award as one of our 2006 "10 Best Buys in Four-Wheel Drive" in its first year on the market, we decided to ask Hummer for an H3 to replace our much-missed 2005 Hummer H2 SUT long-termer. Hummer obliged with our newest addition to the fleet, a loaded 2006 H3 drenched in enough yellow and chrome to blind the sun itself.

With a base price of just $28,935, we loaded up our H3 to the gills with the luxury package that includes leather, power and heated seats, excellent Monsoon sound system, along with the must-have Adventure Package that adds 285/75R16 (33-inch) Bridgestone Dueler tires, 4:1 transfer case, electric locking differential, 4.56:1 gears, and special suspension tuning. We also added the factory rock protection, which works well on the trail.

One thing that we left off the list was a sunroof, but if we could do it again, we would order it, as it would be nice to get a little extra light into our ebony interior and help the airflow on those warmer windows-down days. One option we were sure not to miss is the excellent navigation system and XM radio, which allows us to stay tuned to our favorite baseball team when we are off blasting through the desert. The Chrome Appearance package added a little bling for Brubaker, while the roof-rail airbag system, towing package, and universal garage door opener brought the as-tested price to $37,345.

And you thought we got a lot of looks in our Stealth Blue H2-they hardly compare to the way our yellow H3 turns heads. Now that there are more on the road in our parts, the looks are fewer, but we won't be choosing the H3 to rob banks anytime soon.

The interior of the H3 is very upscale, with better-quality materials than the H2, and excellent fit and finish. With big mirrors, the H3 offers surprisingly good sightlines to all directions, but for the rear, a back-up camera or reverse-sensing system would be well worth the extra cost. For the long haul, the H3 rides great, has little wind noise, and has some of the most comfortable seats in our fleet. Four adults fit comfortably, with plenty of leg and shoulder room, while the cargo area is surprisingly big-even gobbling up a love seat on a trip to IKEA for one of our staffers. We also must note the H3's freakishly fat steering wheel, which is easy to adjust to, but throws you off when swapping between vehicles.

The one area of contention, and what probably kept the H3 from winning FWOTY is the 3.5L I-5 shared with the platform-mate Chevy Colorado. So we ordered ours with the manual version to help keep the 3.5L mill on the boil. We were also curious to see if our lead feet could eke out anything close to the rated mpg of 16 city/20 hwy. Despite having to occasionally drop down to 3rd gear to pull a grade, we still maintain that this is a great highway vehicle, as long as you aren't in a hurry. Around town, where a lot of power isn't needed, the H3 excels with its perfect size and awesome maneuverability, aided by a 37-foot turning radius, which is smaller than the FJ Cruiser and even smaller than many compact cars.

So far, the Hummer has gone on a few road trips, and as a perfect example of the no-guilt capability of the H3, we encountered a major traffic jam on I-15 coming home from Las Vegas, causing a several-hour delay. Just south of Stateline, we compared our map book with the navigation system, and found a dirt trail that paralleled the freeway long enough to bypass the traffic. Once clear of the incident, we hopped back on the freeway and headed home.

Besides the lack of power, there isn't much to be critical about. We could do without the idiot shift light telling us when to row the gears, and we don't like having to have the door shut in order to reset the trip odometer at a gas stop. Also, there needs to be more storage cubbies for cell phones and pens in the console, but beyond that, we are pretty impressed with the H3 so far, and we are looking forward to another year in the saddle with the Hummer brand.

Previous report: None
Base price: $28,935
Price as tested: $37,345
Four-wheel-drive system: Electronic, full-time two-speed

Miles to date: 4,093
Miles since last report: First Report
Average mpg (this report): 15.59
Test best tank (mpg): 16.69
Test worst tank (mpg): 13.44

Problem areas: None

Hot: Awesome turning radius and maneuverability, perfect size, tons of style, great off-highway prowess, doesn't feel like a Colorado.
Not: Upright windshield picks up dirt quickly, not enough interior storage cubbies, barely adequate power, a shift light that thinks it is smarter than we are.

* "I would rather have this than an FJ, it's great off-pavement and has better visibility."
* "The interior doesn't have enough storage space."
* "The engine sounds very industrial, yet it somehow feels so appropriate."
* "Stupid trip odometer only resets with door closed."
* "The manual trans is very easy to shift, and has a very direct feel."
* "Love the Brinks truck driving experience."