From the Archives: To get a reputation on the street, first, let’s get over it.
Hummer is still brand new. The H2 mammoth is the means to buy if your neighbor heads the chapter of the local Sierra Club and you don’t like him at all. It sells more of its effects than it is capable of, but with sales declining, the newly of those effects are fading. The challenge for GM is that the Hummer must earn some street credit for genuine capabilities before launching the next, smaller SUV – and it is expected to be the best-selling of the vehicles – so that it can go head-to-head with jeeps. And the way to do it is to go as far away from the streets as possible.
So they brought five prototypes of the 2006 Hummer H3 to the spectacular Rubicon Trail in northeastern California — the semi-official jeep proving site, the name of the Wrangler Rubicon — and invited four automotive writers to join the two-day development journey to the legendary granite and dusty region of Nonroad. Both camping and watching GM engineers don’t wear shirts is one of the show’s unique features.
Five H3s were selected from a group of 78 “integrated vehicles” built with “production intention” parts and used for final adjustment and safety testing (half of the 78 were destroyed in fence collisions). They are almost identical to the H3s produced that will be in hummer dealers’ Quonset huts next summer for a basic price of about $30,000, although the interior lacks some decorative details and plastic and exterior is equipped with rough camouflage. The four grey H3s differ slightly in gearbox and equipment, but all run GM’s 4L60-E four-level automatic gearbox.
Derived from the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups, the H3 shares the body structure on the frames of those trucks; dual-handed front suspension and A-shaped torsion bar and leaf spring rear suspension; and Vortec 5-cylinder inline, 5-cylinder in-line, DOHC, 20-valve, DOHC, 220 horsepower, 220 horsepower (single-engine provided).
At 186.7 inches long, the H3 is 4.9 inches shorter than the GMC Envoy; its 111.9-inch base length is only 1.1 inches shorter than that medium-sized SUV. Compared to the H2, the H3 has an overall length of fewer than 16.8 inches and a base length of 10.9 inches. The H3 on the floor may have looked similar to the 1984 to 2001 Jeep Cherokee, but it was 19.2 inches longer. And although GM is still reducing the weight of the H3, it still weighs more than two tons. This is a smaller Hummer, but it’s not small.
The most important components of the H3 on the Rubicon are the LT285/75R-16 Bridgestone Dueler A/T tires that are 33 inches high, part of the ZM6 Off-Road Adventure package made by all five vehicles (the basic H3s will be 31 inches higher than the P265/75R-16 Goodyears); in case of electronically controlled dual-range transfer; and the aeration behind the electronic lock. As has been repeatedly made clear to the engineers present, a distinct front lock will also be a benefit for rock crawlers, but instead, they will have to learn how to work with traction control systems.
The Rubicon Trail is only about 11 or 12 miles long (depending on who measures and route variations), starting west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and running into the west coast of Lake Tahoe. It is completely rugged and parts of it do not need to crawl through granite boulders that usually consist of crossing granite out cloths. It is actually the standard for measuring other terrain routes.
Starting at Wentworth Springs with 20-pound sled tires, we immediately placed the H3s at the low range to start collecting information that lasted two days and stayed there throughout the trip. With speeds rarely exceeding 5 miles per hour, the H3s are actually adept and agile climbers. There are many journeys in the suspension, wide access angles, precise steering but not much deflection when hitting rocks, the tending valve of the five-cylinder engine progressing as soon as it does not load, and the four-wheel-drive system and traction control system operate continuously together under most conditions. The structure of the H3 is impressively rigid, which is especially evident when the truck slides off the rocks to hit the sliding plates with strong bumps and less shivering.
Even in an incomplete and incomplete state, the H3’s 5-passenger interior is still a big step up from the H2 in that it is designed in a clean style, with simple controls and no-frills, and an overwhelming sense of autonomy of H2. Squat windows and long hoods restrict visibility a bit, but on the Rubicon, all that really matters is that you can see your supervisor’s hand.
For most Hummer buyers, the off-road capability means easily peering out of muddy parking at a horse exhibition; that H3 can conquer the Rubicon is impressive, reassuring, and self-assured but ultimately academic. Nothing on the Rubicon simulates parallel parking, traveling along the I-5 or climbing the deceleration ledge at Target. In fact, the trial doesn’t even offer the chance for the H3’s engine to exceed much of its maximum torque of 225 pound-feet at 2800 rpm or shift the gearbox out of the first number. We also can’t tell you how the truck goes on the fully inflated tires.
So the big test for the H3 Hummer is still ahead as it confronts the everyday world of potential buyers, a world where the appeal of overall capacity never fades.