Finally, it’s here. While Hummer-mania, fuelled by The Terminator, mister Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, has seemingly been sweeping the globe for years, South Africans have had to wait until now to get in on the action. And boy, what hype… A short drive down the road in the Hummer H3 is enough to convince anyone that this is a vehicle that will get its owners noticed, so in that regard it has certainly lived up to expectations. But is it more than just a “look at me” consumer product, or is there substance hiding under that military vehicle-inspired bodywork? Judgement day has arrived for the Hummer H3… Let’s find out.
Point-and-stare styling for Hummer H3Originating as it does from the land of the big Mac, the general expectation when first approaching the Hummer H3 is one of sheer bulk. Certainly, it’s an imposing machine. It stands very high on those generously sidewalled tyres, and the vast, chrome-laden front-end is so bright you can be blinded when walking up the Hummer H3 in bright sunlight. But your eyes are being fooled… You see, the Hummer H3 is actually no longer or higher than many of its direct – normal-looking – rivals from the likes of Toyota, Mitsubishi and even Land Rover. Yes, it is wider, and those muscular wheelarches make it look even more so, but in truth the Hummer H3 is not the behemoth we were all expecting. And in all honestly, it doesn’t count on its size to turn heads – the stubby front and rear ends, upright and narrow windows and uniquely styled 16-inch alloy wheels further cement the Hummer’s status as a very individualistic machine.
Hit-and-miss cabinAs is often the case with American products, the design team unfortunately ran out of flair when it came to the cabin. There’s a generic-looking facia finished in a variety of types and qualities of black plastics, many of them not entirely convincing in terms of tactile quality. The instrumentation is neat and simple enough, and there’s a leather-wrapped steering wheel, but the gunmetal-painted hangdown section looks cheap and the audio system somewhat old-fashioned. The ergonomics also leave a lot to be desired – there are no remote audio controls on the steering wheel, and some of the wiper/lightning functions are integrated on a single steering column stalk, yet buttons for the auto lights and rear wiper are fitted to the facia…
Seated in the Hummer H3, however, you quickly start to feel invincible. The seating position is elevated, even in its lowest setting, and the result is good outward visibility, even though the window apertures are rather narrow. The steering wheel is only adjustable for rake, but in general driver comfort is good and the seats are thickly padded and supportive.
Rear cabin space is also generous, though the high floor does result in a something of a “knees-in-the-air” seating position. The Hummer H3 is a five-seat vehicle, and its spare wheel is mounted on the tailgate in typical, old-school SUV style, and the upshot of this is that the boot is very big (835-litres worth can be accommodated). The boot floor, like the cabin, is rather high, so you may have to hoist some items in there. On that topic, some grab handles positioned lower down would have been a thoughtful addition as several older passengers complained that entering the H3’s cabin required a bit of a jump.
Rough, but eager engineGeneral Motors turned to its truck division to find a suitable engine for the Hummer H3, and selected a 3,7-litre five-cylinder petrol unit coupled with a four-speed automatic transmission. The engine delivers impressive power and torque outputs of 180 kW and 328 Nm respectively, but at more than two tonnes in weight the Hummer H3 certainly needs all the power the relatively small engine can muster. Still, it’s certainly an eager powerplant, if a slightly noisy and unrefined one. Stab the throttle and it may get you to 100 km/h from rest in just over 10 seconds, which is more than good enough. The transmission is probably less impressive, often kicking down with a clunk, and at times proving recalcitrant to shift down at all. Oh… and the fuel economy will rival some V8 units out there. It’s thirsty.
The Hummer H3 uses a permanent all-wheel drive system which during normal running has a default power split of 40:60, front to rear. However, there is also a 4H-Lock function, which locks the torque spread at 50:50, as well as a 4L-Lock setting which engages low-range. A rear diff-lock is also standard. Off-road, the Hummer H3 is pretty much as unstoppable as it looks. The approach/departure angles are excellent, and the claimed ground clearance of 216 mm seems conservative. Coupled with soft, long-travel suspension and excellent axle articulation, this is a macho SUV in more than just looks. It’s got real ability.
Of course, there is a penalty to pay on tar. There is plenty of body movement under braking, acceleration and cornering. Then again, for the vehicle’s likely target audience, the H3’s very comfortable cruising gait is probably of more importance.
Hummer H3 - VerdictThe Hummer H3 Adventure model is well-priced and features comprehensive specification, including six airbags, electronic stability control, cruise control, partial electric seat adjustment, radio/CD and air-conditioning. Negatives? Well, yes, there are a few… the fuel consumption is poor and the finish and design of the facia is frankly disappointing. So yes, perhaps the Hummer craze will die down and history may end up recording it as a cynical marketing exercise, but the reality is that there’s real ability underneath the macho exterior. The Hummer H3 is one of the best off-roaders on the market, and the on-road cruising comfort is good, too. It’s worth a test drive, even if you don’t care particularly for its brash looks.
- Very macho looks
- Off-road ability
- Cabin spaciousness
- Soft ride
- Fuel consumption
- Wallowing ride
- Facia ergonomics
Engine: 3,7-litre, five-cylinder, petrol
Power: 180 kW @ 5 600 rpm
Torque: 328 Nm @ 4 600 rpm
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Wheels: 16-inch alloy
Top speed: n/a km/h (160 km/h est)
0-100 km/h: n/a seconds (11,0 sec est.)
Fuel economy: 14,7 litres/100 km
- Mitsubishi Pajero 3,8L V6 GLS LWB Auto: Often ignored, but the Pajero offers a similar blend of petrol power, off-road ability and luxury specification as the Hummer H3, but has the benefit of being a seven-seater. Pricey, though.
- Toyota Landcruiser Prado 4,0 VX Auto: Although the type of person considering the Hummer H3 is probably not going to want the Toyota in the first place, the Prado should not be underestimated. Its 4,0-litre V6 is smoother, similarly powerful, and the specification is broadly comparable, too. But it’s not as good off-road as the Hummer H3. Better on-road, though.
- Jeep Grand Cherokee 5,7L Overland Auto: Another macho American, and this one packs good ‘ol V8 power, a colossal 240 kW of it. Overland specification is also generous (though lacking in airbags) and the all-round off/on-road balance is attractive.