Finally, a Hummer for the UK – was it worth the wait?
Yes, the Hummer H3 is finally here, and depending on your sense of taste, you’ll either be rejoicing or rolling in the aisles. The H3 is the model that’s been on a diet – it’s more refined and luxurious than the hardcore H2 and ex-military spec H1. It arrives in the UK in August. This is the type-approved vehicle that has undergone a range of minor mechanical and design tweaks to meet legal requirements for markets outside America. It’s built on a new GM production line in South Africa, the result of a $100 million investment. By the end of the year, the sole Manchester dealer should be joined by two more dealers in London and Birmingham, and Hummer will be organising Hummer Happenings around the country – a mobile off-road show that shows off the Hummer’s off-road abilities.
It certainly looks, well, err, like a Hummer
Yup, the H3 has the same distinctive styling as the H2 and H1: huge wheelarches, foursquare stance, tank-turret cabin and lots of chrome. It has plenty of visual character. The Hummer is big, bold, overt and completely unapologetic about how it looks and goes. For the vast majority of potential buyers those characteristics will mean it will be immediately scratched off the list of must-drives. But for the few – and with around 100 sales predicted this year, they are mercifully few – those very same qualities will make it hugely appealing.
How much will it cost?
Prices have yet to be announced for the H3 but expect a £31,000 sticker come April, when it arrives in right-hand-drive form. That’s within striking distance of a good-spec Discovery, Rx350, XC90 or Touareg - a lot of money for the experience of driving an overblown Fisher Price toy. And that’s before you factor in economy, which is unlikely to ever pass 19mpg, and depreciation which should mimic a very heavy piano nudged off a very high cliff.
What it’s like inside?
Small, in a word. Despite Discovery-like external dimensions, the H3’s cabin offers little more room that a Focus hatchback and boot space is comically small. Seven seats? You’re having a Turkish… You sit high, but despite chairs that have a surprising amount of adjustability, the rake-only adjustable steering wheel leaves you too close to the dash for a high-knees-low-elbows driving position. Visibility through the gun-slight windows is also heavily restricted. Even the build quality is second-rate, matched by the standard of materials used throughout the interior.
It doesn't sound good…
No, and it gets worse when you drive it. With a mighty 2654kg kerb weight, the five-cylinder 3.7-litre engine has its work cut out. But work doesn’t seem high on the engine’s list of priorities, not when there’s constantly vibrating, sounding coarse and drinking vast amounts of fuel to be done. The slow-thinking four-speed automatic (there’s a five speed manual on offer, too) makes progress even more painful, either kicking down reluctantly or dropping two gears at once and sending the engine into paroxysms of red-line anguish. There are comedy-levels of pitch, dive and roll, the brakes are snatchy and the suspension excels at constantly juddering occupants. A diesel engine is in the offing, but don't expect anything until the back end of 2008.
I guess it’s pretty effective in the mud?
It’s all but unstoppable. One of the tenets of the Hummer brand is unparalleled off-road ability, and with its ladder-frame chassis, zero overhangs and full gamut of trail-blazing gear, you can pretty much point the H3 at any obstacle and it will clamber over or through it. Fine when you live in the Himalayan foothills or on Namibia’s Sosussvlei. Not much good in central Manchester.
The H3 is being launched in the same month that GM also unveiled the ground-breaking Chevrolet Volt, an electro-petrol 150mpg hybrid. It’s stylish, quick, frugal and intelligent. Everything the H3 is not. Hummer’s logo is ‘Like Nothing Else’. How very true.