ANAHEIM, Calif. - Icons of masculinity. Success symbols of the nouveau riche. Conveyance of choice for our nation's military. It's no wonder that men have always longed for Hummers, and it comes as no surprise that the majority of Hummer buyers are male. Just 25 percent of Hummer H2 buyers are women, and the number is much lower for the rugged original, the nasty Hummer H1. But that's about to change with the introduction of the right-sized 2006 Hummer H3, which made its world debut at the 2004 California Auto Show this week. The Hummer H3 might be the first in history to appeal as much to women as it does to men. Looking like a junior version of the massive Hummer H2 (we won't call it a Baby Hummer, though that nickname is likely inevitable), the 2006 Hummer H3 is based upon the rugged ladder-frame architecture of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups. Compared to the H2, the H3 is 16.9 inches shorter in length, six inches shorter in height and 6.5 inches narrower. This translates to a vehicle much better sized for urban warfare.
37-foot turning circle
Hummer also promises that the 2006 Hummer H3 will perform on par with the fuel-thirsty V8-powered H2 while achieving as much as 20 mpg on the highway. Under the H3's squared-off hood resides a Vortec 3500 engine with dual overhead camshafts, variable valve timing, and drive-by-wire throttle control. This is the same 3.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine from the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon that has underwhelmed critics who complain that the motor delivers sluggish response off the line. Making 220 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 225 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm, the engine is expected to equal the H2's V8 performance under most conditions.
Power is delivered to all four wheels through a standard five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic transmission. The Borg-Warner two-speed full-time 4WD transfer case includes 2.64:1 low range gearing, but an optional 4.03:1 low range ratio is available for optimum rock hopping capability.
Four modes of 4WD
Traction control and stability control come standard on the 2006 Hummer H3. The traction system works even if just one tire has grip and three are spinning helplessly on a slippery surface, and the stability control system helps to correct skids when the sensors detect that the H3 is heading in a direction other than what the driver intends. Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with Dynamic Rear Proportioning (DRP) supply stopping power.
Prices have not been formally announced, but we'd guess that the 2006 Hummer H3 will straddle the $35,000 price point depending on equipment. With its improved fuel economy, lower price tag, sanely sized dimensions, classic exterior design, and authentic off-roading credentials, we'd bet that the 2006 Hummer H3 will not only restore some of the showroom traffic that Hummer dealers lost when the price of crude blasted to record highs, but also will spark interest in the women who control the vast majority of vehicle purchases in North America.
Hummers: Now bad-ass toys for more than just bad-ass boys.
Photos Courtesy of General Motors