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2006 HUMMER H1 Alpha

It’ll Do Anything, Except Hit 80

    What strikes fear into the heart of neighbors and most small countries? Well, the AT staff trying to pilot a 2006 Hummer H1 is a pretty terrifying image, if the expressions on fellow motorists’ faces is any indication. It’s not that it’s as large as a city bus (it is), or as loud a Cessna at take off (it’s louder), or even that it sucks through fuel faster than John Goodman at an all-you-can-eat buffet; it’s simply that it’s so darn hard to keep between the lines! Driving this thing at speed requires more concentration than two auto scribes juiced up on Starbucks and road grub can muster. Nevertheless, someone in the halls of GM thought it wise to loan us the keys to this $147,000 brick-on-wheels—they’re now currently unemployed.
     The popularity of the Hummer was the greatest of any vehicle we’ve ever had in the fleet. Fuel stops required at least fifteen minutes for chitchat with the locals, and everyone and their brother wanted a ride. We were a little confused that Prius drivers were such big fans, we expected them to hate it, but they kept telling us we were number one. At first we waved back, but upon removing a hand from the wheel, we drifted (across two lanes and the median) and promptly ran three of them into the weeds. Henceforth, the unwritten law became that both hands remain on the wheel. Even the local chapter of the Sierra Club came out to have a look, although we had to explain to more than one member that the Hummer doesn’t use gasoline, and even then, it would need to go into the 28-gallon main or 24-gallon auxiliary tank. The Hummer has a lot of neat features, we told them, but absorbing gasoline through the bodywork isn’t one of them.
     Although inflating or deflating the tires from the driver’s seat, is. This capability never fails to astonish those taking the ten-cent tour, and even your humble authors scarcely believe it actually works as advertised. There are plenty of other impressive features, like the heated windshield, and tires that will get you back to civilization—even without air pressure—thanks to Goodyear’s puncture resistant technology. Our truck came with the Off-Road Adventure Package—which you’d think would be standard on a Hummer—and included even more fun toys such as a 12,000-pound Warn winch, which we were thrilled to actually use on a felled tree of sizable girth and the guy occupying the prime spot at Wal-Mart. Actually—although tempted on multiple occasions—only the former is true, thanks to a storm inspired by Armageddon. We can report the winch worked flawlessly, with much appreciation going to the controller that features a cord long enough to permit operating the winch from inside, allowing one person to simultaneously reverse the vehicle and reel in the object. That just happens to be the technique employed when we cleared our formerly impassible route, which was deemed a success because no hospital trips were required.
     But very little is impassable in a Hummer, thanks to its impressive powertrain. Pop open the composite clamshell hood (which requires releasing a lever inside, pulling the pins on the drop down brush guard, unbuckling the two outside fender straps and enlisting the might of a buddy or three) and reveal that diesel heart within. For 2006, GM opted to transplant the Duramax 6600 turbo-diesel into all commercial H1’s (military HUMVEE’s keep the old motor) bringing along with it 300hp and 520 lb-ft of torque. This translates into 42-percent more horsepower and 18-percent more torque than the aged 6.5-liter Optimizer turbo-diesel used to muster, shaving three seconds off your run to 60mph. Yeah, it sounds impressive, but starting from a 16.5 second sprint with the old motor means that, at 13.5 seconds, a three-year-old on a tricycle will still out accelerate you. By no means is this thing quick, but then again, at 7558 pounds, 101 inches wide, 77 inches tall, and 190.5 inches long, it doesn’t exactly cast the shadow of an Elise, though one could be employed as a stylish dinghy. The Allison 5-speed automatic transmission made the jump as well, just like the duo in the GM heavy-duty pickups. For H1-duty though, this tranny features a 45:1 crawl ratio for extra controlled bounding over large rocks. Just about every feature you can imagine necessary for keeping your vehicle in motion or getting it out of a sticky situation is attached to this thing. Selecting the aforementioned Adventure package yields Eaton E-Lockers for both front and rear differentials. The full-time four-wheel drive system features 4-high, 4-low, really low, and lower. OK, those aren’t the real names, but you get our drift. Speaking of drift, drivetrain components up to 30 inches off terra firma are submergible. Meaning day trips to the lake are now trips through the lake.
     That imagery inspired us to stop terrorizing fellow drivers and get the H1 out of the city. Therefore, at the conclusion of “office time” we loaded up for “road time”. Destination: the middle of nowhere. It was on this jaunt back to our thumb of Michigan stomping grounds that we ran into the abovementioned Tempest of Great Proportions (so dubbed by one particularly poetic editor). Heading to our destination, which happened to be at the center of the beast, was like a scene out of Twister, with us barreling down dirt roads dodging debris (branches, garbage cans, small cars) rain beating down on the flat aluminum roof, and the ity-bity windshield wipers swishing back and forth in a vain effort to clear the biblically-inspired downpour. At that point, we were most content with having the hardtop wagon versus the available soft-top (which costs over $10k less) four-door for the sole purpose of keeping the outside out and the inside in.
     Now that we think about it, a little of the outside in the cabin wouldn’t really worry us. Normally, vehicles in this price range have flawless woods, fine carpet, and expensive electronics. The Hummer H1 has exactly none of these. To its credit, the seats are wrapped in soft black and brown leather, so points are earned there. But then we have to subtract points for manually adjustable front seats (second-row seats are non-adjustable), no carpeting (except for some brown Berber in the cargo area that looks straight out of the Reagan-era), and a turn-signal stalk from a ‘93 Chevy Corsica. Further points are lost when you try—unsuccessfully—to have a conversation at speed. All agreed the Interior Sound Insulation Package on our H1 was MIA and that the Hummer makes a horrible date car, not only for the excessive noise, but also because that special someone sits in another zip code. Surprisingly, the Monsoon audio system actually produces enough sound to overcome the barrage of other noise in the cabin. Mind you, the cabin isn’t that big. Most people ask the same thing after seeing the Hummer interior: How can a vehicle this big, be so small inside? It’s a combination of functional requirements and the simple truth that the HUMVEE was never meant for civilian duty. That means certain habits must be formed to adapt to an environment that makes a Motel 6 look luxurious. These include developing the posture of an 80-year-old woman to see stoplights and hanging your arm out the window because the door occupies the same space your left shoulder should.
     Those are just a few of the hassles that make the genuine Hummer experience so unique. Sure, the aforementioned three-year-old on a tricycle could design a more comfortable interior, and an engineering intern could make the thing drive like a normal SUV, but that isn’t the point of owning a Hummer. Owning a Hummer H1 is about knowing you can go just about anywhere and do just about anything. And maybe, just maybe, it’s about owning the most capable SUV to ever roll off an assembly line. Or, it could just be that you feel it necessary to take up two parking spaces and most of the sidewalk at Starbucks. Either way, this is your truck when anything else just isn’t enough.

The Good:
Goes anywhere, attracts attention like Tom Cruise on Oprah, looks so darn cool.
The Bad:
Makes double-digit fuel-economy a nice wish, loud, uncomfortable.
The Verdict:
When everything else just isn’t enough, the Hummer H1 will satisfy.


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