In 1961 Edward Norton Lorenz was a weather researcher and was using numerical computer models to generate weather predictions. Taking a shortcut he entered 0.506 instead of 0.506127 — barely a difference in the number — but the computer spat out a completely different weather scenario. This led one meteorologist to remark that “one flap of a seagull’s wings could change the course of weather forever.” Since then Lorenz substituted seagull with the more delicate and poetic butterfly, and the phenomenon of these sensitive dependencies in chaos theory has become known as the butterfly effect.
So, if one flap of a butterfly’s wings might be capable of creating a tornado in Texas, driving the rather unaerodynamic Hummer H3 three kilometres is probably capable of causing a distant galaxy to be blasted to pieces by a supernova. That sounds far more palatable than a twister in the Deep South — no danger to humans.
Hummer’s original High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV, or Hum-Vee) military vehicle was a danger to humans: humans in armed forces opposed to America. The H3 is the third in Hummer’s lineup of cars derived from its original military Hum-Vee. The H1 was a direct derivative but without armour or weapons mounts. The H2 is slightly narrower and lighter than the H1, but taller and longer. The H3 is smaller than both the H1 and H2, and a similar size to many large SUVs available in New Zealand today such as the Mitsubishi Pajero and Toyota Land Cruiser.
You might not believe the actual size from the photos, but it’s because an optical illusion is created by the small windows. It’s almost like the Hummer has been given a hot rod chop. While this undoubtedly looks cool, it does create some problems with blindspots at the side, and poor rearward visibility. GM could solve the side blindspot easily by providing convex glass in the wing mirrors as opposed to the standard flat mirror.
Our test H3 is the Luxury model with full leather interior, heated electrically adjustable front seats, a six-CD stereo with a subwoofer that will rattle other cars’ windscreens, cruise control and a sunroof.
Despite the size, the Hummer does not feel cavernous inside, and it’s because the floor is high, and almost everything is black. The seats are made for comfort with plenty of support and lots of arm room.
An electrochromatic rearview mirror with eight-point compass and outside temperature display sits further away from you than you’d imagine because of the deep dashboard.
Driving is not as daunting as it may first seem. Sure, you have to be a bit more careful because it doesn’t handle like a car and it’s the same width as the Amazon, but it’s not like driving a truck either. Because you can see well ahead due to the elevated driving position, anticipating the road is easy, and you’ll find yourself cruising through the suburbs with ease.
Every political or social movement needs an icon to pillory and unfortunately Hummer is the one for the environmentalists. Granted, the first two iterations were fairly thirsty and a very visible symbol of American largesse and military activity.
Still, I thought it would be funny do drive the H3 to a gig we played on Saturday at the Kahikatea Eco Village in Albany. A great deal of juxtapositional mirth was had by several of us as we debated what reaction it would get. I was armed with facts and figures because this new H3 is no heavier or bigger than some other SUVs available in New Zealand, and has an inline five-cylinder 3.7-litre VORTEC engine producing 180kW and 328Nm of torque as opposed to an enormous V8. With the five-speed manual transmission (available on the H3 and H3 Adventure) Hummer quotes fuel economy of 13.7l/100km, and 14.5l/100km with the four-speed auto ‘box that comes with the Luxury model. So, it’s not a diesel Polo, but you can’t pull over 2000kg with a diesel Polo, or carry 430kg of cargo inside.
While it looks large, because of the high floor pan needed to afford the H3 its excellent ground clearance and approach/departure angles the cargo volume is slightly less than the Mitsubishi Outlander, which is a medium-sized SUV. The ground clearance is 219mm (6mm less than a Mitsubishi Pajero), but the departure angle at 35.7 degrees is a full 10 degrees better. The approach and breakover angles are one degree better at 37.5 degrees and 23.5 degrees respectively. But it loses out on towing ability, only capable of 2040kg, as opposed to the Pajero’s 3500kg.
There might be some more ‘sensible’ options when it comes to purchasing a vehicle, but there are not many that have the iconic image of the Hummer. The Americans have had the H3 since 2005, and it’s about time it came to New Zealand. If you’re buying a Hummer you are buying it for its image and/or its exceptional off-road ability. There’s a certain feeling you get when driving it — you know it can handle the rough stuff, with its ability to climb a 60-degree slope and wade through water 0.6m deep. So if that tornado ever comes over from Texas, the Hummer would just keep driving straight on through it.
Hummer has a very useful online configurator at www.hummernewzealand.co.nz.
Price: H3 Luxury from $70,990 (base model H3 from $61,990)
What we like
- It’s the iconic off-roader, and with ability to live up to its reputation
- Good rear legroom
- Lots of width
- Stereo is meaty
- You’re the centre of attention (most of it good, fortunately)
What we don’t like
- No boot blind
- Cabin feels a bit cramped (not so bad with the sunroof open, though)
- Should be able to tow more — Pajero does 3500kg, for example
- Visibility compromised
Words Darren Cottingham, photos Dan Wakelin