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Car reviews - Hummer - H3 - 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

4 Oct 2007

AFTER being held in quarantine for several months as GM Holden worked through a vast range of compliance issues with Australian authorities, General Motors has at last launched its Hummer H3 SUV Down Under.

Although far from a “monster truck” or a military combat vehicle, and standing as the smallest Hummer ever built (for now), the 2.2-tonne wagon officially rolled into showrooms – 21 outlets across the nation, most of which are existing Saab dealerships – on October 1.

The H3 will trade on a brand name that harks back to the Humvee and images of American GIs in the first Gulf War, which is sure to appeal to a wide range of consumers including those who want to make a fashion statement in suburbia.

With the world’s attention drawn to the problems of global warming, the director of GM Premium Brands Parveen Batish acknowledged that the H3 was bound to have image problems.

“The perception of this car being a gas-guzzling vehicle is one of our challenges,” Mr Batish told GoAuto, although he was quick to argue that this perception was unwarranted.

“We need to explain to people that it’s not a big car, that it’s shorter than a (Ford) Territory and not as wide as some other vehicles. It’s a mid-size SUV. The reason it looks big is because of its design, which has become very iconic.”

When it comes down to fuel consumption, Mr Batish believes that the official combined fuel consumption figure for the H3 – which uses a 3.7-litre five-cylinder petrol engine – speaks for itself.

“In terms of gas-guzzling, it’s in the mid-range when you look at vehicles of this size. It’s 13.8 litres per 100km, which is not excessive – it’s not the best, but it’s certainly not the worst.”

According to the Australian Government’s Green Vehicle Guide, a Ford Territory AWD 4.0-litre petrol has an average fuel consumption of 12.8L/100km. A Toyota LandCruiser Prado 4.0-litre V6 uses 13.1L/100km.

As for concerns about the green movement, Mr Batish expressed cynicism for the approach his competitors take on the issue.

“Look at our green competitor, a very large Japanese company who sold 2000 Priuses and something like 68,000 4X4 SUVs. I think there’s a big marketplace for this vehicle. I think people who require this type of vehicle will buy it. I don’t think people have to apologise for driving this car – quite the opposite, actually.”

Mr Batish sees the Hummer’s controversial image as a useful marketing tool: “It’s not going to appeal to everybody. It’s very much a polarising brand. So you either love it or hate it. We prefer people to be polarised than be not really sure.”

A turbo-diesel engine option is on the cards for 2009, and given the fast-dwindling sales of large petrol SUVs, Mr Batish is not concerned about his brand.

“I think, looking at the orders we already have (for the petrol model), I don’t think it’s an impediment at the moment,” he said.

The Alpha 5.3-litre V8 engine just released in H3 in the US will be available to Australia in 2009, but with rising fuel prices a concern, Mr Batish conceded: “We’ll look at what people want between now and then.”

While Mr Batish did not give the V8 engine a certain future here, he was clear on the prospects of the bigger-brother H2 model “We’re not going to bring in the H2, it’s purpose-built left-hand drive. (And) the H2 is probably a little too big for this country.”

Mr Batish would not be drawn on launch timing for the H3 SUT, a dual-cab ute version of the H3, and the H4, a smaller Hummer model still on the drawing board, but said that, given the opportunity, Australia would stick its hand up for new models.

“There are always product plans in place and at the right time we’ll get involved in the debate,” he said.

The order bank for the H3 at launch stood at more than 400, and Mr Batish said that interest was immense.

“We have only just started to deliver the cars. The dealers have lots of test-drive requests. We know it’s a success from the numbers we already have. It’s not a real volume car, though we’re talking niche volume,” he said.

Once beyond the initial burst of city-dwelling buyers, Mr Batish believes that the H3’s credentials will stand up to the kind of buyer that will do more than cruise city canyons.

“The second wave of buyers are the true off-roaders,” he said.

“These are the people who really want to test the vehicle, try it off-road, and really check out its full credentials. They’ll be slightly harder to get to, but once they test-drive the vehicle, we’re confident we’ll get those people.”

Mr Batish refused to divulge the H3’s volume targets that he said had been “locked in”. The waiting time on new orders is about four months from the South African factory.

Advertising will be substantial for the H3, with the full complement of billboards, TV, cinema, internet and print media. Mr Batish would not comment on H3’s media spend, only inferring it was substantial: “You only get one chance to launch a brand.”

The H3’s five-cylinder inline petrol engine develops 180kW at 5600rpm and 328Nm of torque at a relatively high 4600rpm (although Hummer claims 90 per cent of the peak torque is reached by 2000rpm).

Either a five-speed manual or four-speed auto transmission is offered, linked to a full-time, dual-range 4WD transfer case.

The Hummer’s five-seater body is bolted to a separate chassis to which a simple independent, torsion bar front and live-axle leaf-spring rear suspension is attached.

The Hummer measures 4782mm long, 1989mm wide and 1904mm tall, which puts it into the medium-to-large range in the Australian SUV market. Kerb weight is between 2178kg and 2268kg, depending on the model.

The cargo volume is quoted as 835/1577 litres with the rear seats up/down, while maximum towing capacity is 2040kg (auto) and 1360kg (manual).

The H3 arrives in three models: H3, H3 Adventure and H3 Luxury.

Simply called H3, the base model is equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, front foglights, power exterior mirrors, four underbody skid protection plates and roof rails.

Inside, the H3 is fitted standard with air-conditioning, power windows, remote central locking, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror (with compass and outside temperature readout), leather gearknob, cruise control, and a six-speaker sound system with single CD.

To the base spec the Adventure adds a locking rear differential, a leather-clad steering wheel, six-disc CD changer audio with speed-compensation for volume, seven speakers and subwoofer and amplifier, leather seat trim, electric adjustment, heated front seats, and a cargo cover and liner.

Unique to the Adventure is a 4.03:1 transfer case ratio for better low-range crawling and an additional skid plate over the oil pan.

The Luxury builds upon Adventure specification (with the exception of the transfer case and skid plates, which it shares with the base H3) with standard four-speed automatic transmission, cashmere leather trim and electric glass sunroof.

Safety features common to all H3s include stability control (called StabiliTrak), traction control, ABS, dual front airbags with passenger sensing system and curtain side airbags.

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