Hummer is coming to the UK, offering fully type approved, factory warranted, right-hand drive Hummers to Brits for the first time.
This is the car it will be offering - the H3, a car a fraction of the size of the H1 (nee Humvee), but that retains a great deal more of its mud-plugging ability. Offroad it will tackle terrain that would defeat even a Land Rover Defender. The question is, in a country where so few of us have a need for that kind of ability, and where the climate grows increasingly toxic to any new 4x4, is that really a marketable commodity?
What's it like?
The H3's proportions are so similar to those of its bigger brother, the H2, that it's easy to confuse the two in pictures. When you see it in the metal, what actually strikes you about this car is how small it is. At 4782mm long, the H3 is shorter than every model above the Freelander 2 that Land Rover makes; shorter even than a Ford Mondeo Estate.
At UK launch this June, it'll be offered with a 3.7-litre inline five-cylinder engine with 241bhp and 242lb ft of torque, and with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearboxes. The will be no diesel engine, and that'll be a huge turn-off for UK buyers, but Hummer has one in the pipeline for introduction in 2008. The company also has yet to confirm what it'll cost, but have said that it'll be 'competitive with importer's prices'; that means they'll be around from less than £30,000.
If you live up one of Snowdon's severest climbs, it might actually make a sensible buy. Real offroad ability is the H3's trump card; it'll drive through more than two feet of water and climb up a 407mm step without a problem. It'll also haul its 2306kg bulk up a 60 degree incline and traverse a 40 degree slope - nobody else makes a road car capable of that, says Hummer – and having witnessed an H3 doing this first hand, we can confidently say that you'll be amazed by it.
That's assuming you ever experience it. The thing is, most of us don't find many muddy 60-degree inclines on the way to the post office. What you will find is lots of tarmac and, on that, the H3 is rather less impressive. It's much less car-like than most modern 4x4s, crashing through potholes, tossing its occupants around over bumps and sliding around slightly at speed on its standard off-road rubber. Its five-cylinder motor also goes through the entire spectrum of noise, vibration and harshness of its way to 6000rpm.
Then we come to the anti-SUV issue. It doesn't matter that the H3 isn't actually that big, or that its turning circle is barely larger than that of a Ford Focus. There are people who will hate this car more than any other when it launches – the kind of people who nodded 'here here' when Greenpeace stopped production at Land Rover eighteen months ago - and they'll probably hate you if you drive one.
Should I buy one?
You'd have to be absolutely convinced that you wanted one before committing to buy one of the country's first official Hummers. If you regularly climb muddy hills that are steeper than 1 in 1, or you're bowled over by its 'Tonka toy' looks, you might just be persuaded to do that this July.
Trouble is, in almost every other way we can think of, the H3 just isn't sufficiently convincing to warrant putting yourself in the protester's firing line. Much as we'd like to fly in the face of public opinion and will you to go ahead if its square-cut styling and go-anywhere spirit appeals to you, in this case, it's just not worth the aggro. There are cars out there we'd take a smack in the mouth for, but the Hummer H3 isn't one of them.