Full 2006 HUMMER H1 Alpha Review
What's New for 2006
The Hummer H1 receives a number of important drivetrain improvements this year. Now labeled H1 "Alpha," the truck features a new 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 good for 300 horsepower and 520 pound-feet of torque. This output is considerably better than last year's 205 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque, and GM says the new engine delivers better fuel economy, too. A new five-speed automatic transmission is also part of the package. It replaces last year's four-speed transmission and delivers a better low-speed crawl ratio and a higher maximum tow capacity. Other supporting changes to the driveline include stronger half shafts, bigger brakes and a new design for the H1's geared hubs that's said to improve smoothness during deceleration and stopping.
The H1 (the original Hummer's official name since the debut of the H2) is a civilian version of the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), or Humvee, used by the U.S. military. A.M. General, the current manufacturer of the H1, was awarded its first government contract to build the Humvee in 1983. Significant exposure to the American public during the first Gulf War convinced A.M. General that a civilian version would be a viable consumer product. It was first made available to the public in 1992 and has been sold in limited numbers continuously since then. Although certain modifications were made to qualify it for public sale, the first civilian version was pretty similar to the original military version. Since then, minor upgrades have been made to soften its image. Noticeable improvements to the interior, including redesigned consoles and new seats, came in 2004. Hummer has also sought to improve the truck's performance this year by installing a more powerful engine and a new five-speed automatic transmission.
No matter how many changes Hummer makes, however, there is no getting around the fact that this is a big, heavy truck with really bad table manners. Compared to a Lexus LX 470, for instance, the H1 comes off as hopelessly primitive, expensive and generally ineffective for normal use. Not that this is any big secret, of course. Hummer is fully aware that this is a specialty vehicle, which is why it now offers the smaller H2 and H3 SUVs. Both provide similar styling and are much more realistic vehicles for day-to-day ownership. Only when one desires a no-holds-barred off-road vehicle or a "look at me!" driveway placeholder does the H1 Alpha deliver. For these two situations, there's never any doubt that H1 Alpha is the genuine article.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The H1 Alpha is a four-passenger SUV available in two body styles: a four-door open top or a four-door wagon. Standard equipment for the one available trim level includes items like power windows, keyless entry, heated exterior mirrors, leather seats, cruise control, air conditioning and a six-CD audio system. A central tire-inflation system, which utilizes an onboard air compressor, allows the driver to adjust tire pressure via cockpit controls. Standard wheel size is 17 inches with run-flat tires; two-piece 17-inch aluminum wheels with dual bead locks are optional, as are special Goodyear Wrangler MT/R tires. There is also an Off-Road Adventure package that includes front and rear Eaton E-Locker differential locks, a 12,000-pound winch and 17-inch, two-piece wheels.
Powertrains and Performance
The Hummer H1 Alpha is equipped with a 6.6-liter, turbodiesel V8 engine. It makes 300 horsepower and 520 lb-ft of torque and sends its power to all four wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. Geared hubs, limited-slip front and rear differentials and optional electronic differential locks combine to give the H1 Alpha a high degree of slow-speed, rock-crawling ability. Properly equipped, the open-top version can tow up to 9,300 pounds.
Safety features are pretty much limited to standard antilock brakes and a tire-pressure monitoring system. There are no airbags, not even for the driver. No government agency has crash tested a Hummer, but with a curb weight of at least 7,500 pounds, the odds will typically be in the H1 Alpha's favor.
Interior Design and Special Features
Ergonomics in the passenger compartment have been improved over the years, but still lag far behind less expensive luxury SUV competitors. The seats are comfortable for smaller-framed individuals, but many folks will find the passenger space cramped at best. Getting in and out of the H1 is an exercise in, well, exercise. Large and clunky switches control various functions, and the gauges are utilitarian round units with a decidedly aftermarket look. Cargo room is less than what is typically available in a full-size SUV.
Though this year's new engine has helped to improve acceleration, the Hummer H1 Alpha still takes a leisurely 13.5 seconds to go from zero to 60. And don't expect carlike, or even trucklike, handling. The Hummer lumbers and wallows its way around town the way you might expect a military-derived vehicle would, and braking distances are long. When taken off the pavement, however, the H1 Alpha has no equal in wide-open terrain. The truck's 16-inch ground clearance, wide-clearance angles, low-geared drivetrain and meaty tires allow it to crawl over, ford through or stomp just about any obstacle that comes its way.