2006 HUMMER H1 Expert Review:Autoblog
If someone asked you if you'd like to spend a week in something that was as wide as a house, cost as much as a house and could pull said house off of its foundation with 520 lb-ft of torque, what would you say? We said "hell, yeah!" and so begins a weeklong invasion of the suburbs.
Wide. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hoist yourself up into the H1. The height isn’t too horrible, but you will trip over the tall doorsill. Running boards on this monster would defeat all that ground clearance. There are only four seats, but the truck is wide enough to seat five across comfortably. Your passenger is at least three feet away from you, assuring no trips to the local “make out point”.
Hummer will be using the Alpha badge to designate the “more capable” version of each model. Notice I didn’t say higher performance, even though each model should boost horsepower, but capability. It’s all about the off-road abilities.
The H1 Alpha mates the most capable factory-built off-road vehicle with one of the best diesel/ automatic transmission combinations available. The 6.6-liter Duramax TurboDiesel gives more cruising and pulling/climbing power for the H1 and is a natural for this kind of application. The Allison 5-speed automatic helps get all that power to the massive tires.
Inside the H1 Alpha adds four really nice earthy two-tone leather bucket seats and all the power accoutrements needed to try to keep the driver and passengers happy. At least you won’t be rubbing elbows with anyone sitting next to you.
The H1 Alpha wagon in Darth Vader metallic black adds an ominous touch to an already intimidating vehicle. Some dimensions to put this vehicle in perspective; It’s as tall as a 4x4 Chevy Tahoe, about 4 inches shorter than the Equinox (thanks to non-existing front and rear overhangs that improve approach and departure angles for rock climbing) and almost 7 inches wider than a Suburban. After about 15 miles you learn to accommodate the extra width and the outboard seating position.
When you’re cruising in the H1, prepare to be stared at. You become a rolling show. People point and either say what a cool truck or what a wasteful son-of-a-b that guy is. Either way, the big bad Hummer gets noticed.
This Alpha is topped off with the Off Road Adventure Pack that adds a 12,000-pound Warn Winch, sharp two-piece forged aluminum wheels with dual beadlock and Eaton Elocker front and rear differentials. Added to that package were 37x12.5R17 “E” Goodyear Wrangler tires with Durawall puncture protection to run the sticker price up to $146,622. Gulp! I brought the owner’s manual inside with me so I can read up on all the off-road goodies that this truck has to offer which I’ll cover an another day. Like nothing else, indeed.
Many questions from yesterdays post concerned the interior, so I'll focus on this cavernous space today. Due to the military heritage and the pure off-road nature of this vehicle all the mechanicals are nestled into a tunnel that runs down the middle of the truck, sacrificing any personal space for function.
The initial reaction when getting in the H1 Alpha, especially the wagon, is “look at this space!” Once you’re in the reaction changes to “where’d all that space go?” You will never feel claustrophobic, the open space between you and our closest passenger will assure that will never happen, but your not going to spread out either. The front passenger may complain the most, since the foot well is aching for some more space. And yes I know it looks like I dressed for the part of a Hummer driver with the cammos, but I assure you, that’s my normal windy, cold NJ morning pants.
Materials used in the Alpha are much improved over past versions (updated in 2004). The two-tone aniline leather seats are made of very soft, pleasing leather. The steering wheel is also easy to maneuver and comfortable in your hands; it has to be because with these tires, you have to concentrate to assure the Hummer stays in the lane you want it to (we’ll get into driving dynamics on a later day).
You won’t mistake the dashboard for one out of a luxury car, but it is now covered in a soft-touch material that makes its expanse not stand out as an eyesore. The gauge surrounds could be made out of a better material than metallic painted plastic. Real brushed metal would suit the look of a $150,000 truck just fine. There are no airbags of any kind as the H1 transcends passenger vehicle rules thanks to its weight.
The Monsoon stereo system helps drown out the Durmax engine noise, though the diesel sounds intruding into the cabin is not as intolerable as I thought it would be. There are six roof-mounted speakers aimed right at the rider’s heads to ensure everyone gets a piece of the action. The two rear seat passengers can use headphones to pick a different setting on the audio system to listen to while those in front listen to what they want (same panel as in the Suburban/Tahoe).
Controls and switches are spread across the expansive driver-oriented “command center”. Don’t expect to know what any of the buttons do on first glance. Even the pictograms that are printed on them are confusing. A gaggle of them are on the transmission hump that control all the power windows and door locks, including the rear wagon doors.
Out back, there is plenty of room for gear (and a multitude of Hummer accessories that make even better use of the space). Tie downs are all over the place to secure equipment, since most H1 owners should be using the truck for camping, hiking or general traversing of the world.
There are storage pockets on the seatbacks, door panels, under the seats, behind the sunvisors and on the wall that separates the passenger compartment from the cargo area. For the little time I have been in the H1 so far, the interior is suitable enough to remind you of the awesome vehicle underneath if only to point out that the money was really spent on the mechanicals, not the luxuries.
The past three days I've been rocking the suburbs, treating the H1 like a family-mobile, and kids just love it. I picked up a friends daughter from gymnastics (made the father in the Avalanche feel a little insecure), went to the bank (didn't even try the drive-thru), dropped off a video game rental and went to the local "bulk" store where I came upon a vehicle much bigger than the H1, that behemoth motor home.
So can the Hummer H1 exist in captivity like other normal cars? Yes and no - according on the driver. From that picture above of the truck in the parking lot, you can see it really had no problem fitting in a space. It’s not the length or height you need to concern yourself with, it’s the girth. After a day, I really became comfortable with the H1.
The steering at low speeds is precise and makes what appears to be an unmanageable vehicle pretty easy to navigate. At higher speeds, the tires (which do make a bit of noise) allow the truck to wander if your not paying attention to what you’re doing. Super large mirrors with convex inserts help you gauge how close the curbs are and if there is any low cars in your blind spots.
In the wagon, visibility is good. Sometimes I find because you sit so close to the doors, the B-pillar can obstruct the view behind at certain angles. The driver’s position is comfortable and I have nothing but praise for the Monsoon stereo system, which mounts the subwoofer under the driver’s side passenger seat.
The biggest surprise is the Duramax Diesel/Allison transmission combination, which has made piloting the truck easier than expected. While the 0-60 posted on Hummer.com is a killer 13.5 seconds, all 520 lb-ft of torque are available at 1600 rpm which makes this truck feel like it’s moving deceptively quicker than it is. The Allison is geared to stay in first if you’re not pressing hard on the pedal to help with climbing and crawling off-road, but it is noticeable in traffic (which I was in on Saturday) keeping the truck in first though out the whole stop-and-go tango. And the five speeds keep the truck’s power on tap when you need it.
As an aside, you need to take a class to open the hood. Two large straps on each side need to be un-latched. Two pins need to be pulled on the push bar and that needs to be swung down. Then the hood lock gets pulled from under the dash. At that point, you then pull up the hood (which takes quite a bit of force) and wait for the prop-rod to catch. Interesting.
The H1 Alpha wagon has plenty of storage in the back, swallowing anything a normal shopping trip could throw at it. I know it sounds silly to talk about the H1 this way, but I see enough on the roads to know that traversing trails isn’t the only chore these trucks are made to handle.
Have I gotten used to driving the H1 around town as my everyday vehicle? Yes, but they are trips that you need to be thinking about. This is an 8,000 pound vehicle that needs time to get up to speed, time to stop and some thought needs to go into your next step, turn or parking space. Controlling something like this should not be done by a passive driver that wants to drink coffee, talk on the phone and discipline the kids but by someone who would take the responsibility of such a machine. I wouldn’t want to do it for 52 weeks out of the year.
Tomorrow we’ll talk about what this truck was really made for: taking over small countries, I mean, off-road capabilities.
So what does the H1 Alpha offer to those that love to tackle the great outdoors? The real question is what doesn't it have and what does it take to stop the beast. The biggest problem for those like me that don't live in the outback or on a million-acre estate is trying to find a trail wide enough to swallow the H1. I took the truck on some dirt trails just to get an idea of the ride off the pavement.
The Central Tire Inflation System (CTIS) is one of the more unique systems on the H1. An air compressor lives under the hood that can inflate and deflate the front and rear tires to change the pressure based on the terrain and climate conditions. The air compressor can also be used with an extra air hose to inflate other items like bike tires or air mattresses. There is a pressure gauge on the dashboard and two switches to choose inflate/deflate and front/rear tires.
The H1 spends a lot of weight protecting itself from rocks and debris. The rocker panels have shields to absorb impacts. The brushguard is a massive structure to help keep foliage from damaging the front and also helps with keeping tabs of the right front corner of the vehicle when driving.
The undercarriage is completely protected from all you can throw at it. Skid plates, axel shields and fuel tank shields help keep the front and rear covered while a ladder-like frame keeps the engine and transmission free of damage. The H1 Alpha has a massive 16 inches of ground clearance and has a very tall 72 degree approach angle.
Thanks to a sealed central venting system, the H1 can ford 2-½ feet of water. The massive grapefruit sized exhaust pipe is located high and at a completely downward angle to stop water from getting in and the air is taken in through a snorkel above the hood.
Running out of gas may turn out to be a difficult thing. The H1 has two gas tanks, a 28.5-gallon main tank and a 24-gallon auxiliary tank. Which tank you are using can be toggled with a switch on the dash. Hummer says the new Duramax engine can power the H1 600 miles between fill ups. What’s that, like 12 mpg?
Suspension is a heavy-duty 4 wheel independent setup with double “A” frames. The springs on this truck make the ones used on a regular truck like it just came out of a disposable pen. The 4WD system is full-time and uses TorqTrac 4 traction control system. TT4 activates when it senses wheel spin (as long as the brake is not depressed) and will apply the brakes to distribute more torque to the tires that have grip.
ELocker electronic locking differentials are also an option for the H1 Alpha and allow the driver just to flip a switch on the dash to lock and unlock the front or rear differentials to help get more traction.
Once again, the Allison transmission proved its worth driving at low speeds off-road by keeping the truck in first gear. The H1 Alpha wagon has a 9,036 lb towing limit and the tow/haul mode can be used to improve shifting while towing anything that heavy. The transmission also has its own temperature and oil pressure gauge on the dashboard so the driver can always be sure to keep tabs on it.
The H1 has some other impressive climbing attributes: It can scale a 60% slope, a 40% side slope and climb a 22 inch vertical wall. Parking curbs have nothing on that. The capabilities of the Hummer H1 Alpha are no surprise and it still proves to be an awesome vehicle to drive when you remind yourself of the strength and technology underneath you.???gŸ%??ssion also has its own temperature and oil pressure gauge on the dashboard so the driver can always be sure to keep tabs on it.
the h1 has some other impressive climbing attributes: it can scale a 60% slope, a 40% side slope and climb a 22 inch vertical wall. parking curbs have nothing on that. the capabilities of the hummer h1 alpha are no surprise and it still proves to be an awesome vehicle to drive when you remind yourself of the strength and technology underneath you.
The behemoth is leaving but I was really glad I was able to spend some time in it. As of right now the Hummer H1 Alpha is the only way to purchase a H1. The old diesel and 4-speed automatic are now things of the past. This also means the price of entry to get into a 2006 H1 has jumped to $129,389 for the open top and $139,771 for the Metallic Black wagon that I drove.
Officially there was no 2005 H1. The 2004 model year carried over into 2005 until the 2006 Alpha dropped into dealerships. I’m not sure if Hummer plans on making a non-Alpha H1 available for sale but as of right now, this is it. Not like I’m complaining about what the Alpha has done for the H1 line. For those that were familiar with the 2004 H1 capabilities here’s a look at what the new powertrain has really improved for 2006.
I talked about the greater power of the excellent DuraMax Diesel engine with 46% more horsepower (300) and 18% more torque (520 lb-ft). This helps to improve the Alpha’s 0-60 times to 13.5 seconds. It seems like a really long time, but the truck doesn’t give you that helpless feeling when pulling out into traffic. You have to look for a bigger hole when you merge, but it’s not like they can’t see you.
The Allison 5-speed transmission makes the upgrade worthwhile. The lower gears, thanks to one extra, keeps the truck at its best power range when driving slow and climbing. It has increased the H1’s crawl ratio 25% to 41.5:1. The engine and transmission combination help increase the H1 Alpha’s driving range to around 600 miles and the towing weight goes up 18%. The tow/haul mode in the Allison also helps with any towing duties.
Another word on climbing: If you missed the comments on yesterday’s post, Tom L asked a very logical question, “How does the Hummer climb a 22 inch vertical wall with 16 inches of ground clearance?” Thanks to a prior H1 owner Dustin Tarditi with the answer showing the Hummer was built for function. “There is a bevel in the leading edge in front of the rear wheel specifically for this… you approach the obstacle at a 45 degree angle - there is some technique to it, but seeing it perform this “parlor trick” first-hand is pretty cool.” I thank Dustin and those at www.humvee.net.
The Alpha also benefits from larger brake rotors, 12 inch all around, to help stop the 8,100-pound truck. That pretty much sums up the Alpha changes. Of course all interior changes that the 2004 H1 received carries over in the Alpha. You can read more about the interior on Day 2.
Your only factory options include the Off Road Adventure Pack that adds a 12,000 Warn winch, the ELocker front and rear differentials and 17-inch aluminum 2 piece wheels. You can choose to upgrade the tires to a very tough 37x12.5R17 “E” Goodyear Wrangler tires with Durawall puncture protection. Of course there are plenty of accessories available from Hummer that makes storage and towing even easier.
At the end of the week I was completely surprised how quickly this low and fast musclecar driver became comfortable driving this truck. Without getting onto the soapbox, the Hummer H1 Alpha coexisted well with the rest of the automotive landscape as long as the driver takes the responsibility in piloting the truck. One warning for anyone contemplating a possible H1 purchase; be prepared to be gawked at, to give people rides and to take pictures of them in front of your truck. Happy trails H1 Alpha.
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