The interior really separates the newest Hummer from the larger models, both in terms of aesthetics and the driving experience. Our test H3 was optioned with the Luxury Package ($3,125), which includes heated and power-adjustable leather front seats; leather rear seats; an MP3-capable, in-dash six-CD changer with a seven-speaker Monsoon system; and special floor mats with piping that matches the seats. Combined with the imitation metallic faces surrounding the gauges and center-console controls, the use of leather on the seats, the meaty steering wheel, and the gear selector imparts a civility to the interior.
Major controls are simple and well laid out; however, part of the simplicity is due to the Hummer's relative lack of available interior gadgetry. HomeLink garage-remote programmability is part of the Luxury Package, and our vehicle was optioned with XM satellite radio ($325 including a three-month subscription), but further tech additions from the factory are limited. A DVD navigation system is available, but it doesn't come with a display screen, which is something most of its competitors offer with their setups. Given the attention required to pilot even a midsize Hummer and its ability to take itself well off the beaten path, we consider a GPS system with a display screen a key accessory. Three extra 12-volt power outlets--two on the dash, one in the cargo area--are usefully placed. Alas, the same can't be said for the seat controls, which require forcing your arm down between the seat cushion and the protruding door armrest.
A display screen could also be used for a rearview camera, as even with outsize side mirrors, seeing what's behind the H3 is largely guesswork. For such a tall vehicle, overall outward visibility is compromised in all directions. The short greenhouse is to blame, not helped by the outside spare wheel's spot in the rearward field of vision. In fairness, there aren't many places to mount a spare tire that's 33 inches tall.
Headroom inside is generous, and five adults fit comfortably, although the rear bench seems low relative to the floor. Finding a comfortable driving position is aided by a tilt wheel, but the lack of a dead pedal makes the left foot hunt for a rest spot (while the parking brake pedal acquaints itself with your shin). Once underway, the H3 drives reasonably nimbly--its turning circle is in line with other midsize SUV offerings, at 37 feet--but you never forget you're driving a 4,700-pound truck with all of 220 horsepower to drag it around.
Some carlike niceties have been incorporated into the 2006 Hummer H3 to make it a volume seller, but predictably, unibody construction is not one of them. As with the Chevy and GMC pickups that share its assembly line, the H3's body is attached to a ladder frame, and the three trucks also share GM's 3.5-liter, in-line five-cylinder engine. This power plant is overtaxed in this application, which is a shortcoming that Hummer should address in future iterations. Forced air induction via turbocharging seems the likely route for a power boost, since the chassis would evidently require substantial modification to accommodate a larger motor. Acceleration from rest is leisurely, helped only by all 225 pound-feet of the engine's torque being available at 2,800rpm.