What is it about this lumbering hunk, this noisy and uncomfortable conveyance, that would cause almost 900 people to spend well north of $100,000 to own one?
Well, capabilities might be one answer. The Hummer is, after all, the civilian version of the military Humvee. So if you need to negotiate the boondocks to go blast somebody with a machine gun or rocket launcher over in the next county, you’d likely want one.
Or it could be, as the effete like to say, that you want to make a statement. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor who was one of the famous names to buy a Hummer right out of the box.
Last year, 875 persons bought Hummers, according to statistics compiled by Automotive News.
And you’re likely to start seeing more of them because General Motors bought the company and soon will start producing another version of the Hummer.
The current model, which is a barely disguised clone of the machines used by American soldiers and marines, will be known as the H1 Hummer.
The new model will be called the H2,and it will be based on the Chevrolet Tahoe and the GMC Yukon. So it will have stuff the H1 doesn’t have.
An air bag. The Hummer, because of its gargantuan weight of more than 3 tons, is exempt from government air bag requirements. It does have three-point seat belts.
Interval windshield wipers. There’s a bunch of identical rocker switches on the instrument panel, down below the steering wheel where you can’t see them. One works the wipers at a high or low speed, but that’s it.
A lighted indicator to tell you what gear you’ve selected with the automatic-transmission lever. A crude white line on the lever matches up with the PRNDL labels.
Sound-deadening insulation. The Hummer is powered by this great, honkin’ diesel engine that pokes halfway into the passenger area and emits a deafening clatter.
Reclining seat backs. The driver’s seat back and bottom are fused together. You can tilt the entire seat some, but there’s no rake adjustment.
A real steering wheel. The Hummer comes with this tiny, spidery steering wheel that looks as if it came off a child’s toy or a small boat. Doesn’t matter, of course, because you can run power steering off a radio knob, but it does seem incongruous nonetheless.
There are compensations, however. You can inflate or deflate the tires from two switches on the dash. If you’re getting into really sandy or swampy stuff, you let out some of the air, then pump up the tires again when you hit the pavement.
You can also go practically anywhere this giant will fit. Its powerful engine a 6.9-liter diesel with 195 horsepower and 430 foot-pounds of torque can take the all-wheel-drive Hummer through or over almost anything. But it’s more than 7 feet wide and 6 feet tall, so avoid trails designed for tiny Jeep Wranglers.
Don’t expect to do much of anything in comfort. The ride will jar your kidneys and rattle your molars.
The tester was Hummer’s version of the current rage: The four-door pickup truck. It could carry four passengers and a load of stuff out back. A heavy load, but not a big load. The cargo box is small by pickup standards and you can’t extend the bed. The tailgate just flops all the way down.
Everything about the Hummer looks like an afterthought, even the glove compartment. The interior resembles a hand-built boat. There are screw heads and rivets showing everywhere.
The base price is $91,553, which includes a dynamite “monsoon stereo,” which unfortunately you can’t hear most of the time because of the racket from the engine.
But civilians don’t like the usual inconveniences to which soldiers are subjected. So for a mere $9,593 you get such amenities as air conditioning, cruise control, heated outside power mirrors, the tire inflation system, a trailer towing package and even a lighted vanity mirror.
Leather upholstery costs another $1,874 and the test vehicle also had an electric winch ($2,688), aluminum wheels ($2,457), highway touring tires ($200) and a rear defroster ($440), for a grand total suggested delivered price of $108,805.
That’s some statement all by itself.