Saturday, January 05, 2008

Hummer H3

We spent a week in Los Angeles, visiting Disneyland and my brother Steve. The trip was mostly good, with a couple glitches.

Glitch #1 was shortly after our arrival at LAX at the Budget Car Rental place. I had reserved a large SUV, like a Ford Expedition. With four of us and three in my brother's family, it seemed about right. Strangely they didn't have any large SUVs when we arrived. Yes, I do remember the Seinfeld episode: "You know how to take the reservation ... you just don't know how to hold the reservation."

First they offered us a Mustang convertible. I was okay with that, but our luggage didn't fit in the tiny trunk. We really only needed to fit in two medium suitcases, and they didn't fit.

So the agent looks around and says, "How about that white one?" I look over and she's pointing to a Hummer H3. Um, okay.

This was apparently a big deal, as the daily rental on a Hummer H3 is roughly double the cost of a large SUV, and they gave it to us at the same price. That pricing doesn't really make sense since the H3 is less expensive than an Expedition, but that's for another day.

The Hummer H3 was an experience. It looks distinctive. The picture below is pretty much what ours looked like:

It also attracted attention. A couple people even asked me about it.

But overall the experience was not that great. I would never buy a Hummer, knowing what I know now. For one thing, despite the fairly large exterior size, it was not that big inside. It did seem big, but not in a practical way. You can seat five people, though the three in the back can't be too big. We fit three kids (including my nephew) and it was a little tight. There is a decent amount of luggage room in the back cargo area. Our luggage fit easily with plenty more room. My wife just got a Mazda CX-9. It costs about the same but seats seven. My wife sat in the middle row last night with our two kids and there was clearly more room in that row than there was in the H3, plus there's a third row we didn't need to use. With the third row up there's decent cargo room and with it down it's huge.

Ergonomics on the H3 were poor. The best example is the power window switches. They're on the driver's left armrest, but nowhere near the driver's fingertips. They're almost at the elbow. I had to move my arm into an unnatural and uncomfortable position to open and close the windows.

Visibility is horrendous. The windows are small, but the real problem was the "A pillars" - the columns of metal between the windshield and the passenger windows. At one point I almost hit a pedestrian who ran across the street without looking. I didn't see him. Fortunately my wife saw him and warned me. Thanks Honey!

Driving was mostly okay, but not great. The biggest flaw was wind noise at highways speeds. It starts making significant noise at 70 mph, and got really loud when I got up to 80. I decided to drive slower. It also feels wide and that took some getting used to. On the bright side, it was remarkably easy to parallel park. It also seems to ride very high, higher than the other SUVs on the road.

We used one tank of gas on the trip and I didn't notice the mileage, but we didn't go very far.