This one can move into the neighborhood.
It is the 2006 Hummer H3, a smaller, more fuel-economical Hummer. It stretches no longer than a mid-size family sedan or station wagon, stands no taller than the average minivan.
Yet it is every bit a Hummer. That means it can climb rocks, traverse ruts and ford 16 inches of water at 20 miles per hour, or 24 inches of water at 5 miles per hour. That means -- with standard underbody skid plates protecting its front axle, oil pan, four-wheel-drive transfer case and fuel tank -- it is built for abuse. But, mostly, it means the H3 has attitude.
Attitude aids self-definition, which is vital to success. If you don't know who you are, you're likely to be equally as ignorant about where you are. If you don't know where you are, you most likely won't know where you are going.
The Hummer H3 is a mid-size, fully capable sport-utility vehicle expressly designed for use off-road and for drives along city streets -- and that means, with a turning radius of 37 feet, it can do a U-turn as easily as it can run through the bush.
In short, despite current national concern about rising fuel prices and peak oil production, the H3 is likely to sell -- and sell well.
Hummers are automotive icons. They are loved and hated; but opposition and opprobrium seem to make Hummer owners more devoted to the brand.
More enthusiastic Hummer fans, those with bank accounts as big as their self-esteem, own models such as the large 2006 Hummer H1 Alpha, priced from $128,374 to $139,771. Others buy the Hummer H2, which shares much of the structure and many of the components of the Chevrolet Suburban SUV. H2 base prices range from $52,430 to $56,670. There also is the H2 SUT (sport-utility truck) -- a crew-cab pickup -- priced from $52,485 to $56,225.
The H1 Alpha and H2 models come with 300-plus-horsepower engines. They are heavy machines that swallow regular unleaded gasoline at the rate of about 10 miles per gallon.
The purchase and operating costs of the H1 and H2 put them out of reach of many consumers who love the rugged looks and admire the off-road capabilities of those vehicles. But the 3.5-liter, 220-horsepower, inline five-cylinder H3 -- with a base price under $30,000 and a top highway fuel-economy rating of 20 miles per gallon -- could bring more of those people into the Hummer family.
Critics see that family as dysfunctional. That is an unfair assessment. Hummer people are as gifted and flawed as any other group, as I've learned on a number of outings with them across the country. They have their bad actors -- the same people who, in terms of attitudes and actions, define themselves by stomping and tromping on others in any venue.
But most of the Hummer owners I've met are decent sorts -- entrepreneurs, professionals, public servants -- ordinary folks who happen to enjoy going off-road and who prefer pursuit of that happiness in a Hummer. They are not out to prove anything. They've already done that in their personal, work and business lives, which is why they have the money to buy a Hummer in the first place.
Initial sales indicate that the H3, made in Shreveport, La., will expand Hummer family membership. The H3 went to market in June. It has been selling at the rate of 5,000 monthly for the past two months -- and that at a time when pump prices for regular unleaded gasoline averaged $2.38 a gallon in the Washington metropolitan area and $2.64 a gallon in Los Angeles, according to gasoline-pricing figures provided by the American Automobile Association.
That means General Motors Corp., the H3's maker, is on track to sell 35,000 of those models in calendar year 2005. Things happen; and whether GM can sell 60,000 to 70,000 H3 models in a full calendar year remains to be seen.
But it's a good start for a mid-size SUV in a tough market; and from the perspective of the men and women who make and sell the H3, that's a very good thing.