Downside: I drove a base, pre-production H3, which was rushed to me for review. "Pre-production" means not ready for retail. This one had an improperly connected air-conditioner hose. The defect was corrected easily, quickly.

Upside: The H3 is in position to grab the title of "Best Mid-Size SUV" sold in the United States; and "best" here means better than the BMW X3, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Xterra, Mercedes-Benz ML 350 and Toyota 4Runner in terms of overall design, capability and performance.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Acceleration is excellent. The H3 is fast and confident in highway lane changes. Handling is superior! This one aces U-turns; and it parks neatly in places where any mid-size family sedan might fit. Ride is good. But, on less-than-perfect roads, the H3 leaves no doubt that it is, indeed, a truck.

Head-turning quotient: Surprising. Even avowed SUV haters took time to eyeball this one. One of them grudgingly acknowledged that GM has a "winner" in this model.

Body style/layout: The 2006 Hummer H3 is a mid-size, front-engine, hard-top four-wheel-drive SUV with four doors and a rear hatch.

Engine/transmissions: The H3 has a standard 3.5-liter, inline five-cylinder gasoline engine that develops 220 horsepower at 5,600 revolutions per minute and 225 foot-pounds of torque at 2,800 rpm. The engine is mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission. An electronically operated four-speed manual is available. There is a two-speed, four-wheel-drive transfer case.

Cargo and fuel capacities: There are seats for five people. Cargo capacity is 29.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 55.7 cubic feet with those seats down. Maximum payload, what can be carried onboard, is 1,150 pounds. The H3 can be equipped to tow a trailer weighing 4,500 pounds. Fuel capacity is 23 gallons of recommended regular unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: I averaged 18 miles per gallon in highway travel using the H3 with automatic transmission.

Safety: Available rollover protection system with side-curtain and roof-rail air bags, traction and stability control, rigid body construction.

Price: Base price on the 2006 Hummer H3 is $28,935. Dealer invoice price on base model is $26,476. Price as tested is $32,120, including $2,620 in options and a $565 destination charge. Dealer's price with options and transportation fee is $29,295. Prices sourced from GM, and, a Washington Post affiliate.

Purse-strings note: Going off-road? The H3 is a buy.