The Hummer H3 is perhaps more infamous than famous, mirroring the celebrity overkill that has made Los Angeles personalities so intriguing to so many -- and I'll be honest, it kinda makes you feel like Mr Hollywood when you drive it.
You sit up high, very high, and there's nothing but squared off edges and hard angles as far as the eye can see. It's about as aesthetically pleasing as a bag of smashed crabs, but it still attracts attention like few other vehicles on the road.
Impressing your peers with your chosen mode of transport is one thing, but how does the Hummer H3 drive on and off Australian roads?
Is it worth the money, or it is just a shiny vehicular trinket? Let's take a closer look:
Model: H3 (Luxury)
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Engine: 3.7-litre, Inline 5-cylinder, petrol.
Safety: 6 airbags (driver/front passenger (x2), and front-rear curtain airbags (x2)), ABS, ESP, 4WD
The motivation for purchasing a Hummer H3, to some degree, is almost always going to be based on emotion. It's big, it's iconic, and it has a certain image that says more about the driver that most cars.
It may have a number of failings, but it sure makes you feel good when you drive it, seeing all the people below you, cowering in fear.
You could buy a Toyota Camry or Mazda3 and most people would think you were a pretty normal, well-adjusted person.
Buy a Hummer H3 and people will judge you like an off-key singer on Australian Idol.
They'll either think you're an attention-seeking off-road enthusiast or someone with a very large garage and a passion for rectangular shapes.
If you're not so lucky, people will think you're an idiot with more money than style (especially if you kit it out with 22-inch wheels, matching underbody neon lights and customised license plates that read 'UWISH').
I encountered the latter sentiment more than once during this week long test with a completely stock Hummer H3. I was on the receiving end of more attention/comments/stares than almost any other car I've ever tested.
Regarding the 'money spent - attention gained' ratio, the Hummer H3 is king. Some drivers want to express themselves with an outgoing car, and beginning at $51,990 the Hummer H3 gets more attention than a Porsche 911.
But as I was saying, it's not always happy attention. I was told by one bloke to "get my American smog machine off the road".
The interesting tales - both positive and negative - would fill up this entire article. Suffice it to say the Hummer H3 is a head-turner of explosive proportions.
The bulging wheel arches and huge tyres give it a powerful road presence, and the iconic grille festooned with chrome clearly identifies the car from at least five hundred paces.
When one of these rolls up behind you it's hard to ignore it.
Hummer's designers kept the militaristic style from the US Army's Humvee intact: it's all angles and aggressive lines and while I can appreciate the vehicle's aesthetic and acknowledge its impact, I think there's better looking SUVs out there.
Providing the vehicle with extra ruggedness is the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate and the black bonnet vents, though the latter is purely eye candy. It's a plastic ornament with no vents to cool the engine or any other function.
The sense of security you get driving the Hummer H3 is palpable. Size counts for a lot here. It's big and tough and makes you feel secure - both physically and emotionally.
The driving position is actually quite good, the seats are comfy and you ride very high which gives you a good view of your surroundings, which is most likely to be traffic.
On the downside, you really have to clamber up into it which is either a) an adventure that adds to the occasion or b) impractical and troublesome. Pregnant women, people with arthritis, and those with prosthetic limbs will curse this vehicle.
After a few days of cruising around in the Hummer, a couple of things stand out. It's actually a pretty nifty vehicle around town, but the interior left me feeling somewhat cramped.
The 3.7-litre 5-cylinder petrol engine provides surprisingly good pull. For something that weighs 2268kg, the 180kW of power provides good poke.
I'm considering starting an inline 5-cylinder appreciation club, as all my experiences with these unique engine types have been nothing but positive. Granted, it's no performance SUV but it does get up and go when you ask it to and the 4-speed auto slush box copes fairly well with rapid throttle inputs.
Even better were the disc brakes, which dealt with the odious task of decelerating the H3's considerable mass with assured composure.
On top of the impressive motivation, the Hummer H3 isn't too bad when driven through the peak hour chaos of Melbourne's CBD. The spongy off-road suspension delivers a very smooth and relaxed ride and it's not as ungainly nor as large as a lot of Australian favourites like the Toyota Landcruiser and Nissan Patrol.
That said, parking the Hummer is not pleasurable thanks to appalling rearward vision (anything below 1.5 metres tall is obscured) and it's large size, and heading down to the local shopping centre to find a park involved mounting multiple kerbs.
Navigating traffic is effortless, parking is not.
The steering has high levels of power assistance and is so light that turning vehicle via the chunky steering wheel requires only the lightest of touches. Normally this would be no good, but in the Hummer's case it makes controlling the vehicle much easier and is more forgiving to drive.
Interestingly, most modern cars have two or more steering wheel stalks for indicators, windscreen wipers and cruise controls. Curiously, the Hummer H3 has just the one, not unlike the 1977 Pontiac Trans Am.
Highway cruising is pretty relaxed. The cruise control is fiddly but it works.
It has combined-cycle fuel consumption figures of 14.5L/100km, which isn't the worst in class but neither is it terribly eco friendly. Even with a massive 87 litre fuel tank the Hummer H3 chews through petrol.
It also doesn't like roundabouts. Even at low speeds the H3's tyres squeal through roundabouts, the bodyroll is extreme and the general experience can be heart-poundingly intense.
In a straight line and through low speed corners it's quiet and comfortable, but try to wrestle it through a corner with haste and you'll soon be scalded by physics 101.
I found the Hummer H3 to be a good car for the Australia summer because the narrow, upright windows permit very little light into the cabin during the hottest time of the day and the tinting is also heavy.
On the flip side it can feel a little claustrophobic sitting in the Hummer. This is because the roof is quite low. Or the floor is rather high.
Whichever way you qualify it, the Hummer H3's interior is vertically challenged and this is unacceptable in a modern day car. People are getting taller, and we need more room - simple as that.
It's not so bad up front - the seats are very comfy - but this lack of vertical space becomes a problem in the rear.
As well as a shallow boot, albeit with an extensive 835 litres of space, the rear seats are a let down.
Rear seat room is good for kids and so-so for adults. Though leg room itself is not a problem, I discovered that my knees were acutely bent and rose above my hips when sitting on the rear bench.
The interior vertical space is well below average and the rear seats have been mounted low to create an impression of ample head room, but all it succeeds in doing is making the floor feel too high.
Fit and finish in the Hummer isn't too bad and the image of ruggedness that begins with the exterior design and those monster 265/75 R16 tyres continues inside the cabin.
Some of the plastics are a bit cheap on the dashboard, but overall it's not a bad look for $60k with finer touches like the HVAC controls' rubberised finish adding a tactile aspect. The entry level manual model Hummer H3 for under $52k would be the pick of the bunch however.
The leather seats in the Hummer H3 Luxury model are nice and cushy, and the South African-built SUV has one of the best stereo systems I've experienced since the Audi S8's symphonic Bang and Olufsen audio system shattered my eardrums.
I also like the smaller touches such as the automatic unlocking of the doors when you come to a stop and shift the gear selector to 'P', and the tiny little digital display in the top corner of the rear-vision mirror that has outside temperature and heading (compass) read outs.
Not so nice is the trip computer. It's got an odometer and a short trip meter and that's it. Fuel consumption data would have been nice...
There's also lots of buttons and options on the centre console which give it a swish look, but generally add to the confusion when all you want to do is turn the air-conditioning down or listen to a different CD.
While the Hummer H3 has proven to be well-behaved on the road and good at fjording the seas of traffic, it's true calling is off the road.
Ground clearance is pretty good at 216mm, and with approach and departure angles of 37.5° and 35.5° respectively, it can work its way up and down very sheer inclines and declines.
The engine may not be as torquey as a diesel mill, but the 328Nm of torque can be felt from low revs and does a good job of keeping the car moving off-road, particularly when driving through bush trails that have seen recent rain, creating muddy surfaces.
Though we didn't get the Hummer as filthy-dirty as we were hoping, we did find it very capable, even the automatic version. The leaf suspension is good on rough bush tracks allows for a good amount of wheel articulation, and there's also a few different 4x4 modes: standard 4x4; 4x4 Lock; 4x4 Lock Low.
With an aftermarket suspension system to add increased ride height and some heavy duty tyres, the Hummer H3 would be a very formidable off-roader. If you do plan on getting one of these American behemoths, do yourself a favour and get it dirty. You'll have a lot of fun.