Known as the “Humvees,” these rugged utility vehicles feature independent suspension, all-wheel drive, lengthy wheelbases, and hulking V8 diesel engines. Humvees could overcome incredibly steep inclines, climb over jagged surfaces, and even wade through deep waters, making them the perfect solution for the Army's transportation needs. After being deployed in the Gulf War, the Humvee went from a durable yet agile SUV concept to a full-blown symbol of patriotism.
Having such an enamored presence on the battlefield meant that it was only a matter of time before civilians wanted to drive Humvees on public roads as well. While AM General considered building a road-going version for quite some time, it wasn't until 1992 when it brought that idea to fruition. The one responsible for pushing the company into turning its military behemoths into civilian SUVs was a Hollywood legend whose stature was equally as enormous.
Yes, we're talking about none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger – a celebrated actor and the first civilian to own a Humvee. As a former soldier who served under the Austrian Army, Schwarzenegger couldn't help but admire Humvees, constantly clamoring for a commercial variant until AM General finally debuted the Hummer H1. This once utilitarian military truck later transformed into an icon of extravagance and ostentation for a good reason.
Utilizing a Central Tire Inflation System (CTIS), the Hummer H1 can adapt to various road conditions by inflating or deflating its tires. General Motors provided most of the Hummer H1's engine choices, from a 6.2-liter eight-cylinder diesel engine to the 300-horsepower 6.6-liter Duramax V8s.
Such power output gave the original Hummer the resilience to reach speeds of 50 mph (80 kph), which wasn't bad for a vehicle weighing over 8,000 lbs (3,629 kilograms). Bearing an almost $100,000 price tag in today's money meant that the Hummer H1 was anything but cheap. From 1992 to 2006, Hummer H1s had a lengthy production run of almost 15 years, with the final model year introducing the “Alpha” trim, featuring sturdier materials, more power, and better fuel economy.
The first Hummers ever sold went to Mr. Schwarzenegger, who loved the model so much he converted one into a hydrogen-powered H1 just so he could continue driving it without feeling guilty. That said, the H1 was easily the most impractical car in Hummer history based on its size and pricing alone, but not for long.
This made achieving speeds of up to 65 mph (105 kph) more effortless. At around $50,000, the Hummer H2 price tag was lower, yet it still offered better luxury features than the H1, which retailed for twice as much. Other creature comforts include memory seats with lumbar support, a navigation system, electronic air suspension, and a sunroof. Production of the Hummer H2 ran from 2002 to 2009 – considerably shorter than its predecessor. Despite improving on the original Hummer in almost every aspect, GMC's new SUV was still unnecessarily superfluous. Its notorious gas-guzzling tendencies had to contend with rising gas prices, global crises, and even protesters. It was time for the Hummer to downsize yet again.
The third generation carried this downsizing motif to the Hummer H3's engine options. The lineup now includes smaller-displacement 3.5-liter five-cylinder units producing 240-plus horsepower. At its highest Alpha trim, the H3 was given a 300-horsepower V8 that still paled in comparison to its predecessors.
Of course, improving practicality was the whole point of this generation, with the H3 MPG figures being relatively better than previous models. All this dieting led to the Hummer H3 prices being reduced as well: the base model starts at about $30,000, while its topmost variant costs under $50,000 – still cheaper than the regular H2. On the inside, GM's interior tech amenities were still present, including a new reverse camera option. Unfortunately, H3s were only produced from 2005 to 2010, with its five-year production run being the shortest in Hummer history.
Being caught in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis didn't help the H3's sales, either. GM tried selling the Hummer name but to no avail. Add GM's bankruptcy into the mix, not to mention angry environmentalists constantly lambasting the brand's wasteful reputation; it didn't take long before the company decided to pull the plug on Hummers altogether.
The electric Hummer also packs the most power; its three electric motors have a combined power output ranging from the standard 830 horsepower all the way to 1,000. All that juice helps launch this land titan to over 110 mph (177 kph), with a 0 to 60 mph time that's actually worth mentioning – a brisk 3.5 seconds. Other new features include an Extract Mode for towering over obstacles, Crabwalk for maneuvering sideways, and Ultravision for superior visibility.
The result? A Hummer that outdoes its gas-guzzling brethren by becoming the biggest, meanest and greenest model in the lineup's history. It went from a brash soldier that simply got things done no matter the cost to an environment-conscious SuperSUV that did things more efficiently using more brains than brawn. The evolution of GM's proudly patriotic nameplate shows that one can have their cake and eat it, or in this case, be better at everything without being too loud and obnoxious about it.