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New Car/Review

1997 General Hummer

by John Heilig


SEE ALSO: Hummer Buyer's Guide


ENGINE: 6.5-liter turbocharged diesel
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 170 hp @ 3,400 rpm/290 lb ft @ 1,700 rpm
TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 130.0 in.
OVERALL HEIGHT: 75.0 in. in.
OVERALL WIDTH: 86.5 in. in.
CURB WEIGHT: 6,400 lbs
TIRES: 37x12.5 R16.5 LT Goodyear Wranglers
INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature, oil pressure, battery voltage, tire pressure gauge, analog clock.
EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with cassette, run flat tire system.

Few vehicles on the road are as well known or as recognizable as the AM General Hummer. This is a vehicle that is impressive from any angle. It drives high off the ground. It is wide. It has a low profile despite its ride height. It has enormous tires. Through its reputation in the Gulf War it has the capability of going off-road on any surface.

And yet it's a curiously strange vehicle.

In the week we had the car I can't that I enjoyed one minute of driving the Hummer. Except for perhaps the one time when I was going down the highway and encountered a tree branch that a truck in front of me had lost. At first I panicked, thinking I would mess up the car I was driving. Then I remembered I was in the Hummer and drove right over the branch with no damage to the Hummer or the branch.

Despite its size, the Hummer seats only four in individual bucket seats that my wife said reminder her of the center seat in an airplane. You have the same claustrophobic feeling, with the dash close in front of you in the front seats and in the rear with the front seat passenger's seat intruding on your space.

Between the right- and left-hand passenger seats, front or back, is approximately three feet of space that covers the drive train. In order to achieve the high ground clearance of the Hummer the drive train is lifted up into the passenger compartment. It's well covered and doesn't present any major problems except that the front passenger is in a different zip code from the drive and the right rear passenger is in a different area code. The rear space is wide and flat and is ideal for carrying pizza boxes.

However, if all these passengers have annoying habits, there are dual cigarette lighters for the front passengers and dual ash trays, as well as dual cup holders. In the rear there are heating and cooling outlets for the passengers back there.

For entertainment, there is an excellent Clarion sound system that is almost good enough to overcome the noise of the diesel engine. We had the volume cranked up as loud as was possible. since I don't listen to loud music, that was a challenge.

The 6.5-liter turbo diesel engine that powers the Hummer gives it enough street-and roadability to get it on the Interstates. Comfortable top speed is in the neighborhood of 60-65 mph. I wouldn't want to go much faster than that, because of the engine noise and the noise of the canvas top rattling in the wind.

One would expect that if you're going to spend $75,000 for a vehicle you should get a lot of accessories. The Hummer is well equipped. There's an extra instrument to monitor tire pressure front and rear and a switch that allows you to either reduce or increase tire pressure. You can never get a flat with the Hummer, and you can deflate the tires to give better traction on sand, for example.

The engine drives all four wheels through a four-speed automatic gearbox. Next to the gear shifter is the transfer case for four wheel drive, and next to that is the hand brake. The Hummer also has power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, dual fuel tanks, and a host of other goodies. The exterior temperature the week we had the Hummer was in the 90s, and with the canvas top it was difficult to keep the temperature down.

On the road, the Hummer handles surprisingly easily. There is an excellent power steering system and a relatively tight turning circle radius. We were able to drive winding roads and enjoy doing it. In addition, we spent a lot of time on Interstates and the Hummer did that job well, too.

I can't really say I liked the Hummer. For the amount of money you pay for this vehicle, you do get a vehicle that can handle just about any off-road experience. But for the rare times that you'd be using the full capabilities of the Hummer, you can buy four Jeep Wranglers and get 98 percent of the capabilities, maybe more. And, you'll be able to talk to the other passengers in the car.