I recently had the chance to drive a Hummer H1 Alpha. I thought this would be an amazing experience, and it was certainly amazing — though not quite in the way I imagined it.
Let me start with a little background. A few years ago, I owned a 1995 AM General Hummer, which is really just about the worst vehicle ever made. The older ones, like mine, are slow, low on equipment and traditionally pretty crappy after years of deferred maintenance with few “experts” scattered across the country left to work on them. They’re just not very good.
But they are very cool, and very capable, and so over the last few months I’ve been turning my attention back to Hummers. They look neat, with their boxy design. They can go basically anywhere. Why did I hate my Hummer so much? And should I consider getting another one? It would be sort of a more durable version of my old-school Land Rover Defender.
Interestingly, during this consideration process, I ran across a Hummer H1 Alpha for sale at CNC Motors, an exotic car dealership in Southern California where I often film my car reviews. I decided to review it, and in the process check it out to see if I wanted to get back into Hummer ownership. The answer is: I don’t.
But it’s not for the reasons you might think. My Hummer was slow, excessive, way too big, way too absurd, but the Alpha is none of these things. It’s certainly not slow, for instance: the Alpha hails from 2006, the only model year where Hummer models received the Duramax diesel V8 engine from General Motors’ trucks. The result is that this truck is not just reliable, but also tremendously quick. It’s not exactly sports car fast, but it’s shockingly quick considering that it is, in fact, a Hummer. I was blown away — and I love the idea of one of these with a Duramax, meaning basically anyone can fix it.
The Alpha is also not too excessive or absurd anymore. Yes, the one I drove was a yellow convertible model — but a gray or silver wagon would probably blend in a bit better. The main reason is that trucks and SUVs have all gotten bigger over the last decade or so, to the point where the once-massive Hummer is simply not the on-road giant it once was. It is, in fact, somewhat reasonable.
So my main issues with the Hummer have been solved — and that means I should be into it, right?
Not so right. The Hummer has other issues I had forgotten, and they’ll keep me very firmly in the “no Hummer” camp, probably forever. The biggest is undoubtedly interior space: even though the Alpha models have been given a modern engine, and an improved interior, and better technology, the interior space is still absolutely atrocious — and there’s not much you can really do about it, since the drivetrain runs down the middle of the cabin. The result is just absurdly tiny seats, especially in the back, where a grown adult will not fit. Imagine that: a grown adult can’t fit into a Hummer, one of the most egregiously huge cars on the road. But it’s true.
There are other issues, too. This truck was never designed for civilian use, and it shows — constantly. There are no airbags. No safety features at all, really. There are power windows, but they roll down into the thinnest automotive door imaginable, meaning there’s nowhere to rest your arm while you drive. The passenger is shouting distance away. There are only four factory seats — and if you mount more, they’ll impede visibility. There’s no power tailgate, power top, power anything. It’s just an old school truck that costs $200,000.
Yes, you read that number right: $200,000 is what this thing costs. You see, the Alpha models are highly desirable in the Hummer community and in the off-roading community, and they bring huge, huge, insanely huge money, because they’re the perfect combination of reliability, durability and capability — and that means their values have shot up, especially for low-mileage examples like the one I drove. You’ll never find one for under $100,000, unless it has serious problems or massive miles.
And the result is that this thing is flawed and crazy expensive — so you have to really, really want one, and know what you’re getting into. Me, I see the appeal, but I’m not interested — and I think my days of Hummer ownership are forever behind me. Find a Hummer H1 for sale
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