Hummer gets a performance badge. That's right--the vehicle synonymous with heavy-duty capability (not to mention tremendous weight) will get an option package, making it the premiere power performer of the line. Starting with the H1, Hummer will offer the Alpha version for 2006. Specifically, Hummer is swapping out the well-worn 6.5-liter TD Detroit Diesel that's been under the hood since the commercial (non-military) H1 came out in 1992 and in its place will be the Isuzu Duramax 6600 V-8 turbodiesel, with 300 horsepower (almost 50 percent more than the 6.5-liter) and 520 pound-feet of torque (almost 20 percent more pulling force). All new civilian H1s sold will be designated 2006 H1 Alpha models, offered in open-top pickup or hardtop wagon configurations.

The Alpha designation means the H1 will get the more powerful and more fuel-efficient Duramax, the heavy-duty Allison 1000 transmission, bigger brakes (from 10.7 to 12 inches), stronger half-shafts, a bigger steering gear, and helically cut hub gear sets to reduce noise, improve strength, and ease that unique rocking motion at stops. Many of these changes were necessary because of the power increase. In addition, because of the heavier-duty five-speed automatic (with a lower first gear), the H1 will have a better crawl ratio in low range, increasing the H1 Alpha's slow-speed rockcrawling ability by 22 percent. Likewise, the added strength of the engine, transmission, and braking gives the H1 Alpha a GCWR (gross combined weight rating) about 2000 pounds greater than the previous version, most of which results in an increased towing capacity. Finally, because of the new powertrain, fuel-system upgrades could be made that allow for an increase of 9.5 gallons of additional capacity between the two on-board tanks. That, combined with the significantly increased fuel economy of the Duramax, gives the H1 Alpha a 570-mile range between fillups (previously 400 miles).

Comparing the exterior design of the 2004 H1 and 2006 H1 Alpha (technically, there is no 2005 model), you'll notice the body of the H1 Alpha looks slightly taller. To fit the bigger motor and transmission, two-inch body mounts have been retrofitted to the H1 to provide enough clearance. And, although much of the 2006 H1 change is under the skin, there'll be several Alpha badges strategically located on the body, a few new wheel options, and a redesigned brushguard to tip off Hummer aficionados. But don't look for any discount sales on the H1 Alpha: They'll still be priced above $100,000 when they get to showrooms in April 2005.