Any current H1 owner knows there's always plenty of time to enjoy the scenery--highway travel taxes this SUV. The 6.5-liter turbodiesel V-8 with 205 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque just doesn't cut it for moving anywhere quickly. Now, that's changed.

The 2006 Hummer H1 Alpha makes a statement with a mix of marketing strategy and high-performance thinking with the new Alpha marque.

The Alpha badges on the new generation of Hummers (now arriving at dealerships) are the instant indicator the vehicle is the Hummer equivalent of BMW's M models, Cadillac's V-series, SS Chevrolets, and AMG Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Each is the creme-de-la-creme of performance and amenities within the brand.

All commercially sold 2006 H1s will offer a stronger motor and more powerful and efficient transmission; as a result, they'll all be given the new Alpha designation. A few H2 and H3 Alphas should be available in the near future. In those cases, we'd expect the designation to mean the addition of turbos, superchargers, or increased mountain-climbing ability.

At the heart of the H1 Alpha performance upgrade is the Duramax 6600 turbodiesel (300 horsepower and 520 pound-feet of torque) with an Allison 1000 five-speed automatic with a smart tow/haul mode. This is the same engine and transmission package offered as an option in GM heavy-duty pickups and in medium-duty commercial work trucks.

The big jump in power and torque, coupled with the Allison's five-speed, actually gives the 3.5-ton 2006 H1 an unusual (and satisfying) sportiness to its throttle response, something it lacked before. No more searching for the slow-lane-pulling grades or waiting for a big gap in traffic when you head for the Interstate onramp. Now the H1 can reach 60 mph in 13.5 seconds. (Don't laugh; the old Hummer took an agonizing 17 seconds.) This upgrade was long overdue, but it wasn't easy.