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.

The new engine package is larger than the version it replaces. The body had to be lifted two inches from the frame to accommodate the upgrade. As a result, the new engine and transmission produce more heat than the old version did. Hummer engineers had to shoehorn in the bigger, more efficient engine, transmission, and power-steering and air-conditioning coolers as well as add a fuel cooler and an intercooler for the turbo. (Hummer says the only reason it didn't tune the Duramax to its maximum-rated 310 horsepower and 610 pound-feet of torque is that the vehicle reached its cooling limitations with the lower-rated engine.)

Other changes to the 2006 H1 Alpha (there are no 2005-model H1s, and all 2006 models are Alphas) include a four-inch exhaust, helical-cut gears in the wheels (to minimize rocking-horse feel at stop signs and road growl), better sound insulation to reduce interior noise, and larger main and auxiliary fuel tanks that now have a 51.5-gallon capacity (9.5 gallons more than the previous H1).

H1 Alphas also have a 200-mile-longer cruising range than their predecessors, or about 570 miles between fill-ups, thanks in large part to the added overdrive inside the five-speed. Real-world fuel-economy estimates have the Duramax getting around 11-12 mpg. Not bad for a 7500-pound chunk of steel.

Other benefits to the new Duramax and Allison package include towing capacity uprated to 9500 pounds--nearly 2000 more than its predecessor's--all of which is due to the stronger engine and transmission. Of course, Hummer upgraded the brakes to 12.0-inch discs (10.7-inch on H1) to handle the heavier loads. During several tests and unplanned panic stops, they brought the big H1 Alpha to a surprisingly fast halt.

The new vehicle's price is higher than the previous H1's. While a 2004 model will set you back more than $110,000, the 2006 H1 Alpha will require a nice year-end company bonus to make up the difference, logging in at a $126,000-plus pricetag.

2006 Hummer H1 Alpha
General
Location of final assembly Mishawaka, Indiana
Body style Four-door, four-pass wagon
EPA size class Full-size SUV
Drivetrain layout Front engine, 4WD
Airbags None
Powertrain
Engine type 90o V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 4.06 x 3.90
Displacement, ci/L 403/6.6
Compression ratio 17.5:1
Valve gear OHV, 2 valves/cyl
Fuel induction Direct injection, high-pressure common-rail
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 300 @ 3000
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 520 @ 1500
Transmission type Allison 1000 5-speed auto
1st 3.10:1
2nd 1.81:1
3rd 1.41:1
4th 1.00:1
5th 0.71:1
Reverse 4.49:1
Axle ratio 2.56:1
Geared-hub ratio 1.92:1
Final-drive ratio 3.49:1
Transfer-case model NVG 242
Low-range ratio 2.72:1
Crawl ratio
(1st x axle
gears x low
range)
41.4:1
Recommended fuel Diesel #2
Dimensions/Capacities
Wheelbase, in 130.0
Length, in 184.5
Width, in 86.5
Height, in 77.0
Track, f/r, in 71.6/71.6
Headroom, f/r, in 41.6/40.0
Legroom, f/r, in 38.1/29.9
Shoulder room, f/r, in 77.1/77.7
Total cargo area volume, cu ft 58.3
Ground clearance, in 16.0
Approach/departure angle, deg 72.0/38.0
Breakover angle, deg 32.5
Grade capability, deg 31.0
Side-slope capability, deg 22.0
Fording depth, in 30.0
Base curb weight, lb 7558
Payload capacity, lb 2742
GVWR, lb 10,300
GCWR, lb 17,300
Towing capacity, lb 7000
Fuel capacity, gal 29.5 + 22.0
Chassis
Suspension, f/r IFS, double A-arm, coil springs/IRS, double A-arm, coil springs
Steering type Hydraulic power assist
Ratio Variable 13/16:1
Turns, lock to lock 2.5
Turning circle, ft 26.5
Brakes, f/r 12.0-in inboard mounted discs/12.0-in inboard mounted discs
Wheels 17x10.0-in cast-aluminum run-flat rims
Tires 37x12.50R17LT Goodyear Wrangler GSA
Inflation control Central Tire Inflation Systemwith on-board compressor
Load/speed rating 129Q
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy N/A
Price
Base price $126,000
Price as tested $129,855

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