NIXON, NEVADA As if the H1's position as the most over-the-top SUV in the land weren't solid enough, the biggest, brashest Hummer now wears Alpha badges that boldly denote significant changes underneath the skin.
The H1 Alpha switches from a 6.5-liter to a 6.6-liter turbocharged and intercooled Duramax diesel, donated by GM's heavy-duty pickups, which also source the impressive five-speed Allison automatic. The engine upgrade adds 95 hp and 80 lb-ft of torque, bringing the totals to 300 hp and 520 lb-ft. That may sound like a lot, but it still takes the four-ton Alpha 13.5 seconds to struggle from 0 to 60 mph, although that's three seconds quicker than before.
Even though the new diesel is quieter, you still have to crank up the Monsoon sound system to overcome the general clattering. At least the omnipresent gear whine from the previous model has been toned down with the switch to helical cogs in the geared hubs.
Despite the power increase and the noise reduction, the H1 hasn't exactly gotten all civilized. Ride comfort, passing power, and steering feel have yet to impinge upon the H1 driving experience.
As you'd expect, the H1 Alpha dominates on the trail, as long as the trail can accommodate its 101-inch (with mirrors) width. Our H1 ragtop easily conquered steep side grades, tight corners, dried arroyos, and sharp rocks with capability to spare.
The Alpha badge brings with it about a $23,000 price increase (to $129,399). At these prices, we're glad to see some nice, high-end leather inside. The interior also contains the H1's sharpest irony: despite the vehicle's hugeness, anyone big enough to climb up into the cabin likely will be cramped once inside because of the massive central tunnel.
If you're set on a mega-ute, the Mercedes-Benz G-class and the Land Rover Range Rover are far more acceptable and pleasant to live with. But the H1 Alpha, while slightly more livable than before, remains the pack leader of outrageous vehicles.
Price: $129,399; $140,796 wagon
Engine: 6.6L turbo-diesel V-8, 300 hp, 520 lb-ft