ANAHEIM, CA – The expansion of General Motors Corp.’s Hummer lineup continues here at the California International Auto Show, where the auto maker finally debuts its ’06 Hummer H3 midsize SUV.

The H3 and its production location, GM’s Shreveport, LA, assembly plant, have been rumored since the fullsize H2 SUV was introduced more than two years ago. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco is slated to be on hand today (Oct. 27) at the Shreveport facility for a GM press conference, presumably to announce plans for investment to produce the H3. (See related story: Shreveport Awaits H3 Investment )

“H3's arrival establishes an extraordinary new presence in the previously ordinary world of midsize SUVs," says Susan Docherty, Hummer general manager. “Hummer has developed a passionate following because of its unmatched style and capability, and the H3 extends that appeal by making the brand accessible to a broader range of potential owners.”

The H3 is due at dealerships in the spring. GM isn’t saying how many of the SUVs it expects to sell.

The H3 is based on Chevy Colorado pickup platform.

Compared with the H2, the H3 is 16.9 ins. (42.9 cm) shorter in overall length, 6 ins. (15.2 cm) shorter in height and 6.5 ins. (16.5 cm) narrower. In fact, the H3 (186.7 ins. [474.2 cm]) nearly is 2 ins. (5.1 cm) shorter than a midsize Chevrolet Malibu sedan.

Exterior styling features a wide body, short overhangs and huge tires. There are Hummer signature features such as the chiseled surfaces, upright windshield, 7-slot grille, round headlamps housed inside square openings and pronounced fender flares.

Powered by GM’s 220-hp 3.5L DOHC 5-cyl. inline engine with variable valve timing, the H3 is projected to reach peak fuel economy of 20 mpg (12 L/100 km). The H3 will be the first Hummer to offer the choice of a manual (5-speed) or automatic (4-speed) transmission.

The BorgWarner Inc. electronically controlled 4-wheel-drive system is augmented with features such as a fully locking rear differential, traction control, underbody shielding and GM's StabiliTrak vehicle stability enhancement system.

The H3 can ford 16 ins. (40.6 cm) of water at 20 mph (32 km/h) or 24-in. (61-cm) streams at 5 mph (8 km/h), as well as climb 16-in. (40.6-cm) vertical steps and rocks, GM says.

The beefy tire packages include Goodyear 32-in. and Bridgestone 33-in. options.

Inside the cabin, the H3 offers optional heated leather seats, a large electric sliding sunroof and a DVD-based navigation system/radio. The steering wheel is wrapped with stitched leather. Brushed, machine-finished trim is used on the inner door panels and chrome adorns the door handles and automatic transmission shifter.

Liquid-crystal displays and a driver-information center are placed in the center of the instrument panel.

Four audio systems, all compliant with GM’s sixth-generation OnStar and XM Satellite Radio equipment, are available. They include the optional touch-screen DVD-based Navigation Radio with a 6.5-in. (16.5-cm) screen, separate DVD and CD slots, Radio Data System capability and navigation map database.

The H3 is based on GM’s midsize pickup platform, also used for the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Underpinnings for the H3 include a fully welded ladder-type frame, an independent front short-long arm torsion bar suspension and a multi-leaf-spring rear suspension. There also are four standard shields to protect the oil pan, front axle, transfer case shield and fuel tank.

Electro-hydraulic 4-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard.

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com